The Devil Rays drafted Dewon Brazelton with the third pick in the 2001 Draft from Middle Tennessee State University, where he was the Sun Belt conference Pitcher of Year and first team All-American with a 13-1, with a 1.44 ERA.
Dewon's pitching at the college level was clearly dominant. The year prior to his senior season he was selected to pitch for the USA National Team, and he posted a 0.65 ERA and went 6-0. Both Dewon Brazelton and Mark Prior of USC were thought of as the outstanding pitchers coming out of the 2001 draft.
In the short lifetime of the Devil Rays organization, they never really have had a true ace pitcher to lead the pitching staff. So, when they signed Brazelton there was a lot of excitement around getting one of the stars from the college game. It was very similar to what recently occurred when Jeff Niemann signed and became part of the Devil Rays organization.
But, a funny thing happened on Dewon's journey through the Rays organization. For some reason the Rays thought that it was in Dewon's best interest to alter his pitching mechanics. They changed his wind up and how he pitched. This was kind of a strange thing to do considering how much success he had at earlier levels of his pitching career.
With this new approach, Brazelton had a successful first pro season in 2002, posting a 3.22 ERA between AA Orlando and Class AAA Durham before a late September call-up to the big leagues. However, in his first taste of major league ball, he got hit pretty hard.
The next year in spring training he had a very good showing. He just about made the 2003 Devil Rays opening day roster. But, with an injury near the end of camp cost him his shot to make the team out of the gate. He was sent down to AAA Durham for a few starts, and if he showed good progress he would join the Rays pitching rotation. As expected he did well in the International League for the Durham Bulls, and by May he was in the Devil Rays pitching rotation.
However, he probably never envisioned in his wildest dreams how his next few months would play out the way it did. Welcome to the major leagues, and playing for a no nonsense veteran manager like Lou Piniella.
In what is known as the "Bronx Tale", Brazelton took the wrong subway to get to the Devil Rays game against the New York Yankees, and wound up in Brooklyn instead of Bronx. He made it in time for the second game of the double header in which he was scheduled to pitch. Lou was absolutely steamed with Brazelton showing up late to the game, and questioned his work ethic as a major league player. You just knew Brazelton would be riding the buses again very shortly in the minor leagues.
Soon after the mishap he was dropped from the pitching rotation, and before long his 1-6 record was being sent down to the minors. At that time, it was pretty logical to believe he would be going back to Durham. But, in a surprise move by Lamar, he was shipped all the way down to single A Bakersfield where the "word" was that he would work on his pitching mechanics.
This is the type of move that probably stings for a while for a young pitcher. Its a pride thing. But, it turned out to be the best thing to happen for Dewon. He would go back to basics. He would try with the help of his new pitching coach Marty DeMerritt to bring back the mechanics that made him a dominant pitcher while in college. Brazelton felt rejuvenated after this stint in California and regained the confidence that was lost during his struggles with Tampa Bay. He built on the California experience by having a breakout season in the Arizona Fall League and it looked like he was really back.
As last season got under way in St Pete, you were hoping to see the new and improved Brazelton. He did not disappoint. He had a real good spring training going 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA. Once again, just when it looks as if he has turned the corner he was sent a blow when he did not make the opening day squad. However, this was the new and improved Dewon. He took the demotion very well knowing if he took care of business in Durham, he would be back in the majors for years to come. That's exactly what happened. He pitched well for the Bulls, and by June he was back with the Rays.
He pitched well out of the gate. It seemed like it was finally coming together for him. For the first three months he really showed good stuff. On the date August 22, 2004, he had a 6-4 record with a 3.30 ERA. But, once again, it fell apart from him. Some say he could only pitch at home. But, I see it different. After this date, he was just bad. I am not sure if he was hurt, tired, or the league just caught up to him. Overall, the alarming numbers for me about Dewon is the fact he had only 64K in 120.2IP with a 1.44 WHIP. Those are not numbers of a dominating pitcher. John Sickels had this to say about Dewon several years ago:
However, this year is his chance to finally pitch a full year in the majors. Up to this point he has not shown his dominant self like he did in college. I see him today as a middle of the rotation pitcher. This guys career was mismanaged by the Devil Rays organization. Lets hope the Rays have learned something from what has transpired with Brazleton in his career to date. Lets hope Niemann does not have to go through all the peaks and valleys that Dewon has experienced.
This just in: Brazelton has won a spot in the pitching rotation.