Right-hander Jake Odorizzi
isn't fazed when he sees his breath in the biting chill of Wisconsin in April. The native of Highland, Ill., can handle the cold weather and has handled Midwest League hitters so far this season.
Odorizzi, who turned 20 on March 27, pitched five hitless innings in his Midwest League debut. In 12 innings this season, he's 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA, allowing only two runs on four hits and five walks while striking out 19.
Standing 6-foot-2 and weighing 175 pounds, Odorizzi brings heat to the frigid spring.
The impressive start marks a step forward for the 32nd overall pick in the 2008 Draft. He was 1-2 with a 3.48 ERA in his debut in the Rookie-level Arizona League, then went 1-4 with a 4.40 ERA last season in the Rookie-level Pioneer League.
"It takes a little bit getting used to, throwing every fifth day," Odorizzi said. "The competition level is tough, but now I'm fully used to it.
"Midway through last season, things just kind of kicked in. I'm comfortable with it and I haven't had problems since then."
Odorizzi attributed his dominant start this season to Brewers coaches preparing him for a transition to full-season baseball and getting strong support from Timber Ratters teammates.
"I'm throwing the ball pretty well and the team is playing great behind me," he said. "They're hitting the ball really well and playing good defense. They've put it all together and that makes for a good start."
When Odorizzi steps on the mound, Midwest League opponents face an arsenal of weapons. He employs a four-seam fastball, slider, curve and changeup.
"I had all those pitches in high school," Odorizzi said. "Now I'm working on perfecting them. The changeup is what I'm working on the most. That's my main emphasis."
Odorizzi's effectiveness lies in keeping hitters off-balance with that four-pitch repertoire.
"It gives the hitter a lot to think about," he said. "Even if it's a pitch I don't throw very much, it's still in the back of their minds that they could see it. I work hard at trying to keep hitters off-balance," he explained. "I work both sides of the plate and try to stay one step ahead of the hitter."
Odorizzi is able to handle the expectations that come with being a first-round pick and has the patience required to develop in the Minor Leagues.
"The Brewers are taking their time with me and I understand that," he said. "I came in with an open mind. Everybody wants to be progressed quickly, but there are always people ahead of you. You have to keep things in the right perspective. You can go out and pitch well and think you're ready, but the next outing, you might do terrible. It humbles you. You have to be patient."
Big league help: Chicago Cubs All-Star LHP Ted Lilly worked seven innings in a rehab start for Peoria, giving up one run on three hits and a walk with nine strikeouts in a 2-1 victory over Burlington. He also became the first Chiefs pitcher in almost 10 years to bat in a game.
Hitter on hold: Lansing OF Brad Glenn had his 12-game hitting streak put on hold by a shoulder injury. He was batting .452 (14-of-31) during the streak.
Flamethrower: Dayton Dragons Nick Christiani boasts an 0.93 ERA in five appearances. He has given up only three hits over 9 2/3 innings and has struck out 10 without walking a batter.