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In a recent report, Tom Haudricourt of the JS had quotes from Brewers manager Ron Roenicke on the distinct likelihood that starters Mike Fiers and Mark Rogers could be shut down early this season, to prevent what these days may be considered excessive taxation on their arms. Fiers has thrown 55 innings with Nashville this season and 80 with Milwaukee. Rogers has pitched 95 innings with Nashville and 10 with the Brewers going into his start Friday evening against Houston. I say ‘these days’ simply in reference to the preponderance in baseball of the counting of pitches and innings compared to the lack of that observance in the past. Fiers pitched a lot of innings last year, while Rogers has a history of significant injuries, so the numbers of the two starters in terms of pitches and innings is something about which the club should be aware. Over the years baseball, through evolution or revolution, or because of money and contracts, has become borderline obsessive with counting pitches, and by extension, innings. It’s all well and good when it’s for the benefit of the pitcher and the organization. But, who will pitch if they aren’t available?
Wily Peralta and Tyler Thornburg are potential candidates. Maybe Claudio Vargas, or pick up the recently released Derek Lowe? Randy Wolf seemed to be the (logical) odd man out if Shaun Marcum returned healthy, but with the reality that Fiers and Rogers could be shut down for the season at some point, the Brewers may have to think about adding another starter to the rotation in the next month. Perhaps Livan Hernandez could eat some innings. In September, the team could call up reinforcements from the minors.
Fiers has been difficult to extinguish this year for opposing teams, and while I’d love to see him continue this run he’s on, I would rather he not have issues next year due to a heavy innings load in a lost season. Whether right or wrong, a team like Milwaukee, in a small market, cannot afford to have catastrophic injuries to young starters it would count on in the years to come. So, as much as I sometimes disdain the neurotic attention to pitch counts and innings, I would certainly advise caution and conservatism in this case. If the Brewers had a chance at the playoffs in 2012, it would be entirely different. Then I’d probably suggest they crash and burn trying to get there. This is a really interesting situation, and Milwaukee hasn’t had one quite like it in a long time, if ever. In the past they didn’t have the prospects in the first place to be concerned with, or the focus wasn’t as strict on counting. Or sometimes they let veterans get their starts even if they weren’t in future plans. I’m sure the team would like to get as thorough a look at players this year while there are still games being played. The experience any young players can get at the major league level this year will be invaluable. However, the Brewers must follow their internal dialogue to a reasonable conclusion on whether Fiers and Rogers should hang them up at some point in August or September. I wouldn’t mind watching some starts from others this year if it means those guys can come back strong in 2013.
By the way, if you have some time this weekend, check out BorchertField.com.