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Tuesday, February 09, 2010Rex Brothers doesn’t like being the center of attention.
So on his first day in Tucson in the Arizona Instructional League with the Colorado Rockies he didn’t enjoy being asked by the coaches to stand up.
Brothers, a former Lipscomb baseball standout and a first round draft pick by the Rockies in 2009, is known for his blazing fastball. On his first day, pushed by his competitive nature, the left-hander threw his fastball exclusively.
The only problem was that he was sent to Tucson from Sept. 15 to Oct. 11 to primarily work on his changeup.
“How many changeups did you throw today?” a pitching coach asked.
“Zero,” Brothers said.
“My point exactly,” said the coach. “Sit down.”
Brothers, preparing for his second year of professional baseball, can consistently throw a fastball in the high 90s for strikes. That’s one of the reasons the Rockies made him the 34th selection overall, using a supplemental pick they had obtained.
His slider has been rated by Baseball America as the best in the Rockies organization. But he got the message that his changeup needs additional work.
“The changeup is getting there,” Brothers said. “After that first little mess-up I got my head back right and started working on it. It got a lot better.
“It was a lot less intense than the regular season. We were all there to try to get better. Everyone was specifically working on things they needed to do. It was a good atmosphere.”
During the time in Tucson Brothers had the opportunity to work with Bo McLaughlin, former Lipscomb pitching star and first round draft pick. 14th overall, of the Houston Astros in 1975. McLaughlin serves as roving pitching coordinator for the Rockies.
Like Brothers, McLaughlin favored his fastball in college, but knows that pitchers have to have multiple weapons.
“Bo wants me to develop the changeup, but he also wants me to throw more sliders for strikes,” Brothers said. “You can’t too many people out unless you throw sliders for strikes. You can learn a lot from a former player like Bo if you will just listen.”
Brothers returned to campus Monday as the featured speaker for the last “Forehand and Friends” lunch before the start of Lipscomb’s baseball season. Brothers will soon start his first spring training, heading to Tucson in March.
He played last season for the short season Class A Tri-City Dust Devils in Pasco, Wash., and the low Class A Asheville Tourists in North Carolina.
“I was wide-eyed through it all,” Brothers said. “My first outing in Tri-Cities I was as nervous as I have ever been. “But it went by fast. It was a blast.”
He ended Tourists season by throwing a walk-off home run to knock Asheville out of the South Atlantic League playoffs. With the game tied 2-2 Brothers came in to relieve in eighth. He walked the first batter, but then struck out the side. In the ninth, he faced Greenville’s Mitch Dening who blasted a Brothers’ pitch over the left-center field wall.
“He crushed it,” Brothers said. “I felt bad because the team had worked so hard to get there. I didn’t know how to react.
“You can’t get discouraged. You just have to keep working hard.”
He also doesn’t know what to expect this season. He would like to at least move to Class AA to start the season.
“They told me to show up ready for a challenge,” Brothers said. “And the conversation was over.”
Baseball America has rated him as the eighth best prospect in the Rockies organization. They predict that by opening day in 2013 Brothers, who has been moved to the bullpen as a pro, will be the closer for the Major League club.
He is not feeling any extra pressure to climb the ladder quickly due to being selected in the first round.
“I still see myself as an underdog because I want to be at the big league level,” Brothers said. “That is my main goal. Baseball is nice that sense that you get the chance to develop and be where you want to be.”
He tries not to dwell on those types of predictions and observations. He draws on an approach that Lantz Wheeler, the Bisons former pitching coach, stressed to him.
“I just haven’t thought about things like that,” Brothers said. “It’s good to hear. I don’t take too much pride in it. That’s just somebody saying something. I still have to go out and perform.
“Coach Wheeler talked about one pitch at a time. I am taking this one step at a time. I have to do the best I can at the next step. That is the way I will have the most success. I need to take care of the task at hand and not look forward.”