Welcome to The Show: Thornburg, Bianchi adjusting to big leagues
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke admitted the season-ending injury to Alex Gonzales and the marginal offensive performances of Cesar Itzuris (.226 average) and Cody Ransom (.183) contributed to the call-up, he felt a healthy Bianchi could be an asset at the plate.
"We're not bringing him up here because we think he's just a backup guy who can't do a lot," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "We're making this change because we think that he can help us."
A past winner of the Royals' Frank White Defensive Player of the Year Award as the best defender in the system, the Brewers haven't seen a defensive drop off during Bianchi's starts, but he's adjusting to major league life at the plate.
In his two home starts, Bianchi has faced World Series champions A.J. Burnett of the Pirates and Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals, beginning his career on the Brewers home stand 0-for-8 and 0-11 overall.
"Solid defender," Roenicke said. "He comes up here, which a lot of guys are nervous when they first come up, he's not. Fielding a ground ball, very confident. Very confident throwing it over. And offensively he's been against a couple of pretty good pitchers, day games where you have some shadows. He's got a nice approach, nice swing and we need to get him his first hit so he can relax a little bit at the plate and then see what we have."
Bianchi smiled at Roenicke's assertion that he was nothing but cool and collected once he made his major league debut, but admits he has a greater sense of peace.
"I think when I first got here there were some nerves," Bianchi said. "Exciting nerves are good, my first time up here. Once I cross those lines it's business – it's the same game I've been playing my whole life, just on a bigger stage. I think God's given me just a calmness that that only He can give. Once I step out there it's all business, but there were definitely some early on."
Now that he's been initiated, the focus is on bringing his game up a level.
"Obviously up here the pitchers are better than in the minor leagues for a reason, and they're going to put the ball where they want to more often than not," he said. "So when they do make a mistake over the plate, whether it be a fastball or breaking ball or whatever it may be, I've got capitalize on it. You're not going to get too many, three or four in an at-bat like you might have down in the minor leagues. So once you get that pitch you gotta be able to put a good swing on it and hit it or else they're going to do what they want to you."
The Brewers other, more heralded, rookie – right-hander Tyler Thornburg - is also experiencing some growing pains. He has allowed eight earned runs – on seven homers – in 12 innings of work spanning two starts and one relief appearance.
"What's happening is there's a difference when you're behind in the count in the minor leagues and you're behind in the count here," Roenicke said. "These guys don't miss a good fastball. I'm sure when he was in Double A, Triple A, he could throw the ball by guys. So that's the difference. He gets behind in the count, he hasn't established that he can throw off speed pitches for strikes when he's behind in the count, so he throws a fastball and they're all ready for it."
In Thornburg's major league debut against the Toronto Blue Jays in June, he fell behind Cody Rasmus and Jose Bautista 2-1 when both took him deep.
After being recalled during the All-Star break, Thornburg made his first relief appearance against Pittsburgh, and fell behind Casey McGehee 1-0 before giving up a deep home run.
His next start, on July 18 in place of Zack Greinke, he fell behind Allan Craig 3-2 before surrendering a homer.
The home runs by Edwin Encarnacion in that Toronto series and David Freese in the St. Louis series were on 2-2 counts.
"I think minor league hitters mishit pitches a little bit more," Thornburg admitted. "I think also when I was getting behind I was taking a little bit off and the location wasn't as good as well. That kind of factored into it, too."
The trials Bianchi and Thornburg are going through are nothing new, expected even. Every teammate of theirs has lived it, and gotten through it.
"The biggest thing is seeing people you've seen on TV and you're playing against them on the field," Rickie Weeks said of the adjustment to the majors. "Other than that, it's the same game. I thought I was taught fairly well in the minor leagues, knowing that once you get there it's the same game and you just have to slow yourself down a little bit."
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