Southern notes: Rasmussen ready to roll

Brewers prospect overcame two surgeries before turning pro

In his first professional season, Drew Rasmussen has a 3.42 ERA through 17 games across three levels. (Mike Krebs/Biloxi Shuckers)

By Brian Lester / Special to MiLB.com | July 11, 2019 11:15 AM

Drew Rasmussen embraces the fact that he's on the road less traveled.

He's overcome Tommy John surgery twice. He also dealt with disappointment in 2017, when the Tampa Bay Rays couldn't come to an agreement with a player they drafted 31st overall. It's been a bumpy ride, to say the least.

The road got a little bumpier this season, his first in pro ball. The Milwaukee Brewers' No. 15 prospect and 23-year-old Biloxi Shuckers right-hander readily admits he came into the Southern League All-Star break on a tough note.

"I've had to learn some lessons and those came at a cost, and, unfortunately, I came limping into the break," he said. "It seems I've gotten back on track. The last couple of outings have been solid."

He hasn't given up an earned run in his last three appearances, striking out 11 over 7 1/3 innings in that stretch, and he sports a 4.24 ERA. But in his four outings prior to the break, he was tagged for 12 runs -- 11 earned -- over seven innings.

Rasmussen turned to two people he trusted to fuel his turnaround: Oregon State pitching coach Nate Yeskie and Biloxi pitching coach Bob Milacki.

"It was about me getting back to competing instead of almost just hoping," Rasmussen said. "The two of them did a great job of helping me. Coach Yeskie reminded me of things he went over with me my freshman year, reminding me that some things don't change in baseball. I just had to get back to throwing the ball through the glove instead of to it.

"And Bob was instrumental in the ins and outs of every day work, getting my body back to where it needed to be. I learned the importance of taking advantage of off days. I didn't do that very well in the first half. That's where the knowledge of Bob comes into play."

Milacki said Rasmussen was battling fatigue as the first half drew to a close. He isn't surprised the young pitcher has been able to overcome it.

"He's a great kid, one of the hardest workers I've seen," Milacki said. "He's very confident and professional about how he goes about his business. He handles adversity really well."

Adversity is something Rasmussen knows all too well.

He threw the first perfect game in Oregon State history as a freshman and started off well as a sophomore until undergoing Tommy John surgery in March 2016.

It took about 13 months for him to recover. He returned to the Beavers rotation in 2017 and pitched in the College World Series. The Rays drafted him that May but the two sides couldn't reach a deal. Rasmussen never lost faith, even though he had his second surgery that fall.

"God has a plan for everyone. I'm a big believer in that," Rasmussen said. "He wanted me in Milwaukee and the Brewers organization, and I'm grateful I'm here. It's a road less traveled, but that's all right. I'm grateful for everything the Brewers have done up to this point."

2019 MiLB include

He never pitched in 2018. The Brewers still took him in the sixth round of that year's Draft. It was a special moment for someone who had no idea if a future in baseball was in the cards.

"I went into it knowing someone might not pick me at all and was very understanding of that," Rasmussen said. "When I saw my name, I called my fiance and my parents and broke down."

He called it a whirlwind of emotions. He recalls Dr. Keith Meister, who performed his second surgery, telling him someone would take a chance on him as long as he was healthy.

"I took those words to heart. I knew it was going to be a lot of work, but I had a feeling it would all be worth it," he said. "I had to go through some battles and have had some struggles, but it's incredible to be back on the field."

He made his pro debut this season with Class A Wisconsin, appearing in just one game -- that lone game was played in Milwaukee's Miller Park -- before moving up to Class A Advanced Carolina. He made his SL debut in Biloxi on May 8.

Though he's climbed quickly, his workload isn't overwhelming -- 47 1/3 innings in 17 games. He owns a 1-2 record.

"We've been cautious about the number of innings he pitches in and how many pitches he throws per game," Milacki said. "We wanted him to have more of a challenge, and Double-A has given it to him."

Rasmussen sees his hard work pay off. The mistakes aren't as frequent. He's also learning to take care of his body better, striking a balance between when to work hard and when to take it easy.

"Everything in this game, you have to earn," Rasmussen said. "It's about going out there and being as competitive as possible every time you get the ball. It's also about what you do between innings, getting your body ready for your next start."

Rasmussen hopes the road less traveled and the work that comes with the journey leads him to Major League Baseball.

"I almost see a light at the end of the tunnel," Rasmussen said. "I see the dream I've had since I was 4, 5, 6 years old. I'm so close. To get the opportunity to pitch at the big league level would be absolutely incredible. I've had a lot of ups and downs, a lot of negatives, but getting there would be self-fulfillment for me and for everyone who has been with me the whole way."

In brief

Solid start: No.19 Twins prospect Jorge Alcala pitched his longest outing of the year Monday, throwing six innings of shutout ball for the Pensacola Blue Wahoos in a 2-1 loss to Birmingham. Alcala gave up four hits, struck out seven and held an opponent scoreless for the third time this season.

Unroe show: Riley Unroe reached base four times in the Mississippi Braves' 7-4 win over Biloxi on Tuesday. Unroe collected three hits and scored a run to help the M-Braves win for just the second time in the series. Unroe is hitting .310 and has racked up 53 hits.

Brian Lester is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

View More