Any team that expects to contend for a postseason berth generally needs to have a solid bullpen. Going into the 2021 season, it felt like the Milwaukee Brewers were going to be one of the types of teams that had one.
But the team’s bullpen has taken time to find its footing thus far. Through May 25th, Brewers relievers rank 23rd in the league with both a -0.1 fWAR and a combined 4.63 ERA. They rank highly once again with a 6th-ranked 10.44 K/9, but that will only carry you so far.
There could be a few explanations for this. Reigning NL Reliver of the Year Devin Williams had a slow start to the season. Injuries took their toll on several relievers. And then the depth took a hit when key role players J.P. Feyereisen and Drew Rasmussen were traded to the Rays for shortstop Willy Adames and pitcher Trevor Richards.
The bullpen wasn’t the only unit on the team to get hit by the injury bug. And like those other areas of the team, the relief corps moved another step toward becoming healthy again when one of their top arms from 2020 returned on Tuesday.
The Brewers on Tuesday announced the activation of Eric Yardley from the injured list.
Right-hander Eric Yardley had been on the injured list ever since the calendar turned to May. On Tuesday, the Brewers brought him back to add some depth back into the bullpen.
Yardley was one of the unsung heroes out of the Milwaukee bullpen in 2020. He led the team with 24 appearances out of the pen, putting up a 1.54 ERA and a 1.243 WHIP. It was his second season with an ERA under 2.50.
This year hadn’t started quite as smoothly in 2021 for the soft-tosser, though. Through 11 innings, Yardley has a 5.73 ERA and a 1.636 WHIP. He’d had a run of four scoreless outings toward the end of April before giving up two runs in a final outing against the Marlins before going on the IL.
The Brewers will need Yardley to be at his best going forward. Relievers like Josh Hader, Williams, Brad Boxberger, and Brent Suter have been anywhere from steady to outstanding. But others like Angel Perdomo and Josh Lindblom have had struggles of their own and Richards is still somewhat of an unknown.
Meanwhile, Tyrone Taylor, who was optioned in place of Yardley, could use some time in Triple-A to find his stroke. He was hitting just .125 in the month of may after ending the month of April batting .346.
The Brewers have been showing more signs of life in their recent three-game winnings streak. The bullpen can too if Yardley returns to form.