'In a long game': Brewers giving Burnes rest

June 29th, 2021

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers have a plan for their starting pitchers, and they’re sticking to it.

Rather than follow Freddy Peralta and Brandon Woodruff with the third member of Milwaukee’s Big Three, , on what for decades has been considered “regular” rest in Wednesday’s series finale against the Cubs at American Family Field, the Brewers will hold Burnes until Thursday in Pittsburgh.

That allows the team to give Burnes the day of extra rest the Brewers have afforded starters for nearly every outing this season as they navigate the jump from 60 regular-season games in 2020 to 162 games in ’21. The Brewers will either call up a pitcher to start Wednesday or throw a bullpen game at the Cubs, who entered the series three games behind first-place Milwaukee in the National League Central.

“We talked about it both ways, but this is the way we’ve rolled with it so far. It’s worked so far,” Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns said. “I would imagine we get to a point in the season where we ask a little bit more from our starters, but we’re not at that point right now.

“This is a fun series, it’s a big series. It’s still the last three days of June. We’ve got half a season left to go and we’re still very much in a long game here. That’s how we have to look at it.”

The Brewers have been thinking about starting pitcher health since the beginning of 2021. Woodruff led the team with 78 1/3 regular-season and postseason innings last year; he’s already 20 percent beyond that. The jump is even more dramatic for Peralta, who logged 30 1/3 innings in the regular season and postseason last year and took the mound Monday night at 81 innings.

If the Brewers would break their rest policy with anyone, perhaps it would be Burnes. He spent two weeks on the injured list in late April and early May with an asymptomatic case of COVID-19, so he already had a break of sorts.

“I wish I could say there was great science behind all of these decisions, but a lot of these decisions are based on a combination of what we understand from a medical perspective and also just subjective judgement,” Stearns said. “We’re doing our best. We believe our pitchers have benefitted from the extra rest so far.”

It’s hard to argue with the results. Brewers starting pitchers entered their series against the Cubs worth a collective 8.7 fWAR, third best in the Majors.

“It’s something that’s been communicated to us quite a bit since early on,” said Burnes, “that they’re prioritizing health in August and September coming down the stretch. They feel the best way to do that is to go every six days and give me ample rest. This wasn’t the time to push it now going into the All-Star break. Maybe coming out of it with the couple off-days we have, we can start to push the envelope a little bit.”