Jungmann, Bradley joined at hip in early pro careers
Top Brewers prospects have progressed together since first round of 2011 Draft
PHOENIX -- They were drafted in the span of four picks in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, assigned consecutive uniform numbers and sent to the same Minor League affiliate to launch their professional careers.
If the Brewers intended for Taylor Jungmann and Jed Bradley to be joined at the hip, then they were successful.
"I was forced," Jungmann said, making sure Bradley was within earshot.
He was within earshot, as usual. Bradley, a left-hander selected 15th overall in 2011 out of Georgia Tech, was assigned uniform No. 77 when he reached the Brewers' Spring Training clubhouse the following spring. Jungmann, who went 12th overall out of the University of Texas, was given No. 78. They shared an apartment at Class A Brevard County last season.
At Maryvale Baseball Park, they don't stray far. Bradley and Jungmann own neighboring lockers and are throwing partners during the Brewers' morning catch.
This is all perfectly fine with Reid Nichols, the Brewers' farm director.
"Sure," Nichols said. "Prop each other up. Push each other a little bit."
This spring, It has been Bradley doing the pushing. On Wednesday against the Mariners, he threw 16 of his 19 pitches for strikes in two perfect innings to close out a Brewers win.
Jungmann had a chance to push back on Thursday against the D-backs, but a two-out walk hurt him. It was followed by a Josh Wilson single, and when the runners took off for a double steal and nobody covered second base, Arizona stole a go-ahead run. Jungmann has walked five batters in 5 2/3 Cactus League innings this year.
"He's really nice on right-handers right now, but on lefties, that ball keeps getting away on him. He's not able to stick that pitch away to a lefty," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "But I like his delivery. I like how he handles himself. He's going to be a nice pitcher."
There is a lot to like about Jungmann, 23, who sits at No. 3 on MLB.com's list of the Top 20 Brewers prospects. He made a smooth transition last year to the pro ranks, going 11-6 with a 3.53 ERA in 26 starts for Brevard County. He led the Florida State League in wins, finished second with 153 innings and was the Brewers' Minor League pitcher of the month for August after going 3-0 with a 1.96 ERA in six starts.
"I really didn't think it was a successful year," Jungmann said. "Over half the year, I was working on my breaking ball and didn't make much headway on that. Figuring that out would be success for me."
That breaking ball in progress is a true curveball, versus the slider/slurve he threw in college. The difference sounds subtle -- pressure from his middle finger instead of his index finger -- but the adjustment feels "huge," Jungmann said. The old grip produces a pitch that comes up out of Jungmann's hand, giving hitters a good look at it. The new grip produces a pitch that looks more like a fastball.
Jungmann also throws a four-seam fastball with cut and a changeup, but his best pitch is a heavy sinker, a pitch that theoretically will work well at hitter-friendly Miller Park.
His biggest lesson learned last season?
"Routines," Jungmann said. "In college, with different classes every day it was impossible to get into a real routine, but now, all you have to do is baseball. You can get on a real routine and go all-out."
Don't roll your eyes when Jungmann talks about classes. He earned Big 12 All-Academic First Team recognition in 2010 and '11.
In 2011, he also won the Dick Howser trophy as the nation's top collegiate pitcher and was a unanimous pick for Big 12 pitcher of the year.
"I think he carries a little more experienced attitude," Nichols said. "Probably his history prepared him a little better for [the transition to pro ball]."
Second-year Brewers outfielder Norichika Aoki had to do a double-take during the team's first week of workouts.
Is that Jed Bradley?
It was indeed Bradley, 22, who spent his winter bulking up to the point that Aoki, who spent all of two weeks in camp with Bradley last year, took note. Bradley said he weighed in this year at 237 pounds, up from 215 on his first day of camp last year.
"I did a lot of work to get there," Bradley said. "In the past, the bigger and stronger I've been, the better I've felt, so I hope that is the case again."
Bradley, No. 6 on the prospect list, did not allow a run in his first 21 innings spanning four starts, but finished the 2012 season 5-10 with a 5.53 ERA in 20 starts.
He dealt with a nagging groin issue early in the year that left him "guarded" in Spring Training outings, as Roenicke saw it, and a fatigued shoulder late. Bradley instead chalked up his inconsistencies to "first-year stuff," particularly a tendency to overwork between starts, especially after poor starts.
He said he will dial things back a bit in 2013.
"It was just stuff you have to learn through trial and error -- and there was a lot of error," Bradley said.
At the end of last season, Bradley slipped all the way down to 205 pounds when he contracted an awful parasite attributed to something he ate, and shed 15 pounds in two weeks. So after a brief stint in the Brewers' fall instructional program, he went home to Atlanta determined to gain strength, working out at Georgia Tech and following a pitcher-specific program from Boston-based trainer Eric Cressey.
The fastball that dipped to the 89-90 mph range last summer is touching 92 mph this spring.
"He looks really confident out there," Roenicke said. "Two nice breaking balls for strikeouts that last inning. I think he's feeling pretty good about himself, and that's what we're after. We're working so hard to get that in these guys' heads."
As the regular season nears, one has to wonder: Will Bradley and Jungmann stay together in 2013?
Jungmann is almost certainly due a promotion to Double-A Huntsville. Bradley's destination is to be decided. Both pitchers were sent down to Minor League camp Thursday, so they'll take it from there in a different environment.
"It's up to them," Nichols said. "If you just go on paper and by what we saw last year, they may not be [together]. Bradley may need a little more seasoning at a lower level. It's possible.
"But if he comes out of here and he's proving he doesn't belong [back at Class A], then that will change. He really put the work in, and it's possible. I just can't say for sure that's what's going to happen."
Jungmann is hoping to keep the same throwing partner.
"We embrace it," Jungmann said. "We hang out together, go eat. It's easier for us, just because we know what each other is going through. We have similar personalities, pretty reserved. It's nice to have somebody right there."