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Loe delivers yet again

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Tom Haudricourt
March 8, 2011
— Almost every time Kameron Loe pitches, you see why the Milwaukee Brewers have no intention of moving him back to a starting role.

Loe continued on Monday to pick up where he left off last season, tossing two scoreless innings of relief in the Brewers’ 15-2 exhibition romp over the Cincinnati Reds. In becoming the second reliever to go multiple innings for the Brewers, Loe boosted his total to four scoreless frames with one infield hit.


“Loe was great again,” said manager Ron Roenicke. “He’s got that great (downward) angle going. He’s really keeping the ball down in the zone.”


The 6-foot-8 right-hander was in the starting rotation last year at Class AAA Nashville when the Brewers exercised a clause in his contract by calling him up. Loe became an integral part of the bullpen, posting a 2.78 earned run average over 53 outings while leading the club with 22 “holds” and stranding 24 of 36 inherited runners.


“It was definitely a good change for me,” said Loe, who pitched in Japan the previous year. “I had done it before (with Texas) in ‘05. I relieved most of the year and had success.


“The bullpen fits me, fits my personality. I’m a guy who can get up and go right away. I definitely like the adrenaline rush; I like the pressure situations in the game.”


Using his tall frame to consistently throw downhill and pound the bottom of the strike zone, Loe has become a ground-ball machine. Most hitters look uncomfortable in the box against him, for good reason.


“I was more in control of my body last year, for sure,” Loe said. “I allowed my arm to get on top a little bit more. There were some little adjustments I made, as well as mental adjustments.


“I don’t know if anybody’s pressure-proof. But I have my mental routines that help me cope with pressure. Everybody has fear pop into their head. You just have to have a way to combat it. You have to have a mental routine or things you say to yourself that just helps.”


Loe said he also has benefited from working with a “mental strength coach,” Dave Austin.


“He teaches me how to think to myself and talk to myself,” said Loe. “He also takes me through visualizations.”


In peak form


Right-hander Yovani Gallardo certainly looked like a No. 1 starter against the Reds, tossing three shutout innings. He allowed two hits and no walks while logging five strikeouts.


“That’s as good as it gets,” said Roenicke. “That was impressive. He had great stuff, great location. Everything he wanted to do, he was able to do.”


On a very windy day in which fly balls got a significant boost, Gallardo was much sharper than his first time out, when he wasn’t excited about his pitch location.


“I had good fastball command on both sides of the plate,” he said. “I was able to go up in the strike zone when I needed to. Everything was working pretty good.


“I try to pitch the way I do during the season, with pitch sequences and location. My first start, my command was a little off. Today, it was much better. I just want to keep moving forward and make it better each time out.”


Making impressions


While preparing his team for the big-league season, Roenicke also is keeping an eye on the minor-league prospects in camp. He has been impressed with what he has seen from outfielders Caleb Gindl and Logan Schafer, who are in their first big-league camps.


“Gindl, in all areas of the game, I like,” said Roenicke. “We’re facing some big-league pitchers that some of our guys aren’t looking good against and he comes in—I don’t care if it’s left-handers or right-handers—he hangs in there and sees the ball real good.


“He’s got a nice swing. He drives the ball. And he’s a good outfielder. He’s got good range out there. I really like what I’ve seen from him.”


Schafer missed most of last season with a groin tear/hernia and broken foot, but Roenicke said you’d never know it by the way he has played in the field.


“Schafer, defensively, he’s really good,” said Roenicke. “Offensively, he’s had some nice at-bats and getting some hits, but I haven’t seen him enough to get a good feel for him.


“Defensively, I really like him. He’s really confident. When the ball is hit, he’s moving. And he knows exactly where the ball is coming down.”


Auditioning


The Brewers want at least one right-handed hitter on their bench. While infielder Luis Cruz remains a leading candidate, journeyman minor-leaguer Erick Almonte also is under consideration, according to Roenicke. Almonte came up as a shortstop but is mostly a first baseman/corner outfielder now.


Almonte didn’t hurt his chances by going 4 for 5 against the Reds with two RBI. He is batting .360 for the spring with two home runs and six RBIs.


“Our minor-league people really like him,” said Roenicke. “He’s a professional hitter who gives you that good at-bat. There aren’t that many around who can sit for a while and pinch-hit maybe every three days. He’s one of those guys who can do that.


“We’ve got that spot to fill and he needs to be a right-handed hitter. So he’s got a chance to be that guy.”



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