News Forum Blogs Roster Players Schedule Depth chart Stats Videos Photos

Tampa Bay Rays News



It didn't draw the headlines - those were reserved for Ryan Braun's late, go-ahead home run.

But without reliever Mitch Stetter's contribution to the Milwaukee Brewers' 3-2 win over the Chicago Cubs Friday night, Braun's blast might not have mattered.

Stetter came in with two outs in the eighth inning with the bases full of Cubs, and induced a groundout from pinch hitter Geovany Soto to end the inning and allow the Brewers to escape unscathed.

It was a performance that fit right in with the rest of Stetter's solid start to the season. The lone left-hander in the Milwaukee bullpen, Stetter is 2-0 with a 3.27 earned-run average in 16 appearances. Opponents are batting just .175 against him, and he's allowed only one of 14 inherited runners to score.

All in all, not a bad way to start after making the big league club out of spring training for the first time.

"It's good to get off to a good start to start the year ...," the 28-year-old Stetter said before Saturday night's game at Miller Park. "I think things are going pretty good, I'm pretty happy.

"Obviously there's times where it could have been better and there's times where it could have been worse and stuff like that. But for the most part, just trying to be consistent, going out there and trying to do my job the best I can."

It's a job that Brian Shouse handled capably the past three seasons, though Stetter made three cameos in Milwaukee last year and one the year before.

When Shouse left for Tampa Bay as a free agent in the offseason, though, it left Stetter as the Brewers' main left-handed option. So far, he's done his job when facing left-handed hitters - they are just 2-for-23 against Stetter after he came in Saturday with the bases loaded and struck out Cubs first baseman Micah Hoffpauir for the second out of the seventh inning.

Stetter said he enjoys working as a left-handed specialist, a role that he's moved into over the past few years after switching between starting and relief during his first two minor league seasons.

Part of that transition has been developing the sidearm throwing motion that's made him so effective against lefties. He's 6-foot-4 and throws from the second-base side of the rubber, meaning the ball comes out of his hand well behind a left-handed hitter.

"I'm still learning it," said Stetter, who has struggled with his control at times - issuing seven walks in 11 innings this season. "It's kind of tough to do, just because your release point is really awkward and there's kind of a body lean to it.

"You've got to get a feel for it and make sure you get the ball out front. So sometimes it can be hard to throw strikes because of where my arm is and where the plate is and my release point and everything."

Stetter has also learned a few other tricks of the trade over the past few years. He credited Shouse with helping him figure out how to deal with both the physical strains - the frequent warm-up sessions in the bullpen, even on days he doesn't end up being used - and mental challenges - moving on after the type of short outings, good or bad, most lefty specialists endure - of the job.

What was so significant about Stetter's showing Friday night was that it came against Soto, a struggling-but-talented right-handed hitter. Chicago center fielder Kosuke Fukudome, a lefty, was scheduled to bat before Cubs manager Lou Piniella opted to pinch-hit with Soto.

Right-handers are hitting .294 with one home run and five runs batted in against Stetter, though Brewers manager Ken Macha said he's not afraid to use Stetter in situations where he'll face lefties and righties.

"I think he's done a decent job against right-handed hitters," Macha said. "He keeps the ball outside and down and it's got some sink to it. So he's been good, knock on wood, and he's been in a lot, too."

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: May 12, 2009

Tampa Bay Rays Photos
All the latest Tampa Bay Rays Photos Store photographs. Major League Baseball MLB.
The most recent photo
Add to Google
Add to My Yahoo!
Subscribe in NewsGator Online
Add to Windows Live

Copyright ©, Inc. All rights reserved 2008.