Browning perfect in Major League debut

Browning perfect in Major League debut

ST. LOUIS -- The summons came on Friday night, as Barret Browning was making his bed in preparation for an overnight bus ride from Memphis to Oklahoma City. He was told the manager needed to have a chat.

Browning returned to the clubhouse, where Triple-A manager Ron "Pop" Warner informed the lefty reliever that he would be unable to participate in the upcoming Pacific Coast League All-Star Game, to which Browning had just been invited. There had been a change in plans, Warner continued, and Browning was needed in St. Louis.

Browning arrived in St. Louis less than 12 hours later, after he and reliever Maikel Cleto hitched a ride with Memphis general manager Ben Weiss. It was the only way the pitchers would make it to St. Louis in time for Saturday's game.

Both were added to the Cardinals' 25-man roster, and both were called upon in Saturday's game.

"That [All-Star Game] was something I was looking very much forward to," Browning said. "I would have been completely happy going and doing that, but this is 10 times better."

Browning's debut could not have gone better. He retired all six batters he faced and allowed just one ball to leave the infield. Five family members made it to Busch Stadium in time to be in attendance, and the crowd recognized Browning's efforts with an extended applause when he walked off the mound in the seventh.

"When I was warming up, I wasn't nervous," Browning said. "When I came in, I wasn't nervous. When I got about 20 feet from the infield, my legs started getting a little wobbly. But it's just one of those things -- you try and forget about it and focus on what you've got to do.

"My stuff wasn't as sharp as I'd like it to be, but it's hard to complain about the results."

The Cardinals' search for steady left-handed relief led the organization to Browning, who has had a standout year in his first season as a member of the organization. He was selected from the Angels in the Minor League portion of the Rule 5 Draft last December. Browning had been in the Angels' system for six seasons.

"I learned a lot when I was with the Angels' organization, but I think after six years of being there, I was spinning my wheels a little bit and got to the point where I wasn't really sure what their interest in me was any more," Browning said. "Coming over here was a fresh opportunity, a fresh start. It was able to rejuvenate me a little bit and start fresh. I hit the ground with no expectations but to prove to myself and to the organization that I actually can be a benefit to a Major League team."

Though the Cards' bullpen depth has already been tested extensively, Browning earned this opportunity. The 27-year-old had a 1.89 ERA in 30 appearances with Memphis. He struck out 36 in 38 innings and limited opponents to a .192 batting average.

Browning is one of two lefties available in the 'pen. He will likely continue to draw middle-inning assignments, at least until he gets a little more experience at this level.