The Brewers could certainly use some good news right about now, and it looks like they got some today — Zack Greinke was able to play catch for the first time on Friday, and Ron Roenicke says that Greinke didn’t feel any pain.
It’s a small step forward, but it’s a step forward nonetheless. He still has to start throwing off a mound and that “missing 2 to 3 starts” estimation continues to look a tad too optimistic, but it’s not like there’s anything he or the Brewers can do to speed up the process. At this point, the Brewers are probably just glad he doesn’t have to stick to the exercise bike.
With Greinke out, Roenicke is telling reporters that the team will likely only carry four starters until they need a fifth one on April 6th. That opens up an 8th spot in the bullpen for another reliever, and right now that spot appears to be Mitch Stetter‘s.
Stetter remains a serviceable LOOGY, but hopefully Roenicke has no plans to use him beyond that role. If Stetter gets the chance to throw against right-handed batters, things will likely get ugly in a hurry for the Brewers. During his big league career, he’s posted a 12.51 K/9 and 4.83 BB/9 with a 3.58 FIP against fellow left-handers. Those numbers fall to 5.92 and 6.87 with a 5.67 FIP against righties.
To put it plainly, Stetter should only be used if there’s one left-hander that needs to be retired. If Roenicke is trying to navigate his way through a L-R-L portion of the order, that should be a task left to Zack Braddock (or Manny Parra once he returns).
A LOOGY is a luxury the Brewers can probably afford while Greinke is out and Sergio Mitre is serving in a swing-man role, but when the time for Greinke’s return comes, Stetter should be the first guy sent packing. He’s solid as a left-handed specialist, but he’s not elite in that role, either — while he’s held lefties to a .192 average in the big leagues, his lack of control has also allowed a .315 OBP and a .325 SLG to them. We’re admittedly working with tiny sample sizes, but last year, Braddock held lefties to a .151/.270/.170 line. It wouldn’t be wise to waste Braddock’s talents by using him as a LOOGY once Stetter departs, but he would at least be more effective in the role.
The best news of all, though, is that counting today’s game against Seattle, the Brewers only have 5 spring training games left. It’s been an incredibly long month.
EDIT: Shortly after I finished posting this, predictable news came down that Greinke and Parra will open the year on the disabled list. Both moves are back-dated to March 22nd, meaning they’ll be eligible to return on April 6th. Greinke will be spending more than 15 days on the disabled list, anyway, so the retroactive move doesn’t mean much for him. It sounds like there’s a chance Parra may be ready by then, though, so this could be good news.
This move adds even more importance to that date of April 6th, though, as it’s also the first day the Brewers will need a 5th starter. Between Parra possibly returning and the 5th starter — likely Marco Estrada — being added to the roster, there will be plenty of Brewers news and roster moves to talk about on that day.