Peter Strzelecki is a success story who also strives to be a role model. Signed by the Milwaukee Brewers as an amateur free agent after being bypassed in the 2018 draft, the right-hander out of the University of South Florida is now thriving as a 27-year-old rookie. Since making his big-league debut on June 2, Strzelecki has come out of the Brewers bullpen 13 times and allowed five earned runs over 16 innings. Quietly effective, he’s surrendered 15 hits, issued seven free passes, and fanned 20 batters.
Strzelecki discussed the repertoire and mindset that got him to Milwaukee, and how his rags-to-riches journey can serve as an inspiration to others, when the Brewers played at Fenway Park in late July.
On going from being undrafted to reaching the big leagues:
“It’s mostly just having a lot of confidence in myself and having a lot of good people surrounding me. It started with the scout that signed me, and then there’s my support system — my family, and everyone else.
“I’ve definitely improved. At the same time, I’ve always felt like I had the stuff. It’s been more of how the Brewers have helped me know how to use it. When you get to a level like this… in the big leagues, everybody has good stuff, so it’s a matter of how you can best execute it. Pitch location is part of that.
“Another thing is that I’ve had to prove myself over a long period of time. I’ve had to prove to whomever that my stuff was good enough, that I was good enough, to pitch at this level.”
On learning how his stuff plays best:
“I had pretty good numbers in college, so I felt confident there. But before, everyone would preach to throw low in the zone, to throw low and away. When I got to High-A, my pitching coach, Cam Castro, told me, ‘Hey, you know you could throw up in the zone.’ As a guy that doesn’t throw 100 mph, I never thought I’d be a guy to throw the ball up there. But ever since… I mean, it’s helped my other stuff, and my fastball plays better as well.
“[Castro] said that my lower release height, slot, entry level… it’s a whole bunch of things, analytically, that I had no idea about and am starting to learn. I don’t have super high vertical break on my fastball like a lot of guys do, but because of the way my arm slot is, it plays like it’s well above average.”
On his arm slot and deception:
“I’m lower three-quarters, I’m not submarine or sidearm, but I am a little lower than three-quarters. I throw across my body, too. I’ve had some some guys tell me that it looks a little weird, a little different. I’ve had a guy tell me it looks like it’s coming out of my armpit.”
On his secondary pitches:
“I’m a three-pitch guy. I was a starter in college, and I’ve been able to use all three as a reliever, both in the minors and up here. I throw a lot of changeups. It’s a straight change, but I tuck the thumb. I’m able to create movement by the way I pronate the ball. I know that my slider spins a lot. I’ve been told that it gets over 3,000 [rpm] pretty often.”
On his mindset on the mound:
“Honestly, the way I think about pitching is… I mean, hitting is hard, and pitching is hard. Neither is easy at this level. I just try to simplify things and take it pitch-by-pitch. I give all the hitters credit — especially at this level, because they’re very good — so I focus on every pitch as though it’s the most important one of the game. That’s the way I go about it. I never take anyone lightly, no matter where I am or who I’m facing. I’ve always had that mindset, and luckily it’s gotten me here.”
On how going undrafted put a chip on his shoulder, and on being a role model:
“It’s definitely been a motivation. I’ve got a couple of motivations. That’s one of them, and I also think about doing it for people in my situation. I have a lot of buddies that weren’t drafted. When I was coming up, I would meet people that made it without [being drafted] and that gave me both motivation and hope. I want to be that person to those people. I want to show them that while it might be a little harder, and it might take a little longer, as long as you put the work in and stay focused and confident, it can happen. You can make it to the big leagues.”