After spending much of the 2010 season on the disabled list with shoulder issues, the 27-year-old Estrada wasn't even invited to big league camp. But when the dust settled he emerged as the leading candidate to fill in for the injured Zack Greinke.
Estrada made three spot starts in April and pitched like anything but a fill-in. He went 1-0, 3.32 with 16 strikeouts and five walks in 19 innings, while also contributing two innings of shutout relief.
"Obviously, I want to show I belong here," he said. "I'm putting it all out there, and hopefully I'm doing enough to stay around. I like it here."
Estrada remained a logical candidate to return to Triple-A Nashville when Greinke returned to action on May 4. But the Brewers might think twice given Estrada's newfound velocity—he hit 95 mph on multiple occasions.
"This guy's got a nice arm," manager Ron Roenicke said. "But from what I heard, he pitched more 91-ish and 92."
Claimed on waivers from the Nationals in February 2010, Estrada began last season with Nashville, going 1-2, 3.15 in seven starts to earn a callup to Milwaukee.
Hit hard in seven big league appearances (9.53 ERA over 11 innings, three home runs allowed, 21 baserunners), Estrada developed inflammation in his shoulder and hit the DL on June 1. He didn't pitch the remainder of the season.
A sixth-round pick from Long Beach State in 2005, Estrada added a two-seam fastball and cutter to his repertoire over the winter, making him a more complete pitcher. Case in point: He held the powerful Reds lineup to two hits and two runs in seven innings in an April 26 start.
Roenicke admitted he had no idea who Estrada was when he was summoned from minor league camp.
"I didn't expect him to go out and not be able to throw well," Roenicke said. "But to be able to do this well? I don't think anyone expected that. He has done an outstanding job for us."
• The Brewers signed 37-year-old shortstop Luis Figueroa to a minor league deal to help cover for injuries at Nashville. The 15-year veteran proved he can still hit for average by batting .361 in the Puerto Rican League—and that on the heels of a .319 campaign in Triple-A.
• Catcher George Kottaras' outright assignment to Nashville displaced incumbent Martin Maldonado, who moved down a rung to Double-A Huntsville.