Brewers suffer brutal blow, lose All Star pitcher for the first half of the 2024 season

Devin Williams could hopefully return midseason
Wild Card Series - Arizona Diamondbacks v Milwaukee Brewers - Game One
Wild Card Series - Arizona Diamondbacks v Milwaukee Brewers - Game One / John Fisher/GettyImages

The Brewers are set to open the 2024 season without Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, and now Devin Williams on their pitching staff. Burnes was traded, Woodruff is injured, and now Devin Williams is going to miss the first three months of the 2024 season due to a back injury.

ESPN's Jeff Passan reported the news late Wednesday night.

Williams left Brewers spring training to see a back specialist about his back soreness last week and the reports came back with two stress fractures in his back. He's expected to return mid-season but is going to miss the first few months of the year.

Williams has been entrenched as the Crew's closer since the Josh Hader trade back at the Trade Deadline in 2022. Last year, Williams tallied 36 saves with a 1.53 ERA. He's been phenomenal ever since his debut and he was one of the most trusted arms at Pat Murphy's disposal. Now, Murphy loses his All Star closer just two weeks before Opening Day.

As for who takes over the closer's role with Williams out, that job will be up for grabs among a number of candidates. Joel Payamps was the 8th inning man most of last year and should get some 9th inning opportunities now. Abner Uribe has future closer written all over him with his blazing fastball and could step into that role as well. Other arms that could get save opportunities now include Elvis Peguero, Trevor Megill, and Hoby Milner.

This also opens up a roster spot in that bullpen for one of the pitchers on the roster bubble to now potentially make the team. Pitchers like Bryan Hudson and Joe Ross as well as out of options reliever Thyago Vieira now stand a much better chance of making the Opening Day roster.

Losing Williams for any length of time is a brutal blow to this club. The Brewers were set to have a very talented bullpen again in 2024, returning almost all of their top contributors from last year. Still, Williams was the best of the group and had one of the only clearly defined roles in the bullpen.

In all likelihood, Pat Murphy will go with a combination of pitchers in the closer's spot to patch the hole until Williams returns. Perhaps one of those pitchers will emerge as a reliable 9th inning option, which would be the best case scenario for Milwaukee as they navigate losing their best reliever for the first half of the season.