This may not be the most exciting move ever, but it does mean that there could be one more important piece in the 2011 Brewers bullpen. Adam McCalvy has announced that the Brewers will be bringing back Mark DiFelice for the 2011 season:
DiFelice has missed all of 2010 following shoulder surgery, but has already re-signed with the Brewers for 2011 and is pitching at the team’s instructional league program in Phoenix. He may continue his comeback in winter ball, and his Minor League contract calls for an invitation to Major League camp next spring.
It’s great to hear that DiFelice is already throwing, and so there’s no doubt that he’ll be ready to go by the beginning of next season. With all the new blood in the bullpen, there’s no guarantee that he’ll make the team. However, he deserves every chance, as he was fantastic in 2009. The right-hander threw 51 innings in relief with a 3.66 ERA and a nearly identical 3.68 FIP, striking out just under a batter per inning and limiting the walks to under three per nine innings. Most importantly, he managed to suppress the home run just enough, which can be an issue for extreme fly ball pitcher like DiFelice – only 25% of batted balls were on the ground against him last year.
Due to the fly balls, he’s not an elite reliever by any stretch, but if he’s healthy, he should remain productive. He survives by getting weak contact with his cut fastball, an extremely effective pitch despite sitting in the low-80s. Specifically, this weak contact comes in the form of the infield fly ball, which make up about one in every six fly balls induced by DiFelice. This is the reason why he can succeed without the ground ball, as an infield fly is just about as good as a strikeout.
CHONE projects DiFelice to put up a 3.71 ERA, or basically a repeat of 2009. I think everybody would be quite happy with that, as DiFelice could be a great middle to late inning weapon for the Brewers, particularly against right handed batters.