Brewers looking at Estrada, Gorzelanny to fill rotation
AUG 19, 2013 9:05a ET
One important area still needing evaluation is the starting rotation, as general manager Doug Melvin has a few important decisions to make before next season. Because Kyle Lohse, Yovani Gallardo and Wily Peralta are all but certain to take up three of the five spots next year, the Brewers will have just two holes to fill.
The two arms the Brewers plan to give the longest look are right-hander Marco Estrada and left-hander Tom Gorzelanny, and the two veterans may prevent a younger pitcher from getting a September call-up.
That may come as a surprise to some who believe the Brewers have enough of a track record on Estrada and Gorzelanny to know what they are going to get out of them and starts should go to young arms like Tyler Thornburg, Johnny Hellweg or Jimmy Nelson.
"Estrada we need to see," Roenicke said. "We liked him last year, but for whatever reason, things changed this year, so we don't know what we have in Estrada.
"That's why I think it's important this last part to see if we have the pitcher we had last year that we really liked, or what do we have this year?"
After posting a 5-7 record with a 3.64 ERA in 23 starts last season, Estrada has a 4.71 ERA in 14 starts this year. Hamstring and back injuries kept him out for most of June and July, hurting his chances to establish himself as a big-league starter.
He's viewing the final part of the season as an audition, the same way Roenicke is viewing Gorzelanny's final two months.
Gorzelanny has spent the majority of his nine-year career bouncing between the rotation and the bullpen, but he's always posted better numbers in a relief role. In 119 career starts, Gorzleanny is 37-45 with a 4.54 ERA, while having a 3.11 ERA in 114 relief appearances.
Though he has a 2.40 ERA in 32 games out of the bullpen and a 3.40 ERA in eight starts this season, the Brewers feel Gorzelanny has turned a corner in his career and want to see how he finishes the season as a starter. He's under contract for next season, so the Brewers would like to figure out his future role so he can have the offseason to prepare.
"Gorzelanny, I know with history you may look at his starts and say, 'Well, the numbers weren't that great.' But we're seeing a better pitcher than what those numbers were. We don't know if he's matured, if he as better command. I don't know what the case is. If he's going to be part of that rotation next year, we need to see him."
Like Gorzelanny, Thornburg has pitched in a variety of roles. He's made six starts and 13 relief appearances over parts of the last two seasons, pitching well in both roles.
This season, Thornburg has a 0.50 ERA in three spot starts, but he was recently moved back to the bullpen for the time being because of the crowded rotation. It appears as if long relief will be Thornburg's role for the rest of the season and could be his role next season, as well.
"Yeah, it's important to see him, but (it's up in the air) whether he ends up a starter because we need a starter or ends up in the bullpen, which, we've liked him out of the bullpen," Roenicke said. "I know he's started and had some nice games with us, but I don't think you can forget about what he did at Triple-A. That's kind of a concern there."
Thornburg was 0-9 with a 5.79 ERA in Triple-A this season and was only called up out of necessity. Though the numbers in the big leagues have been good, Roenicke would like to see him consistently pitch better before he's a mainstay in the rotation.
"The numbers have been good," Roenicke said. "You know, we look at a lot more than just numbers. We look at command, we look at what's happening out there on the field and that is hard to tell with a guy who starts 3-4 times."
Roenicke did give a strong indication that Johnny Hellweg will come up when rosters expand Sept. 1 and the Brewers will then use a six-man rotation for the final month.
Rookie right-hander Wily Peralta should have no problem finishing out the season, as he's only at 148 2/3 innings. Teams usually don't like young pitchers throwing over 20 percent more innings than they did in the previous season. If the Brewers put a similar limit on limit on Peralta, his cap would be around 210 innings, a number he shouldn't come close to.
One of the team's top prospects, Nelson has a 3.25 ERA in 135 2/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A this season. The Brewers usually don't just call up a player just for the sake of bringing them up. If a player doesn't have a role, he won't come up, and it appears Nelson may have to wait for his first crack at the big leagues.
"Say we bring up Hellweg, we're going to a six-man rotation," Roenicke said. "If we bring up Nelson, we're going to a seven-man rotation. That doesn't work."
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