As a major leaguer Johnny Hellweg struggled to deal with schedule changes and to find his control on the mound. On Monday afternoon, though, he had no problem adjusting to Midwest League baseball. He pitched six innings and picked up the win in Wisconsin's 6-2 win over Lake County.
Hellweg looked very good through five innings today, keeping the Captains off the board and allowing just three singles and a hit batsman. He struggled a bit in the sixth, though, walking two batters and getting tagged for a pair of runs when an infield popup got lost in the sun. He classified the outing as a game where he was "just trying to work on some stuff."
"(I was) trying to treat some of the guys like they were different hitters, trying to put big leaguers in their shoes," Hellweg said. "Trying to execute some pitches that I would have if they were different guys."
It would be easy to dismiss Hellweg's success today as coming against low-level hitters, but Wisconsin manager Matt Erickson cautioned against that assertion.
"These guys, while they're not major leaguers yet, there may be a few major leaguers in the bunch eventually," Erickson said. "They're professional hitters and it's been proven before, guys that have pitched in the big leagues come down to even the A-ball level, and if you don't make quality pitches they're going to hurt you. Fortunately for Johnny he made some quality pitches today and started winning some counts."
The Brewers had Hellweg pitching in Wisconsin today in an effort to keep him on schedule. Today was the fifth day since his last major league outing, and the Timber Rattlers were the only Brewer affiliate in action.
"In my last start in AAA I had 12 days off," Hellweg said. "I got called up and had eight days off. Next start I had seven days off. So it was good to get back in that five-day routine."
The next step for Hellweg is unclear at this point. He's heading home for the major league All Star break, and hasn't been told what the plans are for him when he returns.
"I'm just going to treat it day-to-day until they inform me what's going on," Hellweg said. "I'm just going to go home, see the family and relax for a bit and then get back to the grind after the All Star break."
As for today, Hellweg said he was working on adding to his repertoire to help him prepare for what he hopes will be an eventual return to the big leagues.
"Yeah, I'm just trying to expand my game a bit," Hellweg said. "I learned up there that some of the stuff that I do isn't going to get big league hitters out. So I just tried to work on some things, and throw some different stuff in my repertoire."
In the meantime, though, Erickson credited Hellweg for settling in and having a solid outing.
"I thought he executed pretty good. In the beginning of the game it looked like there was a little "feel out" period, where he was feeling for some pitches, maybe feeling for the strike zone a little bit," Erickson said. "But once he got in there he got a nice little rhythm, his breaking ball was getting over for strikes, and it looked like he got into a competitive flow."
Erickson also noted that having someone as experienced as Hellweg around his team helps his young roster in their development.
"It's always nice when you've got a guy that comes to us with some big league experience," Erickson said. "I think it's nice for our pitchers to watch his preparation and how he goes about his business. And this was unique in the fact that we've had him for a few days and you can see his progression and his buildup to gameday. "
Today Hellweg got some help from a Timber Rattlers offense that combined for six runs on ten hits. Michael Reed had three of those hits, and Tyrone Taylor had an RBI triple to go with a running game-ending catch in center field. Taylor leads all Brewer minor leaguers with 99 hits on the season despite still being just 19 years old.
"He's had a very nice month and a half as he continues to grow in his development," Erickson said. "He's a guy that has some tools. He can go gap-to-gap defensively. We've asked him to take more of a leadership role vocally. He's not a very talkative guy but he does have some personality. And he's doing a nice job defensively making sure he's playing the hitters' tendencies and controlling the outfield when he moves."
With the win Wisconsin improved to 11-13 in the second half of the Midwest League season. They're off tomorrow before opening a series in Bowling Green on Wednesday.