PHOENIX -- Ryan Braun needed one look at the redwood of a right-hander named Michael Olmsted to declare him the nastiest pitcher in baseball.
"I'm serious," Braun said.
Braun was one of the Brewers hooting behind the batting cage Wednesday while the 6-foot-6, 245-pound (or so the official roster says) Olmsted threw live batting practice. Olmsted could hear the buzz.
"You can't miss it, it's so quiet out there with no one else out there," he said. "It's a good feeling, you know? Obviously, it's their first or second time seeing live pitching, so you don't expect them to be 100 percent on everything. I know I'm going to fool a few guys; everybody's going to fool a few guys the first couple of live BPs. But it's definitely a good feeling."
Olmsted's size is only part of his intimidation factor. Add a fastball that he says varied between 93-97 mph last season -- "With sink," Scooter Gennett said. "Nasty." -- and a cross-body, three-quarters delivery to complete the package.
He also comes with a compelling human interest story, having been released by the Mets in 2010 before toiling in Japan's Minor League. He returned to the U.S. to be with his mother, who was suffering from cancer and was slipping in and out of a coma, for the final 23 days of her life, then asked for his release from Japan and considered his career over.
Only it was not. He was picked up by the Red Sox the following year and signed with the Brewers as a Minor League free agent in early November and was added to their 40-man roster. Olmsted will be 26 in May and is bidding for a bullpen spot.
"Not many guys get a second chance, let alone a third chance," Olmsted said.
Gomez, teammates embrace high-tech helmets
PHOENIX -- Major League Baseball and Rawlings jointly announced Wednesday that players will be required this season to wear the new S100 Pro Comp batting helmet, which is made of aerospace-grade carbon fiber composite designed to withstand ball strikes up to 100 mph.
Brewers outfielder Carlos Gomez happily reported that it stands up equally well against a baseball bat.
"I tell you what, man, this helmet is tough," said Gomez, who voluntarily wore the Rawlings S100 last season. "One time I got ticked off and I threw this like seven, eight times against a wall, and then I swung with my bat, and that thing won't break. I guarantee you this.
"I've tested it myself."
That helmet now sits, autographed, in equipment manager Tony Migliaccio's office at Miller Park. Gomez beat it so badly that the paint chipped, but the helmet remained otherwise intact.
Compare that to traditional batting helmets, which Gomez says he could break apart with his bare hands.
Which begged a question: Why is he so hard on helmets?
"I don't know. It's part of the job," Gomez said, laughing.
The speedy center fielder has taken brain health seriously since he was beaned by a 91-mph fastball from Cubs reliever Brian Schlitter in a blowout Brewers win at Wrigley Field on Aug. 2, 2010. Gomez was sidelined three weeks by the resulting concussion.
"It was scary," Gomez said. "After that, I got to the pharmacy, looked around and was like, 'What am I doing here?' I was freaked out. Concussions are no joke."
When he returned to the batter's box, Gomez used an earlier version of Rawlings' improved helmets, but like many players he found it too big and bulky. Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun, who has worn both the larger and the new, slimmer helmets during All-Star Games, predicted players would embrace the S100.
"There's a big difference between these new ones and the first attempt -- the big one," Braun said. "The first one was drastically larger and heavier. This one is only a subtle difference than what we're used to, and the health benefits make that well worth it."
Migliaccio said the S100 costs clubs about three times more, but is banking on the budget evening out over a season because players will not be breaking their helmets in moments of frustration. He cited another advantage to the new model: It can accept padded inserts to produce a more custom fit.
Players are required to wear the new helmets with the start of Spring Training games, a component of baseball's Collective Bargaining Agreement.
"It's a different feel for guys, but I put them out right away and told players, 'Here, wear these in the cage and see how they feel,' and by the time we get to the start of the season, it will be second nature," Migliaccio said.
Gomez agreed, citing performance over style.
"It's about safety, not looking good," he said.
Narveson having no issues with throwing shoulder
PHOENIX -- One week after Brewers left-hander Chris Narveson said his surgically repaired shoulder felt normal at the start of Spring Training, he was asked to provide another update.
It might be time to stop asking and simply count him among the healthy pitchers in camp.
"It feels perfectly normal," said Narveson, who was among the dozen or so pitchers who threw live batting practice on a wet Wednesday at Maryvale Baseball Park. "I don't feel anything. It's ready to go."
Narveson had surgery last May 1 to repair a torn rotator cuff and labrum, but was back on the mound before the end of the season and reported to camp essentially on schedule with the rest of the team's pitchers. Manager Ron Roenicke said the club would proceed somewhat cautiously with Narveson, but has been impressed by the lefty's bullpen sessions. Narveson, who began last season in the rotation and is bidding to return, has been throwing his full assortment of pitches.
"[Pitching coach Rick Kranitz] has been really pleased with not only the way the ball has been coming out, that he's 'free,' but that he's also commanding the ball," Roenicke said. "That's the thing that you worry about with shoulder injuries, is coming back and commanding the ball."
Said Narveson: "When you're healthy, you know it. I'm not having to struggle to get loose. To be honest with you, I haven't had issues with any pitch. The next day, I'm feeling great. It's been a good thing. I'm trying to stay away from the training room right now."
• Right-hander Mike Fiers is scheduled to start the Brewers' Cactus League opener against A's righty Jesse Chavez at Maryvale Baseball Park on Saturday. Righties Yovani Gallardo and Marco Estrada will pitch the day before in an intrasquad game tentatively scheduled to begin around noon MT, which is open to the public. The Brewers will only play about three innings.
• Reliever Kelvim Escobar's first bullpen session of the spring was pushed back a day because of morning rain in Phoenix. The right-hander, trying to mount a comeback after years of shoulder issues, is now scheduled to take the mound on Thursday.
• The Brewers predicted a four-month recovery for first baseman Corey Hart following right knee surgery, pegging his return for late May. But Hart made a bold and surprisingly precise prediction for ESPN's Tim Kurkjian on Wednesday, predicting he'd be back in the lineup on April 20, according to a tweet by Kurkjian.
Hart is scheduled for a follow-up MRI scan on March 8, at which time he and the Brewers will have a much better handle on the timetable.
• The Red Sox on Wednesday traded for Mariners outfielder/first baseman Mike Carp, a blow to Lyle Overbay's chances of making that club. Overbay chose a non-roster invite from Boston last month over a similar offer from Milwaukee, and could be a cost-effective trade target for the Brewers later this spring if they seek a more experienced first baseman to cover for the injured Hart and Mat Gamel. Brewers officials say they will look at internal options first.
• The Brewers announced that Fiers and fellow right-handers Josh Stinson and Tyler Thornburg had signed 2013 contracts, leaving infielders Jeff Bianchi and Jean Segura as the only unsigned members of the 40-man roster.