The Brewers have made some transactions in between games of today’s doubleheader with the Cubs. Left-hander Ethan Small (the starter in the first game) was optioned to Triple-A, while right-hander Luke Barker had his contract selected. Righty Justin Topa was moved to the 60-day injured list to make room for Barker on the 40-man roster.
Small allowed two runs on four hits and four walks over 2 2/3 innings in Game One, as Milwaukee earned a 7-6 win over Chicago. It was Small’s first career MLB game, and he got the call to fill the spot left in the rotation by Brandon Woodruff’s ankle injury. While not a stellar debut, Small could potentially still be in the running for future starts depending on how long Woodruff is out, and Small’s demotion could just be so the Brewers can free up a roster space while they figure out their next step.
From one Major League debut to another, as the 30-year-old Barker has made it to the Show after being undrafted out of Chico College. A season of indy ball in 2016 led to a contract with the Brewers, and Barker has a 2.36 ERA, 27.48% strikeout rate, and 6.33% walk rate over 255 1/3 relief innings in Milwaukee’s farm system. The Brewers have shown a knack for turning unheralded pitchers into viable relievers at the big league level, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if Barker is the latest hurler to come out of seemingly nowhere to help out the relief corps.
Topa was one of those pitchers himself in 2020, as the former 17th-rounder tossed some important innings for the Brewers in the regular season and in the playoffs. However, Topa has been plagued by elbow problems ever since, and threw only 18 totals innings in the majors and minors in 2021. The right-hander had recently started facing live batters, and since the clock on the 60-day IL placement begins when Topa was first placed on the shorter IL at the start of the season, he wasn’t going to be back by the first week of June anyway.