Eager to get his career off to a strong beginning, Jed Bradley worked even harder between starts with Brevard County early last season than he had in college at Georgia Tech. There was one major problem with that, though.
At Georgia Tech, the left-hander usually pitched just once a week, and that meant plenty of time for extra throwing and conditioning. Now, the 15th overall pick in the 2011 Draft by the Brewers usual had just four days between starts.
"I learned the hard way what to do and what not to do," Bradley said. "It's trial and error, and I had a lot of error."
After not allowing an earned run in his first three starts, the Alabama native's first Minor League season unraveled.
Limited in Spring Training by a tight groin, Bradley quickly wore down and his mechanics fell apart. Soon his shoulder hurt and he no longer was able to throw the ball where he wanted or as hard as he wanted. When he developed a stomach illness in early August, it gave the Brewers an excuse for shutting him down for the season.
"I was definitely a tough year," said Bradley, who finished 5-10 with a 5.53 ERA and 43 walks to 60 strikeouts in 107 1/3 innings with the Manatees.
This season, though, the 22-year-old is wiser and healthier, which means Florida State League hitters are facing a much better and more consistent pitcher.
Although Bradley, the Brewers' No. 5 prospect, hasn't quite regained the velocity he had at Georgia Tech, he appears poised to get back on the fast track to Milwaukee again.
Bradley, who received a bonus of $2 million at the August signing deadline in 2011, is 3-1 with a 3.69 ERA over seven starts in his return to Brevard County. His best outing was against Charlotte on May 5, when he pitched six scoreless innings and struck out seven.
"I'm not completely satisfied, but it's been a lot better than last season," said Bradley, who uses a slider and changeup to complement his low-90s fastball.
The improvement is in part because of the work the 6-foot-4 Bradley did in the winter, when he muscled up to 235 pounds while working out at Georgia Tech and following a pitcher-specific condition program from Boston-based trainer Eric Cressey.
"I had to come to grips with the fact that the hard work needs to be done in the offseason," said Bradley, who had dropped to 205 pounds as he dealt with his stomach issues last August. "During the season, you just need to concentrate on maintenance. It's quality, not quantity."
Bradley got into four Cactus League games with the Brewers this spring, posting a 2.70 ERA with nine strikeouts to two walks in 6 2/3 innings and picked up two saves. In his best outing, he threw 16 of 19 pitches for strikes over two perfect innings to close out a win over the Mariners on March 6.
"It was a little bit of a confidence boost," he said.
If Bradley keeps pitching well, a promotion to Double-A Huntsville could be in the offing during the season, and that would mean a homecoming. He was born in the northern Alabama city and graduated from Huntsville High School.
"It's been in the back of my mind," he said. "It would be great to play at home and be able to sleep in my own bed. It's hard not to think about, but I don't want to look too far ahead."
Bradley knows what can happen when you try to rush things. And Huntsville, obviously, isn't his real goal -- Milwaukee is.
Staying red hot: Tampa second baseman Robert Refsnyder didn't cool down after being promoted from Charleston of the South Atlantic League. Instead, he got even hotter. After batting .370 in 13 games for the RiverDogs, Refsnyder, 22, hit .381 in his first 22 games for Tampa. He was a fifth-round pick by the New York Yankees in the 2012 Draft out of the University of Arizona after being named the Most Outstanding Player in that June's College World Series.
Change of support: After a hard-luck loss to Fort Myers in which he gave up just one run, New York Mets No. 3 prospect right-hander Noah Syndergaard got plenty of run support in his next start. St. Lucie pounded out 16 hits and drew nine walks in a 17-1 victory over Palm Beach on Thursday. Syndergaard (2-1) worked seven innings to tie his career high and allowed the one run on four hits and a walk while striking out seven. The 20-year-old, ranked No. 28 among MLB.com Top 100 Prospects, lowered his ERA to 2.61.
Moving them down: It's been Fort Myers' hard-hitting lineup that's gotten most of the attention in the Miracle's 28-8 start, but the pitching is pretty good, too. Leading the way has been right-hander D.J. Baxendale, who was 5-0 with a 1.25 ERA and 0.78 WHIP after seven starts. He had 41 strikeouts to seven walks in 43 1/3 innings and opponents were batting just .179 against him. Barkendale, 22, was a 10th-round pick of the Twins in the 2012 Draft out of the University of Arkansas.