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Milwaukee Brewers 2023 preview by position: Relief Pitcher

Devin Williams anchors Milwaukee’s new look bullpen

MLB: Spring Training-Milwaukee Brewers at Los Angeles Angels Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Entering 2022, Milwaukee’s bullpen was led by closer Josh Hader and set-up man Devin Williams. Now, it’s Williams’ bullpen, with Matt Bush likely to take over most of the set-up duties. Beyond those two, the Brewers have plenty of new options as well as familiar faces, including Hoby Milner, Peter Strzelecki, and Alex Claudio.

Let’s take a look at Milwaukee’s bullpen situation entering 2023.

Devin Williams

After winning Rookie of the Year and Reliever of the Year in the COVID-shortened 2020 season, Williams finished with a 2.50 ERA in 2021 and a 1.93 ERA in 2022, taking over the majority of the closer duties after the Hader trade.

Entering 2023 as the team’s primary closer, Williams will look to capitalize on his recent success. He’s projected a 2.80 ERA by Baseball Reference, which would be his worst season since his 3.95 ERA in 2019.

Matt Bush

A former No. 1 overall pick, Bush had a career revitalization with the Rangers as a reliever. Coming to Milwaukee at the trade deadline after finishing with a 2.95 ERA across 40 appearances (five starts) with Texas, Bush had a 4.30 ERA with Milwaukee across 25 appearances to close out the season.

At 37, he’ll look to return to his early 2022 form with Milwaukee in 2023, as he’s set to take over most of the set-up duties after the departure of Brad Boxberger. He’s projected a 3.88 ERA across 58 innings by Baseball Reference.

Hoby Milner

Milner had his best season since his breakout 2017 rookie year with Philadelphia in 2022. He finished with a 3.76 ERA across a career-high 67 appearances, striking out 64 and finishing with a career-best 3.16 FIP. Still not a free agent until after the 2025 season, Milner will look to build on his success from last season.

Baseball Reference projects a bit of regression in 2023, with a 4.05 ERA and 59 strikeouts across 60 innings.

Peter Strzelecki

Like Milner, Strzelecki had a breakout 2022 campaign. In 30 appearances after being called up midseason, he had a 2.83 ERA with 40 strikeouts for an ERA+ of 141. At 28, he’ll have the opportunity to play a full season with the big-league squad this year.

Baseball Reference projects him to have a 3.56 ERA across 43 innings with 42 strikeouts in 2023.

Alex Claudio

A former Brewer, Claudio only pitched in three games with the Mets in 2022, allowing no runs across 3 13 innings. He had a 4.11 ERA in 2019 and 2020 with the Brewers, including a career-high and MLB-leading 83 appearances in 2019.

Primarily a lefty specialist, Claudio is projected a 4.20 ERA across 30 innings in 2023.

Javy Guerra

Guerra, who was acquired from the Rays for a player to be named later (Victor Castaneda) found limited success with the Rays in 2022, finishing with a 3.38 ERA across 17 appearances down the stretch. In 44 career games, he has a 6.60 ERA, but he’ll look to carry over his late-season form to Milwaukee this year.

He’s projected a career-high 34 innings with the Brewers this season, with a 4.24 ERA and 30 strikeouts.

Tyson Miller

In two big league seasons with the Cubs and the Rangers, Miller has a measly 9.19 ERA, albeit across just 15 23 innings. He’s had a bit more success in the minors, pitching to a 3.23 ERA across 23 games (10 starts) in AAA in 2021. He’s particularly impressed at Brewers spring training this year, with no runs allowed and 11 strikeouts across eight innings.

Still only 27, he’s projected to pitch in 48 innings with Milwaukee this season, with a 4.50 ERA and 44 strikeouts.

Gus Varland

Varland was selected in the Rule 5 Draft from the Dodgers back in December. After success in limited opportunities in the lower levels of the minors in Oakland’s farm system, he struggled at AA Tulsa in 2021 and 2022, finishing with a 5.71 ERA and 6.11 ERA, respectively.

He hasn’t had much success in spring training so far (5.68 ERA in 6 13 innings), but the Brewers may still give him a short-leashed test run with the big-league club to start 2023.

Joel Payamps

Across four seasons (82 games) with the Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Royals, and A’s, Payamps has a 3.35 career ERA. Acquired in the three-team deal that also landed Milwaukee William Contreras, he had a 3.23 ERA between the Royals and A’s in 2022. He should have an opportunity to pitch regularly out of Milwaukee’s bullpen in 2023.

He’s projected to finish the season with a 3.57 ERA across 58 innings in 2023.

Justin Wilson

At 35 years old and in his 12th season, Wilson could end up being a major veteran piece out of the bullpen with the Brewers this year. In just five appearances with the Reds in 2022, he had a 2.45 ERA. He’s pitched in 527 games across his career, with a 3.41 ERA for a solid 120 ERA+.

He’s projected a 4.20 ERA across 30 innings with Milwaukee in 2023.

Other Candidates

Colin Rea returns to the Brewers after not playing in 2022. J.C. Mejia, who allowed six runs in just 2 13 innings for Milwaukee in 2022, will likely get another major league opportunity in 2023. Thomas Pannone will look to break through to the majors again after making his MLB debut back in 2018 with the Blue Jays. After a World Baseball Classic appearance with Israel, Robert Stock could get an opportunity in the MLB with the Brewers in 2023. Added as a free agent back in January, Thyago Vieira will look to return to the big leagues with the Crew. Acquired from the Angels along with Janson Junk, Elvis Peguero and returning reliever Jake Cousins will also likely get big league reps. Minor leaguers Ethan Small, Abner Uribe, and Cam Robinson may also get a look this year.