INDIANAPOLIS – After two decent starts to begin his Triple-A career, Steven Brault posted a nice line on Friday night in Louisville for Indianapolis. The lefty pitched five innings with just one unearned run on two hits and four walks, while striking out nine. Brault had a strong breakout campaign last season between Bradenton and Altoona, and is now making the jump to Indianapolis, just one year removed from being the player to be named later in the Travis Snider trade.
“It is going good,” Brault said of the promotion so far. “It is a cool situation to be in [with the jump to Triple-A]. Indy is awesome and the team is awesome. We are all getting our feet wet being here. We are just starting up and getting everything going for the rest of the season.”
Brault said that his stuff feels good this season, with the sink and downward movement he is getting. Some of the early issues that he has run into involve walks. Last year, Brault saw his BB/9 at 2.3. This season, he has already walked seven hitters in 13.2 innings of work. However, this is not necessarily an alarm for Brault.
“[The pitches] feel pretty good,” Brault said. “It hasn’t been perfect and I have not had my exact command, which is kind of normal for me at the beginning of the year. For some reason, it takes me a little bit longer. So, I am just working on it and keep going through everything and just go what I can do to progressively get better throughout the year.”
Brault didn’t show the same control issues in the stat line last year, and the numbers will have to improve to see the same success that he had in 2015. On Friday night, Brault walked four hitters and ran his pitch count up at times, which has prevented him from going deep in games. He also struck out nine in the start and showed the quality stuff that vaulted his prospect status last season.
Brault arrived on the radar last season after posting a 2.43 ERA in 155.2 innings between Bradenton and Altoona, while also showing good control numbers. A key for him repeating that success with his control in the upper levels could involve tapping into his athleticism.
Prior to being drafted in the 11th round by the Orioles in 2013, Brault was a two-way player in the outfield at tiny Regis University in Colorado. In fact, Brault will still transition back to those days in batting practice, looking like an outfielder in batting practice shagging fly balls. However, this is not just an act for Brault. He is also able to hone that athleticism into something productive as well on the mound.
“[Athleticism plays] a lot into my success,” Brault said. “Part of it is that I want every ball to be hit back up the middle because I know that I can make every play. I am very confident in my fielding abilities. I am also athletic and can make adjustments throughout the game, and that is very helpful.”
Indianapolis manager Dean Treanor has seen the athleticism from Brault since day one this spring and notices that it plays a role for the lefty as well.
“I think his athleticism contributes a lot to his success,” Treanor said. “A lot of pitching is that you have to be in tune with your body and you really have to let your athleticism come out. It is only going to help in that respect and he has shown that. I didn’t get a real good look at him until this spring. I was really impressed with that factor and he showed that [here].”
Along with fielding his position, hitting is something that Brault will have the ability to do on occasion in the upper levels, and something that he has confidence in. Brault picked up a double on Friday, improving on the 7-for-16 totals from last year in Altoona.
Ultimately, Brault said that having the athleticism and making the adjustments allow him to be comfortable on the mound with his mechanics, which is where the control comes into play.
“Repeating mechanics is a big thing that the Orioles preached,” Brault said. “It is something that I have tried to keep going with.”
While it is clear that Brault still has some work to do, his athleticism and ability to adjust will play a key role in future success with the organization. The 2016 season is a huge one for Brault to show that 2015 was more than just a mirage. He’s going to need to improve his walk rate going forward, which he’s been able to do in the past. He should benefit from his athleticism in this department. That same athleticism could give him value with his fielding and at the plate. The combined package could make Brault a valuable rotation option for the Pirates in the future.