Counsell comfortable with Hader, 'pen's usage

Houser wasn't expecting '18 role, praises Ray's strong start in Double-A

May 26th, 2018

MILWAUKEE -- By every conceivable measure, 's results have been fantastic. But is his pace sustainable?
Brewers manager Craig Counsell believes so.
Counsell addressed the topic in the wake of Hader's latest multi-inning gem in Friday's 4-3, 10-inning win over the Mets. It was the left-hander's 14th relief appearance of more than one inning and 12th of at least two full innings, most in the Majors on both counts, and put Hader on a pace to pitch 97 1/3 regular-season innings over 56 games, which would include 36 appearances of at least two innings.
No reliever has pitched two-plus innings that many times in a season since Mariano Rivera did so 35 times for the 1996 Yankees.
One can't quibble with the results so far. Hader entered Saturday fifth among all National League pitchers in Fangraphs' version of Wins Above Replacement and 12th with 62 strikeouts, even though he's a reliever.
"Every time he's pitched two innings, he's had two days' rest," Counsell said. "And he hasn't been up [warming in the bullpen] at all. And the pitches have always been in a certain range.
"There's no exact formula to that stuff. We're trying to be consistent with it, with all the guys. We look at it every day and make our judgements and make our determinations. Sometimes you have to say he's not available. It's just the way it is. That's why you have an eight-man bullpen -- they have to share the load."

They have shared the load. entered Saturday on pace for 81 appearances, which would be third most in franchise history behind Ken Sanders (83 in 1971) and Ray King (82 in 2001). Lefty Dan Jennings was on pace for 75 games before Saturday's contest, and Matt Albers 62. was on pace for 50 games and 53 innings in his second full season back from Tommy John surgery.

Those projections look sustainable to Counsell, especially with closer and veteran left-hander back from the disabled list to help carry the relief load, as well as a group of young pitchers with options shuttling back and forth between Milwaukee and the Minor Leagues with fresh arms. , summoned Friday, is currently in that spot.
"Yeah, I am [comfortable with the current usage]," Counsell said. "Looking back on last year, I probably had more concerns last year as to where we were at. I do feel really good about it this year."
Last call
• Houser, whose return to the Major Leagues on Friday might have been overshadowed by a series of other roster moves that included shortstop 's demotion to Triple-A Colorado Springs, did not enter the season expecting to be part of the Brewers' bullpen shuttle in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery.
"I figured, if anything, it wouldn't be until later in the year," Houser said. "Just because they wanted to make sure I was staying healthy. It's been real exciting to get a couple of calls here."
• Houser had good things to say about Double-A Biloxi teammate Corey Ray, the former first-round Draft pick who reached safely four more times in Friday's win at Mobile and entered Saturday with a .263/.352/.495 slash line and 26 extra-base hits, 20 RBIs and 12 stolen bases in 47 games. Ray, the Brewers' No. 6 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, enters Saturday leading the Southern League in extra-base hits and total bases (94), tied for the league lead in steals and among the leaders in doubles (tied for second with 15) and runs (tied for third, 33).
• Right-hander , Milwaukee's No. 4 prospect, returned Thursday from a month-long stint on the Double-A disabled list for a left hamstring injury and surrendered five earned runs on five hits over 1 2/3 innings at Mobile.