The Brewers are 7-2 to start the year, but the bullpen has taken some lumps over the first few series of the 2019 season.
Luckily, it looks like one of their key pieces is close to returning.
Craig Counsell told reporters before Saturday night’s loss to the Cubs that the organization was happy with Jeremy Jeffress’ first rehab outing in Triple-A, and he could return to the back end of the Brewers’ bullpen as early as next week, once the team returns from it’s west coast road trip.
“We’re looking forward to getting him back,” said Counsell of the 2018 all-star. ”He’s been on the right path now, a month now of positive days, so there’s no reason why that should change at this point.”
Jeffress missed most of Spring Training with a somewhat mysterious shoulder ailment that held him out of the start of camp and caused him to be removed from his appearance on March 6th after just three pitches and some concerning velocity readings. Jeffress’ agent would later tweet that the lack of velocity was due to shoulder weakness as a result of his offseason training program.
Jeffress allowed a two-run home run in his first rehab appearance, but threw 25 pitches over 1.1 innings. How Jeffress feels after these outings and how hard he’s throwing are more important than the results at this point, and the team was reportedly happy that Jeffress was able to work more than one inning.
He’s expected to pitch again on Monday or Tuesday, and according to Tom Haudricourt, Jeffress will likely pitch 3 or 4 times in the next week, with a couple of those outings coming on back-to-back days to see how he responds.
If all goes to plan, Jeffress could be activated as soon as next Monday ahead of the next series against the St. Louis Cardinals. How he’s used remains to be seen — he could settle into the 9th inning role he held at the end of the 2018 season, or be used as the middle innings fireman he was at other times during the year — but his return will add some depth to a bullpen that’s been crossing its fingers and hoping for the best at times during the season’s first week.