Jeffress Back on Track

Brewers pitcher finding success




PHOENIX — Milwaukee Brewers pitching prospect Jeremy Jeffress claims that he wants to improve the command of his pitches during his seven-week stint as a member of the Arizona Fall League's Peoria Javelinas.

The Brewers' first-round pick in the 2006 draft had already been working on getting better command of his life over the past year.

But Jeffress was suspended by Major League Baseball during the 2007 season after a positive test for a substance of abuse, and the start of his 2008 season was delayed after he failed team-administered tests. After starting the year in extended spring training, Jeffress pitched 15 games for high Class A Brevard County and four games for Double-A Huntsville, producing a combined 4.31 ERA and 115/52 K/BB rate in 94 innings.

The 21-year-old righthander is now ready to put the suspensions behind him and move on with his career.

"It's a mistake," said Jeffress, "and everybody makes mistakes. You've just got to learn from them, and learn from them in the right way. Any addiction is hard to get over, so you need people to help you out and a good group to be around. This Fall League's going to help."

Jeffress appreciates the support he's received from the Brewers organization.

"They were understanding about addictions and problems," Jeffress said. "They just stood behind me, and I didn't quit … they didn't quit."

The native of South Boston, Va., is also appreciative of the opportunity to be part of the Arizona Fall League.

"It's awesome," said Jeffress about being in the AFL. "I've got a good opportunity to come out here and show my stuff. I'll play to the best of my abilities."

Jeffress, whose fastball has consistently been clocked at upwards of 100 mph, wants to work on throwing strikes early in the count, getting strikes down in the zone, and cutting down on the walks.

"That's a good, young strong arm with very smooth mechanics," Javelinas pitching coach Ted Power said. "Somebody has worked with him and really gotten him into a groove."

In their short time together, Power has already seen that Jeffress is willing to listen to new ideas.

"One of the things that we identified was his two-seam fastball," said Power, pitching coach for Triple-A Louisville (Reds) during the regular season. "We tinkered with his grip a little bit and he seems to be more satisfied with it, getting more down action against lefthanders, so that's a plus side there."

Jeffress' first AFL start was a productive one. He yielded one run in three innings on two hits and one walk while striking out four batters.

Power worked with Jeffress on taking a little off his curveball in his first start and throwing it at a more comfortable level early in the game.

"He was throwing his curveball really, really hard," said Power, "and he didn't have a feel for the release point yet. I told him not try to throw the hard one right away because if you have a problem with it then you lose confidence in it."

By the third inning, Power said that Jeffress was able to come back with the hard curveball for a couple of strikeouts.

Jeffress believes that the opportunity to learn from players and coaches from other organizations during his time in the AFL will be beneficial.

"You learn and watch from everybody," Jeffress said. "Whatever you can take in, whatever you can give away … whatever works, that's what I say."

FALL GUYS

Brian Matusz was almost perfect in his professional debut against the Mesa Solar Sox at Surprise Stadium on Saturday. Baltimore's 2008 first-round draft choice pitched three innings and yielded only a third-inning walk to Nate Spears (Cubs). Matusz's fastball was consistently clocked at 92 mph.

• Tampa Bay prospect Desmond Jennings was added to the Peoria Javelinas roster and reported to Arizona on Friday. The 21-year-old outfielder missed much of the 2008 season due to injuries.

• The Phoenix Desert Dogs had a few extra fans at their games the first week of the season. Trevor Cahill, Jemile Weeks and Josh Horton were among the A's prospects watching their organization mates playing for the Desert Dogs.