How IL stint could help Lauer find 'peace of mind'

May 22nd, 2023

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers lefty said he hasn’t felt like himself amid an up-and-down start to his 2023 season. And although a shoulder issue landed him on the injured list Monday, it may also be an answer to help him get on track.

The Brewers placed Lauer on the 15-day IL before Monday’s series opener against the Astros with a right shoulder impingement, recalling right-hander Tyson Miller from Triple-A Nashville in a corresponding move.

Lauer said he’s had a “small, lingering issue” in his right, non-throwing shoulder for several years. He thought he would be able to work through it, but this is the first time it’s gotten worse, he said.

“It's not your throwing shoulder, it's not something that you would expect to be cranked on a lot,” Lauer said. “But it's just continuously gotten worse and worse. And it's gotten to a point where all the mechanical things are right, everything that we've been searching through and trying to make right is right, and I'm still not feeling like I’m throwing like myself.

“We started looking at other things, other possibilities, and the only glaring thing that I could think of was my glove shoulder doesn't feel right.”

Lauer has gone through some struggles the first two months this season. He holds a 5.48 ERA in nine games, including eight starts.

The Brewers skipped his turn in the rotation last homestand to give him a reset, and he tossed 5 1/3 strong innings in relief May 14 against the Royals. He returned to the rotation over the weekend against the Rays and gave up six runs in three innings, including three home runs.

“It doesn't feel like I can get out there, and I can rip it back through,” Lauer said of his shoulder. “It gets out there, and it has this dead feeling to it. If I can't bring my glove through, if I can't rip through and have that little oomph to it, then my shoulders aren't going to rotate properly; my arm is going to come through late; I'm going to unload at the elbow instead of my shoulder.

“It just throws everything just a little bit off. And I feel like it's the thing that's halting me from that little extra tick in velocity, or that little extra jump at the end of my pitches, the sharpness that you need.”

Lauer has seen a drop in velocity on all five of his pitches this season, noticeably on his four-seam fastball and cutter, the two pitches he throws most frequently. His four-seamer has averaged 90.8 mph this season, down from 93.3 in 2022; his cutter is down to 86.5 mph, from 89.8.

Lauer said the shoulder has gotten more irritated as the season has gone on, and he will undergo imaging to make sure nothing is wrong. He said he can still throw and is not worried about maintaining the level he’s built up to currently.

“If it's not hurt, and it's not torn or anything, if there's no glaring issue, then I want to be able to know that and see it,” Lauer said, “and then have the peace of mind to not have that block me off anymore, subconsciously.”

If nothing’s wrong, Lauer can work on building up strength in the shoulder. And if he can obtain that peace of mind, it may help him find the form he has demonstrated in the past but that has evaded him so far in 2023. 

“Everything is right where it's supposed to be, and I can feel that,” Lauer said. “But there is still something that was blocking me from that little finisher, little oomph behind it, the zoom, that sharpness to my pitches. And you can see it. I'm leaving a lot of things arm side. I'm not uncocking my arm properly. 

“If this blockage goes away, there should be zero blockages, because there was something blocking me the whole time,” Lauer said. “I thought it was my legs; it wasn't my legs. I thought it was my left arm; it wasn't my left arm. … I think if I can just feel like I'm throwing like myself again, and this is the thing since spring I've just been unsure of. It's the last piece of the puzzle that I'm not sure about.”