Hellweg could find himself on big league roster

Right-hander hasn't pitched above Double-A, but is impressing in camp

Hellweg could find himself on big league roster

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Johnny Hellweg has yet to throw a pitch above the Double-A level, but has made a strong impression early in Spring Training and has a chance to be a member of the Brewers pitching staff on Opening Day.

Hellweg has pitched four scoreless innings this spring, including two in Thursday's win over the Chicago White Sox. Opponents are hitting a measly .083 against him.

"I'm just going out there and throwing when I see my name on the board," Hellweg said. "I figure if I throw well enough and they see me as a piece they can use, then I'll go that route. But I'm not focusing on that right now."

Hellweg, acquired as part of the Zack Greinke trade with the Angels, went 7-11 with a 3.29 ERA in Double-A during the 2012 season and has caught the eye of manager Ron Roenicke.

"I see pretty good command," Roenicke said. "He's got a pretty compact and simple delivery and I think that allows his big frame [to repeat pitches], although he's a pretty good athlete."

While working on consistency and command, Hellweg, a 16th-round pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, has been keeping close tabs on the veterans.

After spending the past few seasons watching the current Brewers pitchers on television and implementing parts of their game into his own, Hellweg is using Spring Training to absorb as much as he can in person.

"Everyone is loosey-goosey, having fun, but they're getting their work done and setting a good example for me to follow in their footsteps," Hellweg said. "It's easy to follow what they do because I've seen them have success in the big leagues."

The 6-foot-9, 24-year-old right-hander wants to crack the Brewers roster any way possible, but the organization is currently debating how they want to use him. Since being acquired, Hellweg has worked as both a starter and reliever.

"We're really not sure," Roenicke said. "The Angels weren't sure when they had him. Some people saw him as a closer, some people saw him as a starter."

Currently the Brewers' plan is to use Hellweg as a starter if he is in the Minor Leagues, but if he makes the roster, it will be as a reliever.

Using Hellweg as a starter in the Spring and in the Minors is beneficial to his development, as he will get more innings and more opportunities to develop and work on his pitches. It also provides the Brewers the option to move him to the pen later if they decide that is the best option.

While a spot with the Brewers likely means a spot in the bullpen -- a role Hellweg does not enjoy as much as starting -- the right-hander would not consider it a sign of the way his career will eventually play out.

"I'd rather be a starter for a career," Hellweg said. "But if they need me as a reliever [right now], I'm okay filling that role."

William Boor is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.