Change Is Sweet For Sweet

Colorado Springs manager Rick Sweet led Triple-A Nashville to a record of 77-67 in 2014.
Colorado Springs manager Rick Sweet led Triple-A Nashville to a record of 77-67 in 2014.
It is a new era in the Milwaukee Brewers organization.

When the song stopped in the Triple-A game of musical chairs this winter, the Brewers ended up with Colorado Springs. The Sky Sox were formerly an affiliate of the Colorado Rockies, who fled the altitude for…slightly less altitude in Albuquerque. After the move from Nashville to Colorado Springs, Rick Sweet now has the honor of being introduced as the new Manager of a team two years in a row. Sweet appeared as a guest on MC Sports Daily on AM 1300 The Animal in Colorado Springs recently to talk about what this affiliate change means for the artists formerly known as the Sounds.

Sweet’s new home ballpark is 5,438 feet higher above sea level than his last. Security Service Field has the same reputation in Triple-A as Coors Field has in Major League Baseball, as a house of horrors for pitchers and heaven-on-earth for hitters. When asked about the preparation his team is doing in Spring Training to adjust to the thin air, the answer is not much.

“We don’t talk much about it,” Sweet says. “We have the humidor like they have in Colorado and we’re making sure these guys know the legal stuff to help them with the grip but overall we haven’t focused too much on that, I’m not overly concerned.”

One player that may be at least mildly concerned about the altitude is Taylor Jungmann. Jungmann is Miller Park Prospects’ eighth ranked prospect and was a 2011 first round pick by the Brewers. His manager believes that being optioned to Triple-A on March 19th will be the last time Jungmann goes anywhere but up.

“I fully expect him to just continue on with his progress,” Sweet says. “He has the pitches, like any young pitcher coming up it’s the command, location, and also learning how to pitch in and out of the zone that he needs to work on.” “I think he’s going to do nothing but get better and better.”

Getting better and better may just mean getting healthier and healthier when it comes to Hunter Morris. The organization’s Minor League Player-of-the-Year in 2012 was hit with a pitch on June 29th of last year, which broke his ulna bone and caused him to miss a month and a half. Morris was having a solid season before the injury, but hitting just .247 in his first year at Nashville in 2013 made a solid follow-up season not enough for the Brewers to keep him on the 40-man roster.

“He’s still young, which is the big thing,” Sweet points out. “We really think if we can get him back on track like he was two years ago in Double-A then he will become an everyday-type major league player hitting 30-plus home runs.”

While Jungmann and Morris seem like virtual locks to be in Colorado Springs when the season opens April 10th, there are still many players in camp whose fates have not yet been decided. When it comes time to decide those fates, Sweet, along with Assistant GM Gord Ash will take part in a process that is unlike any other in professional baseball.

“I’ve been in this game for 40 years and have been at the Triple-A level for the last 25-plus and it’s a very unique situation dealing directly with the Major League Assistant GM and I love it,” gloats Sweet. “We’ll talk about the final spots on these clubs, the Major League club will decide what they want, and then we start filtering down.”

According to his players, the time where the organization makes those decisions cannot come soon enough.
“They’re ready to get out of here,” Sweet says. “The big thing I have to do is to keep them focused on all the work they’ve put in and make sure they maintain it and not let them slack off.”

More big things are coming for Rick Sweet and his team, as they usher in a new era in Milwaukee Brewers history.

Click below to listen to Rick Sweet’s entire interview with Matt Pauley and Ryan Kaufman of MC Sports Daily on AM 1300 The Animal, including his thoughts on the new pace-of-play rules instituted throughout MiLB and the mustache that has inspired a new hashtag.