Derek Shore: Brewers position Ashby for call up

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Jun. 10—It was only a matter of time.

The Milwaukee Brewers are moving former Crowder College ace Aaron Ashby to the Triple-A bullpen to position him for an eventual big-league call up, Nashville manager Rick Sweet told the team's play-by-play broadcaster Jeff Hem on Tuesday night.

In expanding upon Ashby's role change, Sweet referenced Josh Hader, Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes, all who made the same move to relief under his tenure before receiving a call up.

"He's one of our top people and we think he can help the big league club, at least out of the 'pen initially," Sweet said in his radio interview. "We do see him as a starter, so this is not a (permanent) move to the bullpen. We did this with Burnes. We did it a little bit with Woodruff, too, and Josh Hader. They were all starters with me, and of those guys, both Burnes and Hader went to the bullpen before they went to the big leagues. ... So this is a move for this year. It's a move thinking that (Ashby) will be able to help the major league team out of the bullpen, but ultimately, he's a major league starter.

"This will be an easy conversion for Ashby. The first few times, we'll set it up to where we know what day he's going to throw, and after that, he'll become a regular reliever. But he'll pitch more than one inning. He'll be a two-inning, maybe three-inning guy. He'll be a multiple-inning guy."

If you have been following Ashby's progress of late, the move comes as no surprise.

Ashby, a 23-year-old, opened eyes with an electrifying spring for the Brewers. The southpaw has followed that up with a dominant start at Nashville so far, pitching to a 2.93 ERA over his first six outings this season.

He fanned an impressive 39 batters through 27 2/3 innings of work.

His latest start on June 4 was his best yet, tossing seven two-hit frames against the Charlotte Knights. He struck out a season-high 11 batters, his most in a game since May 16, 2019 (Inland Empire 66ers, Los Angeles Low-A affiliate).

But his pitching line isn't what stood out the most.

Ashby was hitting 95-97 miles per hour on his heater while topping out at 98. To be able to maintain that caliber of velocity as a starter should vault him into the elite category as a left-handed pitching prospect.

And how Ashby is only Milwaukee's No. 7 rated prospect by MLB Pipeline is beyond me.

"Ashby's calling card is his athleticism and his best pitch is a nasty slider, one of the best breaking balls in the (Brewers system), which highlights a potential five-pitch mix and produces swing-and-miss," MLB Pipeline's scouting report says. "He sets up the slider with a 92-95 mph fastball that has riding life and some armside action. Ashby's changeup has come along quickly in the pro ranks, giving him a third big league-caliber pitch, and he also shows a feel for keeping hitters off balance with a slow curveball.

"An athletic but funky delivery adds a layer of deception to everything Ashby throws and makes him especially tough against lefties, who slashed .183/.292/.229 against him in 2019. and his athleticism plays in helping to disrupt hitters' timing by adding and subtracting with his pitches and by varying the leg lift and stride in his delivery. If he keeps his complicated delivery in check, Ashby has the arsenal and know-how to be a mid-rotation starter."

The news of Ashby moving to the bullpen came on the same day he was named Triple-A East player of the week for his performance on Friday.

From the Brewers' standpoint, the move makes perfect sense.

Milwaukee's bullpen has a need for a high-leverage reliever, and with Hader relegated to a one-inning role as the closer, having an arm like Ashby who can log multiple innings will be key to the Brewers' success.

That would also reduce Milwaukee's need to trade before the July 31 deadline.

Inevitably, Ashby's call is coming soon, and it will be fun to watch the former Roughrider go to work.

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