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Brewers excited to add Claudio to bullpen mix

Hader renewed; Dubon returns to action; Braun set for spring debut
@AdamMcCalvy
March 6, 2019

PHOENIX -- Brewers manager Craig Counsell dubbed his hard-throwing bullpen trio of Josh Hader, Corey Knebel and Jeremy Jeffress as “The Electric Dudes,” and the moniker stuck. What does that make funky, soft-tossing left-hander Alex Claudio?

PHOENIX -- Brewers manager Craig Counsell dubbed his hard-throwing bullpen trio of Josh Hader, Corey Knebel and Jeremy Jeffress as “The Electric Dudes,” and the moniker stuck.

What does that make funky, soft-tossing left-hander Alex Claudio?

“He’s going to be a ‘rechargeable battery dude,' because I think he’s going to pitch a lot,” Counsell said.

Then, he reconsidered.

“He kind of is an electric dude,” Counsell said. “Like an electric car that runs forever.”

The Brewers are high on Claudio, a 27-year-old acquired in a Winter Meetings trade with the Rangers. He’s coming off a down year -- his 4.48 ERA, 1.52 WHIP and .322 average against were all career worsts -- but the underlying data was strong, and a career-high .366 batting average on balls in play suggested the sort of bad luck that sometimes strikes ground-ball pitchers.

Before that, Claudio was quite effective for the Rangers, with a 2.66 ERA over his first four seasons despite a modest 6.5 strikeouts per nine innings.

“You’re not going to find any evaluator or any metric or data analysis that doesn’t love strikeouts, but not every pitcher can strike guys out at the rate that Josh does or Corey does,” Counsell said. “If I look at what Alex does, he suppresses slug because the ball’s on the ground so much. So that’s another way to be really good -- you don’t let players slug. There’s not a lot of strikeouts, but there’s not a lot of slug. So you have to string together hits, which has become seemingly tougher in today’s game. That’s how Alex is an effective pitcher.”

Claudio may look like a left-handed specialist as he goes into his nontraditional delivery, but the Brewers plan to use him for more than one batter. That suits Claudio, who said he prefers to pitch an inning or two when called upon.

“I think, for me, it was a very positive trade,” Claudio said. “I’m coming over here with a team that has a really good bullpen and a really good team that made it far [last season]. I’m just trying to contribute to that, try to help them take it to the next level and get to the World Series and win it, like we all want to.”

Of pairing with Hader, Claudio said, “I think we’ll both help each other out. He had a great year last year. A lot was put on him. I think, me being here, I’ll be able to help him out. We talked about it already.”

Hader renewed

The Brewers agreed to terms with all of their remaining unsigned players Wednesday but one: Hader, whose contract was renewed by the club. His salary was set at $687,600, according to the club, a raise from $556,500 last year, when Hader set the all-time record for strikeouts by a left-handed reliever.

For an explanation of contract renewals, see MLB.com’s glossary. Players in their pre-arbitration seasons have little or no leverage in salary negotiations, and sometimes opt against accepting the team’s unilateral offer when they don’t think it represents fair value. Last year, third baseman Travis Shaw took a renewal and chalked it up to “just business.”

That bit of business did not appear to affect Hader on the mound during Wednesday’s 5-4 win over the D-backs. He struck out the side in the sixth inning, making it six batters faced, six strikeouts so far this spring.

Among the notable players with three or fewer years of Major League service who agreed to the Brewers’ contract offer were first baseman Jesus Aguilar, shortstop Orlando Arcia and pitchers Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff.

Dubon back in action

After gaining back 10 of the 15 pounds he lost during a four-day hospitalization for an intestinal issue, infield prospect Mauricio Dubon was cleared to resume workouts on Wednesday. He was scheduled to play catch, hit off a tee and do a weight room workout with strength and conditioning specialist Josh Seligman.

“That sounds like we’re going slow, and we are, because we don’t have the weight back on from the illness yet,” Counsell said.

Dubon said the biggest change had been to his diet. He was drinking 10 sodas per day, he said, and has cut that to zero.

“It’s been tough,” Dubon said, “but I’m not going back.”

Braun on deck

Ryan Braun is scheduled to make his Cactus League debut on Friday, when the D-backs are back at American Family Fields of Phoenix for the second time in three days. Braun’s later start to spring games is by design.

“I think he knows his swing very well, and he’s very confident in his process,” Counsell said. “And he’s also very strict with his process. … It’s not the at-bats that he needs; it’s more you’ve got to be on your feet for three hours.”

Up next

Arcia, Aguilar and Yasmani Grandal are among the hitters tentatively scheduled to play Thursday’s game against the White Sox in Glendale, Ariz., at 2:05 p.m. CT. Zach Davies gets the start for Milwaukee.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram and like him on Facebook.