The injury bug post-All Star break did not take long to strike as the Brewers announced Saturday that Devin Williams was heading to the injured list. Thankfully, all reports indicate that his placement on the injured list is precautionary.
As the reigning National League Rookie and Reliever of the Year, Williams has slowly lowered his ERA to 2.97 after a slow start to the season. His best stretch of games was in June when he pitched eight scoreless outings in a row, but he additionally pitched six scoreless leading up to the all star break.
Williams is currently the team’s 8th inning/high leverage reliever, so this stint to the injured list will leave a temporary void at that spot.
This role certainly is a tough one to fill, so lets take a look at three Milwaukee Brewers pitchers who are candidates to get an opportunity.
1) Brad Boxberger
As a player who initially did not make the big league club out of camp, Boxberger has been phenomenal this season. He is currently sporting a 2.79 ERA and leads the team in appearances at 41.
Of his 38.2 innings pitched, 11 have come in the 8th inning and 6.1 more in the 9th and extra innings. The vast majority of his innings have been in the 7th inning but given how effective he has been this season having him temporarily be the sole bridge to Hader makes sense.
Very scarily, Boxberger had to exit Saturday’s game after throwing just four pitches with his velocity being significantly down. Thankfully all initial reports suggest that this is relatively minor.
2) Jake Cousins
Although his MLB sample size is limited, Cousins has certainly has provided a spark and is yet to give up an earned run. At 27 years old, he is excelling and certainly is stating his case to remain with the Brewers.
Cousins’ slider is what made the headlines early on. In his first four big league innings he struck out nine batters, all via the slider. This devastating slider paired with a mid 90s sinker is proving to be lethal and certainly gives him the potential to be an effective high leverage reliever.
3) Hunter Strickland
Strickland has had quite the ride so far in 2021, having played for three different teams. He initially was pitching in high leverage spot with the Rays prior to being traded to the Angels. With the Angels he struggled and was ultimately designated for assignment, which is when the Brewers acquired him.
With the Brewers, Strickland is yet to give up a run. He has compiled 21 saves over his career with 14 of them coming in 2018 with the Giants. Although not a likely candidate, Strickland could temporarily serve as the 8th inning bridge man.
In the end, one positive to takeaway from Williams being placed on the IL is that some of the other guys will receive chances in his role. For me, I know Boxberger and Strickland have experience doing so throughout their careers, so I would love for Cousins to get a shot at it.
Having another trustworthy bullpen arm would be very beneficial for manager Craig Counsell as the season approaches playoff time. It is evident that Williams should be a big piece of that puzzle but using someone new there while he is on the IL could pay big dividends in the future.
While Williams is out, there’s a strong chance Counsell could use a combination of all three of these arms in that eighth inning role.