Buried on baseball’s scrap heap with a bum shoulder after getting released by the San Diego Padres in 2006, Palo Verde High School graduate Brandon Kintzler has since made a remarkable comeback.
A right-hander who throws in the mid-90s, Kintzler had two strikeouts for the Nashville Sounds on Monday in a scoreless inning against the 51s at Cashman Field and is on the cusp of breaking into the big leagues with the parent Milwaukee Brewers.
“He’s got to learn a little more about things, but stuff-wise, I don’t have any doubt he would have a good chance to go up and get major league hitters out,” Nashville pitching coach Rich Gale said Tuesday before the Sounds’ 19-8 loss to Las Vegas. “He’s been a wonderful, pleasant surprise.”
The 6-foot-1-inch, 180-pounder started this season at Double-A Huntsville, where he was a dominant closer, and earned his first promotion to Triple A on June 7. He was placed on the disabled list July 14 with a strained oblique muscle but returned to action Friday, pitching a perfect inning against the Reno Aces.
Kintzler is 2-0 overall this season with a 1.19 ERA, 13 saves, 37 strikeouts and three walks in 37 2/3 innings.
“I’m just trying to challenge them,” he said. “The main thing is throwing strikes and staying healthy.”
After playing a year apiece for Pasadena (Calif.) City College and Utah’s Dixie State College, the Las Vegas native spurned a scholarship offer from UNLV to sign with the Padres, who drafted him in the 40th round in 2004 despite concerns about his shoulder.
But Kintzler, who turned 26 on Aug. 1, was released after two seasons in the Padres organization.
“I never had a healthy season,” said Kintzler, who pitched with a frayed labrum and rotator cuff in his right shoulder. “Finally they said they were going to let me go because they were getting impatient.”
Kintzler didn’t play in 2006, when he had surgery on his shoulder.
He signed with Winnipeg six months after surgery and toiled in virtual obscurity there in 2007 and 2008. At his request, he was traded to the St. Paul Saints last season and finally managed to attract the attention of some scouts.
A day after he started the American Association All-Star Game and hit 94 mph on the radar gun, the Brewers offered him a contract and sent him to Double A, where he went 1-2 with a 4.54 ERA as a starter.
Moved to the bullpen this season, Kintzler has thrived.
“It’s kind of amazing to see a kid with this kind of arm and this kind of stuff that was in independent ball last year that some organization hadn’t picked up on him,” Gale said. “He throws 94 to 96 (mph), which is a very (legitimate), live major league fastball.”
Kintzler, who worked at Wynn Las Vegas as a driver last offseason, can barely believe his good fortune.
“It’s still unreal,” he said. “A little over a year ago I was taking 16-hour bus rides in independent ball making zero money. Now we’re taking airplanes and playing in Vegas.”
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at email@example.com or 702-383-0354.LAS VEGAS — 19 NASHVILLE — 8
KEY: Mike McCoy had five hits, including a homer, and the 51s scored nine times in the sixth inning and finished with a season high in runs.
NEXT: Sounds (RHP Marty McLeary) at 51s (RHP Robert Ray), 7:05 p.m. today, KBAD-AM (920)