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Wednesday Rockpile: Ace reliever Rex Brothers talks to Purple Row

Firebreathing closer (back to set-up man now) Rex Brothers is actually one of the nicest ballplayers I've met to date (though the Rockies have plenty to choose from) - I was able to interview him recently about life on the road, the All-Star team, and his breakout season this year.

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DENVER -- Rex Brothers doesn't look like a firebreathing closer. If he walked past you on the street wearing a long-sleeved shirt (so as to hide his giant biceps), you wouldn't look twice at him. When he's on the mound though, he turns into Trogdor - burninating the peasants MLB hitters into submission.

His 1.54 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 9.4 K/9 rate, and a preposterous 286 ERA+ this year in 52 innings pitched have led to a MLB-leading (among relievers) 2.8 rWAR (admittedly fWAR has him only at 0.9 WAR) - making him one of the most effective relievers in MLB this year. I had a chance to talk to the 25 year-old (only a couple months older than me, what am I doing with my life!) a couple of weeks ago about his breakout MLB campaign, life on the road, and more.

On going on the road (Brothers and the Rockies were about to head out on a 10 game road trip)

"I rotate through a suit a road trip and manage them out so I don't have to get them dry cleaned. It's tough (being on the road), but I think that technology these days makes it a lot easier. I enjoy being at home and spending time with family, but I even can Skype with my grandparents's a pleasure to see them, you don't get to (physically) see them that often and sometimes health is not always where you want it to be, so it's really a blessing to be able to speak with them."

On his brother (Hunter) getting drafted (but not signed) by the Rockies

"It was really cool, really gratifying for me to see that the hard work he's putting in is getting noticed. He's going to keep working hard and hopefully one day he's going to be in the big leagues getting some outs...I hope that he's much more successful than me. I've heard a few of those (puns, e.g. the Rex Brothers) over the years - it's cool that we're as close as we are, and hopefully he'll be doing the same thing as me in a couple of years."

On wanting to be on the All-Star team

"Absolutely, that's an accomplishment for anyone. I didn't really worry about it during the season though...ultimately that stuff takes care of itself - it's not something I want to think about or dwell on. Maybe I did have a good enough first half to be an All-Star, but like I said, that will take care of itself. If it's meant to be I'll be there (eventually)."

On his conversion from a starter to a closer - and life as a reliever

"My agent called me (after being drafted) and said 'They're gonna put you straight in the pen and hopefully that's the quickest way to the big leagues' - and that's worked out. Learning those roles and how to prepare yourself each day - what it takes to get in there each day and get outs, it's been a fun ride.

That's one thing that Matty Belisle (another starter converted to relief) has always told me: 'You've gotta figure out what it takes each day to get it done' - that's one of the big challenges about being a reliever, no two days are the same. Sometimes you feel a little worse, sometimes a little better. Sometimes you'll have a breaking ball, sometimes you've got a changeup, sometimes you've got good fastball command - every day's different and you've got to figure out what's going to get it done that day."

On altering his arsenal in becoming a reliever

"I think it really made me understand and capitalize on my fastball command. As a starter I had some innings to play with some things and get settled in over a couple innings but as a reliever it's really crucial to come out there with guns blazing. (getting) Strike one's the main thing, that's one thing they taught me really quick."

On pitching at Coors

"This place definitely has its differences, it's more of a mental attitude of groundballs - what I need to do to keep the ball on the ground in certain situations - but you're gonna give up your fair share of hits no matter where you pitch. It's all about the mental attitude of being able to figure out what's going to get it done that day".

At this point in the interview, my recording device (my phone) froze, so I didn't capture the answers to a couple of questions I asked to conclude the interview, including his favorite memories from the minor leagues (paraphrasing his answer - "making buddies for life"). In any case, Rex seems like a terrific guy and is someone I'll be rooting for wherever his major league career takes him.

Los Links!

Former Rockie (among other teams) Gabe Kapler writes wonderfully in a free Baseball Prospectus article about the PED guessing game. The last few paragraphs are gold.

If you tuned into last night's game, you couldn't avoid hearing that Todd Helton was turning 40.

Carlos Gonzalez is scheduled to swing the bat for the first time in two weeks, but I'm not optimistic that he'll be back until at the least September (if he isn't just shut down for the rest of the year).

Yorvit Torrealba talks about his post-concussion symptoms in this Thomas Harding notebook.


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