Corbin Burnes came into Craig Counsell’s office after starting Game 1 of the National League Division Series and let the Milwaukee Brewers’ manager know that he was willing to take the ball on short rest, if necessary, if the series got to a fourth game.
“He was interested in doing it,” Counsell said Tuesday morning. “I said, well, we have to make sure you’re physically able to do it and as the day’s gone on, he’s just not physically ready to do it.”
So instead, left-hander Eric Lauer gets the ball later this afternoon when the Brewers look to stave off elimination when they face the Braves in Game 4 at Truist Park.
“The last couple days, I just didn’t recover the way that I wanted to,” Burnes said. “It was a matter of do I want to go out there at 80-85% or have Lauer go out there full-go and fully-rested. It came down to the decision that they felt better with Lauer being 100% and the bullpen fully rested and then me being 100% ready for Game 5.”
Had he taken the mound Tuesday, Burnes would have been pitching on his shortest rest of the season. With the Brewers employing a six-man rotation for much of the season, 17 of his 28 starts in 2021 have come with five days’ rest with another nine coming with at least six days in between.
He made just two starts on the traditional four days of rest but even that would have made a huge difference in terms of being ready.
“If it would have been four days, I would have been 100% ready to go,” Burnes said. “Being on five or six days’ rest most of the year and then trying to come back two days quicker was going to be too much. I wish I could be out there.”
Lauer, 26, doesn’t have the notoriety of Burnes or Milwaukee’s other starting aces, Freddy Peralta and Brandon Woodruff, but has been pitching at the same level as them for the last few weeks.
In 12 starts since the All-Star Break, Lauer went 4-1 with a 2.60 ERA in and finished the season 7-5 with a 3.19 ERA after allowing five runs in his final start of the year, back on Oct. 1 at Dodger Stadium.
That’s more than enough to give Burnes confidence that the team will find a way to even the series and give him a chance to take the ball in a winner-take-all Game 5 Thursday back in Milwaukee.
“What Lauer’s done the second half of the season is nothing to scoff at,” Burnes said. “He’s been one of the best pitchers in baseball in the second half. I think having a guy who hasn’t pitched in 10 days, being fully recovered with a fresh arm and ready to go is an easy decision. The bullpen guys are ready to go.
“Hopefully the bats come out swinging today and I’ll be ready to go for Game 5.”