Lauer gives Crew staff vital length ahead of playoffs

Milwaukee left-hander vows to keep working as difficult season comes to a close

October 1st, 2023

MILWAUKEE -- Clinching the National League Central on Tuesday afforded the Brewers an opportunity to give extra rest to pitchers they will lean on heavily in October.

“We worked hard to get to that spot,” manager Craig Counsell said after Friday’s win over the Cubs. “We earned that.”

Those comments were centered on Milwaukee’s bullpen, but they can also be applied to the starting staff. Friday was Brandon Woodruff’s turn in the rotation. He instead threw around 60 pitches in a live BP session before Colin Rea started against the Cubs.

And Saturday, for the first time in over four months, took the ball for the Brewers, starting in Freddy Peralta’s place in a 10-6 loss to Chicago.

It’s been an up-and-down 2023 for Lauer, who began the season as the Brewers’ No. 3 starter before dealing with ineffectiveness and injury troubles. The lefty went on the 15-day injured list with an impingement in his non-throwing shoulder on May 22. He began a rehab assignment with Triple-A Nashville in early June but still didn’t feel 100 percent, and also began to have trouble with his throwing arm.

After two ineffective rehab outings, he landed on the temporarily inactive list in Triple-A. He returned to game action in late July in the Arizona Complex League, and with Nashville on Aug. 1.

Lauer said it took longer than expected to figure out what was wrong, viewing it as “a combination of issues,” including inflammation in his shoulder and elbow, along with nerve compression.

“The way it was described to me was you can't cock the gun, you can't shoot the bullet,” Lauer said ahead of Saturday’s outing. “And I would get to that cocking phase and I would just kind of fall off. … Once I had the stuff to get the inflammation out of there, it was pretty smooth sailing after that.

“And then it was just a matter of resyncing everything because I had been trying to shift my mechanics and my arm slot. I had been trying to make it work all year not knowing what was going on, and I just wasn't throwing like myself.”

Lauer ran into trouble early Saturday night, allowing six runs in the first inning behind a pair of walks and three home runs. He said a bit of nerves may have played a role, but mechanically he was off, too.

He bounced back over his final three innings, though the final line obviously wasn’t what he was hoping for. In four innings, Lauer allowed nine hits and eight runs.

“I’ve got to be able to lock it in better than that,” Lauer said after the outing. “A lot of glove-side misses. That’s my key. Just got sped up and really couldn't bring it back down. I made some better pitches and was able to stay in the zone better. But I think overall I was just moving too quick. I wasn't really staying with the flow and the rhythm that I had been working on the last couple of months and doing well at.”

Despite his personal struggles, Lauer getting through four innings was key for the Brewers. Milwaukee was able to get relievers Trevor Megill, Abner Uribe, Hoby Milner, Joel Payamps and Devin Williams work as it hoped.

Lauer acknowledged it was nice to get back to the Majors with the Brewers after all he’s gone through this season. But he was left with a feeling of regret for how things have transpired overall.

“A year like this for me, where it's kind of just been struggles, you’ve got to make the most of the opportunities you get,” Lauer said. “And I can't really say that I made a whole lot of the opportunities. Just got to keep grinding, keep working, try to not let this crap happen again.”

Whether his next appearance comes with the Brewers is uncertain. Lauer, who’s spent four seasons with Milwaukee after a trade from San Diego in November 2019, is a potential non-tender candidate this offseason, as he enters his final season of arbitration eligibility.

When he met with the media at his locker Saturday night, he was still in his full Brewers uniform as he pondered what may come next.

“I don't know what I'm doing moving forward,” Lauer said. “Like I said, I don't think I really made a whole lot of the opportunity today, and that’s on me. … I love this team. I love the coaching staff. I love everybody around here. It's a really welcoming team.

“I wish I didn't struggle this year the way I did, but sometimes things happen, and you've just got to make sure it doesn't happen again.”