4/15/2014 8:43 P.M. ET
Rookie's rise gives Brewers scouts butterflies
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
MILWAUKEE -- Brewers Rule 5 Draft pick Wei-Chung Wang officially made the unprecedented jump from the rookie leagues to the big leagues on Monday night, and he said he made it through a scoreless inning against the Cardinals by "trying to pretend I'm not nervous." Up in a suite, Brewers pro scouting director Zack Minasian knew the feeling.
Many Brewers officials had a hand in the unorthodox selection of Wang, from area scout Charlie Sullivan all the way up to general manager Doug Melvin, but Minasian is in charge of the team's Rule 5 Draft prep, and he had a close eye on Wang since the 21-year-old left-hander first arrived in Spring Training.
He had to wait until the Brewers' 13th game of the season to officially debut.
"It was fun to watch," Minasian said Tuesday, a day after Wang threw 13 pitches, nine strikes in a scoreless ninth inning against St. Louis. "You definitely feel a large responsibility … Charlie Sullivan was probably nervous watching it. He sent me a note today.
"For the pro scouting staff, we just try to put players in order and make our recommendation. I feel like we put him in the right order, and that led to Wang being here. Any time a guy you acquire goes out and performs, there are butterflies."
Wang was not your typical Rule 5 pick. The native of Taiwan agreed to a lucrative international deal with the Pirates in 2011, but the deal was scuttled after a physical exam revealed a torn ligament in his pitching elbow that required Tommy John surgery. Wang re-signed with the Pirates later that year, so by rule he was eligible for the Rule 5 Draft unless protected on Pittsburgh's 40-man roster. The Brewers had a similar situation with right-hander Cody Scarpetta several years ago and had to protect him.
Wang did not pitch at all in 2012, then went 1-3 with a 3.23 ERA in 12 games, 11 starts, in 2013 for the rookie Gulf Coast League Pirates. Now he is in the Major Leagues, and by rule the Brewers must keep him there, or offer him back to the Pirates for half the original $50,000 claim fee.
The Brewers' hope is that Wang throws enough strikes to be effective in long relief this season. Then they could decide in the fall whether to convert him back to a starting pitcher.
"Our hope is that our starting pitching is good enough this year that we can basically steal a prospect," Minasian said. "The thing I tried to sell was, if we agree with Charlie's report, if you put this kid in the [June] Draft, this kid would be a legitimate first-round pick and maybe a Top 10 pick. I compared him to a guy everyone is talking about now going No. 1, Carlos Rodon. I said, 'If we could take Carlos Rodon right now and just put him on our Major League roster, would we do that? Would we give up a spot for that?'"
The Brewers were willing to do it, especially in light of forfeiting their first-round Draft pick last year for signing free-agent starter Kyle Lohse. Wang was rated Milwaukee's No. 11 prospect by MLB.com entering this season.
Minasian stressed that Wang's debut on Monday night was only a first step.
"You have to put it in context; it's only one inning," Minasian said. "But for the guy to go out and throw strikes after such a long layoff, to be on the attack, it was fun to watch. I'm happy for the kid."
Roenicke OK with Crew's aggression at plate
MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers' free-swinging ways are garnering some national attention, but manager Ron Roenicke insists no one should be surprised.
"I think the scouting report has always been that 'Gomey' is going to swing early, 'Rami' is going to swing early, 'Siggy' is going to swing early," Roenicke said, referring to Carlos Gomez, Aramis Ramirez and Jean Segura. "I could go on and on down the line."
Only the Baltimore Orioles swung more and walked less entering Tuesday's games than the Brewers, who led the National League with a 50.9 percent swing rate and ranked last with a 5.7 percent walk rate. The Brewers were one of only three teams (with the Orioles and Braves) to swing at more than half of the pitches they saw.
Does Roenicke worry opponents will try to exploit those tendencies?
"I don't think so," Roenicke said. "I don't think we're so much different than what we've been. It's just when Gomey is in the leadoff spot, it gets people's attention more. We're basically the same club."
Overall, the Brewers entered Tuesday with the best record in baseball (10-3) thanks largely to a pitching staff that led the Majors with a 1.97 ERA. But the offense was also productive, ranking 12th of 30 teams in runs and 11th in OPS.
Roenicke seems to have no problem with the super-aggressive approach.
"I'm with whatever works," he said.
• Roenicke said reliever Jim Henderson had looked better in each of his recent outings but that the bullpen status quo would continue until further notice. That means Francisco Rodriguez remains the closer.
"We'll see," Roenicke said. "I don't want to lock myself into what can happen and where guys are going to be."
• Roenicke on Tuesday managed his 500th regular-season game, making him the sixth Brewers manager to reach that mark. Before season's end he will pass Del Crandall, who managed 609 games for the Brewers and is one of Roenicke's mentors. Roenicke played for Crandall at Triple-A Albuquerque in the early 1980s.