There’s still a few weeks to go before Opening Day, but some clear leaders in the race for the Brewers’ 4th and 5th rotation spots are starting to develop.
With the usual caveats about reading into spring performance applying here, Brent Suter is starting to look like a good bet to secure one of those spots.
The Raptor continued his spring hot streak with another very good start, throwing 4 scoreless innings, allowing just 2 hits and a walk while striking out 4. The 2 hits are the first he’s allowed this spring and both came in the first inning, but he erased the first hit with a pickoff and the second was an opposite-field bloop by Nolan Arenado that was centimeters from being a foul ball, literally landing on the right field foul line. From there, Suter only allowed a single base-runner.
His updated totals for this spring: 8 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 K. During the broadcast, he says adding 20 pounds to his frame this offseason will ideally help him pitch deeper into games, and he hopes work on his two-seam fastball and offspeed offerings will help him get through a third time in the order.
Suter had a big lead to work with for much of his appearance, with the offense putting up 4 runs and sending all 9 batters to the plate in the first inning. That was aided by some sloppy fielding by the Rockies, but good, patient at-bats helped the Brewers drive up Colorado starter Tyler Anderson’s pitch count to 37 after just one frame. Ryan Braun drove in his first run of the spring with an opposite field double to bring home Lorenzo Cain (who collected two more hits today), with the other runs coming on a throwing error, a sacrifice fly by Manny Pina, and an RBI double by Jonathan Villar that was ripped down the third base line past Gold Glover Nolan Arenado.
The Brewers pushed the lead to 6-0 after an Eric Thames RBI single in the 4th (in which he shortened up his swing with two strikes and beat a shift with a single up the middle) and a booming home run by Domingo Santana in the 5th inning.
Josh Hader was asked to pitch more than one inning for the first time this spring, coming on in the 5th inning and pitching into the 6th before hitting his 30-pitch limit. He ended the day with 1.2 IP, working around 2 hits and striking out 3 without walking anyone, although he did uncork a wild pitch past Christian Bethancourt that allowed a runner to advance to second base.
Rare Arizona rain started to fall for the last third of the game, and it may have played a role in a scare with All-Star closer Corey Knebel. Coming on in the 7th inning, Knebel was 18 pitches into his appearance when he motioned to the dugout in the middle of an at-bat and came out of the game.
#Brewers manager Craig Counsell said Corey Knebel slipped on wet mound and slightly tweaked left knee. Said not considered serious and was "precautionary" to remove him from game.— Tom (@Haudricourt) March 10, 2018
Tim Dillard came on in relief and allowed a pair of runs, both of which were charged to Knebel.
As has been the case often this spring, the Brewers’ reserves added more offense late. Ji-Man Choi drove in Nick Franklin with a sac fly and Bethancourt added an RBI double in the 7th inning, and Nate Orf hit a solo home run to center that bounced off the top of the wall and out of the park in the 8th inning.
Oliver Drake closed out the day by pitching the 9th, and induced a game-ending unassisted Orf-to-Choi double play to secure the win.
The Brewers will be back on the buses tomorrow, playing against Cleveland in a game that will be broadcast on the radio.