The Milwaukee Brewers began the 2019 regular season with their vaunted young trio of starters — Freddy Peralta, Brandon Woodruff, and Corbin Burnes — all in the starting rotation. This is the first Opening Day roster for both Burnes and Peralta, and though Woodruff technically broke camp as the fifth starter last season, he wound up pitching only one outing before getting sent down and spent the rest of the year going back and forth between the rotation and bullpen.
Peralta was the only one of the three who spent the majority of 2018 pitching as a starter, racking up a career-high 141.0 innings between Triple-A and the big leagues. Woodruff wound up working only 113.2 innings and Burnes 116.2, but both (Burnes 145.2 innings in 2017, Woodruff 158.0 innings in 2016) have worked 140+ innings in a minor league season in the past. With that in mind, manager Craig Counsell discussed in a recent television appearance that the team would need to closely monitor the amount of innings that each pitcher works and figure out ways to manage their workloads as the season goes on:
Key point on #Brewers: Manager Craig Counsell says a full season of starts would put Woodruff, Burnes and Peralta into a range of innings that’s “probably uncomfortable” for the team. Counsell said club will discuss ways to manage their workloads this year. @MLBNetworkRadio @MLB— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) April 2, 2019
Limiting the innings of that group of pitchers can be accomplished in a number of ways. All three have experience working out of the bullpen, and could perhaps be intermittently moved out of the rotation in spurts while giving someone like Chase Anderson the opportunity to make some starts. Counsell could also try to finagle things around the team’s off days, simply skipping starts for each of the three as it makes sense throughout the season. Perhaps the team will utilize scheduled short starts on occasion, treating that day’s starter more like an “opener” every once in awhile and letting them go only somewhere between one and three innings before turning things over to the bullpen.
One other option could serve as a way to closely monitor the innings of another potentially important starting pitcher looking to rejoin the staff. Jimmy Nelson is throwing down in extended Spring Training in Arizona as he continues to build up his stamina and pitch count, and before long will head to San Antonio to make starts for the club’s Triple-A affiliate. He doesn’t figure to be ready to make his official return to the big league club until at least May, but perhaps Counsell and David Stearns would consider deploying him as part of a six-man rotation once he’s shown he is ready to contribute.