Mississippi State

Brandon Woodruff overcomes injury, tragedy to make impact for Brewers

Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Brandon Woodruff delivers to Colorado Rockies' Charlie Blackmon on Aug. 19 in Denver.
Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Brandon Woodruff delivers to Colorado Rockies' Charlie Blackmon on Aug. 19 in Denver. Associated Press

Brandon Woodruff’s rise from Mississippi State to the Milwaukee Brewers has encountered a brief pause, but his return to the big leagues seems inevitable.

With the Brewers currently having no need for a fifth starter, Woodruff was sent down to the minors on Aug. 20 to make sure he gets enough work to be in shape when he gets recalled as early as next week.

Woodruff took the mound at MGM Park in Biloxi on Monday afternoon for a simulated start after wet weather put into question the status of that night’s game, which the Shuckers won 7-1 after a late start.

The 6-foot-4, 215-pound right-hander has reason to be confident that the Brewers will soon be calling on him after putting in a strong showing in three starts for the team following his debut on Aug. 4. He is 1-1 with a 1.62 ERA in 16 2/3 innings this season.

After struggling at times as a member of the MSU pitching staff from 2012-14, Woodruff has proven up to the challenge with every promotion in the Brewers organization.

In his major league debut, Woodruff threw 6 1/3 scoreless innings to pick up the victory. He struck out six, walked none and allowed seven hits.

“After that first inning in my debut, I just realized it’s the same game,” Woodruff said Monday. “These guys are really good, but if you make quality pitches it’s still hard to hit. I took that and just went out and pitched. It’s kind of showed up in some results up to this point. Anything can happen in baseball, but I’ve been throwing pretty well.”

A year ago, Woodruff was named the Brewers’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year after going 10-8 with a 3.01 ERA in 20 starts at Biloxi.

The 2016 campaign proved to be a breakout season for the Wheeler native, but it was a difficult one on a personal level. His older brother, Blake, died at the age of 28 in an ATV accident near Wheeler in mid July last year.

Woodruff’s rise from Triple-A Colorado Springs to Milwaukee this season has proven a welcome respite for the entire family.

“It’s been great for them,” Woodruff said. “I kind of try to be the stronghold of the family. I feel like me playing baseball brings a lot of joy to them. We wish my brother was still here because he would have went crazy to see me pitch in the big leagues. It was always his dream to play in the majors. It’s been good. they’ve enjoyed every second.”

While Woodruff was thrilled to make his debut with the Brewers in August, he was originally supposed to make his first start on June 13. He made the trip to St. Louis and was supposed to take the mound against the Cardinals.

His dream of pitching in the big leagues was delayed almost two months after injuring his right hamstring during warm-ups.

“It was definitely strange,” He said. “I did the same routine I’ve been doing ever since I got into college and pro baseball. It’s one of those freak things. I pulled my hammy.

“I went from really pumped and the happiest guy on earth to almost wanting to throw up walking into the dugout. I rehabbed, got better and just waited for that second chance.”

Woodruff hasn’t wasted his second opportunity, showing Brewers management that he’s ready to pitch quality innings with plenty on the line in the coming weeks. Milwaukee (68-63) is 2 ½ games back behind the first-place Cubs (70-60) in the National League Central and 3 games behind Colorado (71-60) for the second wild card spot.

Woodruff is excited about the prospect of pitching in some meaningful games.

“It’s definitely a blast,” Woodruff said. “That’s what you look forward to, going into a game wanting to help your team win and compete in a pennant race. It will definitely be fun. I hope I can be a small part of that.”

Patrick Magee: 228-896-2333, @Patrick_Magee