Former farmhand Jeremy Jeffress returns to Brewers

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Todd Rosiak, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Saturday, April 19, 2014

PITTSBURGH—Jeremy Jeffress and the Milwaukee Brewers have been reunited once again.

A hard-throwing right-hander whom the Brewers selected with the 16th-overall pick in the 2006 draft, Jeffress rejoined the organization Friday by signing a minor-league contract.

Jeffress, 26, was outrighted by the Toronto Blue Jays on April 4 and elected to become a free agent. He'll report to the Brewers' minor-league complex in Phoenix for 5 to 7 days of throwing, then join the bullpen at Class AAA Nashville once he's ready.

“He still has the plus arm that you can't find everywhere, so the opportunity to collect a player with this skill set is—especially with no acquisition fee—intriguing to us,” assistant general manager Gord Ash said. “We have the history with him obviously; I think we know him better than most, so we know what his support system needs to be. We think it's a good risk.”

Jeffress had a star-crossed initial tenure with the Brewers, eventually reaching the major leagues in 2010 when he pitched 10 games for the Brewers and went 1-0 with a 2.70 earned run average and 1.400 WHIP.

His minor-league career with Milwaukee was rocky, as he tested positive three times for marijuana. The last two positive tests resulted in him being suspended for 50 and 100 games, respectively.

The Brewers traded Jeffress to the Kansas City Royals in December 2010 as part of the package that netted Zack Greinke. Jeffress pitched 14 games in the major leagues for the Royals in 2011 and 13 in 2012 before being purchased by Toronto in November 2012.

He went 1-0 with 0.87 ERA in 10 appearances with the Blue Jays last season but struggled in three appearances with them this season before being outrighted. His fastball was averaging in the upper 90s in his three outings this season.

Over 50 career relief appearances in the majors (52 1/3 innings), Jeffress has compiled a 3-1 record, 4.47 ERA and 1.777 WHIP. He's also struck out 50 to go along with 38 walks.

As far as Jeffress' personal issues, Ash said indications are that he's grown quite a bit since his first go-round with the team.

Jeffress was diagnosed with juvenile epilepsy as well as anxiety last season while pitching in the minor leagues for Toronto, and he apparently has both issues under control.

He is facing a lifetime ban should he test positive for marijuana again in the minor leagues.

Positive marijuana tests for players on a team's 40-man roster don't result in a ban. Jeffress isn't on the Brewers' 40-man, but the belief is having his medical situation squared away and a few more years under his belt will eliminate the temptation for Jeffress to use marijuana.

Welcome—for now

Recalled from Class AAA Nashville on Thursday when Lyle Overbay was placed on the paternity list, Elian Herrera didn't make it to PNC Park until about an hour before the game.

On Friday, with his locker right next to Overbay's, Herrera said the thought that he might be headed back to Nashville as soon as Saturday wasn't troubling him.

“I can say it doesn't matter how short or long the time is,” Herrera said. “Every time we are here, we are happy to be here. This is where we want to be, right?

“It doesn't matter if it's just for a short time, it's good to know that you are one of the first choices for them if something happens, and you can just come here.”

Herrera, who was beaten out this spring by Jeff Bianchi in his bid to be the Brewers' utility infielder, was hitting .250 in 12 games with Nashville, where he played center field, second base and third base.

“I just like to be in the lineup,” he said. “It doesn't matter where.”

Kintzler progressing

Reliever Brandon Kintzler, on the disabled list with a strained right rotator cuff, threw a light bullpen session off the mound Thursday and reported only one issue afterward.

“Home plate looked really far,” he joked. “Really far.”

The plan is to have Kintzler throw a normal bullpen session Sunday and then determine the next step. He could throw an inning or two in a minor-league game on a rehab assignment, or just come off the DL for the opener of the Brewers' three-game series against the Chicago Cubs at Miller Park on April 25.

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