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Brewers top Mets, 4-2

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By Tom Haudricourt
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
September 26, 2013

NEW YORK--Can Johnny Hellweg throw enough strikes to be a viable starting pitcher in the major leagues?

That remained the question Thursday night after the 6-foot-9 right-hander’s latest adventure on the mound for the Milwaukee Brewers. Hellweg was fortunate to make it through four innings, during which he allowed only two hits and one run but walked four batters, hit two and threw a wild pitch.

The Brewers hung on to beat the New York Mets, 4-2, at Citi Field, primarily because the home team went 0 for 14 with runners in scoring position in a lackluster showing on both sides.

In two stints in the majors covering eight games (seven starts), Hellweg went 1-4 with a 6.75 earned run average. He allowed 40 hits and 26 walks in only 302/3 innings, with eight hit batters and four wild pitches.

“We’ve got a long ways to go,” said Brewers manager Ron Roenicke, who pulled Hellweg after he threw only 37 of 80 pitches for strikes. “It’s nice that he’s getting through innings now. The first couple of times, he couldn’t get through innings.

“But he’s got to command the ball better. He does it at times but then he’ll lose it. He’s out there battling, and it’s just going to take some time. He’ll eventually get through it but it’s different pitching here. That’s the time it’s going to take to just pitch in this atmosphere and being able to pitch like he did in Triple-A.

“He doesn’t give up hits. I’m looking up at the board and he’s given up two hits and one run, and I’m taking him out after the fourth inning. That’s weird. You want to leave him out there because you want to give him a chance to win the ball game.”

The Brewers hoped Hellweg, who won Pacific Coast League pitcher of the year honors, would fare well enough in the majors to put a foot in the door for the starting rotation at 2014. But there’s no way to pencil him in at this point without feeling skittish.

“It’s going to be interesting discussions on him because he comes into camp with the idea that he’s going to be one of the guys looking to win a job,” said Roenicke. “But we also know that there’s some progress that needs to be made there. At times you see it. We certainly like his stuff.

“When he’s throwing it over the plate, I don’t think he’s going to give up many runs. He’s still going to be one of the guys we’re going to talk about.”

Hellweg’s wildness was on full display in the third inning, when the Mets broke through for their lone run against him. With two down, Hellweg hit two consecutive batters with pitches—David Wright and Lucas Duda.

Wright was conked on the helmet and stayed down for several minutes before being removed from the game for precautionary reasons. The crowd really got on Hellweg when he also plunked Duda but he recovered to strike out Matt den Dekker to end the inning.

Wright passed concussion tests after leaving the game and though he jammed a thumb tumbling to the ground said he felt OK.

“That’s the last guy on the team I want to hit,” said Hellweg, who got Wright with an 86-mph changeup. “You don’t ever want to hit somebody in the head.

“It got to me a little bit just because I just hit David Wright. That’s their guy. And it was in the head, and he had to come out.”

As for his trials and tribulations in the major leagues, Hellweg said, “I definitely wanted to show more. There are a few positives (and) a couple of things I’d like to do better. That’s why they give guys a chance in September and give guys a look. Hopefully, I did enough to get some more in spring training.”

The Brewers scored all of their runs in the second inning off Mets start Dillon Gee, benefiting from some seeing-eye hits. After Khris Davis led off with a walk, Caleb Gindl dumped a broken-bat single into shallow center.

Yuniesky Betancourt popped out, but Juan Francisco singled off the glove of second baseman Daniel Murphy to drive in Davis. Jeff Bianchi blooped a single into shallow center to score Gindl, and Hellweg bunted up the runners.

Norichika Aoki walked to load the bases and Scooter Gennett laced a two-run single to left to give the Brewers a 4-0 lead.

Gennett, who played behind Hellweg many times at Class AAA Nashville, said he still had faith that the hard-throwing righty will pan out.

“Once he gets ahead of guys (in the count), he’s one of the best pitchers I’ve ever seen,” said Gennett. “That’s got to be his main goal—getting ahead of hitters. When he doesn’t, he’s a fastball guy and they’re sitting on it.

“He was the PCL pitcher of the year, so there’s obviously something there.”



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