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Bullpen help could come in August for Brewers

July 31, 2014

The non-waiver trade deadline has come and gone, and the Milwaukee Brewers got the left-handed bat they needed.

Their need for a right-handed late-inning reliever? That’ll have to wait.

For now, fans of the Crew will have to be satisfied with the acquisition of outfielder Gerardo Parra. In addition to adding another left-handed bat to the mix, Parra brings Gold Glove-caliber defense along with him to Milwaukee.

In fact, the Brewers now have two of the three National League outfielders to win Gold Gloves last season. Pairing Parra with center fielder Carlos Gomez — especially in the late innings of close games — should provide a significant boost to the defense.

Sure, the move isn’t on the level of the Oakland A’s acquiring Jon Lester or the Detroit Tigers bringing in David Price. But the Brewers never had the pieces to put together a realistic offer for such a valuable ace.

Besides, as great as Lester or Price would have been for the Brewers, starting pitching is not a pressing need. It’s the bullpen and offense that have been holding them back of late.

They addressed one with Parra — they hope — and will likely continue to look for solutions to the other.

In the end, the Cardinals made the biggest splash in the National League, trading for starters John Lackey and Justin Masterson, while the Pirates and Reds stood pat. At the very least, the Brewers did more to improve than their Pittsburgh and Cincinnati rivals.

But don’t expect Parra to be the last addition to the Brewers’ roster.

After converting his first 15 save opportunities without allowing a run, closer Francisco Rodriguez has given up 17 runs on 30 hits over his last 31 2/3 innings, while blowing four saves and surrendering nine home runs.

If K-Rod doesn’t improve, his spot in the closer’s role should by no means be guaranteed.

Likewise, lefty Will Smith posted a 7.43 ERA in June and July, giving up 19 runs on 28 hits over 23 innings. Over the season’s first two months, Smith earned the eighth-inning role by allowing just one earned run in 25 1/3 innings, good for a 0.36 ERA.

Smith seems worn down, having pitched in a major league-leading 55 games — already exceeding the 47 games in which he pitched last year for the Royals between Triple-A and the majors. At the very least, Milwaukee needs the ability to give Smith some additional rest.

Jim Henderson’s impending return should help, and there’s still a chance Tyler Thornburg could return by season’s end.

But it would be a surprise to see general manager Doug Melvin pass up the opportunity to add another power relief arm if given the chance over the next month.

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