With right hander Marco Estrada on the 15 day disabled list, the Milwaukee Brewers have an opening for a starting pitcher. At this point, it's uncertain if Estrada will be sufficiently recovered from his quadriceps strain to return as soon as he is eligible at the end of the first week of June, so the Brewers must prepare for the possibility of a longer term replacement.
The Brewers were considering moving current reliever and former starter Manny Parra into the rotation, but thankfully they appear to have backed off from that. Parra's present and future in Milwaukee is as a reliever, and based on his past performance as a starter, it would be a mistake to return him to the rotation. Parra is having a solid, if unspectacular, season as a reliever and moving him into the rotation would leave Juan Perez as the only left hander in the bullpen.
Estrada's next start would have been May 29th in Los Angeles against the Dodgers. Assuming a trade for a starter isn't in the works, the Brewers will probably bring up a starter from Triple A Nashville. Tyler Thornburg is having a good season (6-0, 2.28 ERA) at Double A Huntsville, but the Brewers don't seem inclined to have the 23 year old prospect move up two levels. Thornburg is in his first season at the Double A level, and I'd prefer he stay at Huntsville for now.
It would be reasonable to assume the Brewers would promote the starter from Nashville's rotation who is having the best season there to fill Estrada's spot. Unfortunately, none of the Sounds' starters is having a standout year, so there is no obvious choice. The Brewers would also like to promote someone who is already on their 40 man roster. That eliminates Seth McClung (1-4, 5.28 ERA in eight starts), Brian Baker (1-2, 7.33 in six starts), Josh Butler (0-3, 4.67 in four starts), and recently signed Major League veteran Claudio Vargas (0-0, 5.40 in two starts). With those records, none of them would (or should) be moved up even if they were on the 40 man roster.
That leaves right handers Mark Rogers, Wily Peralta, and Michael Fiers. Rogers is 1-2 with a 4.93 ERA in eight starts. He's been inconsistent in 2012, with a couple of good outings and a few more poor ones. Rogers is still getting back on track after an injury plagued 2011 season that limited him to just 15 appearances, and for now, he should stay at Nashville.
Peralta is considered the Brewers' top pitching prospect, but he hasn't pitched that way this season with a 1-5 record and 5.63 ERA. He's already been up briefly with the Brewers this season, and gave up a run on three hits in one inning of work against the Colorado Rockies on April 22nd. Peralta gave up nine runs in three innings in his start on May 17th, and five runs in six innings May 22nd. Based on that, I'd say this isn't the time to move him up.
Fiers is 1-3 with a 4.42 ERA. He's had some good outings, including a complete game shutout, but he allowed five runs in each of his next two starts after that. Fiers was 8-0 with a 1.11 ERA in 12 games (10 starts) for Nashville in 2011, so he has had some success at the Triple A level.
None of those three are impressive right now, but one of them is likely to be promoted to fill in for Estrada. My choice would be Michael Fiers. Fiers has the lowest ERA, the lowest WHIP at 1.22 (Peralta's is 1.44, Rogers is at 1.70), the most strikeouts (49, 41 for Peralta, 25 for Rogers) and the fewest walks (18, 25 for Peralta, 24 for Rogers) of the three. Fiers turns 27 in June, and is at an age where it's time to see if he has what it takes to pitch at the Major League level. Looking to next season, with Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum possibly being lost to free agency, the Brewers can use this as an opportunity to evaluate Fiers as a potential starter in the future.
A Featured Contributor in Sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network, Mark Hudziak has been a fan of the Brewers since they moved to Milwaukee in 1970.
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