James Robert Brower was born in December 1972. He attended the University of Minnesota where he received first team All-Big Ten honors and Minnesota’s Dave Winfield Award as pitcher of the year in his junior year. He was selected by the Texas Rangers in the sixth round that same year (1994) in the June draft. After four years in the Rangers farm system and being released after spring training, he was picked up and signed by the Cleveland Indians as minor league free agent at the beginning of the 1998 season.
Brower made his major league debut with the Indians in 1999 as a September call-up and faced the New York Yankees. He received a no decision for his efforts. After two years with the Tribe, where he went 5-4, Brower now found himself pitching for the Cincinnati Reds. He then landed with the Expos. Used primarily as a starter with both the Reds and Expos, Brower posted a 10-12 record with one save and a 4.23 earned run average from 2001-2002.
After recording an 8-5 record as long reliever/spot starter with the Giants in 2003, Brower had his role changed again when he became the Giants new step man. In 2004 with he tied a franchise record with another ex Tribesman, Julian Tavarez, appearing in 89 games. By the All-Star break, he had already appeared in 49 games, matching the record set by Tavarez and another ex Tribesmen Mike Jackson.
He quickly became manager Felipe Alou’s most dependable relief pitcher by pitching more than one inning per outing. Ranked 2nd in the majors in inheriting 73 runners, he responded by stranding 55 of them.
Brower and his value cannot be underestimated. The hurler has proven his worth by his versatility and by easily adapting to any role in which he is placed. With an above .500 win-loss record as a starter for his career, and with a proven track record in the bullpen, he would be the most valuable pitcher on any staff in the major leagues today.
Although Brower clearly is the workhorse of the Giants pitching staff, Alou must be careful not to overuse him as he did last season. Brower was bothered by tightness in his throwing elbow late in the season. If the Giants had reached the playoffs, it is uncertain if Brower would have been available. In retrospect, a costly mistake, but one easily rectified if Alou paces Brower and limits both his appearances and innings.
Wendy J Sotos is a Cleveland based writer who loves nothing more than a Jim Thome blast and an Omar Vizquel barehanded scoop. Both of which, she believes, will be Hall of Famers when their playing days are over.
Wendy can be reached at: designatedwriter@yahoo. com
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