Jake Brentz joined the Pirates organization without a lot of fanfare, sent over from the Mariners in September 2016 to complete the trade of Arquimedes Caminero the month before. But, like the man he was traded for, Brentz gets plenty of notice when he lights up the radar gun. The 22-year-old lefthander can hit 100 MPH. Put in the bullpen full-time in High-A Bradenton this season, he struck out 11.4 batters per nine innings and walked 3.1. That earned him a call-up last week to Double-A Altoona, where I was able to catch up with him.
What’s worked for you and led to your call-up?
Just sticking to my game plan, my routine, trying to get better at my game and just pitching.
What’s that routine or plan? Does that have anything to do with being a reliever full-time?
It’s my throwing program and being able to get myself hot quick. That was a big test for me early on, in spring training. I try to limit myself to as few throws as I can. Sometimes it will be a crucial situation and you’ve got to warm up quickly. That was a big thing for me, to learn how to do that.
How do you warm up quickly, then?
You just let it go out of the pen. You don’t worry about spotting up in the bullpen warming up. You just try to get your arm hot as quickly as you can, then once you get out, you get eight pitches on the mound, so that’s when you start to dial it in to the plate.
What else has been different for you as a full-time reliever?
Last year was the first time I went to the ’pen. I was always a starter before then. I was with the Mariners, the last month of the season I was getting close to my innings (limit), so I went out to the bullpen. Ever since then, I’ve loved the bullpen. It worked out well for me, so the Pirates stuck with me there.
What do you throw, and how is that coming along?
Fastball-slider, really. That’s all I throw, and it’s going well. Every day I’m trying to get better and better and have the same mentality.
Does that play better in short stints, then?
Yeah. Everything is going well.
What’s different about the Pirates organization? This your third organization (drafted by the Blue Jays, third round, 2013) what have you seen?
What’s really helped me is they’re super, they’re great with their players. It’s an A-Plus organization.
Relievers can move up the minors more quickly; is that something you ever think about?
To be honest, I try not to think about that as much as I can, just going out to start, going out to relieve, whatever it is I need to prepare myself for the job I need to get done. I’ve got to prepare myself for each hitter. You never know how long you’re going to be in there as a reliever, so I really focus on studying those guys you’re going to be facing.
People say Double-A is one of the bigger jumps in the minors. What are your thoughts on getting up here?
I was super excited to get the call the other day and excited to get in this clubhouse with these guys. It’s going to be a fun rest of the year.