Will Smith and Zach Duke have given the Brewers two very good lefties out of the bullpen to start the year. A third is a step closer to joining them in Milwaukee.
Tom Gorzelanny will begin his rehab assignment Wednesday with High-A Brevard County, the Brewers announced, and will start working his way back up the system. Recovering from offseason shoulder surgery to repair damage found in his rotator cuff and labrum, Gorzelanny is expected to need the full 30 days allotted for rehab assignments in order to get back into regular season form.
Gorzelanny posted a 3.90 ERA in 43 appearances for the Brewers last season, nearly matching his FIP of 3.94. As just a reliever, though, Gorzelanny’s ERA dropped to 2.70 (albeit in just 36.2 innings) and he held opponents to a .168/.290/.285 line.
While we’re still a month away from trying to figure out where Gorzelanny will fit into the bullpen, it’s hard to imagine the Brewers will keep all three of Smith, Duke and Wei-Chung Wang on the 25-man roster when Gorzelanny is ready to return. While Smith has shown he can get both left- and right-handed hitters out, it’s easier to be skeptical of Duke’s newfound ability in that department. Wang hasn’t been trusted to get *anyone* out, appearing in just 5 of the Brewers’ first 39 games.
Despite that, the Brewers haven’t shown any indication they’re ready to give Pittsburgh whatever it takes to make a deal for the ability to send Wang down, keeping him on the roster through multiple roster jams through the season’s first six weeks. He could “conveniently” come down with arm fatigue or soreness around the time Gorzelanny is expected back, but as a Rule 5 pick, Wang still has to be active for 90 days during the season — meaning he’d have to return to the active roster at some point this season. With the way the Brewers have started the season, July and August suddenly look a lot more important than they did on Opening Day, and it’d be even more difficult to justify using a roster spot on him before rosters expand in September than it was before.
The Brewers likely won’t worry about what to do with Wang until Gorzelanny gets closer to making his return, so there’s still a few more weeks to think — and argue — about it. There’s little doubt that Gorzelanny would make for a much more useful longman than Wang has at this point, though, and by the time he arrives in late June, his ability to soak up multiple innings will be much appreciated.