Suter gives Brewers' bullpen late-season boost
MILWAUKEE -- Brent Suter has been a September surprise for the Brewers, manager Craig Counsell said, and is a notable factor in the team’s late surge in the standings.
The left-hander pitched a fifth consecutive scoreless outing Tuesday night in the Brewers’ 3-1 win over the Padres, giving him six appearances and 12 1/3 innings of one-run ball this month in his first Major League action following Tommy John surgery. With a cleaned-up delivery and the knowledge he’s pitching in shorter stints out of the bullpen than he did as a starter last season, Suter has added zip to his fastball. It’s all the way up to an 87.7 mph average.
Like the days following each of his appearances so far, Suter was unavailable to pitch on Wednesday.
“It’s kind of doctor’s orders, really, of how we’re going to manage the rest of the year,” Counsell said. “At least at this point, this is where we’re at. Our perspective going into this was this was how we were going to manage the month for Brent. There are some things we’re going to stick by, and an off-day after he pitches is one of them.”
Suter said he feels great since he returned to the mound with eight scoreless appearances on a Minor League rehabilitation assignment, and he volunteered to pitch back-to-back games after the Brewers made him a September callup. But he was informed that it’s not part of the plan.
“It feels great, it really does,” Suter said. “I’ve been in their ear all the time, kind of joking around, but kind of being serious at the same time. Saying, ‘Hey, I want to be out there again.’ But they’ve got the program, and I’m going to stick to it.”
Key factors in his effective comeback, Suter said, are improved flexibility and an altered delivery. Put together, those factors leave him in a better body position at the moment his front foot strikes the ground. That has made a positive difference in his recovery between outings, Suter said.
The idea is to keep Suter healthy so he can continue to contribute to the Brewers’ push for the postseason and, if applicable, into October itself. Counsell said Suter is not subject to any innings cap that would prevent him from being on a potential postseason roster.
“Brent’s probably one of the reasons we’ve been able to get through this. He’s given us more than we expected,” Counsell said. “He’s been a guy we’ve counted on for big innings. The way he started pitching in his rehab assignments, we started thinking maybe this could happen. And he’s pitched to a level that’s exceeded everybody’s expectations, for sure.”
• Keston Hiura came through his first day back in the starting lineup Tuesday without issue, so he was back in there on Wednesday. Hiura was coming off two weeks on the injured list for a left hamstring strain.
“I thought it was a pretty easy day for Keston,” Counsell said. “Nothing really pushed him -- especially, defensively is where the test is going to come. I think he can put the governor on a little bit running the bases, but in the field is where you react to that ball and just have to go for it.”
• With Hiura back, Counsell kept Cory Spangenberg in the lineup by giving the utility man his first Brewers start in left field. It was just a day off for Ryan Braun, Counsell said, with left-handers scheduled to start against Milwaukee the next two days.
“When [Spangenberg] came up, I thought we were going to see this a little more,” Counsell said. “He started 25 games [in left field] down there for Rick Sweet in San Antonio. I’m very comfortable with doing it.”
• Yasmani Grandal won’t catch the series finale Thursday, Counsell said. Wednesday marked Grandal’s 14th consecutive start in as many days.