Brewers: Is a Battle Brewing for the Fifth Rotation Spot?

Matt Carroll
PHOENIX, ARIZONA - MARCH 21: Freddy Peralta #51 of the Milwaukee Brewers pitches in the second inning against the Seattle Mariners during the MLB spring training game at American Family Fields of Phoenix on March 21, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, ARIZONA - MARCH 21: Freddy Peralta #51 of the Milwaukee Brewers pitches in the second inning against the Seattle Mariners during the MLB spring training game at American Family Fields of Phoenix on March 21, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /
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Going into the 2021 season, Brewers fans likely had a good idea as to what they thought the team’s starting rotation would look like. That’s because it has a chance at looking a lot like the 2020 version.

When Milwaukee decided to bring back LHP starter Brett Anderson on another one-year deal, it meant that the main rotation pieces from the previous year were back for another run with him rejoining starters Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes, Josh Lindblom, and Adrian Houser.

Most of that rotation appears as though it is all but guaranteed to remain intact. Woodruff and Burnes are once again set to be the Brewers’ killer 1-2 punch. Houser looked better than the disappointing 2020 of himself so far (prior to Wednesday, anyway) and the ground ball machine Anderson seems ready to induce many more of them once again.

That leaves Lindblom. The righty had an up-and-down season last year in his return from pitching overseas, starting 10 of 12 games and compiling a 5.16 ERA but a 3.87 FIP to go along with it as well as a strong 10.3 K/9. His spring has somewhat followed suit, featuring a 4.66 ERA through 9 2/3 official innings.

Outside of the previously mentioned five, there were two other pitchers who had the best shot of any at cracking the rotation: lefty Eric Lauer and righty Freddy Peralta. For his part, Lauer won’t make the Opening Day roster, let alone the starting rotation, as he was already optioned to Triple-A to start the season.

Peralta, on the other hand, has looked very good so far this spring. The young right-hander has given up just a single earned run on eight hits and three walks over 8 1/3 innings with a whopping 15 strikeouts. It’s been a performance as good as any of the team’s other expected starters.

Have the respective spring training performances of Lindblom and Peralta created a battle for the Brewers’ fifth rotation spot?

Stats aren’t everything when it comes to spring training performances. But it can’t be denied that Peralta’s numbers look better than Lindblom’s at this point. The latter also had a rough outing in a “B game” on Sunday.

Lindblom’s career turnaround took place when the decision was made to convert him from reliever to starter a few years ago. So finding a way to fully unlock his potential in the rotation seems like it would be the way to get the best version of Lindblom.

But you can’t deny just how good Peralta has looked this spring and it’s hard to justify keeping him out of the rotation. Both pitchers have been stretched out to be able to possibly pitch starter’s innings going forward, though what that means for the rotation hasn’t been revealed yet.

Could this mean that the two pitch in tandem? Possibly. Could it mean that the Brewers will roll with a six-man rotation to start the season? Doubtful, considering the team has an off game in each of the first four weeks of April.

Manager Craig Counsell has always been known to be creative with his pitching staff, so there’s no telling what his plans might be for the two, let alone most of the rest of the staff. But someone has to be that “initial out-getter,” as the Brewers often refer to their starter, so which one will it be?

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There’s a good chance Counsell doesn’t tip his hand as to what the rotation will look like until right before the season starts. What trends continue over the final week of spring training may give fans an idea of who gets that coveted fifth starting spot, though.

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