Brewers relying more on relief corps
Craig Counsell admitted he spent a lot of time Saturday looking at his relief pitchers’ work schedules.
That’s what happens after a “bullpen day,” when you cover nine innings with eight different pitchers.
“I think the off day on Thursday certainly makes it look a little cleaner," the Milwaukee Brewers manager said. "I think I counted 19 appearances from our bullpen over the last three games. That means they’re pitching a lot.”
Counsell has been forced to do some different things with his pitching because he is down two starters from his rotation. Jimmy Nelson was lost with a shoulder injury for the rest of the season, and Matt Garza was removed from the rotation after compiling a 10.13 ERA over his last seven outings.
Swingman Brent Suter is filling one of the rotation spots but is not fully stretched out, so Counsell relies heavily on this relief corps on those days. Even more so with the other opening, which is why Jeremy Jeffress made his first start in the major leagues Friday night against Miami.
“There are some guys who are pitching quite a bit, so that’s something we have to keep a close eye on,” said Counsell, who has 12 relievers at his disposal with expanded rosters in September. “It’s going to factor in as we move forward.”
Days off the past couple of Thursdays helped parse out the pitchers but beginning with the series opener against Miami, the Brewers play 10 games in a row without a break. And that stretch concludes with a huge fourgame series at home against first-place Chicago, the team the Brewers are chasing in the NL Central.
“Getting leads is going to be important, where we can use (other pitchers),” Counsell said. “Those things matter when you’re trying to deploy your pitching like this.”
Counsell actually had Suter up in the bullpen early Friday night on what would have been a bullpen day between starts.
He did not use him but that’s the kind of “all hands on deck” approach the Brewers are taking these days.
“I was going to use him in a short appearance,” said Counsell, who is giving Suter his next start Monday in Pittsburgh. “He’s not throwing bullpens (between starts), so he was going to face maybe one hitter. He’ll be fine to go for Monday.”
As for whether he can continue this level of bullpen usage the rest of the way, Counsell said, “We can’t sustain it on an everyday basis. We’re going to need innings from our starters. Guys like Zach (Davies), Chase (Anderson) and ‘Woody’ ( Brandon Woodruff), the stretched-out guys, we’re going to need innings from them.
“But this isn’t the time to look at things from a long-term basis, because it’s not a long-term season right now. It’s a two-week season. Guys are going to have to do a little more over the next two weeks."
No waiting: Counsell was pleased to get righthander Aaron Wilkerson, who was called up Friday, in a game right away. Wilkerson made his majorleague debut in the ninth inning of the 10-2 victory over the Marlins, retiring the side in order.
“I always try to get the guys who come up here in the game as fast as I can to get the butterflies away,” Counsell said. “I think it’s important for him to feel a part of us. It was good that he pitched a good inning for us.”
Wilkerson made the jump from Class AA Biloxi to the majors with one stop — a playoff start for Class AAA Colorado Springs in which he pitched seven no-hit innings against powerhouse Memphis with 11 strikeouts.
“It’s a jump, for sure, and something you take note of,” Counsell said. “We also take note of the performance he had in that Triple-A start because it was exceptional. And it was against a really good offensive lineup."
Brewers pitcher Jeremy Jeffress made a rare start on Friday vs. the Marlins.