ST. LOUIS -- Brent Suter logged his seventh consecutive scoreless outing in the Minor Leagues on Tuesday, as he continues his return from Tommy John surgery.
The Brewers need every healthy and effective pitcher they can get. They also could use a jolt of Suter’s infectious optimism at the moment, considering that they entered Wednesday's series finale against the Cardinals having lost four of five games and six of their past eight.
But don’t expect to see Suter back in a Brewers uniform before Sept. 1, said Brewers manager Craig Counsell, who characterized it as a matter of being responsible in handling a pitcher coming off an absence going on 13 months.
“If he would be a member of our guys in September, it would be with rest involved,” Counsell said. “There would be a specific way to use him, just because of where he’s at in the recovery process.”
So, a bit more patience is required for Suter, who last pitched in the Majors on July 22 of last season and underwent Tommy John surgery nine days later.
Suter resumed competitive pitching two days shy of the one-year anniversary of his surgery, first with a pair of appearances in the Arizona Rookie League, then two at Double-A Biloxi and three and counting at Triple-A San Antonio. All told, Suter has pitched 12 2/3 scoreless innings in his first seven games back, allowing three hits and three walks, with 19 strikeouts.
No, he didn't return from elbow surgery firing a mid-90s mph fastball. Suter still doesn’t touch 90 mph, but “he has looked like himself” since getting back on the mound, Counsell said, meaning Suter is doing enough with his command and ability to change speeds to keep hitters from doing damage.
Suter topped out at 50 pitches in 2 2/3 innings for San Antonio against New Orleans on Aug. 15. On Tuesday, he delivered his best outing to date, throwing 42 pitches in three scoreless innings at Iowa, while holding the Cubs' Triple-A affiliate to two hits, with five strikeouts.
“He’s certainly in the conversation for September,” Counsell said. “We’ll just continue … that same pitch mark. We’re not going to go much above that at this point or this year. But he’s doing great. He’s doing great. We want him to keep logging innings, and he’s in a position where the recovery stuff is just really what we’re more concerned about than the pitching. He’s shown that he’s pitching well. We just have to make sure that he’s recovering well.
“I think it’s easy to say, ‘Oh, there’s another guy that we can use.’ But we just have to be responsible with a guy that’s coming off a real serious injury, that has put himself in a really good place to have a good offseason and be a functional member next year. We just have to make sure we’re responsible.”
The rules of September callups this year are the same as in recent seasons -- clubs can bring up any player on its 40-man roster. It’s not until 2020 that September rosters will be capped at 28 active players.
• Full rosters for the Arizona Fall League have yet to be released, but the league teased Wednesday that outfielder Tristen Lutz, No. 2 on MLB Pipeline’s list of Milwaukee’s top prospects, will play for the Glendale Desert Dogs.
• Now that the Brewers are back to a five-man rotation following Zach Davies’ return this week from the injured list, the Brewers will keep their starters in order following Thursday’s off-day. That means everyone will get an extra day's rest, and Jordan Lyles, Chase Anderson and Davies will start in that order during this weekend's series at Miller Park against the D-backs.
• Brewers pitching prospect Caden Lemons, the Brewers’ second-round Draft pick in 2017, underwent right hip surgery earlier this month to formally end a lost season. He didn't pitch in 2019, but Lemons is expected to fully recover by Spring Training.