Brewers ink Riske to three-year deal
Right-handed reliever could be in the mix to be team's closer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Over the next five days in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, new Brewers right-hander David Riske has plenty to celebrate.While Riske and his family began a vacation, the Brewers on Wednesday announced they had finalized an incentive-rich, three-year contract with the free-agent reliever, adding a proven setup man and another potential closer -- should Derrick Turnbow falter in his return to that role. The deal reportedly guarantees $13 million over the course of the contract and could pay more than $20 million if Riske emerges as the closer. The contract includes an option for a fourth season worth about $4.75 million, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. "I know they lost a couple of big arms in the bullpen, so I'm just going to do my best to help them out," Riske said. The Brewers lost a pair of key relievers in free agency and have been actively seeking bullpen help. Second-half setup man Scott Linebrink signed with the White Sox, and All-Star closer Francisco Cordero bolted for the Reds. "He's a strike-thrower," Brewers manager Ned Yost said of Riske. "A guy who, as it stands today, probably will contend for one of our spots for our closers. Right now, we don't have a clear-cut one. Derrick will probably have a head start because he's been an All-Star closer." It has been a wild week for the Riske clan. News that he was nearing an agreement with Milwaukee broke late last week, but the requisite physical to complete the deal was delayed because he attended a weekend wedding in Seattle. Riske was in Milwaukee on Tuesday for the physical, then returned home to Nevada -- only to leave again Wednesday for Mexico. After five days in the sun, he will return home for one day, then plans to head to Kansas City for another wedding. "It's crazy timing right now. It's exciting, though," Riske said. Riske, 31, was 1-4 with a 2.45 ERA and four saves in 65 relief appearances for the Kansas City Royals last season. After struggling with a 6.97 ERA in April, he went on to post a 1.67 ERA the rest of the season. The Brewers were drawn to Riske's durability. He pitched consecutive days 10 times, including one stretch of three straight days, and had a perfect 0.00 ERA (11 innings) on Days 2 and 3. "I feel like if I don't pitch enough, I'm not as good," Riske said. "The more I pitch, the better I am. I love going out there. I love being called a workhorse. I love eating up as many innings as I can." Riske's agent, Nez Balelo, said the potential to slide into the Brewers' closer role helped entice Riske, who has 20 career saves. Milwaukee tried to re-sign All-Star Cordero, only to see him choose National League Central rival Cincinnati, and barring an unforeseen trade, the Brewers will go back to Turnbow, who was an All-Star in 2006, but has struggled for the last season and a half. "I was really happy, especially after going in [to Miller Park] and watching them play," said Riske, whose Royals lost two of three in Milwaukee from June 22-24. The Brewers took the first two games of the series to push 8 1/2 games ahead of their nearest National League Central rival, but Riske pitched a scoreless inning in the finale and got the win for the Royals. The Brewers will be expected to compete again for the division title in 2008. That was part of the draw, Riske said. "I'm real excited," he said. "I think they have a great future there."
Brewers officials didn't make any promises to Riske regarding his role in the bullpen, but he could begin the year as the Brewers' primary setup man to Turnbow. Riske and newcomer Guillermo Mota have been mentioned as potential alternatives should Turnbow struggle."My whole Minor League career I closed, and then I got the opportunity a little bit at the beginning of last year and with Cleveland [in 2003 and 2004]," Riske said. "I love closing. I love going out there with the game on the line. I've always thrived in those situations. I definitely would not push it away." Said Yost: "Our guys say he's very, very deceiving. He throws 91, 92 [mph] but it's the hardest 91, 92 you'll see. [Hitters] have trouble picking the ball up. He has a lot of deception." To make room on the roster for Riske, the Brewers designated outfielder Laynce Nix for assignment. According to assistant general manager Gord Ash, the team was close to finalizing a new Major League contract for Nix, and planned to then outright him to Triple-A Nashville. Were another team to claim Nix, the Brewers would get $20,000 and Nix would get an opportunity to play in the Majors. Should the other 29 teams pass, Nix would get a Spring Training invitation and would stay in the organization as outfield depth. "We talked to a number of clubs, and there wasn't specific interest in making a deal," Ash said. "But we like the depth that he gives us." The Brewers were limited in whom they could remove from the roster. Baseball rules barred them from removing any of the players added to the 40-man roster last month, and they did not want to expose outfielder Drew Anderson to waivers because he has options remaining.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.