Brewers Double Up Starters On Loaded Wisconsin Club

MILWAUKEE—Those interested in seeing many of the Brewers' top arms should venture to Appleton, Wis., home of the organization's low Class A affiliate.

Righthanders Eric Arnett and Kyle Heckathorn, college pitchers selected with the 26th and 47th overall picks last year, made their full-season debuts with Wisconsin. Joining them was righthander Jake Odorizzi, the 32nd overall pick in 2008.

Elsewhere on the roster, you'll find righthanders Nick Bucci, Maverick Lasker and Damon Krestalude, all of who showed promise in Rookie ball last summer. Efrain Nieves is back, joined by another lefthander in Del Howell, who the organization considers a sleeper as a 15th-round pick last year out of Alabama.

To control pitch counts with the young arms, the Brewers are using a tandem system in which a pair of pitchers split games, alternating between starting and pitching second. Heckathorn is paired with Lasker, Odorizzi with Krestalude and Bucci with Howell.

Because Arnett showed he could handle heavy workloads at Indiana and Nieves is repeating the level, they will not work in tandems.

"We feel they can pitch deeper into games," assistant general manager Gord Ash said. "The others will be used in tandem for the time being."

Among the prospects who pitched at Wisconsin last summer, one stood out for his rapid ascent to high Class A Brevard County—and for his new role as a starter. Righthander Michael Fiers, 24, struck out all three hitters he faced in a big league exhibition game this spring. He had been summoned on short notice from minor league camp.

The 22nd-round pick last year led the nation with 145 strikeouts while at Nova Southeastern (Fla.). In 22 relief appearances last summer, mostly for Rookie-level Helena, Fiers struck out 59 and walked five in 41 innings, compiling a 1.33 ERA.

"He's a very good competitor with outstanding command," Ash said. "It just shows that anything can happen. He's not a particularly hard thrower, but he's not a soft-tosser, either. Command is his strong suit."


• The Brewers released lefty Josh Romanski, a 2008 fourth-round pick who served as Brian Matusz's wing man at San Diego. Romanski never did take the mound for Milwaukee, but the amateur two-way standout did spend four games at DH for Helena in 2008.

• Righthander Rob Wooten, a 2008 13th-round pick who finished his first full pro season in Double-A last year, will miss the season after having Tommy John surgery.