Drake eager to bolster Brewers' bullpen

April 14th, 2017

CINCINNATI -- It's safe to say traveled a unique path to get to the Milwaukee bullpen.

The 30-year-old right-hander joined the Brewers on Friday, hours after being obtained in a trade with Baltimore for cash or a player to be named, and worked two innings with four strikeouts to close out the Brewers' 10-4 victory against the Reds. He had been designated for assignment by the Orioles, the organization for which he had played since being drafted in 2008.

"It's exciting to get a new, fresh start," Drake said. "I only know one organization in professional baseball. It will be exciting to learn everybody's name and the way things run."

Drake spent two years at the U.S. Naval Academy. Following his sophomore year, he was faced with a decision -- stay at Annapolis and begin his military obligation or pursue his dream of playing professional baseball. He waited until two weeks before the academy's re-enrollment deadline to decide.

"It was a hard decision to leave," Drake said. "There are a lot of amazing people [at Annapolis]. In an ideal world, I would have been able to graduate from there and still play baseball."

What he learned in those two years, however, still influences his life today.

"What I learned about discipline was huge," Drake said. "There is a lot of sacrifice needed. You need to put in your work to get your goals achieved. One of the biggest things is time management. There is so much to do and not enough time to do it in. I learned a lot there."

Drake was not drafted until the 43rd round in 2008 and had shoulder surgery in 2012. He became a closer in the Baltimore system after returning in 2013 and was the organization's 2015 relief pitcher of the year after working 26 consecutive scoreless Minor League innings, converting all 23 save opportunities and compiling a 0.82 ERA.

He got there by developing a split-finger fastball as his second pitch after having become frustrated with his changeup while working as a starter. He now throws the splitter about half the time.

Drake and his new pitch became rising stars in the Orioles organization. But, in 2014, Zach Britton had made his debut as the Orioles closer. Britton was 37-for-41 in save situations for Baltimore that summer, followed by All-Star Game appearances in 2015 and 2016.

"I think they're pretty happy with their closer," Drake said.

The Brewers hope to be pretty happy with their new acquisition.

"He's a little different style of right-hander," Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said. "I would say he throws more of a north-south splitter than and Jared Hughes, who throw east-west. That's his pitch. We'll get him in there and assess his role as he pitches."