Peralta stumbles: What's next for rotation?

July 26th, 2020

and are getting a second chance to stick in the Brewers’ starting rotation, but Sunday they could already see competition coming.

Left-hander ’s strikeout-filled Brewers debut was a highlight of a 9-1 loss to the Cubs at steamy Wrigley Field, where Peralta followed Burnes’ so-so start on Saturday with a similarly unsatisfying outing. Burnes required 75 pitches for 10 outs. Peralta threw 66 pitches for nine outs.

“The challenge for me is put zeroes on the board as quick as you can,” Peralta said. “Try to make the outs quick. You know that you are not going to be out there for long.”

Speaking of unsatisfying, it was mostly that kind of opening weekend for the Brewers, who broke out the bats to beat the Cubs on Saturday, but were shut out on three hits on Friday, held hitless until two outs in the fifth inning on Sunday, and saw and combine to go 2-for-25 in the series while the team dropped two of three games.

Burnes, 25, and Peralta, 24, both know that the Brewers will blur the lines between starters and relievers as long as rosters are expanded. Efficiency is in order, and neither was able to succeed in that department over the weekend. Peralta’s wild pitch contributed to the Cubs’ first run in the second inning, and a pair of walks around Willson Contreras’ double to start the fourth prompted a call to the bullpen. The Cubs greeted reliever with three successive singles to make it a four-run inning and a 5-0 lead before Lauer took over and extinguished the rally.

Peralta was charged with four runs on three hits in three-plus innings, with two walks and three strikeouts. The day before, Burnes allowed one run on two hits in 3 1/3 innings, with three walks and six strikeouts.

Then there was Lauer, activated from the COVID-19 related injured list on Sunday morning, who faced 10 Cubs hitters in 2 2/3 innings. He struck out six, walked one and allowed one hit. The Brewers also have in reserve veteran left-hander , who was originally scheduled to start Saturday’s game against the Cubs before landing on the 10-day IL with a blister.

How and when those two lefties will join the Brewers’ starting rotation is to be determined. Expanded rosters -- 30 players strong for the first two weeks of the season and 28 players for two weeks after that before coming down to 26 players for the remainder of the year -- allow for some creativity.

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“I see them all pitching a lot of innings,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “You know, if Eric Lauer is stretched out, he could keep going in that game and take us through the eighth inning. That’s how I kind of see that.

“I don’t necessarily see it as competition. We’re going to have to pick a guy to start. That may change from time to time, who starts the game and who comes in next. I think our strength is that we have that number [of pitchers with ability to start], and if we have enough guys that are different, lefties and righties, it can help us during the course of a game and take pressure off having to cover some of those middle innings in games.”

The plan going into Sunday, Counsell said, was to use Lauer for three innings and less than 50 pitches following right-hander Peralta.

Similarly, lefty Anderson and righty Burnes were lined up on the same day in Summer Camp before Anderson was sidelined by the blister. He is eligible to come off the IL as early as Friday’s home opener against the Cardinals -- the same day Burnes is in line to pitch.

“The biggest thing was just trying to go out there and do as much as we could,” Burnes said after his outing. “There were a lot of deep counts, which didn’t help my pitch count, so I couldn’t get very deep into the game. … The ball was taking off. I think it was more just an increase in adrenaline. We haven’t had a live game like that for what, 8-9 months? It’s hard to replicate the adrenaline and the pressure you get in an actual game. It took me an inning, inning and a half to kind of get settled in there.”

These days, starters have less time to settle in. Does Peralta see a budding competition for the right to start?

“For me, I don’t try to be competing with my teammates. You know, we are together every day,” Peralta said. “I think I just have to do my job on the mound, and they have the decision. If one day I have to be behind somebody like Lauer was today, I have no problem with that. If I am starting, I feel comfortable, too.”

Said Lauer: “My plan is to get extended more. From the get-go, I wanted to be a starter in this rotation, a guy they can go to every fifth day. That’s my goal. However they want to use me, I’m good with, as long as I can help the team win some ballgames.”