Justin Topa has fought through two separate Tommy John surgery rehabs to finally make it to the majors, and figured to be a breakout candidate in the Brewers’ bullpen this year.
Unfortunately, it looks like more elbow concerns will land him on the Injured List to start the year. Topa will be one of four players on the 15-day IL when the season starts, according to Tom Haudricourt, along with Jacob Nottingham (who has not played at all during spring training due to a thumb injury), Bobby Wahl and Derek Fisher.
At this point, four #Brewers will open season on injured list: RHP Justin Topa (elbow), RHP Bobby Wahl (oblique), OF Derek Fisher (hamstring) and C Jacob Nottingham (thumb).— Tom (@Haudricourt) March 28, 2021
In addition to those four, Tim Lopes and Mark Mathias will also start the year on the 60-day Injured List.
The early-season IL stints will at least let the Brewers retain Fisher and Nottingham for awhile longer before being forced to make decisions on their futures. Topa, meanwhile, was picking up steam this spring as someone who could have led the group of arms in the middle innings to get games to Devin Williams and Josh Hader.
There’s no indication yet on the severity of Topa’s elbow injury (the team is still waiting on the MRI results), but given his history, any sort of elbow discomfort raises significant concerns.
If there’s good news, it’s that two others — Lorenzo Cain and Jackie Bradley, Jr. — appear as though they will be able to avoid an IL stint to start the year, even if they’re behind schedule due to nagging soreness and injuries. The fact there’s no minor league baseball for the first month or so of the year — meaning no real rehab game opportunities — could play a role in that decision, but at the very least it’s encouraging that neither seems to be so hobbled as they need to take time off.