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Could Brewers' bullpen become one of MLB's best?

Feb 27, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher Will Smith (13) pitches against the Oakland Athletics during the seventh inning at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. The Brewers won 11-3. Photo: Image by Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Could Brewers' bullpen become one of MLB's best?

By Benjamin Orr, special to WIsports.com. CREATED Mar 3, 2014

As we’ve seen before in Milwaukee, the bullpen has become one of the most talked-about issues regarding the team. In 2012, the bullpen was flat out awful, but rebounded nicely in 2013.

Will the Brew Crew be able to repeat from a season ago, at least in the bullpen?

The first thing to look at are the losses from the bullpen, which in retrospect, aren’t that bad.

Sure, Burke Badenhop was a solid middle-of-the-game type player, but Mike Gonzalez was a disaster on his own. With those two gone, the Brewers needed to fill those voids, and they did so with some solid options.

First up is Will Smith, who was acquired in Norichika Aoki’s trade to the Kansas City Royals. Smith has pitched in 35 games since making his debut in 2012, so he has some major league experience under his belt.

The best thing about Smith besides his potential as a spot starter is that he’s a left-handed pitcher.  That will help complement Tom Gorzelanny in the bullpen.

Plus, another positive about him is how he made the switch from starting in 2012 to relief in 2013.  He held an ERA of 3.24 last season as opposed to 2012’s 5.32, so he might be a solid piece yet.

The second piece added was Francisco Rodriguez, who will be pitching in Milwaukee for a third time.

Love him or hate him outside the diamond, K-Rod has been nothing but electric during his tenures with the Brewers. Obviously it raises some eyebrows signing K-Rod when the Brewers have Jim Henderson, but Rodriguez is a solid fall back option.

As for the rest of the bullpen, it’ll be made up of some of the same guys from last year.

Brandon Kintzler was absolutely dominant in his appearances, which helped anchor the Brewers into having the fifth best bullpen last season. Guys like Tyler Thornburg, Rob Wooten, Michael Blazek and Wei-Chung Wang (should he make the roster) will help make up that solid, middle relief core.  Throwing in a healthy Gorzelanny and a dominant K-Rod into this mix can only help.

On the outside, the Brewers have options like Johnny Hellweg, Mike Fiers, Alfredo Figaro and many others.

It’s no secret that manager Ron Roenicke likes to be a watchdog with the starting rotation, which is why it sometimes seems that the bullpen can be over-taxed. That wasn’t the case in 2013 ,and I have a feeling it won’t be the case this season.

This isn’t the disaster ridden bullpen of years past.  This is a new and solid bullpen that proved itself last year and one that, I believe, can become one of the best in baseball.

Benjamin Orr (@bjorr92 on Twitter) is a senior staff writer with Reviewing the Brew.