Much has been said about the injuries that the Milwaukee Brewers have had to overcome in order to hold a four-game lead on the NL Central division going into the All-Star break. On the mound, in the field, the injuries have come from every direction.
Former MVP Christian Yelich was shelved earlier this season by a back injury. Big offseason acquisition Kolten Wong is currently sidelined, as is veteran Lorenzo Cain. Numerous other Brewers players have found their way on to, and sometimes off of, the injured list in 2021.
As if that weren’t bad enough, Milwaukee has a small handful of players who were placed on the injured list before the season even started. One of those players was a reliever who had a good chance of playing a big role for the team this season.
Justin Topa burst on to the scene as a 29-year-old rookie in 2020. After giving up two earned runs in two innings of relief in his major league debut last season, he wouldn’t give up another one the rest of the way, striking out 10 of the next 22 batters faced over 5 2/3 innings.
After that debut, chances for Topa to play a big part in the bullpen this season seemed high. Unfortunately, a flexor injury suffered this spring meant he would end up missing a significant chunk of time to start 2021.
On Tuesday, it was announced that Justin Topa may be close to contributing for the Brewers bullpen for the first time in 2021.
Prior to the All-Star break, news on the Justin Topa front had been pretty quiet. But as play in the rookie leagues down in Arizona recently got underway, word of rehab starts for some players in the Brewers organization coincided, including that of Topa.
RHP Justin Topa will begin a rehab assignment with ACL Brewers Blue tonight. pic.twitter.com/yk9kuOQWOI
— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) July 13, 2021
That first rehab outing was a nice and tidy one for Topa. The hard-throwing righty faced three batters in an inning of work, striking out two of them for the Brewers Blue rookie league squad.
The addition of Topa back to the active roster could give the Brewers bullpen just the boost they need in the second half of the season. Coming out of the All-Star break, Milwaukee relievers sit tied for 15th in MLB with a 1.6 fWAR and 10th with a combined 3.76 ERA.
That’s an improvement over where they were about a month ago. But it’s still not quite to the level of their last few playoff seasons where they finished 7th in reliever fWAR in 2020 (2.8), 13th in 2019 (3.8), and 4th in 2018 (6.2).
Recent bullpen additions such as Jake Cousins and Miguel Sanchez have performed admirably as of late. Aaron Ashby will almost certainly make his way back to the active roster to give a boost later in the season. But will the be able to hold strong and join the likes of Josh Hader, Devin Williams, Brad Boxberger, and Brent Suter to form as formidable a bullpen as in years past?
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That’s exactly why Topa can be so important going forward for this Brewers bullpen. Hopefully it’s not too long before fans see him on the mound in the big leagues again, boosting the team’s relief corps with his nasty stuff.