Brewers: What The Rotation Should Look Like When Adrian Houser Returns

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - SEPTEMBER 23: Adrian Houser #37 of the Milwaukee Brewers throws a pitch in the first inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at American Family Field on September 23, 2021 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - SEPTEMBER 23: Adrian Houser #37 of the Milwaukee Brewers throws a pitch in the first inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at American Family Field on September 23, 2021 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images) /
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On July 1 the Milwaukee Brewers placed Adrian Houser on the IL with a flexor strain in his right elbow. Having had Tommy John surgery in 2016, at that time it was almost relieving to know that Houser would have the opportunity to rehab and pitch again in 2022.

Fast forward past a period of rest and rehabilitation, Houser has now begun pitching with the Nashville Sounds. He has made two starts for them and is scheduled to pitch again on Wednesday August 17.

In his last start, he threw 48 pitches over three innings. The outing before that he was at 36 pitches. It’s clear that he is still building up his pitch count, but overall he is pitching well and hasn’t allowed an earned run.

Prior to being injured, Houser was struggling through a tough month of June.  His ERA entering June was 3.51 and it rose to 4.72 by the time he was placed on the IL. Had it not been for a string of five less than ideal starts in a row, his season stats would be more appealing to the eyes.

With Houser close to returning to the Brewers, the big question becomes what will his role be upon returning? 

Currently, the Brewers starting rotation consists of Cy Young candidate Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, Freddy Peralta, Eric Lauer, and Aaron Ashby. All the mentioned players, with the exception of Burnes, have spent time on the IL this year. Once Houser returns, the Brewers will finally have their core ‘starters’ all healthy for the first time since the middle of May.

With six capable starters all being healthy (knock on wood) in the near future, the Brewers will have to decide how they want to use these pitchers. In 2021, the Brewers went with a six man rotation until the end of the regular season. This year they do not have the luxury of a large lead in the division, so it will be interesting to see how they elect to navigate this.

The argument for a six man rotation can be made based on the Brewers upcoming schedule.  Starting with the series in St. Louis on August 12, the Crew has to play 30 games in 31 days.  However, after that stretch there will only be 2.5 weeks left in the regular season.

Should the Brewers go with a five man rotation, the most likely scenario is that Adrian Houser or Aaron Ashby would move into the bullpen. Ashby had been in the swingman’s role to begin the year and actually has a 2.45 ERA as a reliever and a save under his belt. Houser spent some time as a reliever for the Brewers in 2019 and shifted to the bullpen during the 2021 postseason.

Given that the Brewers are working up Houser’s pitch count in the minors, it would seem more likely that they want him to return to the starting rotation. In a five man rotation scenario, this should help the Brewers because they will then be adding an arm (Ashby) into the bullpen, which has had its issues since the Josh Hader trade.

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Regardless of which direction the Brewers go in terms of a five man or six man rotation, they are going to need contributions from everyone in order make the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season. The NL Central is still within grasps as well as a wild card spot. It should be an exciting finish to the year.

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