Browning making most of callup with Cardinals

Browning making most of callup with Cardinals

ST. LOUIS -- Barret Browning has made just three appearances in the big leagues this season. But so far, so good.

The 27-year-old left-hander's contract was purchased from Triple-A Memphis on June 30, and he made his debut the same day with two perfect innings against the Pirates. Browning hasn't allowed a hit or a walk in four innings of relief, while striking out three.

"I knew that I belonged here in my heart before I even got called up," Browning said on Thursday after setting down the Rockies in order in the seventh. "I knew I belonged here, and if I didn't, I wouldn't have stayed with the game. Every time you put up a zero, you do your job, you do what your team needs you to do and contribute to wins like I did tonight, that's a great feeling."

Browning was named a Triple-A All-Star this season, posting a 1.89 ERA in 30 games this season. He ranked tied for fifth in the Pacific Coast League with seven holds. Browning struggled with Triple-A Salt Lake last season, posting a 4.61 ERA in 50 games for the Angels affiliate, and he had a 6.54 ERA in 26 games with Salt Lake in 2010.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said he'd never seen Browning throw before his Major League debut, and credits the coaching staff in Memphis for recommending Browning to help out the St. Louis bullpen.

"You can take his stats from before and throw them away as far as I'm concerned, because right now, he's making good pitches," Matheny said.

Prior to this past offseason, Browning primarily threw a four-seam fastball while mixing in a slider and struggling to find consistency with his changeup. But during the winter, he experimented with different grips and developed a two-seamer he likes to throw down in the zone, and he's more confident in his changeup.

As for his mentality and approach on the mound, Browning said he tries to be aggressive in each at-bat.

"I'm looking to throw strikes as early and as often as possible," he said. "I feel like if I do that, I keep the hitters more on the defensive than I am, because I've got guys behind me that can make those plays if I let them put the ball in play. I pitch to missed barrels. I pitch to contact. I try to pitch to the bottom of the zone inside the strike zone, and keep them off balance."

Browning said he's been considered a lefty specialist for the majority of his career, but Matheny would like to see more of Browning before making his own decision on the pitcher's potential role.

Despite having limited experience at the big league level, Browning is confident and hasn't let the pressure of playing at the highest level get to him.

"The mound distance is the same, the catcher sitting in the same spot and the plate's not moving," he said. "So there's no reason for me to change anything. As long as I'm attacking the strike zone, staying at the bottom at the strike zone, I hope to continue the success that I've had so far."