A pattern is developing in Milwaukee. At the start of the 2003 season general manager and bargain hunter Doug Melvin signed little-known reliever Dan Kolb to a minor league contract one week after the righthander had been released by the Rangers. Over the next two seasons Kolb saved 60 games in 67 chances and made the '04 NL All-Star team before being traded to the Braves for two prospects. Then last October, Melvin picked up little-known reliever Derrick Turnbow a few weeks after the righthander had been waived by the Angels. And, like Kolb, the Brewers' latest reclamation project has emerged as a reliable closer.
In spring training the 6'3", 210-pound Turnbow lit up radar guns with a 99-mph fastball, but pitching coach Mike Maddux overhauled his mechanics and preached to him that "95 mph on the corner of the plate is better than 97 somewhere else." Throwing with reduced velocity but better command, Turnbow has thrived, going 4-1 at week's end with a 1.76 ERA and four saves in five chances for the surging Brewers, who had won eight of 10 games. Opposing hitters were batting a puny .118 against him.
With his shaggy hair and small-town upbringing--he grew up in Franklin, Tenn.--the 27-year-old Turnbow, called Gomer by teammates, is quickly becoming a Milwaukee favorite. It's been an unlikely rise for a pitcher who struggled last season at Triple A Salt Lake City (2-6, 5.06 ERA) and who did not have a big league save until April 24. No one has been more surprised by his early success than Turnbow himself. "Coming into spring," he says, "I just wanted to make the team." -- Albert Chen