SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Looking to combat the damage left-handed hitters inflicted on him in recent years, right-hander Jhoulys Chacin entered his first camp with the Brewers set on getting his changeup ready for the regular season.Lefties hit .255, 38 points better than righties, and had a .789 OPS against Chacin
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Looking to combat the damage left-handed hitters inflicted on him in recent years, right-hander Jhoulys Chacin entered his first camp with the Brewers set on getting his changeup ready for the regular season.
Lefties hit .255, 38 points better than righties, and had a .789 OPS against Chacin last year. And in the past three seasons against Chacin, lefties have 17 more extra-base hits in 33 fewer at-bats and 73 fewer strikeouts than right-handed hitters.
:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::
Spring Training:Info | Tickets | Schedule | Gear
"It's a good pitch against lefties, to have that sinker, slider and then the changeup. I think it will help me a lot," Chacin said after his one-inning Brewers debut Sunday in a 5-1 win over the D-backs. "It's something I really want to work on."
Chacin threw a changeup in the Minor Leagues and in his first couple of seasons after he broke into the big leagues with the Rockies in 2009. But he went away from it, and after spending parts of the last four seasons with six organizations, he is working with Milwaukee pitching coach Derek Johnson to once again feature a changeup in his repertoire.
"I know I can throw good changeups," said Chacin, who signed a two-year, $15.5 million deal in the offseason and figures to be the Brewers' No. 3 starter. "I know I can throw a slider for a strike when I want, but if I throw my changeup around the zone, it's going to make a huge difference."
Chacin estimated he only threw three changeups Sunday, as he wanted to work in all of his pitches in a 19-pitch inning.
"Just to get the feeling," said Chacin, who gave up a two-out single and a walk in the inning. "The first couple games of Spring Training, you just want to get your arm in shape and try to feel the pitches.
"You always have to have a good impression on your team, especially in your first game. Even in Spring Training."
Brewers manager Craig Counsell liked what he saw.
"It is an emphasis for him," Counsell said of Chacin's changeup. "One of a couple emphasis that, as we get started here, he's trying to make."
Even in a new uniform, Chacin was comfortable on the Salt River Field mound and in the Brewers' dugout. They were the same he called home during his six big league seasons with the Rockies, who share the complex with the D-backs.
The only things difference was the dressing in the visitors' clubhouse beyond center field.
"It was great. I live eight minutes from here," Chacin said.
Bullpen battle brewing
Relief candidates J.J. Hoover and Taylor Williams impressed in their innings on Saturday against the Angels in Tempe, said Counsell, who views six spots in the bullpen as "locked down" and two as up for grabs.
The six spots belong to closer Corey Knebel, left-handers Josh Hader and Boone Logan and right-handers Matt Albers, Jacob Barnes and Jeremy Jeffress. Hoover and Williams are in a wide field in the race for the other two openings, which could include some spillover from the rotation race.
"I don't want to eliminate the possibility of using the off-days at the beginning of the season, but we're going to need eight relievers pretty quickly," Counsell said.
Don't expect to see Knebel and the other established relievers until the end of the week. They had yet to throw live batting practice as of Sunday.
The plan was subject to change, but Ryan Braun said he expects to make his first Cactus League appearance on Monday when the Brewers host the Indians at Maryvale Baseball Park. There was some discussion, Braun said, of it being his debut at first base, but he'll log a few more practice days there and will start in one of the outfield corners instead. The 2:05 p.m. CT game will be televised by FS Wisconsin (and MLB.TV) and will also air on the Brewers Radio Network and Gameday Audio.
Chris Gabel is a contributor to MLB.com.
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.