DENVER -- When the Rockies made a push to sign right-hander Hunter Brothers last year, many around Lipscomb University's baseball team in Nashville thought he was as good as gone.
Brothers was only a 24th-round pick, but the Rockies liked the potential they saw while scouting him in the Cape Cod League that summer. And how could he pass up an opportunity to join the same organization where his brother, Rex, had flourished?
Perhaps that's why Lipscomb head coach Jeff Forehand was caught off guard when he received a call from Brothers during his recruiting trip in Atlanta.
"He said, 'Coach, I'm going to come back and try it one more year,'" said Forehand. "I think he just saw our team beginning to turn a corner. He wanted to make his mark on that turnaround."
"I just I really just wanted to take the next step, whether that be throwing more strikes or being a better teammate," said Brothers. "All the way around, I just wanted to be a better person before I took that jump to the next level."
With Brothers back in the fold, the Lipscomb Bison (33-28) finished with the best winning percentage in the program's history. Brothers improved his ERA by nearly two runs from 2013, finishing with 55 strikeouts across 65 innings pitched, both career highs, in his first season as a full-time starter.
But that progress wasn't reflected in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft, as the Rockies were able to scoop him up in the 30th round. Despite being picked six rounds later this year, Brothers' coaches are certain the Rockies are getting a more polished product.
"I don't ever think that Hunter was worried about the money or his fame," said Brian Ryman, Lipscomb's director of operations and assistant baseball coach. "I honestly believe it was about Hunter becoming a mature person and a better player. ... He's taking the game a whole lot more serious than he has in the past."
"Obviously he has the skills and ability, but I really saw him learn how to pitch," said Forehand. "I've said it all along and we all have thought that he is going to be a better pro [after returning]."
Forehand was Rex's coach for the three years he was at Lipscomb and recalls the Rockies' 2009 supplemental-round pick progressing similarly. And that's not where the resemblance ends.
"When they're walking away with their backs to you, you can't tell who is Rex and who is Hunter," said Forehand.
Forehand notes their identical builds and almost mirror-like release points. Hunter doesn't feature quite the velocity Rex does, but he's touched 96 mph at times, and his slider is nearly as deadly. Hunter believes he and his brother also share a certain intensity.
"Most of all, it's our competitive edge," said Brothers. "We never really competed that much together but when we both take the mound, we have that edge."
That edge lent itself to dominance on April 5, when Brothers faced the minimum in a two-hit shutout of East Tennessee State.
Still, control remains an issue for Brothers. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Tennessee native walked 108 batters over 145 innings in his three years at Lipscomb, including 55 last season.
Brothers will be able to iron that out with some friendly faces in Colorado as Rex and Rockies assistant pitching coach Bo McLaughin are two of only three Lipscomb products to make it to the Majors. Brothers isn't sure if he'll be starting or relieving but he'll do whatever it takes to add another former Bison to the big league club.
"I have dreamed this since I was in T-ball," said Brothers. "As long as I have a chance to play professional baseball, that's fine by me."
Cody Ulm is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less