CHICAGO -- Brewers manager Ron Roenicke expressed confidence Tuesday in a middle relief corps that struggled in three of the team's first four games this season.
The small sample alert certainly applies, but left-hander Manny Parra has surrendered six hits and a walk in his first 2 1/3 innings, and right-hander Tim Dillard has allowed six hits and two walks in his first three innings. Parra has been charged with two earned runs, Dillard five.
The duo was supposed to close out Monday's win over the Cubs but could not. Pitching with a 7-3 lead in the ninth inning, Parra worked ahead of Cubs cleanup hitter Ian Stewart, 0-and-2, but Stewart came back to hit a double. Parra retired the next hitter and made way for Dillard, who walked the only batter he faced.
With the potential tying run on deck, Roenicke was forced to call upon closer John Axford, who had thrown 27 pitches the day before. Axford worked around two errors to convert his 44th consecutive regular-season save, the fifth-longest streak in baseball history and the longest active run of success.
"I thought [Parra] threw the ball better yesterday," Roenicke said. "Dillard, I still think he's trying to find his command. Last year when we called him up, he was pitching really well at Triple-A. We saw some really bad swings from some good hitters.
"I think he needs to get back to that confidence, back to that stage where he can just let it go without aiming the ball."
Dillard played catch under the watch of bullpen coach Stan Kyles on Tuesday afternoon and said it was part of his regular routine.
"Lately I've been too amped up, so I want to slow things down," Dillard said. "Looking back on film of [Monday], the ball was moving a good bit. I just didn't make the necessary adjustments."