MILWAUKEE — The experiment of trying Tom Gorzelanny in the starting rotation is officially over, as the veteran left-hander will move back to Milwaukee’s bullpen.
Right-hander Tyler Thornburg will replace Gorzelanny for Monday’s start against Pittsburgh, but his rotation spot isn’t guaranteed as the team tries to figure out how to handle a surplus of starting pitchers over the final month of the season.
After being thrown into the rotation due to necessity and showing promise in a couple of early starts, Gorzelanny has struggled of late to raise his ERA to 4.81 in his 10 starts. Signed through next season, the 31-year-old will begin next season in the bullpen where he has a 2.45 ERA in 32 appearances in 2013.
“We tried to see if it was going to work with his starting,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “We liked what we saw early, and I think just with the conversations that he had with me, what we are thinking about for next year and who has a chance to be a starter. I think all parties decided he was going to go back to the bullpen.”
In this case, Gorzelanny’s career track record held true. The former full-time starting pitcher has a 4.62 ERA in 121 career starts and a 3.11 ERA in 114 relief appearances. With Michael Gonzalez not likely to return next season, Gorzelanny will give Milwaukee at least one left-hander returning in the bullpen.
Figuring out what his role will be at this time will help Gorzelanny prepare in the offseason. As of right now, he doesn’t plan to prepare to have a chance to compete for a rotation spot.
“(Not) unless we talk about it,” Gorzelanny said. “If we don’t talk about it I will prepare the way I always prepare for a season.”
Thornburg has a 0.50 ERA in his three starts this season but was removed from the rotation when the Brewers opted to take a closer look at Gorzelanny and right-hander Marco Estrada. How long Thornburg stays in the rotation is still up in the air.
Milwaukee is likely to bring up Johnny Hellweg in the coming days, adding yet another starting pitcher to the mix. Roenicke hopes to have a better idea on the team’s plans prior to Sunday’s game.
“There’s going to be some more discussions probably later today on that,” Roenicke said of the rotation. “We are really trying to figure out how to do this right. With the two off days, we can’t go to a straight six man and just run through it because we have too many guys on eight-days rest. So probably the next week in a half it is going to be messed up some. We may have to bump people. There’s certain guys we’d like to stay on line as close as we can. Once we get through this we will go to a straight six man. At least right now that’s what we discussed.”
Could be quiet: A team in Milwaukee’s position in the standings usually has a handful of call-ups when rosters expand Sept. 1, but the Brewers are unlikely to bring more than a couple of players up in the coming days.
Why? Well, most of their young players are already up. Scooter Gennett, Khris Davis, Caleb Gindl and Thornburg all likely would have been September call-ups without the injuries this season.
Roenicke said the team will wait until Triple-A Nashville’s season ends Monday before bringing up the majority of the guys in their plans, but one player could join the team for Sunday’s games.
That’s likely to be right-hander Donovan Hand, who will join Milwaukee’s bullpen. Hand, who has a 3.75 ERA in 21 games for the Brewers this season, has a locker set up in the clubhouse, taking the spot vacated by John Axford.
Other than Hand, only Hellweg is a safe bet to come up. When asked if the team has a need for an extra position player or a third catcher, Roenicke responded “Not really.” The Brewers philosophy is to not bring up players just to have them ride the bench for a month.
“I’m not a fan of that at all,” Roenicke said of players coming up to not play. “Sometimes there is a reward that I think you would like to bring a guy up for what he has done in the minor leagues. Then the other guys, you want to bring them up for the purpose of using them to further their development. If you can get a guy three, four starts and you are thinking in the future this guy has a chance to be a starter, I really believe that helps him. I think a regular, if you get him up here and he gets four at-bats for the month, I don’t see that helps a guy.”
Aoki sits again: Brewers right-fielder Norichika Aoki was out of Saturday’s lineup, sitting out for the third time in the last six games.
Aoki, who is nursing a right knee injury, started Friday’s series opener with the Angels and went 1-for-5. Roenicke planned on sitting his leadoff hitter either Saturday or Sunday, but realized he needed him in the lineup when the Angels throw left-hander C.J. Wilson on Sunday.
While Aoki is left-handed, he hits lefties much better than left-handed backups Logan Schafer and Caleb Gindl.
“It was better yesterday, so we were pleased about that,” Roenicke said. “It’s good again today … We need him in there tomorrow against the left-hander.”
Moving on: After 10 injury-plagued seasons, Mark Rogers’ tenure with the Milwaukee Brewers appears to be over. The club outrighted the former first-round pick off the 40-man roster Saturday, making Rogers a minor-league free agent after the World Series.
The fifth overall pick in the 2004 first-year draft, Rogers never could stay healthy and appeared in just 11 big league games.
Rogers, 27, tore his right labrum in July of 2006 and missed the remainder of the season. He then missed the entire 2007 season after having scar tissue removed from the shoulder and spent the 2008 season rehabbing the shoulder back to full health.
After spending most of 2010 in Double-A, Rogers made his major-league debut in September, posting a 1.80 ERA in four games and two starts. Just as he was about to compete for a roster spot in 2011, Rogers was suspended 25 games by Major League Baseball for testing positive for a banned stimulant for the second time.
Though he had a 4.72 ERA in 18 Triple-A starts in 2012, Rogers was called up to fill the rotation spot vacated when Zack Greinke was traded to the Angels in late July. Rogers had a 3.92 ERA in seven starts before being shut down, positioning himself to compete for a rotation spot this past spring training.
Rogers was out of the rotation mix early with “shoulder instability” causing the velocity on his fastball to dip significantly. In 12 rehab games this season between rookie ball, Class-A advanced Brevard County and Double-A Huntsville, Rogers was 0-2 with a 5.16 ERA.
The Brewers now have two open spots on their 40-man roster, as another opened up with John Axford’s trade to St. Louis.