Villanueva to start Tuesday
In a move that raised eyebrows and led to numerous follow-up questions from reporters, Brewers manager Ken Macha announced Monday that reliever Carlos Villanueva will start on Tuesday against the Nationals.
“[Villanueva’s] the starter,” Macha said. “We’ve had other options, we’ve put the other options in there and they have not worked out. Our people feel that he’s going to give us the best chance to win.”
Villanueva is 2-7 with a 6.18 ERA in 43 relief appearances this season, but has struggled as of late.
Even though he held Pittsburgh to one run in three innings on July 20 – an outing Macha was quick to point toward – Villanueva has given up 10 runs in his last 4 2/3 innings.
In the top of the 10th inning in a tie game against the Dodgers on July 10, Villanueva gave up six runs, including a grand slam.
In his last appearance on Friday against the Braves, Villanueva gave up a solo home run in the sixth inning to Braves third baseman Chipper Jones with the score tied, 4-4, and earned the loss.
“I understand your point,” Macha said in the response Villanueva’s recent struggles. “We’ve got a hole in our rotation at that starter right there. We’re trying to fill it the best we can. We’ll see how this works out. It may work out very well, hopefully it does.”
Right-hander Tim Dillard, who was recalled from Triple-A Nashville on Tuesday, also was an option to start, but Macha preferred Villanueva’s pitching repertoire compared to Dillard’s.
“Dillard is kind of limited in his pitches,” said Macha, also adding that he expected Dillard to pitch on Tuesday. “…His secondary pitches aren’t as refined.”
Different pitchers have had the opportunity to throw in the rotation slot vacated when Dave Bush went on the 15-day disabled list with right triceps tear on June 23, but while the name in the slot has changed, the production – or lack thereof – has remained consistent.
Long reliever Seth McClung earned two starts in that slot before being removed for ineffectiveness. He went 0-1 with a 12.27 ERA in those starts, failing to make it out of the fourth inning in both outings.
Mike Burns, who was optioned to Triple-A Nashville on Monday, also got a crack in the rotation after putting up successful numbers in the Minors. Burns had more opportunities than McClung, but he too struggled, going 2-3 with a 7.20 ERA in five starts.
“We’re looking at who we put out there,” Macha said. “[Villanueva] is where that’s put us. We didn’t feel the Burns option was there anymore, so we had to figure out who our option is. McClung went out there, [and] didn’t get it done.
“Putting McClung in was a gamble, so was putting Burns in, so [Villanueva is] not that much more of a gamble.”