5 early unsung heroes in the NL Central

May 10th, 2018

MILWAUKEE -- "A sense of humor and a good bullpen." That's how Whitey Herzog once described the keys to being a good Major League manager.

It helps to have a or two at your disposal, too.

Suter has been one of the Brewers' unsung heroes over the past three seasons, bouncing between Triple-A and the Majors, and the bullpen and the starting rotation. Like the day last June in St. Louis, when pitching prospect injured his hamstring warming up for Game 1 of a doubleheader and Suter started on five minutes' notice. He pitched into the fifth inning, and while Milwaukee lost that game, Suter helped preserve the pitching staff so they could win the nightcap.

This week at Miller Park, Suter turned a similar trick against the Indians after the Brewers lost starter to an oblique injury after one out. Suter took over, made a highlight-reel defensive play, crushed a 433-foot home run to dead center field off reigning American League Cy Young Award winner for the decisive run of a 3-2 win, and just as importantly, pitched through the end of the fifth inning.

"It's a crazy night, but at the same time that's what I'm there for," Suter said.

Here's a look at the players in the National League Central who deserve more notice:

Brewers LHP Suter

Why you should know about him:
Where to start? Suter is a former 31st-round Draft pick out of Harvard who gets it done with a fastball that rarely tops 85 mph. Teammates call him "The Raptor" because of his odd running style. He's the fastest-working pitcher in Major League Baseball. And he gets outs. In 140 1/3 innings over the past three years Suter owns a 3.78 ERA while making 22 starts and 22 relief appearances. He's proof that a pitcher does not necessarily need a power fastball to survive.

Why you don't: For some of the reasons above. Suter doesn't wow scouts and does not rack up strikeouts like Milwaukee's most notable left-hander, . But he has provided value in bouncing between roles for Brewers manager Craig Counsell.

What they're saying: "When your starter leaves after getting one out in the game, it's a potential disaster, and a multiple day kind of event. The way Brent handled it, it's not really a factor at all for us." -- Counsell, on Suter's emergency work against the Indians

Cardinals RHP 

Why you should know about him:
Because Norris entered Thursday's game in San Diego 7-for-7 in save chances in place of Greg Holland with a 2.60 ERA over 17 games with 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings and an 11.5 strikeout-to-walk rate. The Cards used Norris a lot early, and he was tied for second in the Majors in appearances before a triceps issue slowed him down this week. Norris has become manager Mike Matheny's most trusted reliever, and came at a bargain, having signed a sneaky one-year, $3 million deal in spring.

Why you don't: Because Holland is supposed to be the closer, and he's the one making $14 million. But Holland has not been effective this season (5.78 ERA, 2.036 WHIP entering Thursday), one reason the Cardinals' bullpen has been in a state of flux.

What they're saying: "His stuff just looks different coming in in the late innings. It's amazing how Bud has come in in big situations. He's one of those guys that are pretty rare right now who you can go to for four or five outs, and he figures out a way to get it done. What an addition to our club he's been." -- Matheny

Cubs C 

Why you should know about him:
Because Cubs manager Joe Maddon has been singing the 24-year-old switch-hitter's praises all spring. They chose Caratini over more the more experienced (and -connected) Chris Gimenez and have used him not only to spell starting catcher , but also first baseman , who already endured a stint on the 10-day disabled list for back soreness. Caratini garnered starts at both positions this week against the Marlins, including an eventful game at catcher on Tuesday in which he drove home the tying and go-ahead runs in a Cubs win.

Why you don't: Because backup catchers rarely grab headlines, especially when he plays on a start-studded roster like the Cubs'.

What they're saying: "Victor is sharp. When he's not playing, he's studying. He's in [coach Mike] Borzello's back pocket all the time. He showed that in Spring Training. The kid is a big league ballplayer. When he does something good out there, please don't be surprised. He's going to keep getting better." -- Maddon

Pirates 3B 

Why you should know about him:
Acquired from the Astros in the trade, Moran, in his first full Major League season, has been a steady performer for a Bucs offense that ranks second among NL clubs in runs scored. He had a big moment Wednesday afternoon against the White Sox, hitting a go-ahead two-run home run in the Pirates' second straight come-from-behind win.

Why you don't: Because Cole has dominated so much of the coverage looking back at that Astros-Bucs trade thanks to a dominant start for Houston. It's deserved. Including nine more strikeouts in Wednesday's sweep-clinching Astros win over the A's, Cole leads the Majors with 86 whiffs this season. But Moran, more quietly, is contributing to the Pirates being tied with the Brewers for second place.

What they're saying: "He was a big unknown to me. Nobody knew what he was going to be like with a full season under his belt. … With a full season, new team, the way he goes about his business, it's so calm, cool and [collected], it's an awesome feeling. It's awesome to be his teammate. It's awesome to see what he's doing." -- Pirates shortstop

Reds LHP 

Why you should know about him:
On a team that's struggled with pitching, Garrett has been a beacon of success from the bullpen with a 1.83 ERA in 17 appearances. The left-hander has notched more strikeouts (22) than he has allowed hits (15) and walks (six) combined. He began the season with eight scoreless appearances and stranded his first nine inherited baserunners before allowing one to score in Tuesday's win over the Mets.

Why you don't: Garrett has been a starter most of his pro career, but he has been used primarily as a middle reliever of late -- a thankless role. Interim manager Jim Riggleman recently said he would like to utilize Garrett in higher-leverage situations and didn't rule out moving Garrett back into the rotation.

What they're saying: "The more he can get out there to repeat that delivery, I think he's going to be that much better." -- Riggleman