Rookie in the mix for '16 after flashes of dominance
By Cash Kruth
MILWAUKEE -- Brewers manager Craig Counsell said before Friday's 6-1 loss to the Cubs that right-hander Ariel Pena had "opened eyes" through his first few Major League outings.
Pena certainly had the Cubs' attention early. The 26-year-old right-hander fanned five of the first six batters he faced -- including the first four -- and finished with a career-high six strikeouts in his sixth Major League appearance (fifth start).
"Early, his fastball had a little different life than what we've seen," Counsell said.
Though impressive, Pena's early dominance didn't last.
Cubs shortstop Addison Russell nearly hit a home run to open the third inning -- which ended thanks to a clutch 3-6-3 double play -- and, in the fourth, Pena surrendered a solo homer to Anthony Rizzo.
Miscommunication between center fielder Jordan Schafer and right fielder Domingo Santana on a high fly ball extended the fifth inning and ended Pena's day. He finished allowing four runs (three earned) on five hits while walking two in 4 1/3 innings.
Pena more than held his own in his first Major League stint. While he didn't pitch deep into games, just seven of his 43 Minor League appearances this season were starts. Plus, he never allowed more than three earned runs in any of his outings.
With this month serving as an audition of sorts for several young pitchers as the Brewers begin to prepare for 2016, Counsell said Pena has given the Brewers something to think about.
"He made five starts and I thought in each game, young pitcher, got through five innings … he got big league hitters out, he went through lineups twice. I was pleasantly surprised by what he did," Counsell said.
"Tonight he showed the ability to get strikeouts, so certainly, I think, we've got to be aware of him, for sure. He's another option for us."
Cash Kruth is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @cashkruth. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.