Alfredo Figaro picked up the loss in Tuesday’s 2-1, 12 inning loss to San Diego and that’s too bad because, outside of giving up a home run to Chase Headley, it wasn’t his fault.
For starters (ha. ha. punny, right?), the Brewers haven’t had a team off-day since April 7. If that’s not enough in and of itself, in days 13 and 15 of their 16-day, 16-game stretch, they have gone to 14 and 12 innings, respectively. Two days after having to eat up eight innings, they were given the load of five more. And in the case of Tuesday, the offense didn’t have a hit with runners in scoring position all game and couldn’t muster up more than one run in 12 innings.
The entire bullpen (bar Wei-Chung Wang) probably feels something along the lines of this.
In their loss to the Padres, the effects of this stretch were made evident. After Yovani Gallardo went seven innings, the game was still tied, and on came on Zach Duke and Jim Henderson to pitch the final two innings. The biggest sign that the Brewers weren’t going to bring out their top relievers was in not bringing out their closer, Francisco Rodriguez, for the ninth, a move home teams usually make when tied in the ninth. Figaro from then on was the sacrificial lamb, hitting for himself in the 11th after already throwing two scoreless innings.
There’s a fine line between properly utilizing your bullpen (especially one as strong as Milwaukee’s) and overworking it. After utilizing it heavily to a 15-5 start, the line may have been crossed had the Brewers thrown out all their cards at the Padres on Tuesday, leaving Figaro to get nine outs.
What state is the bullpen in after this stretch that will finally end Thursday? Let’s take a look.
Possibly the most overworked of all relievers, there was a possibility that Rodriguez would have been the second Brewers pitcher to ever save five games in a five-day stretch (Francisco Cordero, 2007). Through 20 games, he had already appeared in 11. And because no inning is ever an easy inning with K-Rod, his pitch totals were often high. He had pitched in eight of the team’s last 12 games and, unless the Brewers were hoping to make his arm fall off and then cut it into portions and display it at Little League fields across Wisconsin, it was well-advised he received a day off yesterday.
First things first, Will Smith has been awesome. Through 11 games, he has a 10.24 K/9 and hasn’t given up a run yet. He’s been used to get lefties out, but Ron Roenicke has been wise and left him in to dominate righties, also. Smith threw 25 pitches on Sunday against Pittsburgh out of necessity before pitching again on Monday. Coming into this season, he had only thrown on back-to-back days twice in his career. After pitching in seven of the last 14, Smith was probably a good candidate for an off-day as well.
Through their first 20 games, Thornburg has accumulated 12 innings pitched. Over the last four games, he had thrown 59 pitches. His ability as a starter or reliever gives him the ability to pitch multiple innings, but after throwing in 11 games already, he’s not an arm the Brewers want to be flirting with danger. He, too, had pitched eight innings in a 12-game span.
Arguably the best reliever in the first two weeks, he’s on the 15-day DL with a strained rotator cuff, so that pretty much sums up how this 16 day stretch has been for him.
Henderson, who was dealing with velocity issues in late spring, only pitched twice before this current stretch. Now, in the last 15 games, he’s pitched nine times, topping 20 pitches twice. Heavily used by the Brewers last season, he is most likely one of the most able pitchers to handle that workload. You just have to hope his velocity isn’t affected by it this time around.
Still hasn’t had to make a guest appearance on the mound and probably throw in the mid-90s. Check back in within the next month, we’ll be keeping a close eye.