COMMENTARY | The night of June 28 at PNC Park was a fateful one for Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Johnny Hellweg.
Making his major-league debut, Hellweg took the mound against the Pittsburgh Pirates with the Brewers' season fading quickly and desperation setting in. The starting rotation was riddled with injury, lackluster performance and a lack of talent, and the decision to promote the 24-year-old right-hander could be delayed no longer.
Immediately, the Brewers gave him a cushion, scoring three in the top of the first, and Hellweg responded with a scoreless opening inning. From there, Hellweg would rather not recall how the rest of his night or his following two weeks in Milwaukee played out.
Now, back as a September call-up, Hellweg will rejoin the Brewers' rotation and make his first start at the big-league level since early-July on Sept. 7.
More than any other Brewer, there are five reasons why Hellweg needs to make his mark in September:
1. His first stint was a disaster
Wondering how that game at Pittsburgh turned out for Hellweg? Not well.
Hellweg was unable to make it out of the second inning after allowing seven runs (five earned), and that spelled the end of his big-league debut. Things didn't get much better from there -- in his next three appearances, Hellweg allowed 8 ERs in 9 innings, but he was betrayed by his defense on multiple occasions.
He's now 0-3 with a 10.97 ERA, just 3 strikeouts and 13 walks, good for a .231 K/BB ratio. To say Hellweg has retribution on the mind would be an understatement, and a few good outings would help erase some of those horrid memories from Hellweg's first stint with Milwaukee.
2. He's a top prospect
Hellweg is rated as the No. 3 prospect in Milwaukee's system by MLB.com, and while we know how pitiful the Brewers' farm system is in comparison to the rest of the league, that doesn't mean great things shouldn't be expected of Hellweg.
His fastball is one of the best in the organization, reaching the high-90s in velocity with movement. Obviously, control is still a concern with Hellweg as well as the development of his offspeed pitches, but he's someone that relies on the defense behind him for success. Hellweg needs to live up to his top-prospect billing soon, and what better time to start than now.
3. If he wants to be taken seriously next spring
A strong month of September will go a long way in determining Hellweg's role next season. With such an electric fastball, the Brewers could certainly make him a reliever next season, but their desire is to have him make the starting rotation.
If it's more of the same with Hellweg at the major-league level, his place with Milwaukee in 2014 will seriously be in doubt. He's probably spent enough time in the minors -- Hellweg was drafted in 2008 -- so some progress would be refreshing to see from Milwaukee's perspective.
4. He's shown he can do it in the minors
Being named the Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Year is no joke, and that's the honor Hellweg earned this season with the Nashville Sounds. However, Hellweg did struggle down the stretch, sporting a 5.74 ERA and a K/BB ratio just barely over 1.00 in August.
That being said, his numbers need to be taken as a whole, and they're pretty darn good. Hellweg went 12-5 with a 3.15 ERA for a Sounds team that won only 56 games. As noted before, control is an issue with the 6-foot-9-inch hurler (1.10 K/BB ratio and 1.464 WHIP at Triple-A), and that issue reared its ugly head at the big-league level.
5. There's now less pressure to succeed
A player's first time at the major-league level can be a bit unnerving. There is immense pressure to succeed, and we saw players like Scooter Gennett and Khris Davis struggle in their first stints with Milwaukee.
Now, both Gennett and Davis are in everyday roles and flourishing not only because they can count on seeing their names in the lineup, but also because those jitters have exited stage left. No longer is this Hellweg's first rodeo. Sure, he knows what happened the first time around, but the Brewers have nothing to play for, and Hellweg knows exactly what to expect in his second turn with Milwaukee.
Dave Radcliffe is a resident of a little known Milwaukee suburb who is an avid follower of Wisconsin sports. He has contributed to JSOnline, as a featured columnist on other sites and publications, and been a guest on multiple sports talk radio shows.
You can get the discussion going and follow Dave on Twitter @DaveRadcliffe_.
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