John Brownell’s durability is no secret. The Ducks righthander has thrown more than 175 innings in each of the last two seasons and led the Atlantic League in strikeouts and innings pitched last year. On Wednesday night, Brownell’s longevity became less of an anecdote and more of a historical precedent.
In pitching the Ducks to a 15-5 win over the cellar-dwelling Bridgeport Bluefish, Brownell, 32, became the Ducks’ all-time leader in innings pitched. Now in his fifth season on the team, he has thrown 589 2⁄3 innings, surpassing Randy Leek, who threw 587 1⁄3 innings from 2007-10.
He also is the franchise’s leader in strikeouts with 449 through Friday.
“He’s a good pitcher,” Ducks manager Kevin Baez said Thursday afternoon. “He’s a competitor and he has talent. That formula usually works. He’s a great teammate, does his work before his outing, and prepares himself on the day that he pitches to compete and pitch well.”
Brownell, who was drafted by the Phillies in 2006 and spent parts of six seasons in other independent leagues before joining the Ducks, made his first start with them on Sept. 9, 2012, against the Sugar Land Skeeters, beating former major-leaguer Tim Redding.
“I was excited to be here, excited to be in the Atlantic League,” he said. “It was a new experience. I just tried to soak it in and mesh with the guys in the clubhouse . . . The guys that were on the team that year welcomed me and made me feel comfortable.”
Since then, Brownell has gone 39-27 with a 3.69 ERA in 89 starts.
“I’ve just been more consistent with the off-speed and been able to mix it up,” he said. “I’ve finally realized that I’m not one of those guys that’s going to blow it by people, so what am I going to be able to do different? Command the off-speed and throw more pitches for strikes.”
This season, Brownell has continued to roll out solid performances. He is 3-0 with a 3.37 ERA, 25 strikeouts and nine walks in five starts (29 1⁄3 innings). In three of his last four starts, Brownell allowed two or fewer runs in six innings.
The only start that did not reach those standards came on Wednesday when he allowed four runs and six hits, struck out four and walked three in 6 1⁄3 innings of the Ducks’ lopsided victory over Bridgeport.
“Three walks is too many,” Brownell said. “That makes you work a little bit harder. When we went up 11-0 [in the sixth] and I went out for the seventh, I was a little more relaxed and didn’t stick to the game plan that had been working so well the previous six innings. That’s what I’m most unhappy with.”
After Sunday afternoon’s series finale with the expansion New Britain Bees and an off day Monday, the Ducks travel to Lancaster for three games against the Barnstormers and then return home for three with Sugar Land next weekend.
The Ducks entered Saturday’s doubleheader against the Bees with a half-game lead over Somerset in the Liberty Division first-half standings. The first-half winner earns an automatic postseason berth.