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Brewers pitcher Devin Williams likely to miss playoffs after breaking his hand punching a wall

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ST. LOUIS — The Milwaukee Brewers' postseason chances took a huge hit Wednesday, when it was learned that setup man Devin Williams will have to undergo surgery on his fractured right throwing hand.

President of baseball operations David Stearns said Williams likely will require surgery to place a plate in his hand to help repair the fracture, and that the injury "is likely to keep him out for the remainder of the season."

Williams told reporters before Wednesday's game that the injury was self-inflicted – he punched a wall out of anger after having "a few drinks" following Sunday's celebration of the team clinching the National League Central.

"After our celebration, I went out to have a few drinks and on my way home I was a little frustrated, upset, and I punched a wall," Williams said. "That's how it happened.

"I'm pretty upset with myself. There's no one to blame but me. I feel like I've let the team down, the coaching staff, the fans, everyone. I know how big a role that I play on this team and there's a lot of people counting on me.

"I guess all I can do now is cheer my team on and learn from it and don't make that same mistake in the future."

Devin Williams was the 2020 NL Rookie of the Year.
Devin Williams was the 2020 NL Rookie of the Year.

Williams actually suited up in advance of Tuesday's 6-2 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium, unaware of the severity of the injury.

"Devin actually tried to throw with this yesterday," Stearns said. "We were not aware of this. He went out, tried to throw and at that point had recognized that he had hurt himself.

"He came in, told our medical staff. We got him X-rayed during the game yesterday, got the results during the game yesterday, consulted with our doctors today and we understand that surgery is going to be required."

Williams said he was surprised by the severity of the injury.

"I didn't initially think it was going to be that serious," Williams said. "I tried to throw through it, but I wasn't able to."

He was asked how his teammates responded to the news.

"I actually just spoke with them," WIlliams said. "I expressed my apologies and they said they've got my back."

Williams, who turned 27 recently, had just recovered from a slight calf strain suffered during a pregame running drill last Tuesday at American Family Field. He was held out of action for a few days but returned to throw a 1-2-3 eighth inning Sunday in the 8-4 victory over the New York Mets that clinched the NL Central crown.

With one of the best changeups in the game – so remarkable it earned the nickname “Airbender” – Williams burst on the scene during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season to earn both National League rookie of the year and reliever of the year honors. In 22 appearances, he went 4-1 with a 0.33 earned run average, with only eight hits allowed in 27 innings while recording a remarkable 53 strikeouts.

Opponents batted a mere .090 against Williams, who fashioned a 0.63 WHIP. His ERA was best among major league relievers and he tied for first with a rate of 17.67 strikeouts per nine innings. He surrendered just one earned run all season, coming on July 27 in his second appearance of the year in Pittsburgh.

Williams became the only pitcher in MLB history to win Rookie of the Year without making at least one start or recording at least one save. He was named to the All-MLB second team and was voted the Brewers’ most valuable pitcher by the Milwaukee chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Before the season was done, Williams firmly established himself as the primary setup man to closer Josh Hader, forming a 1-2 punch out of the bullpen that regularly locked down victories. This year, veteran Brad Boxberger was installed as the seventh inning pitcher, giving the Brewers three dependable relievers to take care of the final three innings. When leading after seven innings, they are 70-4.

Williams finished the 2020 season with a rotator cuff strain that forced him to miss much of spring training, also putting him behind at the start of this season. But he eventually got his feet back on the ground and began dominating hitters again, going 22 consecutive appearances over one stretch without allowing an earned run.

He was on the injured list with right elbow inflammation coming out of the all-star break but recovered from that nicely as well.

Stearns said there is "an outside chance" that Williams could be ready to go for the World Series if the Brewers advance that far.

"I think Devin is motivated and certainly we are motivated to do everything we can to accelerate this as much as possible," he said. "We also understand we've got a finite time frame here.

"The most likely outcome is this will end Devin's season, but I think everyone is invested in doing everything possible so that if we move this along, perhaps there's a chance he'll be available for the World Series."

This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Brewers' Devin Williams breaks hand punching wall, MLB playoffs unlikely