With the Cincinnati Reds wearing down the Brewers’ bullpen during this four-game series before the All-Star Break, it seemed like Mat Gamel’s days on the 25-man roster were numbered. For that reason, it wasn’t terribly surprising that Gamel was optioned down to Nashville on Sunday morning for a fresh arm. The surprise was who was recalled — big right-hander Cody Scarpetta, who was pitching in AA.
There’s little doubt that Scarpetta has big-league stuff. He struck out 142 batters in 128 innings for Brevard County last season, although he did see his strikeout numbers drop a bit this season in Huntsville (79 in 86 innings so far). The problem with Scarpetta has always been control, though, and it’s the biggest reason why some have always seen him as an eventual reliever. He does have power stuff, though, with a low-to-mid 90s fastball and a “power” curve that was rated as the best in Milwaukee’s system by Baseball America.
That will be his role in Milwaukee for the time being, with the Brewers needing a little insurance on Sunday if Randy Wolf struggles against the Reds. The Brewers still seem to value him as a starter, though, so it should be interesting to see just how long he sticks around in the big league bullpen.
Something else to keep an eye in with regards to Scarpetta: due to a contract quirk, Scarpetta has been on the 40-man roster since the day he entered the Brewers’ system. When the Brewers drafted him in the 11th round in 2007, the original contract he signed was voided when he re-aggravated an injury that allowed him to slip in the draft. The Brewers re-did his deal, but that meant they had to put him on the 40-man immediately, which started his option clock early. If Scarpetta had been granted the standard three option years, he would have been out of options starting next season. Luckily for the Brewers, he’s eligible for a fourth option year since he’s been optioned three times before accruing five full seasons of professional service.
Confusing? You bet. Even the Brewers seemed unsure if he would qualify for that fourth year. The important thing to remember is that he should still have an option remaining next year should he need it. For now, it should at least be interesting to see how he adjusts to the big leagues in his first audition. Were his big strikeout numbers in the low minors due to pure stuff, or were batters with poor plate discipline just chasing?
UPDATE: So much for that — Scarpetta was sent back down after Sunday’s game. At least it sounds like he had a good day.