Suter embraces soft-tossing uniqueness

Lefty seeking bullpen role after effective debut last year

Suter embraces soft-tossing uniqueness

TEMPE, Ariz. -- In an era of young power pitchers, Brewers left-hander Brent Suter is an anomaly. His unique style happened by accident.

Suter, who started the Cactus League opener Saturday against the Angels but is bidding for a bullpen spot this spring, made it to the Majors last season and logged a 3.32 ERA over 14 games, including two starts. He worked with a fastball that averaged 83.8 mph. Only one non-knuckleballer threw softer: Angels veteran Jered Weaver, at 83 mph.

But Suter was effective. According to Statcast™, opponents' balls in play against him averaged 84.7 mph, lowest in the Majors among pitchers with at least 50 results.

"He learned some things about how his pitches played at the Major League level, how hitters reacted to it," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "I think he's going to be good at adjusting to that feedback. He gets the feedback and takes it and uses it.

"We gave him a shot, and I think it's important we gave him a shot. It doesn't have to look the same to get a shot. If you're getting outs consistently and doing it well, you'll get a shot. His repertoire is different, it's unique. That's what helps him get outs."

Suter, a 31st-round Draft pick of the Brewers out of Harvard in 2012, discovered his "differentness" by accident.

"It's pretty much been since 2013," Suter said. "In 2012, my velocity was kind of more normal -- 87-88 [mph], touching 91, which is more in the normal range for a left-hander. Then in 2013, I remember I was throwing slower but I was missing more barrels. I was like, I don't know what's going on."

Suter studied video of his outings at Class A Brevard County and noticed his delivery was slightly hunched, producing more cut to his pitches. But instead of ironing out his mechanics to reclaim the few ticks of lost velocity, Suter decided to run with the newfound movement.

"I was like, 'OK, let's take this path," Suter said. "I embraced it since then, and it's gotten me here."

Suter on offseason workouts

He advanced to Double-A in 2014, made it to Triple-A in 2015 and to the Major Leagues just before his 27th birthday in 2016, never with an ERA above 3.96. He earned a callup to the Major Leagues in August and became the first left-hander to start a game for the Brewers since Tom Gorzelanny's brief rotation stint in 2013.

Milwaukee's span of 474 games started by right-handed pitchers was the second-longest in Major League history. The Dodgers went 681 games from 1992-97.

Suter leaves bases full

When he arrived, Suter admits to fighting the thoughts of "Do I belong here?" With every Major League out, those thoughts were pushed from his mind. If there was a breakthrough, it was Aug. 23 at Miller Park, when Suter escaped a bases-loaded jam against the Rockies.

He was rewarded with his first Major League win.

"Those doubts are wasted thoughts, anyway, but it's hard not to have them," Suter said. "I am a little bit different, and hopefully it keeps working."

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.