One of the most highly anticipated rookie debuts of the 2023 season was that of pitching prospect Abner Uribe. And so far, he has been just as much fun to watch as Milwaukee Brewers fans thought he would.
It's easy to see why you shouldn't turn away when Uribe is on the mound. Adorned with his bright blue glove, the 23-year-old pumps 100+ mph fastballs and nasty sliders into the zone, frustrating opposing batters. He now owns several of the fastest pitches in franchise history.
As a prospect working his way up the system, the talent was glaringly obvious but his control was a work in progress. So far, he has put those fears to rest, though, as he owns a 1.115 WHIP through 26 innings of work, not to mention a 1.38 ERA.
As he has done with other new relievers in the past, manager Craig Counsell eased Uribe into the majors by deploying him during lower leverage outings, allowing him to get his feet wet while the stress of the situation was lower. Over time, however, Uribe has been getting utilized in higher leverage outings, including being used in a specificly important role just last night.
Is rookie reliever Abner Uribe now part of the setup man mix for the Brewers?
For most of the 2023 season, the Brewers have turned to Joel Payamps to set up All-Star closer Devin Williams in save situations. That strategy has generally worked out quite well for the Crew as Payamps has what would be a career best 2.35 ERA and 1.000 WHIP on the season. His 25 Holds also rank eighth in MLB and fifth in the National League.
Yet on Friday night, with the Brewers clinging on to a one-run lead, it was Uribe who took the mound to begin the eighth inning. The rookie proved up to the task as he induced two ground outs and a line out in a 1-2-3 inning. Milwaukee would go on to win the game and drop their magic number to win the NL Central down to 10.
Prior to that, Uribe had primarily been used in the seventh inning. In fact, he'd only entered the game in the eighth inning five times before last night. The first four were with the Brewers losing and the fifth, which happened earlier this week, was to get a single out and also counter the Marlins bringing in a right-handed pinch hitter to face southpaw Hoby Milner, who the right-handed Uribe replaced.
It's not as though Payamps was more overworked than Uribe. Both had pitched the day before and Uribe (19) actually threw one more pitch than Payamps (18) that game. Neither pitched the day before that.
There were likely two reasons Uribe got his first full eighth inning setup outing last night. For one, he has clearly earned it. But on top of that, Payamps's 65 innings pitched this year are already a career high by almost 10 innings (his previous career high was 55.2 last season). Reducing some of his opportunities when possible could help keep him fresh going into the postseason.
Regardless of why Uribe got to set up last night's win, he has clearly shown he has the talent and makeup to do the job and looks like he might get more opportunities to do it going forward. That should be nothing but good news for Brewers fans and terrible news for opposing teams hoping for late comeback wins.