Brewers make their decisions for NLDS roster
MILWAUKEE -- Rookie pitchers Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta and Brandon Woodruff are in, as are speedy outfielder Keon Broxton and September pinch-hit king Domingo Santana.
Opening Day starter Chase Anderson is out, as are Zach Davies, Eric Thames and two of the Brewers' three lefty relievers, Xavier Cedeno and Dan Jennings.
The Brewers made some surprising choices among the 11 pitchers and 14 position players on their National League Division Series roster ahead of Thursday's Game 1, after naming Woodruff as the "initial out-getter" in what amounts to a bullpen day to start the best-of-five series.
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"I think it's part of the strengths of this team that we're trying to take advantage of," said Brewers manager Craig Counsell. "You know, I do think in the National League, during the course of the regular season, you need starting pitching, the way the game is structured. At this time of the year, the off-days, the all-hands-on-deck mentality that you're able to take because it's a five-game season, essentially, you can think about it differently."
Here's the group the Brewers are carrying into the series:
The Brewers are blurring the lines between starters and relievers, and that's reflected in some of their roster choices. There are three September starting pitchers, leading with Jhoulys Chacin, who will start Game 2 on Friday on short rest and will have a limited workload. Left-handers Wade Miley and Giovany Gonzalez are on the roster, but haven't yet been assigned a game. If bullpenning works in Game 1 and the 'pen is in good shape after Game 2, there's a chance the Brewers will employ an "opener" again in Game 3 because the Rockies are more vulnerable against right-handed arms.
Others on the roster have lots of starting experience and are relatively stretched out to work multiple innings, but pitched out of the bullpen down the stretch. Burnes, Junior Guerra, Peralta and Woodruff all fit that description. Peralta is particularly interesting, since he struck out 21 Rockies in a pair of victorious starts against Colorado in the regular season, including a 13-strikeout Major League debut on Mother's Day at Coors Field.
"There's a lot of starters in that group, and they have the ability to -- I think they've done both, I guess, is what I'd say," Counsell said. "They've pitched [well], and they have length kind of attached to them, which we think is valuable. And then there's some guys that we think are good matchups in the series against this particular team."
Burnes handled some high-leverage relief and joins Josh Hader, Jeremy Jeffress, Corey Knebel and Joakim Soria in that category. Travel days between Games 2 and 3 and, if necessary, Games 4 and 5, mean Counsell can use those A-listers aggressively.
"One of the tougher decisions for us was not keeping Xavier Cedeno on the roster, who's pitched very well for us in September," Counsell said. "But we feel like with Gio and Wade that they will be used out of the bullpen in games, in addition to probably being at the start of games."
Said GM David Stearns: "Really tough. I think there were a couple of tough calls, and 'X' was one of the toughest because he was a major contributor for us in September. It more came down to how the rest of our roster was constructed -- and who the opponent was also played into it."
Also left out of the pitching mix were Milwaukee's top two starting pitchers entering the season: Anderson, who started Opening Day in San Diego, and Davies, who was held back to start the home opener. One of them could figure into the plan if the Brewers advance to the best-of-seven NL Championship Series.
Anderson was removed from the rotation with one week to go, when the Brewers opted to start lefty Jennings in St. Louis to pitch to Matt Carpenter before Peralta took over and pitched through the end of the fourth inning. Anderson, whose 30 home runs allowed tied Rockies Game 2 starter Tyler Anderson for most in the NL, did not pitch again.
"We went the other way in the St. Louis game, specifically for -- to get what we thought Freddy was a very good matchup against that team," Counsell said. "And then we didn't use the fifth starter with the day off the next time through. That ended meaning Chase didn't pitch.
"If we do advance, the composition of our pitching will change. We haven't made any decisions there yet, but I know we're going to have to structure our pitching differently in a seven-game series."
No surprises that it's Erik Kratz and Manny Pina. Kratz, acquired from the Yankees' Triple-A team in late May, actually made the majority of starts in September because he was paired with Chacin and Miley.
The Brewers "goal-line package" made it. That's what players called the big-boy combination of Travis Shaw at second base, Jonathan Schoop at shortstop and Mike Moustakas at third after the Brewers added Schoop and Moustakas in July 31 trades in a bid to improve the offense. But the Brewers' sensational defensive shortstop, Orlando Arcia, contributed at the plate late in the season, capped by his first career four-hit game in Monday's NL Central tiebreaker against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. When he's in the field, the Brewers' defense is significantly better. Hernan Perez can play everywhere on the field.
Left fielder Ryan Braun, center fielder Lorenzo Cain and right fielder Christian Yelich are the primary players here, with Aug. 31 acquisition Curtis Granderson giving Counsell a left-handed-hitting option to mix in. It was a question in the run-up to Game 1 whether Broxton or Santana would make it, and in the end both did. Broxton provides elite defense and a pinch-run option, and Santana was productive off the bench in September, going 8-for-18 with two home runs as a pinch-hitter. His double in the tiebreaker game set up the Brewers' go-ahead rally in the eighth inning.
Here is the complete roster:
Postseason roster rules
Teams submit a 25-man roster prior to each round of the postseason comprised of postseason-eligible players. A club may request permission from the Commissioner's Office to replace a player injured during the course of a series, but that player is then ineligible for the rest of that round and the subsequent round, if there is one. A pitcher may only be replaced by another pitcher, and a position player by a position player.
Teams carry extra players throughout the postseason in the event of injuries, and those players, as well as players on the disabled list, can be in the dugout during games, within reason.