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Craig Counsell says the Brewers will use 8-man bullpen in 2018; Suter, Wilkerson get first spring starts

If your mantra for the season is “27 Outs,” it helps to have an extra arm in the bullpen

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Milwaukee Brewers Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

A lot of the early roster talk has focused on what the Brewers plan to do with all of their outfielders. They have six guys who probably should see Major League time, but that’s just not that practical.

It’d be easier to fit more of those outfielders on the 25-man roster if the Brewers decided to use a 12-man pitching staff, but that won’t be the case, according to Craig Counsell. He told reporters today the team is planning to carry 8 relievers for most of the season.

It’s not terribly surprising, since Counsell and David Stearns have always preferred to have the extra arm laying around, and if “27 outs” is going to be the team’s mantra this year, they could use the extra reliever.

The extra bullpen arm could also be a way to help cover their perceived weakness in the back end of the starting rotation. Due to a rare Sunday off day after their first series in San Diego, the Brewers won’t need a fifth starter until the second weekend of the season (April 7th against the Cubs), and another off day falling on April 12th means a 5th starter wouldn’t be needed again until April 17th against the Reds. That last man in the rotation would also be slated to pitch April 22nd against Miami and April 29th in Chicago to close out the first month. A quick glance at the schedules for May and June finds that the Brewers could also get away with only using a 5th starter seven or so times combined over those two months.

In all, that’s 10 or 11 starts that could end up being Brent Suter-and-another-long-man piggyback starts in the first few months. It’s not that many considering that will take the team through most of the first half of the season, but it’s enough to make that extra bullpen arm more valuable than giving Brett Phillips or Keon Broxton a couple plate appearances per week.

Who ends up filling out those eight spots in the bullpen might depend on who misses out on those last one or two rotation spots. You could argue six of the bullpen spots are already spoken for between Corey Knebel, Jacob Barnes, Josh Hader, Matt Albers, Jeremy Jeffress and Boone Logan.

Oliver Drake, despite the cries of many BCBers, may also be considered a good bet to make the Opening Day roster. If The Drake does make the team, that leaves one spot in the bullpen for a rotation runner-up, whether that’s Suter, Brandon Woodruff, Junior Guerra, Yovani Gallardo or Wade Miley.

As also noted by Adam McCalvy above, Suter and another contender for a roster spot, Aaron Wilkerson, will get the first crack at making a case for a job by starting the Brewers’ split squad games on Friday. It being the first action of the spring campaign, both are only expected to pitch one inning.