The Milwaukee Brewers reliever Josh Hader believes he will remain more of a traditional ninth-inning closer this season, having worked the occasional multiple innings early in his career.
“The stricter rule suits us well, especially the bullpen arms we have,” said the two-time All-Star on Tuesday from the Brewers Spring Training Grounds in Phoenix.
Brewery manager Craig Counsell said Hader will take on largely the same role as last season. Hader acknowledged working multiple innings can be challenging and said he appreciated the ninth inning’s clearer task last season.
“The ups and downs are more exhausting than anything, especially the number of parking spaces,” said Hader. “It’s something that wears and tears you apart as the season progresses.”
Hader, who turns 27 on April 7, has only thrown 19 innings in 21 games last season. The left-hander had played 81 1/3 innings in 55 games in 2018 and 75 2/3 innings in 61 games in 2019.
Milwaukee’s bullpen depth was supposed to give the Brewers a chance to allow Hader to hold onto the ninth inning.
Devin Williams returns after allowing only one deserved run last season, beating 53 batters in 27 innings to earn NL Rookie of the Year. The Brewers also have Eric Yardley (2-0, 1.54 ERA last season), Brent Suter (2-0, 3.13), Drew Rasmussen (21 strikeouts in 15 1/3 innings), Justin Topa (0-1, 2.35) and Brad Boxberger (1-0, 3.00 with Miami) among others.
“The stricter rule goes well, especially with the bullpen arms we have,” said Hader. “Devin to be able to fill the gap on the seventh and eighth, and so do the other guys. There are many ways to fill this gap. ”
#Brewers Pitcher Josh Hader spent the off-season preparing his move for the action. ⚾️
“𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘤𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘴 … 𝘵𝘰𝘭𝘥 𝘮𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘪𝘵 𝘸𝘢𝘴 𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘥𝘺 𝘵𝘰 𝘣𝘦 𝘱𝘭𝘢𝘺𝘦𝘥 𝘪𝘯 𝘢 𝘨𝘢𝘮𝘦” pic.twitter.com/0zUGn4gCrD
– FOX Sports Wisconsin (@fswisconsin) March 23, 2021
Hader went 1-2 with 13 saves in the NL and a career high of 3.79 ERA from two bad games in a pandemic-shortened season. He went five and gave two runs in a third of an inning Against Pittsburgh on August 29, and he allowed four runs in one inning on September 12 against the Chicago Cubs. He only delivered two earned runs in his other 17 2/3 innings of work.
He did so as he began to diversify his approach, which Hader continues this year. Hader was ready to add new pitches to complement his fastball, and Counsell believes the decision should allow the left-handed player to stay in effect longer.
“This is a credit to Josh for seeing the big picture and getting to know himself very well, understanding matchups in the game and giving himself options,” said Counsell. “That’s exactly what he’s trying to do.”
According to Baseball Savant, Hader tossed his slider on 32.3% of his pitches last year, up from 15.5% in 2019 and 20.6% in 2018.
Hader would like to use a change, a pitch that he has rarely thrown into the majors so far.
“It’s a pitch I’ve always had, but it’s never been consistent,” said Hader. “The same goes for the slider. The slider was given more priority than I made it into the major leagues to get it up to speed. And I feel like I was in a good place with that slider last year so I could focus more on that change. This year I was able to use it in games and see how it plays with left handed and right handed. I am excited about it. Hitters can’t just sit in one place now. ”