Obviously, Colin Rea can't go any further. He's done everything he can for the 2023 Brewers. To fit him onto a playoff roster would require the team to prefer him to both Adrian Houser and Andrew Chafin, and Elvis Peguero to be unable to return when the playoffs begin next week. It's just roster math. There aren't enough ways that the team might need a long man to justify carrying three or four of them.
To his credit, in the wake of one last terrific showing from Rea, Craig Counsell did his best to leave the door open:
Colin Rea has pitched himself into playoff roster consideration, Counsell said.— Curt Hogg (@CyrtHogg) September 30, 2023
"Certainly a player that we’re going to have to talk about, for sure, as we go forward here. He’s throwing the ball really well and he’s putting up a lot of zeroes."
In reality, though, it's just impossible to imagine things going that way. All five of the team's healthy starters will have a stronger claim to a roster spot than Rea has. Devin Williams, Joel Payamps, Abner Uribe, Hoby Milner, Trevor Megill, Peguero, and Bryse Wilson all have clear priority over him. The Brewers won't and shouldn't carry 13 pitchers in either the Wild Card Series or (should they advance) the Division Series.
That doesn't invalidate Rea's huge contributions to this division champion, though. Stepping into the breach when Brandon Woodruff hit the injured list, he delivered at least five innings in 16 of his first 18 starts. Later in the year, Counsell got more aggressive about lifting him in the fifth, but Rea still consistently gave his team a chance to win when he took the mound. He filled 124 2/3 innings, with an ERA not much above the league average. He bought into what the team asked of him, throwing strikes and trusting the defense behind him. He maintained a respectable strikeout rate, and although he gave up a lot of home runs with his tepid stuff, he kept the team in the game.
Rea is just one of the players who had a quietly positive impact on the team, but who will not appear in a postseason box score. Julio Teheran, who arrived as an emergency fill-in starter, has already been designated for assignment. Joey Wiemer, who stood the gap while Garrett Mitchell and Tyrone Taylor were hurt and before Sal Frelick was ready to join the fray, is not on the active roster, Victor Caratini started at catcher Friday night, but unless William Contreras is unable to pair with Corbin Burnes in a playoff setting, he'll ride the bench throughout the playoffs.
Clinching with a handful of days left in the season has allowed the Brewers to give some of these guys, and some of the other fringe players within the organization who never had significant roles on this team, to take a happy victory lap in front of the appreciative home crowd. Obviously, Caleb Boushley's storybook MLB debut is the most poignant of several such examples. These are ways to ensure that the vibes around the team are perfect, heading into next week. It might seem unimportant, but for a team that depends so much on its interdependency, it matters. This team is gelling at the perfect time, and although some of the faces who became familiar and chipped in heroically during this long grind of a season now have to stay behind, their good moments augment the sense of team chemistry that empowers a group as they embark on a playoff journey.