One of the core truisms of baseball roster building is "you can never have enough starting pitching". The Milwaukee Brewers know that well and they built up quite a bit of starting pitching depth, but just six weeks into the season and that depth is facing a dire test.
At full health, the Brewers starting rotation boasts an enviable amount of talent and depth. The perennial Cy Young contending trio of Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, and Freddy Peralta. They are supplemented by veterans such as Eric Lauer, Adrian Houser, and Wade Miley. Also in the rotation group is a talented young lefty in Aaron Ashby, who's already signed a long-term contract extension, depth options in Jason Alexander, Colin Rea, and Janson Junk, followed by pitching prospect Robert Gasser.
Just a few weeks in, and this group has been ravaged by injuries. Aaron Ashby and Jason Alexander got hurt before spring training even started and Ashby may miss the entire season. Adrian Houser got injured toward the end of spring training but has since returned. Brandon Woodruff hit the IL after just two starts and will be out for a while longer. Now Wade Miley has hit the shelf with a lat strain that could keep him out for a while.
That leaves Burnes, Peralta, Houser, Lauer, Rea, and Junk as the only healthy starters with any big league experience. That's not as imposing of a rotation as the Crew could have at their disposal. To put the Brewers in a tighter spot, Lauer hasn't performed well all season and recently was removed from the rotation in favor of Rea, but Rea struggled in his next start, forcing Lauer to clean up his mess and take back his spot in the rotation.
What is the latest injury update on Wade Miley's injury?
The Brewers announced a timetable for Miley to miss 6-8 weeks. He suffered a posterior serratus muscle strain, which isn't very common, leading to some uncertainty in how long he'll be out of action.
The Brewers are facing a tough test of their starting rotation depth as injuries continue to pile up after Wade Miley's recent injury.
While the Brewers called up Jake Cousins immediately following Miley's IL placement, in a few days when Miley's turn in the rotation comes up again, Milwaukee will likely send a reliever down and call up a starter, likely Rea or Junk, to take his spot in the rotation. Junk struggled in his only Brewers start this year although he's been solid in Triple-A while Rea has mostly kept the Brewers in the games he's started, he also has a 5.52 ERA and has served up six homers in six starts.
This depth crisis is going to continue for several more weeks. Woodruff isn't getting back until late June. Miley is out for a couple weeks although an exact timeline hasn't yet been determined. Ashby will be out the entire season. Jason Alexander might be closest to returning. He's an additional body on the depth chart but is in the class of Rea and Junk as depth pieces the Brewers hope they don't have to call upon.
Until Miley and especially Woodruff return, the Brewers rotation is going to be just trying to stay afloat. Unless they want to call upon someone like Robert Gasser, they don't have internal options in the farm system that could plug the holes in this boat that's rapidly taking on water.
The Brewers may need to start looking for external options to help address their rotation problems, especially if Miley is out for longer than their initial hope. Waiver claims aren't going to be much help for a contending team looking for someone to throw every fifth day. If those pitchers were able to handle a role like that, they wouldn't have been placed on waivers.
The trade route may not be a viable option until July. Impactful, early trades can happen, as we've seen with the Willy Adames deal a few years ago, but that was the exception, not the rule.
Milwaukee is going to be forced to rely a lot on Eric Lauer to turn things around and for Colin Rea and Janson Junk to be viable options for an extended period of time. Houser also hasn't been off to the best start since his return from the IL.
The Brewers are facing the limits of their rotation depth right now and cannot afford another injury as they continue to await the return of their previously injured starters. Reinforcements are a long ways away.