DENVER -- Jeremy Jeffress doesn't think of himself as a veteran, though it's been a dozen years since the Brewers made him a first-round Draft pick and launched a career filled with dramatic ups and downs. Yet, for his relative youth (at age 30) and many setbacks -- including suspensions
DENVER -- Jeremy Jeffress doesn't think of himself as a veteran, though it's been a dozen years since the Brewers made him a first-round Draft pick and launched a career filled with dramatic ups and downs. Yet, for his relative youth (at age 30) and many setbacks -- including suspensions for marijuana use -- Jeffress reached a longevity milestone in what manager Craig Counsell called arguably the sharpest outing of Jeffress' career -- a 14-pitch, three-strikeout save against the Rockies on Thursday.
Two hundred appearances as a Brewer.
It does not sound like a huge number, but only 25 others have pitched in that many games in a Brewers uniform. If Jeffress can somehow maintain his current pace of 85 appearances this season, he would climb into the franchise's top 10 all-time.
"Very few relievers have 10-year careers with teams," Counsell said.
Jeffress is on year six with the Brewers, including a September callup in 2010, before he was traded to the Royals in a package of young players that December for Zack Greinke. Jeffress struggled in stints with the Royals and Blue Jays, then came back to the Brewers and thrived, before he was traded again to the Rangers and struggled there, too. Then, agent Joshua Kusnick helped orchestrate a trade back to the Brewers last July.
And once again, Jeffress has thrived with Milwaukee.
All told, Jeffress went 15-3 with a 2.33 ERA and 30 saves in his first 200 games as a Brewer, including a 0.43 ERA and a .132 opponents' average in his first 20 games of 2018. He added another scoreless inning -- and another victory -- in the Brewers' come-from-behind, 11-10 win over the Rockies on Friday.
Compare that to his 4.76 ERA and one save in 91 Major League appearances for his other teams.
"Never quit," Jeffress said when asked the meaning of 200 games as a Brewer.
What is it about being with this particular team that seems to bring out his best?
"It's a comfortability with the front office. That's No. 1," Jeffress said. "When I was drafted, [former Brewers GM] Doug Melvin took me under his wing and never let go. Even when I was traded, we kept in contact and talked through my agent. Whenever I've been here, I feel like I belong here.
"I always kept in touch with [Brewers director of psychological services] Matt Krug, who wanted to be sure the off-the-field stuff was going well. They've been good, man. Yeah, I've had slip-ups in the past, but the Brewers have always known the kind of person I was. That's the biggest thing."
That's just the start of what has led to his recent success. Besides Melvin, former assistant GM Gord Ash was instrumental in bringing Jeffress back the first time in 2014. Teammate Francisco Rodriguez installed the "all for one" mindset that has governed the Brewers' bullpen since his departure. Another teammate, Junior Guerra, plus pitching coach Derek Johnson and bullpen coach Lee Tunnell, have helped Jeffress harness the split-fingered fastball, the weapon behind his most recent success.
And the new baseball operations regime led by David Stearns and Matt Arnold were the ones who brought Jeffress back a second time, first via trade, and then by signing him to an incentive-laden, option-heavy extension last winter to avoid arbitration and a potential non-tender.
"My body feels great," Jeffress said. "Everybody in the bullpen right now shares the same mindset, and that takes the stress off your mind. That's why you get tired, when you're always stressed out."
A good bit of trivia: The Brewers' all-time leader in pitching appearances is Dan Plesac, who worked in 365 games for Milwaukee from 1986-92.
Suter to start
He went from the starting rotation to the bullpen when the Brewers activated Wade Miley from the disabled list. Now, Brent Suter is rejoining the rotation in the wake of Miley's latest setback, a strained right oblique that could keep him on the DL for 6-8 weeks.
Suter will start Sunday against the Rockies, Counsell confirmed.
"I feel like it's a good opportunity to help the team out," Suter said. "Part of [having success while bouncing between roles] is just practice; I've done it a lot the last four years. Another part is that I don't have to change too much of my routine. … The way I pitch, nothing really changes between starting or relieving. I just try to be as efficient as possible."
Starting will give Suter a chance to hit. He smashed an unlikely, 433-foot home run off Indians ace and reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber while working emergency relief for Miley on Tuesday at Miller Park. Suter's solo shot accounted for the decisive run in a 3-2 Brewers win.
To make room for Friday's starting pitcher Brandon Woodruff's ascent from Triple-A Colorado Springs, the Brewers optioned outfielder Brett Phillips back to Triple-A. Phillips was 1-for-7 with five strikeouts in his latest stint with the big league club, and will get to resume regular playing time with the SkySox.
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.