At some point, you knew the prospects would start trickling to the Milwaukee Brewers.
The team's decision-makers didn't stockpile the farm system with gobs of highly touted prospects merely to win games in the minor leagues. The point of this large-scale rebuilding project was to move the young talent up to Milwaukee when the timing was right.
And, for the second time this week, the timing was right.
Four days after summoning outfielder Brett Phillips from Class AAA Colorado Springs, the Brewers reached down to that club Friday and called up left-hander Josh Hader, generally considered the top pitching prospect in the system.
Yes, the Brewers actually have a left-hander on their staff after operating for several weeks without one. And, to break in Hader slowly as well as fill a need in the bullpen, the Brewers plan to use him in relief until further notice.
“We pitched him for two innings the last couple of times (with Colorado Springs), so we shortened him up a little bit,” manager Craig Counsell said. “We think this is the best way to start him with us. It's a place we think he can make an impact.
“We'll see how it goes. We'll have to be careful with his usage at the front end of it. He's going to be good for us down there. Long-term, the goal of the organization is to get him back to starting.”
Hader, 23, struggled at times at Colorado Springs, a venue notorious for being tough on pitchers. Overall, he was 3-4 with a 5.37 earned run average in 12 starts, but Hader didn't allow a run in those two-inning bursts in his last two outings.
With a funky three-quarters delivery, Hader was consistently tough on left-handed hitters, holding them to a .158 batting average. So look for Counsell to find match-up situations out of the bullpen to take advantage of that strength.
“I do think that's an area where he can help,” Counsell said. “In the minor leagues, that's where he's been at his best.
“But we'll also use him at times with some length in mind because he's capable of doing that. He's been really tough on lefties in the minor leagues. Everybody is aware of that and we'll use that to our advantage.”
Hader was one of four prospects acquired from Houston in July 2015 in the Carlos Gomez/Mike Fiers trade. He was generally ranked among the top five prospects in the Brewers' well-regarded system, but that didn't make it any easier to pitch at Colorado Springs.
“I guess you could say it's Colorado Springs,” Hader said of the challenge of pitching there. “The place is another beast. Everybody's got to go through it. It's nothing you can control. You have to go out and do your job. Whatever happens, happens.”
As for pitching in relief in his first trip to the majors, Hader said, “I've been out of the pen a couple of times before. When I got drafted, I was out of the bullpen. It's nothing really new. It's just something you have to get used to with the routine.
“I just know that whenever I get the ball, that's when I'm pitching.
“I'm excited. It's the big leagues. It's my dream. I'm just trying to take it all in.”
The original plan was for Phillips to remain in the majors only while third baseman Travis Shaw was on paternity leave. But the Shaws encountered a medical emergency with their newborn daughter, so he was placed on leave, from three to seven days if needed, allowing Phillips to stay in the majors.
Phillips got the start in center field Friday night against the Diamondbacks.
“They told me before the game (Thursday) I was going down. There was no discussion. I just said OK,” Phillips said.
“After the game, they said, 'Hey, you're coming with the team.' I didn't ask any questions. I said, 'Heck, yeah, let's go.' It's pretty strange but I'm still here.”
It remains to be seen how much Phillips and Hader will play in the big leagues this year. But the door has been opened, and more prospects will follow.
“This is a process for these young players,” Counsell said. “We've got to get it started, and we look forward to getting it started. It's fun getting it started with them.”