Julio harnesses control on Tuesday

Julio harnesses control on Tuesday

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers reliever Jorge Julio had just notched his first win with the club on Tuesday night, but he was incredulous when a reporter approached him to talk about it.

"Now you want to talk to me?" Julio protested. "You never wanted to talk to me before."

Before Tuesday, there weren't many positives to talk about. Julio has been the least-used member of the Brewers' bullpen, and before he worked a perfect sixth inning against the Pirates, he had surrendered at least one run in three of his four appearances and had issued a walk in all four.

Credit Julio for going to work with pitching coach Bill Castro, who spent 17 years before this one as Milwaukee's bullpen coach. Relievers typically don't throw pregame bullpen sessions because they have to stay fresh, but Julio did, and he made some adjustments to improve his command. One key difference is that Julio is now throwing all of his pitches from the stretch. Before, he was working from the windup with no runners on base.

"I've been working every day with him on location," Julio said. "It's not how hard you throw; it's location. I was throwing a lot of walks."

Julio certainly does throw hard, reaching 96-97 mph with his fastball. But with that power has come a propensity to issue walks; 218 of them in 449 2/3 career innings entering this season. Even last September when he was excelling with the Braves -- Julio went 3-0 with a 0.73 ERA in 12 late-season appearances -- he issued eight walks in 12 1/3 innings.

But with the Brewers, the walks had become very costly. Julio walked seven batters in five innings prior to Tuesday, including a free pass with the bases loaded on April 12 and three walks in the span of five batters on April 21 at Philadelphia. One of the walks in the latter outing went to Phillies pitcher Jamie Moyer, and manager Ken Macha had not used Julio since.

If he can string successful appearances together, Julio, who signed a one-year, $950,000 contract over the winter, could become a key member of a Brewers bullpen that has fallen into order with the return of closer Trevor Hoffman. Julio and Carlos Villanueva could provide a nice hard/soft tandem for Macha ahead of setup man Todd Coffey and Hoffman.

"You have to give Billy Castro some credit here," Macha said. "He had a heart to heart with [Julio] in the lunchroom [on Tuesday]. ... I'm rooting for him to do well. I'm glad he came in and threw the ball very well. Not just having a clean inning -- that's one thing -- but he was right around the plate, and that's been his problem his whole career, walking people. Maybe it's all the work that he and Bill put in here. We need everybody in that bullpen."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.