03/01/09 6:31 PM ET
Villanueva tries everything in long duel
Brewers reliever gives up hit on 14th pitch to Giants' Sandoval
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
Pablo Sandoval engaged Villanueva in a 14-pitch at-bat with a runner at first and two outs in the third inning Sunday that conjured memories of Milwaukee's trip to St. Louis last April. Villanueva was still a Brewers starter then and threw a whopping 17 pitches to Cardinals outfielder Rick Ankiel before issuing a walk.
Sandoval did one better, knocking a single to center field after fouling off nine pitches.
"It felt like 20," Villanueva said. "I threw him everything. In, out, up, down. Curveball, slider, fastball, changeup. He swung at everything."
The hit left runners at the corners, but Villanueva escaped with a scoreless tie intact. He threw 28 total pitches and has worked one scoreless inning in each of his two appearances this spring as he prepares to open the season in the bullpen, possibly as closer Trevor Hoffman's setup man."That was a long at-bat but [Villanueva] continued to throw strikes and he battled all the way," Brewers manager Ken Macha said. "When a pitcher winds up having an at-bat like that, it's a bit of a letdown when he [gives up] a hit, but he was able to come back and get the next hitter." Villanueva appeared Sunday in relief of starter Dave Bush, who also worked a second scoreless appearance to start the spring. He issued a walk in each of his two innings of work, but has yet to allow a hit. The only dramatically new thing this year for Bush is his bushy beard. He's also more secure in his job after battling for a rotation spot last spring and then going 9-10 with a respectable 4.18 ERA in 31 games. "Either way, I'm going to use the spring to get ready for the season," Bush said. "I go into it with the mind-set that these games count. I know they don't, I know it's not that important, but in order to prepare myself for the season I have to be mentally sharp."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.