Veras fills vital hole in Brewers' bullpen

Veras fills vital hole in Brewers' bullpen

Veras fills vital hole in Brewers' bullpen
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Brewers like what they have seen from Jose Veras, the gargantuan right-hander expected to be the team's regular seventh-inning man this season.

That role was filled capably during the second half of 2012 by veterans LaTroy Hawkins and Takashi Saito, but both left via free agency. So the Brewers traded third baseman Casey McGehee, expendable after the team signed Aramis Ramirez, to the Pirates for Veras, who had served as Pittsburgh's 6-foot-6 setup man.

"I think he's going to be a big addition to our bullpen," Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said. "When he's down in the zone, he's going to be really good."

Veras' fastball averaged 94.1 mph last season, according to the website FanGraphs.com, and he made a big change by throwing curveballs for 40 percent of his pitches, up from 27-28 percent in the previous two seasons. Most late-inning relievers rely on sliders for their breaking ball, but the curve was a big pitch for Veras.

"For right-handed batters, it starts right at them and they freeze," Roenicke said.

Veras got a taste of a regular-season situation in Monday's win over the Rangers. After the Brewers scored three times in the sixth inning to grab a 4-3 lead, Veras relieved Randy Wolf with nobody out and runners at first and second base, and he escaped unscathed.

Veras struck out Mitch Moreland and jammed Ian Kinsler for a flyout to left field. After an infield single loaded the bases, Veras retired Josh Hamilton on a groundout.

"We know what we have in the eighth and ninth," Roenicke said, referring to returning relievers Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford. "But you still have to get to the eighth and ninth. To have Veras there and Kameron [Loe] there when we need him, it's really important."