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Suter has 'leg up' on Brewers roster spot

Milwaukee lefty enters camp in great shape with goal of improving changeup
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

PHOENIX -- Brent Suter is in the best shape of his life, and he is working on his changeup, a combination that might make the Brewers left-hander the perfect Spring Training player.

Suter added nearly 20 pounds of bulk and is emphasizing offspeed stuff in a bid to become a more durable member of Milwaukee's starting rotation. The 28-year-old has a "leg up" on a roster spot, manager Craig Counsell said this week, which sounded good to Suter.

PHOENIX -- Brent Suter is in the best shape of his life, and he is working on his changeup, a combination that might make the Brewers left-hander the perfect Spring Training player.

Suter added nearly 20 pounds of bulk and is emphasizing offspeed stuff in a bid to become a more durable member of Milwaukee's starting rotation. The 28-year-old has a "leg up" on a roster spot, manager Craig Counsell said this week, which sounded good to Suter.

Brewers' Spring Training information

"I'm definitely grateful to hear [he has a leg up], but I still have to go out and earn it," Suter said. "I have to show them how I improved this offseason, show them how I can go that third time through the order better."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Last season, when he compiled a 3.42 ERA in 81 2/3 innings, Suter made 14 starts and faced the same hitter three times in a game on 49 occasions. His changeup is key to increasing that figure, Suter believes, because he relies on keeping hitters off-balance in spite of a fastball that averaged 86 mph last season, according to Statcast™, and never touched 90 mph. Instead, he succeeded with deception and one of baseball's quickest paces between pitches.

He's a candidate for the bullpen if he does not win a rotation spot, but Suter prefers to start and has a practical reason. He cited his between-starts sessions with pitching coach Derek Johnson for much of his improvement in 2017. As a reliever, pitchers still work, but have to limit their throwing in order to be game-ready that night.

Video: CIN@MIL: Suter strikes out Kivlehan in the 1st

"That's what puts it over the edge for me, starting versus relieving," Suter said.

Houser back on track

Pitching prospect Adrian Houser, the Brewers' 19th-ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline, woke up in a sweat at 4 a.m. on Jan. 21 with a sharp pain in his stomach. He thought he had food poisoning, but two hours later he was headed to the hospital for an emergency appendectomy that is briefly delaying the start to his third Spring Training with the team.

Houser is set to resume mound work next week, making his procedure a minor setback compared to where he stood a year ago, when the right-hander was still recovering from Tommy John surgery.

"I've been through the ringer," he said.

He sees the end of his rehab road, however. Houser was encouraged by his strong finish last season in the Arizona Fall League, where one radar gun registered his fastball as high as 99 mph.

Video: McCalvy looks at Brewers' projected 2018 lineup

"It was great, especially there in the Fall League, where I was starting to get the feel back for my pitches," Houser said. "I was starting to see some good results, and I was hoping to bring that into Spring Training. Then came [the appendectomy]. We just have to get past this and keep chugging along."

Last call

• A windshield repair company was working on the back window of Brewers reliever Matt Albers' car Friday morning, a day after it was shattered by a home run hit from an adjacent field. Alberts thinks slugging first baseman Jesus Aguilar was the hitter.

"I think we need a little more netting up there," Albers said.

• Results of the first round of physical exams were in Friday morning, and Counsell said there were no surprises. Houser and Jimmy Nelson (shoulder surgery) are the only pitchers, catchers and early-arriving position players on a restricted program.

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

Milwaukee Brewers, Brent Suter