MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Jake Brentz had a lot to learn when he signed with the Toronto Blue Jays’ organization on the final day of the signing deadline back in 2013.
An 11th-round pick with raw talent, it was now time to get to work.
“In high school, guys were swinging at everything. My thing’s always been command of the fastball, so in high school I got a ton of strikeouts,” Indianapolis' reliever said after Friday’s game. “But in pro ball, I had to learn how to pitch.”
Brentz didn't begin pitching at Parkway South High School in St. Louis until the fall of his senior year when he was inserted into a game late from center field. His coach’s only advice was, “Hey, blow it out,” Brentz said.
He went straight from high school to the pros and began his development as a starter. He worked in that role in the Blue Jays’ organization until being traded to Seattle in 2015. Then, a late 2016 trade to the Pirates came with a move to the bullpen.
Having just gotten down the starter's routine, Brentz said he quickly found out things are different coming out of the 'pen.
“The biggest thing when I first went to the bullpen was learning how to get warm pretty quick and getting in that routine,” he said. “I always had a pregame routine as a starter. And you can still have a routine as a reliever, but you never know how many pitches you’re going to get before you go out there. I limit myself to a certain amount of pitches before I go out there. I don’t go above that.”
He was sent to High-A Bradenton to begin his minor league career in the Pirates’ system, where he logged 26.0 innings, finishing with an ERA of 3.81. He picked up two saves in three chances while also earning a win against two losses. He was eventually moved to Double-A Altoona, where he pitched 14.0 innings in 14 games, finishing with an ERA of 5.79 and two blown saves in two chances.
Brentz started 2018 in Altoona but was sent back to Bradenton after an abysmal beginning, posting a 13.50 ERA in 12 appearances with the Curve. He didn’t fare much better in Bradenton, posting an 8.02 ERA in 14 games there.
But it clicked this year, he said.
“Honestly, just having the mentality that you may be in there for one inning or you may be out there for two or three, so just go out with your best stuff and don’t hold anything back,” Brentz said. “I really just stay to my game plan and go out and attack the hitter and having that mindset that you can do so.”
Brentz acknowledged he had much work to do when he gave up his opportunity to play at Missouri for a chance in the pros. Since becoming a professional ballplayer, Brentz said he's focused on learning and developing.
This year, Brentz breezed through Double-A ball with a 0.77 ERA in nine appearances. He struck out 13, allowed just six hits and only surrendered a single run before being called up to Triple-A. Currently, he's been bouncing in and out of the closer role for the Indians. He's converted four of four save opportunities with Indianapolis this year and has a 1.88 ERA in nine appearances (14 1/3 innings). He's struck out 20 batters and has just a .196 batting average against.
Despite success, Brentz's self-scouting report still comes first with a negative — consistency. But, in the end, he said he knows how to get there.
"My issue has been throwing strikes, so this year I’ve totally changed my mindset to find what works for me — which is fastball, slider. I’ve been mixing around with the splitter, so I can throw that more a little bit," he said. "But I just need to play the game the right way and have fun. That’s what I want to go out there and do — give my best and go out there and have fun."
TRIBE’S TOP HITTERS
Here’s who I’ve identified as the Indians’ top hitters over the past week:
Will Craig, 1B — 8-for-23 (.348), one home run, three doubles, three RBIs
Pablo Reyes, OF — 8-for-26 (.308), two home runs, three doubles, six RBIs
Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B — 5-for-23 (.217), one double, three RBIs
TRIBE’S TOP PITCHERS
Top starting performance: Dario Agrazal pitched 6.0 innings of shutout ball Wednesday against Charlotte. He struck out five, walked two and allowed just four hits while picking up his third win at the Triple-A level this year. He sits at 3-1 with a 2.17 ERA with Indy to go with 32 strikeouts.
Top reliever: Tyler Lyons picked up a two-inning save May 31 against Gwinnett. He didn't surrender a hit and struck out three. It was just his second save of the season, but lowered his ERA to 1.86 with Indy. He also has three wins on the season to no losses.
THE ROSTER MOVES/INJURIES
5/27: RHP Mitch Keller recalled by Pittsburgh.
RHP Jesus Liranzo designated for assignment by Pittsburgh.
RHP Richard Rodriguez recalled as the 26th man by Pittsburgh.
RHP Alex McRae has contract selected by Pittsburgh.
INF Jung Ho Kang began MLB rehab assignment with Indianapolis.
C Steven Baron reinstated from the 7-day injured list.
LHP Cam Vieaux transferred from Double-A Altoona to Indianapolis. He is wearing #39.
RHP Michael Feliz optioned by Pittsburgh (5/25), active in Indianapolis.
5/28: RHP Richard Rodriguez returned from 26th man to Indianapolis, recalled by Pittsburgh.
RHP Montana DuRapau optioned by Pittsburgh (5/27), active in Indianapolis. He is wearing No. 43.
RHP Dovydas Neverauskas optioned by Pittsburgh (5/27), active in Indianapolis.
INF Alfredo Reyes transferred from Double-A Altoona to Indianapolis. He is wearing No. 17.
RHP Michael Feliz is wearing No. 45.
RHP Pedro Vasquez is now wearing No. 35.
5/30: RHP Yefry Ramirez acquired by Pittsburgh from Baltimore (5/27), optioned and active in Indianapolis. He is wearing No. 48.
INF Alfredo Reyes transferred from Indianapolis to Double-A Altoona.
UTIL Jake Elmore outrighted to Indy from Pittsburgh (5/29), active in Indianapolis. He is wearing No. 19.
5/31: RHP Mitch Keller optioned by Pittsburgh (5/28), active in Indianapolis.
RHP Pedro Vasquez transferred from Indianapolis to Double-A Altoona.
6/1: OF Lonnie Chisenhall ends MLB rehab assignment with Indianapolis (5/22).
The Indians went 4-2 over the past six days, bringing their overall record to 31-21. The Tribe outscored opponents 28-20. The Tribe closed out a series win against Columbus on Monday and took two of three from Charlotte before splitting two with Gwinnett. Indy hits the road to begin a three-game series with Louisville, followed by a five-game stretch with Toledo, including a doubleheader on Saturday.
INDY FUN THING
This is cool, I don't care who ya are:
Tonight’s @FCFCU Hero of the Game is Jeffrey Whiteside! Jeffrey is a native Hoosier who served two tours of duty in Iraq and earned a combat infantry award. Thank you for your service, Jeffrey! pic.twitter.com/nyDOIyAMzt
— Indianapolis Indians (@indyindians) June 2, 2019
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