The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers are hosting a doubleheader with the Burlington Bees at Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium, but many of the players likely feel like they just went to bed: The two teams also had an extra-long doubleheader last night, as extra innings extended last night's 14 scheduled frames to 17.
All told, the Timber Rattlers were on the field for about six hours last night. For at least one player, though, it didn't feel that long: Third baseman Taylor Brennan had four hits in the doubleheader, including a double, triple and home run.
"You just kind of go pitch-to-pitch. It doesn't seem like six hours, but when the day gets done it's pretty long," Brennan said.
Brennan doesn't have the prospect fanfare of some of his Timber Rattlers teammates, but has been one of the team's most productive hitters. He's only batting .246, but has drawn 12 walks en route to a .361 on-base percentage and ranks third on the team with a .478 slugging percentage. He was drafted in the 37th round of the 2012 draft, but is still only 22 years old.
"I'm just out there trying to do my best and get everything I can out of it," Brennan said.
He's also making the most out of his improved vision. Late last year he got contact lenses for the first time.
"I didn't realize I needed contacts until the end of last year, so that's made a big difference. Ever since then, I'm just improving myself and playing a lot," Brennan said.
Brennan is back in the lineup for the first game of the doubleheader today, batting fifth.
"I wake up ready to go wherever I am."
Outfielder Michael Ratterree has already had an extensive travel schedule in 2014. He wrapped up spring training with the Brewers during their exhibitions at Miller Park, opened the regular season with Wisconsin, spent a week with AA Huntsville and now is back with the Timber Rattlers, playing right field and batting second. He said moving around between teams hasn't impacted his focus.
"I've still got my goals and what I'm trying to accomplish, so I wake up ready to go wherever I am," Ratterree said.
Ratterree hit his fourth home run for Wisconsin last night, and also had one during his brief stint in AA. He said the biggest difference between two levels was the pitchers' arsenals.
"They all have control of just about three pitches, they're very developed pitchers," Ratterree said.
Now that he's back with the Timber Rattlers, Ratterree is using his brief AA experience as motivation to get back to that level.
"They treat you differently up there. It's a different kind of sport, a lot more fans and stuff like that. It was an overall cool experience for me and it definitely motivated me," Ratterree said.
Staying loose, staying ready
The handful of Timber Rattlers that played all 17 innings yesterday had a long day, but the doubleheader probably felt even longer for the players who didn't get into a game. One of those players was reliever Harvey Martin, who spent a long day out in the bullpen with his teammates on a cold night.
"We've got a couple of little antics out there that we do," Martin said. "It's hard to stay focused, we're out there for 17 innings, you're out there for six hours. You kind of bide your time, a lot of guys have their different routines or rituals that they'll do. We get up every two or three innings and move around to stay loose. We kind of keep each other accountable for that, so it's fortunate that we've got a bunch of good dudes in the pen this year that keep people into the game."
With this week's pair of rainouts, Martin hasn't gotten to pitch in a game since April 26. I asked him about the challenge of keeping ready during a long break between appearances.
"In the bullpen we don't have the luxury of knowing when you're going to throw," Martin said. "It's not a routine like a starter. So for us it's just every day, when you come to the park and you throw, you're working on continuing your mechanics and being consistent. And we'll jump on the mound before the game and just throw a couple to make sure you're at where you want to see the ball, locating, and you kind of come into a rhythm that way and gain consistency."
Martin has a 3.52 ERA over five appearances for Wisconsin this season, and has struck out 13 opposing batters in 7.2 innings.