By Bob Wirz
John Brebbia’s days in the American Association gave the right-hander a major career boost, and now after three full seasons and more than 160 appearances out of St. Louis’s bullpen he is in contention to become the Cardinals’ closer.
Current league pitchers might want to pay attention to what this onetime Sioux Falls and Laredo moundsman thinks a ninth-inning guy needs to do?
“The first thing that comes to mind when I think of a closer is someone who is a bull–competitive and never backs down,” he told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I think good stuff is always going to play into that because a lot of times teams appear to pick closers based on who they believe their best pitcher is out of the bullpen. But to make it successful in (a) high-leverage situation you have to be more on the aggressive side, the more proactive pitcher, not a read and react pitcher. You lead the game.”
While admitting the closer job is up for grabs in spring training, manager Mike Shildt has praise for the Florida native. He (Brebbia) “goes and gets it,” Shildt told the newspaper. He made a career-high 66 regular-season appearances, struck out 87 and allowed only 59 hits in 72.2 innings last season.
Brebbia, who had not pitched above Class A when he came to the American Association after three years in the New York Yankees farm system, had his biggest production as a closer in ’15 at Laredo when he saved 19 games. The year before he went 3-2 with a save and 3.31 ERA in 34 appearances (five starts) for Sioux Falls.
League May Have 2 NL Closers
Wouldn’t it be something if the American Association ended up claiming two National League closer spots? Veteran Brandon Kintzler (St. Paul and Winnipeg) is the odds-on favorite for that role in his initial season with Miami.
Markel and His Heater in Angels Camp
Parker Markel’s jump from Sioux City’s bullpen in 2018 to a major league debut last May was one of the quickest leaps in recent years. The big guy (6-5, 240) struggled in his 20 appearances between Pittsburgh and Seattle (0-1, 7.77), but he deserves a break after also being shuttled among three minor league teams during the season. Five uniforms in one season is a load.
Now he is with his third major league organization since leaving the Explorers. The Los Angeles Angels have taken the 29-year-old off their 40-man roster but kept him in their major league camp, knowing he has a 95-mile per hour fastball and a slider which he used in dazzling style in the minors one year ago when he struck out an eye-popping 16.3 every nine innings.
League Claims 2 of Top 5 Spots in Attendance Growth
It is well known that St. Paul led all of Independent Baseball in average attendance (8,061) for the fifth year in a row last season, but it also should be noted that the American Association had two of the top five non-affiliated teams in attendance gains.
Previously the chief spokesman for Baseball Commissioners Bowie Kuhn and Peter Ueberroth, Bob Wirz has been writing extensively about Independent Baseball since 2003. He is a frequent contributor to this site, has a blog, www.IndyBaseballChatter.com, and a book about his life, “The Passion of Baseball”, is available at Amazon.com or at www.WirzandAssociates.com.