By and large, the Brewers bullpen has performed pretty well so far to start the 2023 season. But that doesn't mean it's without its weak links, one of them being setup man Matt Bush.
Bush had a mixed bag of performances for the Crew last season after being acquired at the trade deadline but was the setup man to start this season. His start to 2023 already had some wondering if it was time to demote him from the setup role and his outing on Sunday only intensified those thoughts.
With the Brewers leading 4-3 to start the 8th inning, Bush immediately surrendered back-to-back homers to allow the Boston Red Sox to jump back out front. Things would spiral further downward and the righty would leave the game after retiring only one batter, being charged for four earned runs on three hits and a walk, and watching his ERA skyrocket to 8.22 on the season.
At this rate, manager Craig Counsell may look to make a change in the setup man role going forward. Should he do so, there are a few arms that would be good fits.
Here are three options to replace Matt Bush as the Brewers' setup man.
#1 option to replace Matt Bush as Brewers setup man: RHP Peter Strzelecki
SIgned as an undrafted free agent in 2018, Peter Strzelecki was an unsung hero for the bullpen last season, his first as a major leaguer. In 30 appearances, he put up a 2.83 ERA and 1.229 WHIP while picking up higher leverage opportunities as the season went on.
This year, he is off to a fantastic start. In 10 innings, Strzelecki has given up just a single run on nine hits and a walk while striking out six. He has already earned the trust of his manager and has shown that he is more than worthy of receiving work in the eighth inning.
#2 option to replace Matt Bush as Brewers setup man: LHP Hoby Milner
Speaking of pitchers who earned Counsell's trust, Hoby Milner got to that level last season when he became the Brewers' "fireman," often entering the game in the middle of innings with runners on base. He excelled in those situations, allowing just 14% of inherited runners to score while going 3-3 with a 3.76 ERA over 67 appearances overall.
Milner is off to his own solid start to 2023 with a 2.53 ERA over 10.2 innings pitched. He has proven that he can excel in one type of high-leverage situation, so why not try utilizing him in another type such as bridging the way to the team's closer.
#3 option to replace Matt Bush as Brewers setup man: RHP Gus Varland
The Brewers' third option to replace would have to wait to take over as he is currently on the injured list. But Gus Varland has impressed in his brief time as a Milwaukee reliever after being acquired as a Rule 5 pick last offseason.
Varland has given up two earned runs in 6.2 innings this season (2.70 ERA) on eight hits and two walks. He was the second man out of the bullpen on Opening Day earlier this year, making his MLB debut in the (un)friendly confines of Wrigley Field and throwing a scoreless inning. If he can do that, maybe earning some setup opportunities isn't that much of a stretch.
It's pretty clear that a change at setup man would benefit the Brewers. Whether it's one of these players or a combination of them, this trio could get the job done.