Brewers closer Devin Williams expected to miss 3 months due to stress fractures in back, per report

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - AUGUST 05: Devin Williams #38 of the Milwaukee Brewers walks off the mound during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at American Family Field on August 05, 2023 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images)

The Milwaukee Brewers will be without their closer for half the season.

All-Star reliever Devin Williams has been diagnosed with two stress fractures in his back and is expected to miss roughly three months, according to ESPN's Jeff Passan. The injury is reportedly the return of an issue Williams had at the end of last season.

Losing Williams means losing one of the best relievers in baseball. In five seasons with the Brewers, the right-hander holds a 1.89 career ERA, the best mark in MLB among pitchers with at least 200 innings in that span. His 39% strikeout rate, achieved via his signature "Airbender" changeup, ranks third.

Last season was a career best season for Williams, earning his second-straight All-Star honor and 36 saves in his first full season as Brewers closer after the trade of Josh Hader.

Williams' injury arrives after an offseason of upheaval in Milwaukee. The team lost president of baseball operations David Stearns to the New York Mets and manager Craig Counsell to the division rival Chicago Cubs. It traded perhaps its top player, former Cy Young winner Corbin Burnes, to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for a pair of prospects.

After two division titles in three years, the Brewers are projected to finish third in the NL Central and below .500 by Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA. Losing Williams won't help that.

There isn't a clear answer for who will replace Williams in the top spot of the Brewers' bullpen. Joel Payamps might be the best bet after a 2023 in which he posted a 2.55 ERA in 70⅔ innings, but Trevor Megill, Abner Uribe and others could also have an argument.