April 29, 2010 was perhaps the most unbelievable night of Ryan Brasier's professional career -- at least to this point. It was on that night that a catcher turned reliever turned starter who had struggled with control didn't allow a hit, walking just two batters in a no-hitter for Double-A Arkansas.
“It was something else. It was awesome,” Brasier said on Wednesday, looking back nearly two years from his 111-pitch masterpiece in Little Rock, Ark. “It just ... It's hard to explain it. It was awesome. It's something you can never prepare for or think about; it's just one of those things that happens on your best day. It was ... Honestly, words can't even describe how awesome it was.”
And it should have been a major boost of confidence -- instead, it was the high point of his starting career. In his first start after the no-hitter, he again faced Colorado's Texas League entry, Tulsa, and he didn't even get out of the fourth inning, allowing six runs on eight hits. In his seven starts after the no-hitter, he went 3-5 with a 7.25 ERA before he was moved, temporarily, out of the rotation and into the bullpen.
“After the no-hitter, I was really amped about being a starter, obviously,” Brasier said. “And then I was really up and down the rest of the year.”
By the end of 2010, the Angels had decided to move him back to the bullpen.
Some pitchers are unhappy when they're moved to the bullpen, but not Brasier. “I was ready to go back to the bullpen.”
Back in the bullpen, Brasier also ditched a slow, looping curve and concentrated on his fastball and a slider he hadn't thrown for a couple of years. With a fastball in the mid-to-high 90s, his slider has been another useful weapon.
As the closer at Double-A Frisco in 2011, Brasier dominated, allowing just two earned runs in his 25 appearances, putting up a 0.71 ERA and 16 saves. He got completely shelled in his first two games in Triple-A, but since then he's put up a 1.54 ERA in 41 innings, including a 1.15 ERA with five saves so far in 2012. Even if he's not a closer in the future, he's shown the ability not just to get outs but also to get them when they're needed most. Batters are hitting just .125 against him with runners on base.
“I've pitched into a couple of tough situations and made some good pitches to get out of it. I'm feeling pretty good, trying to throw more strikes,” Brasier said. “I don't do anything different with runners on and runners not on. You always bear down, but with guys on base your blood gets flowing a little more than with nobody on base. I try to attack every hitter like I have two outs. I try to get them out as quick as I can."
The Angels recently acquired Ernesto Frieri to solidify their bullpen, so that means it'll likely be a little longer before Brasier gets a call to get on a flight to Anaheim. But at this point, it's not something he can control or worry about.
“Obviously we watch all the games. We want the Angels to win, because when they're winning, throughout the minor leagues it's a better vibe when they're winning. You always want your team to win,” Brasier said. “I've just got to have faith and as long as I'm doing what I'm doing and pitching well and pitching the best I can, I just hope sooner or later that chance will come.
“You can feel the tension at Triple-A as far as how close you are to the big leagues, but most teams are set and you just have to be at the right place at the right time and you have to be doing well when they need someone. You have to keep pitching and doing what you can.”
So far, that seems to be working.
• Rangers shortstop (note they already have a pretty good, young shortstop in the big leagues) Jurickson Profar has a 26-game hitting streak going after a 1-for-4 night for Double-A Frisco on Wednesday. Just 19, Profar is hitting .289/.339/.493 and is 6 for 6 on stolen-base attempts this season.
• Two of the Royals' prized prospects have been moved up to Triple-A. Outfielder Wil Myers and right-hander Jake Odorizzi have reported to Omaha. Myers led the Texas League in average (.343), slugging (.731) and OPS (1.146) and was second in homers with 13. Myers, 21, struggled a bit last year in Double-A but was impressive in the Arizona Fall League and this year in the Texas League. His 13 homers are one shy of his career-high of 14, set two years ago between high and low Class A. Odorizzi was a key piece of the Zack Greinke deal and was 4-2 with a 3.32 ERA in seven starts at Double-A. He was second in the league in strikeouts (47) and a 0.97 WHIP.
• You may start hearing more about Tyler Austin. A 13th round pick in the 2010 draft, Austin has two things going for him -- he has 12 home runs, and he's a Yankee prospect. Playing in the outfield for the first time this season, he hasn't missed a beat at low Class A Charleston (S.C.), where he's hitting .288/.344/.683. Of his 40 hits, 27 are for extra bases, including four triples. He'd played first base and third base before this season but has spent the bulk of his time in right field so far in 2012.
• The eighth overall pick in the 2010 draft, Houston's Delino DeShields Jr. (yes, he's the son of the former Expo) has made more headlines off the field than on in his young career. But the 19-year-old is showing some signs of coming around. His average isn't pretty at .241, but his on-base percentage is at .349, and with his speed, that's what's important. DeShields has 24 stolen bases through 36 games, including four on Wednesday night. He also had his first triple of the season on Wednesday.
• Reds lefty Donnie Joseph had a tough time in Double-A last season, going 1-3 with a 6.94 ERA. But so far he's had no troubles in 2012, going 4-0 with a 0.45 ERA for Double-A Pensacola. In 20 innings, the third-round pick from 2009 has struck out 30 and walked just four.
• And yes, there's the weekly Dylan Bundy update. The Orioles right-hander gave up another run in his last outing. But like the first run he gave up, the one he surrendered on Monday was unearned. He also threw five innings for the first time, allowing just two hits. He struck out just three but didn't walk a batter. So for the season, he still has a 0.00 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 25 innings, allowing four hits and just two walks.