Brewers have creative knack for finding closers

MILWAUKEE — After trading away Tyler Thornburg at the Winter Meetings and Jeremy Jeffress and Will Smith back in August, the Brewers enter the New Year in need of a closer.

Recent history says they may find one where you least expect it.

“Closers kind of come from all over the place,” manager Craig Counsell said. “I think if you look at the last 15 years of Brewers baseball, where the closers have come from, it’s a pretty diverse and inventive group. That’s how it works in that job a little bit.”

For a club that once saw its closer win an American League Cy Young Award (Rollie Fingers in 1981), and later drafted and developed Dan Plesac as a reliever (and sent him to three All-Star Games), the Brewers have been much more creative in recent years with the closer’s role.

Thornburg, who logged 13 saves at the end of last season after the Brewers traded Jeffress to Texas and Smith to San Francisco, was the first player to be drafted and wholly developed by the Brewers to log a significant number of saves. Jeffress originally was a Brewers first-round Draft pick, but he was traded to Kansas City and also pitched for Toronto before reviving his career back in Milwaukee.

Before Thornburg, the last player to spend his entire career in Milwaukee’s system before assuming closer duties was Doug Henry, who led the team in saves from 1991-93.

Jacob Barnes has a chance to join that group if he emerges as a reliable stopper in 2017. He was Milwaukee’s 14th-round Draft pick in 2011 and is among the internal candidates to pitch the ninth …

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