Crew contemplating NLDS roster decisions

October 8th, 2021

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers have until 10 a.m. CT on Friday to set a 26-man roster for their best-of-five National League Division Series against the Braves, and if history holds, they will use every minute.

History matters in this case, Milwaukee president of baseball operations David Stearns said while standing in the dugout at Dodger Stadium during the final weekend of the regular season.

“We experienced, in this building, the worst-case scenario in a playoff series,” Stearns said.

He was referring to Game 4 of the 2018 NL Championship Series, when Brewers starter Gio González injured his left ankle fielding Yasiel Puig’s infield hit in the bottom of the second inning. González left the rest of the game to Milwaukee's bullpen only to see it go 13 innings and result in a Brewers loss.

The Crew lost again the next day -- the game Wade Miley departed after one inning in a planned handoff to Brandon Woodruff -- and wound up losing the series in seven games.

“You lose a starter in the second inning, and then you go into an extra-inning game in the middle of a three-game stretch without an off-day in a seven-game series,” Stearns said. “Those are the types of scenarios that you actually walk through when you are constructing your roster. You are doing your best to cover yourself for the unknown.

“In that situation, you are always second-guessing yourself.”

Here are two questions facing the Brewers as the roster deadline nears:

1) What is the breakdown?

The last time they played a best-of-five postseason series in the 2018 NLDS against the Rockies, the Brewers carried 11 pitchers and 14 position players. Now, they have the benefit of an extra spot, because the standard roster size was set at 26 this year.

The question is how they will use it. The Brewers have elite starting pitching with Corbin Burnes, Woodruff and Freddy Peralta, all of whom are well-rested. Presumably, Adrian Houser or Eric Lauer would start a potential Game 4, because the Brewers far prefer extra rest to short rest. The other would provide multi-inning coverage in the bullpen, just as Woodruff did earlier in his career in ’18. If it’s a 12-pitcher, 14-hitter alignment, those extra positional spots would make it even easier to carry a big bat like Daniel Vogelbach, even if he is limited defensively.

“We’re not set yet,” Stearns said. “We are still discussing it. In all of these decisions, you try to really map out worst-case scenarios. When are you going to need the extra pitcher? When are you going to need the extra position player? Which position player in those situations complements your roster the best?”

2) How many spots are in limbo?
Three, perhaps?

One roster spot opened when right-hander Devin Williams punched a wall last week and fractured his pitching hand, leaving a big hole in the Brewers' bullpen. Someone will take that spot, perhaps veteran left-hander Daniel Norris to help handle Freddie Freeman or, if the Brewers prefer a right-hander, Jandel Gustave.

Two other spots are pending health. First baseman Rowdy Tellez was activated from the 10-day injured list on Saturday against the Dodgers after missing about three weeks with a right knee injury, and all signs point to him being the primary first baseman in the NLDS. The Brewers are also awaiting word on righty reliever Jake Cousins, who has been down with a right biceps injury that was relatively minor. Cousins had been doing some throwing before departing for an outing with Triple-A Nashville.

“Barring a setback that we don’t foresee, we expect him to be ready,” Stearns said.

Other recent health matters have been resolved. Shortstop Willy Adames was slowed in August and early September by a left quadriceps issue, but he began hitting for some power over the final week of the regular season and said he continued to advance toward 100 percent. Eduardo Escobar, a switch-hitter who appears at first and third base, has rounded back into form following an IL stint for a strained right hamstring, collecting his 1,000th career hit in the penultimate regular-season game.