Brewers will open season without their All-Star closer. Devin Williams has stress fractures in back

PHOENIX — The Milwaukee Brewers will open the season without All-Star closer Devin Williams, who won’t throw for six weeks and could miss at least three months while recovering from two stress fractures in his back.

Williams pitched through back soreness at the end of last season, when the Brewers were NL Central champions. The right-hander was feeling discomfort again this spring, and after an initial MRI in Arizona, was examined Wednesday by Dr. Robert Watkins in California. Watkins, a leading spine specialist, diagnosed the fractures.

“My understanding is it’s going to be six weeks of no throw just to shut him down, and then Devin will determine the pace beyond that,” Brewers general manager Matt Arnold said Thursday. “We just want to be extra cautious with him, and make sure he gets the good treatment that he needs.”

Williams told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in a story posted online Thursday that there was a difference in the initial diagnosis and what Watkins saw when the pitcher went for a second opinion.

After the MRI by the team, new Brewers manager Pat Murphy indicated there was no reason for concern, telling reporters Sunday, “Felt like he could move forward with it and just treat it. … Give him some time off.”

In his response to the Journal Sentinel, Williams said that was not a mischaracterization by Murphy.

Arnold agreed, and said the team and Williams both wanted to get the second opinion.

The 29-year-old right-hander was 8-3 with a 1.53 ERA and 36 saves in 40 chances last year. Over his past two All-Star seasons, Williams had 183 strikeouts in 119 1/3 innings. He is 26-10 with a 1.89 ERA and 54 saves over 219 career appearances since his debut late in 2019. He was the National League Rookie of the Year in 2020.

The loss of Williams puts even more pressure on a normally strong bullpen behind a rotation with plenty of questions. The Brewers traded three-time All-Star and 2021 NL Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes, and two-time All-Star starting pitcher Brandon Woodruff likely will miss the entire season recovering from shoulder surgery.

“Any time you lose a pitcher of the caliber of Devin, it’s always a tough loss for sure. I don’t think there’s any way you can replace that necessarily,” Arnold said. “But we have a lot of guys that we believe in in our group, and somebody is going to take a step forward. … This early in camp, there’s still a ways to go to determine who that’s going to be.”

Arnold said the team would also be open to looking outside the organization for help.

Williams and the Brewers avoided going to salary arbitration after settling on a $7.25 million, one-year contract in November. The deal also includes a club option for 2025 that could make it worth $18.5 million for two seasons.



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