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Tonight's Matchup: Brewers (Hellweg) @ Pirates (Cole)

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This has the potential to be one of the more interesting nights of the season.

Victor Decolongon

Tonight the Brewers get their first look at one of the game's top pitching prospects.

At 6:10 in Pittsburgh they'll face Gerrit Cole (3.44 ERA, 3.21 FIP), the #1 overall pick in the 2011 draft, for the first time. He beat the Angels in his last outing on Friday, allowing two runs on four hits over 6.1 innings with a walk and five strikeouts. He threw 88 pitches in that outing, his most in any major league appearance.

Baseball America rated Cole as the #7 prospect in all of baseball before the season, and he had a 2.91 ERA in 12 starts for AAA Indianapolis before getting the call to the majors. He'll throw a mid-to-upper 90's fastball almost 80% of the time, mixing in an occasional curve, slider or changeup.

No Brewers have ever faced Cole in the majors, of course. The only time he's ever pitched against a Brewer affiliate was in the Florida State League last season. No current Brewers were on Brevard County's roster at that point.

As if that wasn't enough prospect intrigue for one night, he'll face 24-year-old righty Johnny Hellweg (2.82 ERA, 4.48 FIP in AAA) in his MLB debut. Hellweg last pitched for AAA Nashville on Saturday, working six shutout innings against New Orleans and allowing six hits, walking none and striking out two.

The fact that Hellweg didn't walk anyone on Saturday might have been the most newsworthy part of that outing. He's handed out over five free passes per nine innings this season and 6.2 for his career. Here's an excerpt from John Sickels' entry about Hellweg in his 2013 prospect book:

Hellweg came to Milwaukee from Anaheim in the Zack Greinke trade last summer. He immediately became one of the best prospects in the system, thanks to a 95-99 mph sinking fastball and a hard breaking ball. He's working on his changeup. He keeps the ball down and generates plenty of grounders in addition to his strikeouts, but his command remains inconsistent and his walk rates are currently too high to project immediate success in the majors.

Here's the lineup Hellweg will have behind him tonight:

Norichika Aoki RF
Jean Segura SS
Carlos Gomez CF
Aramis Ramirez 3B
Jonathan Lucroy C
Juan Francisco 1B
Rickie Weeks 2B
Logan Schafer LF
Johnny Hellweg P

And in the bullpen:

  • Brandon Kintzler pitched two innings (31 pitches) last night.
  • Jim Henderson pitched one inning (18 pitches) last night.
  • Francisco Rodriguez pitched one inning (eleven pitches) last night.
  • Tom Gorzelanny pitched two innings (31 pitches) on Wednesday.
  • Burke Badenhop pitched one inning (21 pitches) on Wednesday.
  • John Axford pitched one inning (seven pitches) on Wednesday.
  • Michael Gonzalez last pitched on Tuesday.

There are thunderstorms in the forecast for this afternoon in Pittsburgh, but once they pass the weather should be fine for baseball tonight. Expect a game-time temperature around 75 with light winds blowing out to left.