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Chris Narveson

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Christopher Gregg Narveson

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Pitcher Chris Narveson went 11-0 as a high school senior with a 0.64 ERA, 39 hits allowed and 144 strikeouts in 76 innings; he had also been 11-0 as a junior. He then was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in the second round of the 2000 amateur draft. He was signed by scout Randy Benson and made his debut with the Johnson City Cardinals that year, going 2-4 with a 3.27 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 55 IP. Baseball America rated him the #10 prospect in the Appalachian League and he was 8th in ERA.

He began the next season with the Peoria Chiefs, posting a 1.98 ERA in 8 starts, then moved up to the Potomac Cannons, where he was 4-3 with a 2.57 ERA. Baseball America rated him as the #5 prospect in both the Midwest League and Carolina League. They also rated him as the 2nd-best prospect in the Cardinals organization behind Jimmy Journell. He missed much of the 2002 campaign following offseason elbow surgery, before returning to Johnson City (0-2, 4.91) and Peoria (2-1, 4.46).

In 2003, Narveson split the season between the Palm Beach Cardinals, where he went 7-7 with a 2.86 ERA, and the Tennessee Smokies, where he posted a 4-3 record and a 3.00 ERA. Baseball America rated him the 20th-best prospect among left-handed starters and he didn't make the top 20 list for either league he appeared in. He returned to Tennessee in 2004 and went 5-10 with a 4.16 ERA before being traded to the Colorado Rockies as part of the trade that brought Larry Walker to St. Louis. He ended the season with the Tulsa Drillers of the Rockies organization and went 0-3 with a 3.15 ERA for them.

The next spring, he was sent to the Boston Red Sox along with catcher Charles Johnson for Byung-Hyun Kim. He went 4-5 with a 4.77 ERA in 20 games with the Pawtucket Red Sox before being claimed on waivers by the Cardinals. He made just two starts for the Memphis Redbirds before being placed on the DL with a shoulder injury.

In 2006, Narveson split the season between Palm Beach, where he posted a 2.12 ERA in 3 starts, and Memphis, where he went 8-5 with a 2.81 ERA. In September, he was called up by the Cardinals, and he made his big league debut at a member of the club's bullpen on September 8th. He struck out 12 in 9 1/3 innings in the majors and had a 4.82 ERA.

After spending part of the 2007 season injured and the remainder of the season in the minors (3-2, 5.72 for Memphis and 0-0, 2.70 for Palm Beach), Chris was released by the Cardinals and signed with the Milwaukee Brewers as a non-roster invitee to 2008 spring training. He finally made it back to the majors with the Brewers in 2009, pitching 21 games mainly out of the bullpen. He was 2-0, 3.83 in 47 innings and impressed enough to secure a full-time starting job in 2010. That season, he started 28 games in 37 outings, pitching 167.2 innings, and ending the year with a 12-9 record and a 4.99 ERA. He also struck out 137 batters, giving Milwaukee unexpected production at the back-end of the starting rotation. He continued in the role in 2011, keeping his job in spite of the team acquiring front-line starters Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum in the off-season and was one of five starters to win 10 or more game for the Brewers, finishing the year at 11-8, 4.45. He was moved to long relief for the postseason, but was hit hard in both rounds of the playoffs that the Brewers played in: in the NLDS, he gave up 3 runs in 2 2/3 innings to the Arizona Diamondbacks, and then 6 runs in 5 innings to the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS. His key appearance came in Game 6 of the NLCS, when he relieved an ineffective Marcum in the top of the 2nd inning with the Brewers already down 4-1; the Cards scored five runs off him over the next inning and two-thirds to pull away to an eventual 12-6 win. He set a record by giving up five home runs in relief during that postseason, a record which was tied by Hunter Strickland of the 2014 San Francisco Giants.

In 2012, Narveson began the season again as the Brewers' fifth starter, but made only 2 starts, winning one and losing one, before being shut down with a shoulder injury that required an operation. He was 4-7 with a 5.14 ERA for Nashville in 2013 and pitched two shutout innings for the 2013 Brewers. He signed with the Yakult Swallows for 2014. He had a poor debut in Nippon Pro Baseball, on April 8. He retired the side in the first but served up two runs in the second and three in the third (two on a Hector Luna homer). He gave up 5 runs and 8 hits in 6 innings in a loss to the Chunichi Dragons; Hiroki Sanada relieved him.

Narveson has an unusual hitch in his delivery when pitching from the wind-up. Instead of stepping directly towards home plate with his right foot, he holds it in the air close to the ground for an extra second, and then steps down. This small move helps to disguise the speed of the pitch, because it gives the batter distracting information as he is tracking the ball leaving Narveson's left hand. He does this also while pitching from the stretch, but less noticeably, given the risk of a stolen base.

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