Where will Anderson fit into playoff mix?

September 30th, 2021

ST. LOUIS -- pitched effectively for five innings of the Brewers’ 4-3 loss to the Cardinals on Thursday, begging this question on behalf of the veteran left-hander: What’s next?

Whether Anderson is part of a 26-man roster for the National League Division Series remains to be seen, considering the Brewers have six healthy starters if you count Anderson. With a 61-pitch outing against the Cardinals during which he allowed two runs and three hits in five innings and departed with a lead, the 33-year-old is now two outings removed from a stint on the injured list for a line drive off his pitching shoulder at the start of this month in San Francisco.

, and are obviously in the rotation for a best-of-five NLDS against the NL East winner, and Milwaukee could hold either right-hander or left-hander to start a potential Game 4, with the other pitching out of the bullpen when needed. So, Anderson’s best opportunity might be in relief, though he has pitched out of the bullpen only 13 times in 223 Major League appearances, including a relief appearance in Game 4 of the 2013 ALDS for Oakland against Detroit.

If Anderson doesn’t crack the NLDS roster, he would remain with the team and stay ready as a potential injury replacement, or to see whether his fortunes change should the Brewers advance to a best-of-seven NL Championship Series in which the team might consider carrying more pitching.

If you assumed all of that uncertainty might be a bother, think again.

“It’s a good problem to have, five really good starters and whatever I am,” Anderson quipped.

He wasn’t finished.

“We’ve got a bunch of starters who’ve pitched better than I have recently,” said Anderson, who has a 4.26 ERA in 95 innings this season while dodging a series of injuries. “So, I’ll stay ready for whatever the need be. We’ll see what happens. Hopefully, nothing crazy happens like with Devin [Williams]. You never really anticipate anything like that happening.

“We have a good surplus of starters. Maybe if [an opposing starter] throws hard left-handed, I can pitch at 55 feet and throw live BP or something. I’ll keep throwing and stay ready and we’ll see what happens.”

Anderson, a free agent once again following this season, is not the only Brewers pitcher awaiting word on a postseason role. Houser and Lauer have each said this week that they are ready for whatever they are called upon to do.

“The rotation always shortens up and you ride your horses out a little bit longer,” said Lauer, who will carry a 2.93 ERA in 113 2/3 innings into his final regular-season start on Friday night at the Dodgers. “I’m not 100 percent sure what it’s going to be. I might start a game, I might come out of the 'pen. I’m ready for all hands on deck.”

As of Thursday afternoon, the Brewers’ likely opponent was the Braves, who went into the day with a magic number of one to clinch the NL East. The Braves are a predominantly right-handed-hitting club -- perennial MVP Award candidate Freddie Freeman notwithstanding -- with relatively balanced splits; they entered Thursday with a .761 OPS against left-handed pitching and .734 against right-handed pitching.

“I’ll just wait and see where I fit in,” said Houser, who lowered his ERA to 3.22 with five scoreless innings in his final regular-season start on Wednesday. “We’re out-getters. We’re going to be ready.”

The Brewers have three regular-season games to get things lined up the way they like. Lauer and Burnes are slated to start the first two nights at Dodger Stadium, and Sunday’s regular-season finale remains open. After giving and multiple days of rest after the Cardinals clinched their postseason spot on Friday, Counsell said the Brewers will field a rather standard lineup on Friday in L.A. as the Dodgers are still playing for the NL West title.

That will help Milwaukee keep its edge, said Counsell, who is “glad” his team is finishing against a club with something to play for.

“There's nothing to change for our season, and I think there's a natural letdown to that,” he said. “You compete and want to get hits and get guys out, but at the same time, you're looking forward a little bit. A series like this lets us focus on the moment and focus on the now.”