Last post: #26
If you look at each post so far in this series, you shouldn't have a problem finding the best player to wear each number for the Brewers. For example, Rollie Fingers, Jim Gantner, and Ben Oglivie have seen their numbers profiled. Even the rarely-used #57 has a clear favorite (Mitch Stetter), if only because of a lack of competition.
Seventeen players have worn #47 for the Brewers but none have starred. If pressed to name one as the best, I would have to select the lefthanded reliever who was on the team for three seasons. Then again, there were other players who wore the number longer, including the pitcher who, until recently, held the team record for fewest innings per wild pitch. Either way, I think you get the idea: this isn't a number with a particularly successful past.
Follow the jump for the former #47s!
The 1970 Brewers did not pitch well. The American League ERA that season was 3.71. The Brewers raised that number 0.04 all by themselves, putting up a team ERA of 4.21, second only to the hapless White Sox. Couple that with the worst offense in the league and you understand why they lost nearly 100 games. One of the Brewers' mid-season attempts to improve the pitching staff was the acquisition of righthander Bob Humphreys. Let go by the second coming of the Washington Senators following four seasons in the nation's capital, Humphreys went 2-4 with three saves down the stretch to go with a 3.15 ERA. He even started a game at the end of the season. All that work wasn't enough to keep him from being released in March 1971.
After eight years in mothballs, #47 was dusted off and given to righthander Ed Farmer in 1978. Farmer spent three seasons in Cleveland and Detroit before having an awful 1974 for the Philadelphia Phillies. Following that season, he was traded to the Brewers but was released after putting up an ERA on the wrong side of 7 in AAA. He surfaced with Baltimore in 1977, allowing one run without recording an out in his only major league appearance. Released by Baltimore, Farmer was signed by the Brewers in April 1978. He spent most the year in the minors, putting up a 6.00 ERA in ninety innings. That was enough to earn him a September call-up, however, and he did well in three appearances, picking up a win, a save, and a hold while allowing just one run in eleven innings. After that brief success, he was traded to Texas in exchange for Reggie Cleveland.
In October 1979, the Brewers traded Mark Bomback to the New York Mets in exchange for 1974 second-round pick Dwight Bernard. Bernard had spent two seasons in the majors as a reliever for New York, going 1-7 with a 4.50 ERA in sixty appearances. He spent all of 1980 and most of 1981 in the minors before being called up in September. In 1982, Bernard appeared in forty-seven games, going 3-1 with six saves and a 3.76 ERA in 79 innings. He pitched one inning in that year's World Series, striking out one batter in the eighth inning of a loss. Despite his success, he was cut in spring training 1983 and never appeared in the majors again. He went on to become a minor league pitching coach and the Brewers' minor league pitching coordinator in 2003. Bernard is currently the pitching coach of the Clinton LumberKings, a Mariners affiliate.
On September 7, 1983, Jaime Cocanower made his major league debut. Signed by the Brewers as an amateur free agent in 1978, Cocanower spent the better part of five seasons working his way through the Brewers system. He went 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA in five appearances (three starts) in 1983. In 1984, he went 8-16 with a 4.02 ERA and followed that with 6-8 and 4.33 the next season. After being demoted to the minors in July 1986, he was released following the season and did not appear in another major league game. Cocanower's downfall was a lack of control: he walked more batters than he struck out in each of his four seasons and he led the Brewers in wild pitches in 1984 and 1985. In 1985, he threw a wild pitch in eight consecutive appearances, setting a new major league record (since broken). He finished his career with thirty-two wild pitches in 365 2/3 innings, or one every 11 1/3 innings.
Lefthander Bill Krueger was the next to take on #47 after he joined the Brewers in April 1989. He spent two seasons as a long reliever/spot starter in Milwaukee, going 9-10 with a 3.92 ERA and three saves in 222 2/3 innings. He left for Seattle as a free agent following the 1990 season. After his playing career, he covered the Seattle Mariners as a television analyst.
A 27-year-old righthander named Jim Austin made his major league debut on July 4, 1991. Acquired by the Brewers in February 1989, Austin spent two years in the minors before getting the call. He gave up one hit and two walks in 2 2/3 innings in his debut, but struggled in four more appearances in July, giving up eight runs over six innings. He returned to the majors in 1992 following a number change and spent two seasons in the Brewers bullpen.
When he joined the Brewers before the 1992 season, thirty-four-year-old Jesse Orosco had appeared in 598 games in his career. He was just getting warmed up. A former closer with the Mets, Orosco recorded the final out of the 1986 World Series and had 121 saves to his name. In three seasons in Milwaukee, Orosco added 156 games and nine saves to those totals. He went 9-7 with a 3.74 ERA in 134 2/3 innings before becoming a free agent during the 1994 strike. Orosco kept pitching through the 2003 campaign, finally retiring after a major league record 1252 games at the age of 46. It somehow feels fitting his career ended on a walkoff third-strike wild pitch.
In 1995, #47 went from an aged lefthander to a young righthander. Selected in the Rule 5 draft during the 1994 strike, Al Reyes spent five seasons in the Milwaukee bullpen. He put up a shiny 2.43 ERA with nearly eight strikeouts per nine innings as a rookie in 1995. Injuries limited him over the next two seasons, but he returned to make fifty appearances in the Brewers' inaugural NL season. In July 1999, he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for Rocky Coppinger who, improbably, outpitched him over the rest of the season. Reyes had the last laugh, however, appearing in the majors in eight of the next nine seasons and pitching well when not injured.
One month after Reyes was traded to Baltimore, the Brewers signed a Cincinnati castoff named Jason Bere. After two successful years to start his career, Bere had four and a half remarkably awful seasons before the Brewers signed him. Unsurprisingly, he was not great in Milwaukee, either. He did, however, put up a 4.88 ERA over 24 starts, which was enough to make the Indians take him in the trade that brought Richie Sexson to Milwaukee. Bere retired after the 2003 season with the highest ERA (5.14) of any pitcher with to win more than half of his decisions (minimum 100 decisions).
After trading Bere, the Brewers again tried to find a gem in the free-agent pool. Mike Buddie appeared in twenty-four games for the 1998 Yankees but couldn't crack their roster in 1999 and 2000. He was released in June 2000 and was quickly signed by the Brewers. He made his Milwaukee debut in September 2000 and appeared in sixty-one games before being demoted in May 2002. His career ended following the 2003 season and he now works as an assistant athletic director at Wake Forest University, his alma mater.
Buddie was replaced on the Brewers by one of the shortest players in team history, lefthander Shane Nance. In July 2002, Nance was traded from the Dodgers to the Brewers with Ben Diggins in exchange for Tyler Houston. Generously listed at 5'8", Nance appeared in just four games for the Brewers in 2002 but managed to bat three times, singling and driving in a run. He returned to make twenty-six appearances in 2003. He, along with Noochie Varner, was a throw-in in the trade that sent Richie Sexson to Arizona.
One of the players brought to Milwaukee in the Sexson trade took Nance's number. In 2004, Jorge de la Rosa was a 23-year-old lefty long on potential but short on results. He spent most of the season in AAA, pitching well and earning a late-season call-up. He struggled in five starts, going 0-3 with a 6.35 ERA and 14 walks in 22 2/3 innings. With his minor league option years exhausted, the Brewers kept him on their major league roster throughout 2005. He rewarded them by becoming just the tenth pitcher to throw forty or more innings with over eight strikeouts and eight walks per nine innings. He remained on the roster in 2006 but was awful before and after rehabbing in the minors. With nowhere to put him, the Brewers traded him to Kansas City in exchange for Tony Graffanino. De la Rosa eventually carved out a respectable career for himself in Colorado, fulfilling the stereotype of lefthanders needing extra time to develop in the majors.
After the 2005 season, the Brewers traded a minor league named Brian Wolfe to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for third baseman Corey Koskie. Koskie had spent six solid seasons with the Twins before signing with Toronto as a free agent. He hit .261 with twelve home runs in seventy-six games for the Brewers before suffering a concussion on July 5. The resulting post-concussion syndrome effectively ended his career, though he made an attempt at a comeback in 2009. He will be inducted into the Manitoba Baseball Hall of Fame in June 2011.
The Brewers have had many disappointing lefties, including Zach Jackson. A first round pick by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2004, he was traded to the Brewers along with Gabe Gross and Dave Bush in exchange for Lyle Overbay and Ty Taubenheim. Wearing lucky #13, he started seven games for the 2006 Brewers and went 2-2 with a 5.40 ERA. He spent all of 2007 in AAA and was an absolute disaster in AAA in 2008. Caught shorthanded, the Brewers called him up to make two appearances in May 2008. Wearing #47, he made a scoreless 1 2/3 inning appearance on May 18, but followed that by allowing two runs in two innings on May 22. Less than two months later, he was traded with Matt LaPorta and two other players to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for CC Sabathia.
On September 5, 2008, the Minnesota Twins released veteran third baseman Mike Lamb. Later that day, the Milwaukee Brewers signed Lamb. Lamb started his career late in Doug Melvin's tenure as Rangers GM. He later moved to the Astros before signing a two-year deal with the Twins in 2008. He was awful with the Twins, hitting .233/.276/.322 in eighty-one games and earning his release. He went 3 for 11 as a pinch hitter with the Brewers in 2008 and was cut in spring training 2009.
In 2009, the Brewers turned to another former Astro named Mike. In 2005 and 2006, Mike Burns put up a 5.88 ERA in 45 relief appearances for three teams. He bounced around AAA and signed with the Brewers as a minor league free agent in January 2009. Out of nowhere, he put up a sparkling 2.62 ERA in fourteen starts for AAA Nashville, earning a call up. He appeared in fifteen games, including eight starts, for the Brewers, going 3-5 with a 5.75 ERA. He was released at the end of spring training in 2010 and remains unsigned.