Milwaukee Brewers: What role should Jeremy Jeffress fill?

Matthew Dewoskin
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 15: Manager Craig Counsell #30 of the Milwaukee Brewers (C) congratulates closing pitcher Jeremy Jeffress #32 after Game Three of the National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on October 15, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. The Brewers defeated the Dodgers 4-0. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 15: Manager Craig Counsell #30 of the Milwaukee Brewers (C) congratulates closing pitcher Jeremy Jeffress #32 after Game Three of the National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on October 15, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. The Brewers defeated the Dodgers 4-0. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images) /
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Milwaukee Brewers relief ace Jeremy Jeffress is back from the injured list. Should the Brewers toss him back into high leverage situations, or is he better off working his way back into a key role?

The Milwaukee Brewers bullpen hasn’t looked the same in 2019 as it did in 2018. Josh Hader is still a human tornado that leaves a trail of strikeouts in his wake, but the rest…has been mediocre.

Corey Knebel’s season is already over, and Jeremy Jeffress started the year with a shoulder injury. Jeffress is back on the 25-man roster, but is he ready to help bridge the gap between the starter and Hader?

Why did Jeffress hit the DL in the first place?

Jeffress had an awkward stretch during the Spring in which he suffered diminished velocity. It was later revealed that he was pitching with shoulder discomfort, and was shut down for a few weeks. He wasn’t able to work his way back in time for Opening Day, so he went on the Injured List, and headed to the farm for a few tune up appearances.

How did his rehab appearances go

Not great.

Jeffress made four appearances in Triple-A with the San Antonio Missions during his rehab stint. He threw 4 1/3 innings, and posted a 14.54 ERA. Jeffress allowed seven runs on nine hits. Only six hits managed to stay within the park he was pitching in.

There was some good news. Jeffress struck out five, and walked zero, so at least his control has returned.

What role should he fill?

To start? It’s clear that Jeffress should be eased back into high leverage situations. He won’t get stuck with mop-up duty. He’s not Chase Anderson. But he does need to show that he’s the same guy he was last year. Whether that takes one outing in the Majors or a few, depends on how he looks. The Milwaukee Brewers wouldn’t bring him back if he still needed to get into shape. However, there’s a difference between ‘capable of taking an inning’ shape and ‘dominating’ shape. Jeffress is likely ready to take a few innings, and not dominate…yet.

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With Knebel on the shelf and Craig Kimbrel still deciding where he wants to pitch, the Milwaukee Brewers need 2018 Jeffress in their bullpen. Last year’s Jeffress probably won’t show up right away, but the team needs to see him trending in a positive direction. Pay attention to the radar gun, and how the hitters react to his stuff. If his velocity is way off, and hitters are out in front, that could spell trouble for Jeffress.

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