Given everything that's happened in the last few weeks, the changes in the Brewer bullpen have flown somewhat under the radar. With that said, the dramatic shift that's happened out there is pretty incredible:
- First the Brewers announced that Zach Braddock is expected back this spring, after missing most of the 2011 season.
- Next, Francisco Rodriguez surprised everyone accepted arbitration to return as John Axford's setup man.
- Finally, the team traded Casey McGehee to Pittsburgh for Jose Veras, likely filling the seventh inning.
The change from left to right on this table happened nearly overnight:
|Likely bullpen, December 1||Likely bullpen, now|
|John Axford||John Axford|
|Kameron Loe||Francisco Rodriguez|
|Manny Parra||Jose Veras|
|Marco Estrada||Kameron Loe|
That new alignment leaves a fair number of notable 2011 Brewers as odd men out. We'll discuss them alphabetically:
- Frankie De La Cruz pitched a handful of solid innings in largely mop-up duty for the Brewers late in the season, posting a 2.77 ERA and allowing no home runs in 13 innings.
- Tim Dillard drew more attention for his lack of use than actual use in 2011, but struck out 8.5 batters per nine (a career high at any level) in his 28.2 innings over 24 games.
- Brandon Kintzler missed most of the season recovering from injuries, but the former indy leaguer is still only 27 and expected to be back at full strength this spring.
- Mike McClendon spent most of the 2011 season in Nashville but has a 2.86 ERA and has struck out eight batters per nine innings in the majors, and posted a 3.53 ERA in 58.2 innings for Nashville last season.
There's still a strong chance all four of these guys get opportunities to pitch in the majors during the season, as bullpen depth will be needed at various times. With that said, Dillard and De La Cruz are both out of options and would have to pass through waivers if they don't open the season on the major league roster.
Things could still change and spots for some of these guys could open up. But their chances of making the Opening Day roster are certainly bleaker than they were a few weeks ago.