MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers didn't release a National League Division Series roster until this morning, but Wednesday offered a preview: Johnny Wholestaff made the cut.Yes, Milwaukee will be "bullpenning" for Game 1 today at Miller Park in the opener of the best-of-five series. And that bullpen could be busy again
MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers didn't release a National League Division Series roster until this morning, but Wednesday offered a preview: Johnny Wholestaff made the cut.
Yes, Milwaukee will be "bullpenning" for Game 1 today at Miller Park in the opener of the best-of-five series. And that bullpen could be busy again in Game 2 on Friday, since the team's No. 1 starter, Jhoulys Chacin, will start on three days' rest for what is likely to be a shorter-than-usual stint.
Brandon Woodruff will open Game 1. Woodruff is really a starter, having made 17 Triple-A starts and four in the Majors this season, but was at his best late in the season out of the bullpen, compiling a 0.73 ERA and 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings in September.
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"Everybody is rested. That's the first thing," said Counsell. "And I think for our team, we have -- largely, we're trying to get away from what the word 'starter' and 'reliever' means. That's how we're going to get through the postseason, I think."
That's essentially how the Brewers got through the regular season, as well, amassing an NL-best and franchise-record-tying 96 victories (including Monday's 3-1 win over the Cubs in Game 163) with a starting rotation that doesn't feature big names but ranked 11th of 30 teams in the regular season with a 3.92 ERA and 22nd in innings per start.
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Counsell relied on a fantastic relief corps that finished the regular season fifth in the Majors with a 3.47 ERA and led the way from Sept. 1 to the finish at 1.98.
"We really think when we're going to put together our pitching staff for this series, every one of the guys we're adding is going to pitch significant innings in the series," Counsell said. "I think that's what allows us to consider different ways to get to 27 outs. … We're going to share the outs a little bit more, but we really are confident with the days off in the series and the way we're coming into the series that we'll be certainly able to do it."
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Milwaukee employed a bullpen strategy for one notable regular-season victory in St. Louis on Sept. 24, when lefty Dan Jennings faced one hitter: Matt Carpenter. After getting the out, Jennings yielded to rookie right-hander Freddy Peralta, who pitched through the end of the fourth.
Peralta was one of the Brewers' options for Game 1. He took a no-hitter into the sixth inning and struck out 13 Rockies in a record-setting Major League debut at Coors Field on Mother's Day. Then on Aug. 4, he struck out eight more against Colorado and picked up another win at Miller Park.
The Jennings experiment was unlikely to be replicated, since Counsell will probably have a 12-man pitching staff to draw from. On that date in St. Louis, Milwaukee had 14 pitchers available in the bullpen alone.
For those wondering, there is no MLB rule requiring teams to announce their starting pitcher for the next game, although most do it as a courtesy.
"Look, these aren't going to be one-out appearances," Counsell said. "These are going to be longer appearances. These are going to be two- [or] three-inning appearances that we think we can get through this with."
Jeffress OK, expected to play big role
Brewers officials are declining to specify what prevented closer Jeremy Jeffress from participating in Monday's NL Central tiebreaker game at Wrigley Field, where Josh Hader covered the final two innings, including a two-out at-bat against Javier Baez in the ninth inning that seemed perfect for Jeffress.
But Jeffress will be a full participant in the NLDS, both Counsell and general manager David Stearns said.
Jeffress' agent, Joshua Kusnick, said the matter had nothing to do with drugs or alcohol. Jeffress has been open about past battles with both.
"He is perfectly fine. He's on the roster, no restrictions," Counsell said. "If we feel like we've got a win that we can lock down, we can do it [today]. And then maybe we've got to scramble in Game 2, but then we've got fully rested guys, where we can do it in Game 3, too. That's a good feeling.
"He is a huge part of it. We talked about how we got Josh a break in late August, and with JJ and the way the games went down in September, we were able to get JJ a rest in September. Now, we feel like going into the playoffs, he is the pitcher who is in the best spot to contribute the most in these series. He is the guy who does bounce back well, and we have been able to get him days off.
"I'm thinking that he could play a really big role. Bigger than I thought after Saturday, when he had pitched a couple days in a row. Now, I'm thinking he can play a huge role in this series. And the fact he didn't pitch Monday is really important."
Melvin a Mets candidate?
The New York Post reported that former Brewers GM Doug Melvin, now a special assistant to Stearns, would interview for the Mets' GM vacancy in the coming weeks. The 66-year-old led both the Rangers and Brewers to postseason appearances as GM, a role he served in Milwaukee from the end of the 2002 season through Stearns' arrival at the end of 2015.
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.