PHOENIX — Josh Hader has the glance of a Southern California surfer, with the dirty-blonde, shoulder-length hair, and ink-stained fingers, however he’s from a small village in Maryland.

He’s a big-time hunter and avid fisherman, who simply occurs to like hockey.

He’s a thin, 6-foot, 180-pound left-handed, 24-year kick back dude, however as an alternative of paying attention to rap, hip-hop or nation, he rolls with vintage rock, along with his walk-up track hitting the charts again when eight-track cassettes ruled.

He’s a glass for the Milwaukee Brewers, who’s now not a starter, now not a more in-depth, or perhaps a setup guy, however helps outline the latest, baddest bullpen function in baseball.

“That’s the pretty factor about Josh,’’ Brewers supervisor Craig Counsell says. “You’ll be able to’t put him in a field. You’ll be able to’t stereotype him, and even attempt to determine him out. He’s simply his personal self.

“You simply take a seat again, and recognize him. And consider me, we’re doing that, each unmarried day.’’

In a season that’s beginning to transform magical for the Brewers, tied for first position (26-18) within the NL Central regardless of having 4 in their beginning pitchers at the disabled listing, Hader has emerged as possibly their maximum dynamic, colourful and integral participant.

Simply 11 months in the past at Chase Box in Phoenix he was once making his major-league debut, and he returned for the primary time this week because the nastiest reliever within the land, whose exploits must be on nationwide level in July when he’s decided on to the All-Celebrity workforce.

Dressed in No. 71 and galloping in from the bullpen along with his hair flopping down his again, once in a while making a song to himself, stepping to the mound, after which humiliating hitters who dare step to the plate, Hader has struck out extra batters than any reliever in Main League Baseball — 50 in simply 25 innings. The opposition is hitting .086 and he’s hanging out 18 batters consistent with 9 innings, which might damage Aroldis Chapman’s 2014 document.

“At the moment, what he’s doing,’’ Brewers GM David Stearns says, “is as excellent as any reliever in baseball. There are different guys who’ve completed it longer, and feature completed it extra constantly, however what he’s doing presently is as excellent as somebody.’’


Only a 12 months in the past, he was once a suffering minor-league starter who were two times traded, and now he’s an in a single day sensation, thank you partially to his feat April 30 in Cincinnati when he changed into first pitcher within the trendy technology with 8 strikeouts in 2 2/three innings. He’s the one Nationwide League reliever since 1893 — the 12 months the mound was once moved 60 ft 6 inches from house plate — to strike out a minimum of 3 batters in seven consecutive appearances.

 “He’s the best man available in the market,’’ Brewers first baseman Eric Thames mentioned. “Guys like that accomplish that smartly as a result of there’s such a lot failure on this sport. He’s like, ‘, I’m going to head out, paintings laborious, do my highest, and no matter occurs, occurs. And once I’m completed, I’m going to head hunt, or fish, or concentrate to track.’’

Neatly, once in a while, Hader creates his personal track, and may even be noticed making a song the phrases to his walk-up track, “Renegade’’ by Styx, which came out in 1979 and has never been more popular in Milwaukee.

“I’m getting a lot of good compliments from my song, it just pumps people up,’’ Hader says. “I mean, it pumps me up, too. I just start singing it myself on the way to the mound.’’

Hader, who used to cut his own hair, a buzz cut before stopping altogether four years ago, skips to the mound almost like Shaggy Rogers in Scooby-Doo, with hitters trying to figure out whether he’s going to be pumping his 93-97 mph fastball, firing a nasty slider, or completely confusing them with his change-up.

“Sometimes he doesn’t know what’s happening,’’ says Brewers veteran reliever Jeremy Jeffress, “and that’s a good thing.’’

The most dangerous facet of Hader is the element of surprise. The opposition keeps gazing into the Brewers’ bullpen, never knowing when he’s going to emerge. He could pop out in the fourth inning, or in the eighth, and face two batters or nine, with 11 of his 15 appearances going longer than one inning.

“There’s no name for it,” says Hader of his role. “I guess just an out-getter.’’

It’s the role that Andrew Miller glorified in the Cleveland Indians’ 2016 World Series run, the one that Archie Bradley perfected for the Arizona Diamondbacks, and now it’s Hader who has taken the hybrid position to another level.

Hader was the final acquisition of former Brewers GM Doug Melvin, who was stunned the Astros (and earlier, Orioles) wanted to give him up. Stearns, ironically, was the Astros’ assistant GM at the time, and his front office desired outfielder Carlos Gomez and starter Mike Fiers to bolster a franchise chasing its first playoff berth in a decade.

“Look, the Astros happened to make the playoffs that year, and Gomez and Fiers had a meaningful part of it down the stretch,’’ said Stearns, who became the Brewers’ GM six weeks later. “But looking back a few years later, I’m glad to be on this side of it.’’

There may be a time after the season when the Brewers try moving Hader back to the starting rotation. The debate will be whether he’s more valuable in the pen or pitching 180 innings as a starter. It’s no different for the Diamondbacks, with Bradley hoping one day he returns to the starter’s role.

Yet, for now, the Brewers know they have something special going, featuring the best bullpen in baseball, and the man who makes it all come together.

And, perhaps in two months, the Brewers will share him with everyone when he’s on center stage, a 40-minute drive from his hometown, pitching at Nationals Park in the All-Star Game.

“One of my goals was to be perform well enough to be in that game,’’ said Hader, who has pitched only 97 2/3 career innings. “To be back home. On the East Coast. And for all of my friends and family to be there.

“Just how awesome would that be.’’

Follow Bob Nightengale on Twitter and Fb.


Display Thumbnails

Display Captions

Final SlideNext Slide