Brothers leaner, eager to bounce back for Rockies

Brothers leaner, eager to bounce back for Rockies

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies lefty reliever Rex Brothers hasn't forgotten a forgettable 2014 season.

After 19 saves and a 1.74 ERA in 2013, when forced into the closer role because of Rafael Betancourt's right elbow injury, Brothers saw his ERA inflate to 5.59 last year.

"The past is part of what makes us who we are, so I've learned from it and grown from it," Brothers said. "You never settle in this game. I spoke with Matt Belisle [a former teammate now with the Cardinals] and he said, 'You know what? You've got to get a little meaner every year, turn it up a little more.'"

Brothers looks different, having traded power lifting for mobility work. He's 10-12 pounds lighter in an effort to get a different physical feel.

"It was just a change of pace, what my body needed at that specific time," he said. "I won't say I'm never going back to that [power] form of conditioning. But my body needed to hit a reset button and get back to the way a baseball player is supposed to move -- free, easy and athletic."

Pitching will be easier if Brothers can locate the first pitch and stay ahead in counts. In 2014, opponents clubbed Brothers' first pitches for a .481 batting average with one homer and four other extra-base hits, plus batted .353 with two homers on 1-0 counts and were 5-for-8 with a homer on 2-0 counts.

LaTroy Hawkins, who was expected last year to cede the closer role to Brothers but wound up keeping it, said, "You cannot pitch behind. I don't care who you are, the hitter can't always be on the offensive."

One positive change for Brothers happened off the field. He was married Nov. 8.

"My wife, Jill, is here, and we have a little yellow Lab puppy, as well," Brothers said. "I call Jill a rookie. This is her first Spring Training, first go-round with a full season."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page, Thomas Harding and Friends at www.Rockies.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.