The stage is set.  A close game, the 8th inning, the ninth is spoken for but the setup role is up for grabs.  The lead is close enough for a save situation, so strategy demands a strong relief option.  Who do you choose?

Kameron Loe

The Case - Fresh off his sixth loss of the season, a team high, Loe has pitched in three straight games.  He's been, arguably, overworked in the early part of this season but is coming off a very strong 2010 campaign in which he had a 2.78 ERA over 58.1 innings pitched.  At times he's seemed equal parts dominant and disastrous.

The Verdict - Having pitched three consecutive days with the third resulting in a loss in a 1-0 game, Loe is off limits.  Confidence in the lanky right-hander must be waning.

Sergio Mitre

The Case - Playing the role of a long relief pitcher, Mitre has performed well.  He's pitched 27 innings but hasn't seen game action since June 9 against the Mets.  Mitre's strikeout to walk numbers are far from dominant (10:7) but he's been effective, sporting a 2.00 ERA.  What's more, his 1.11 WHIP is third best on the staff.  Mitre also has a good track record in relief as well, to the tune of a 3.33 ERA in 2010 while pitching 54 innings for the New York Yankees.

The Verdict - Mitre's been good, but his numbers lend themselves more to a good middle-reliever than a setup man.  Mitre sits.

Marco Estrada

The Case - Another middle-to-long releiver, Estrada has been up and down thus far in 2011.  He's been mostly good pitching out of the bullpen, with a 3.86 ERA in 16.1 relief opportunities.  Estrada hasn't pitched in a game since June 9 either, and in two of his last three outings has given up runs.  Also disagreeable is Estrada's career numbers, prior to 2011 he pitched only 31.1 innings at the major league level with a low season ERA of 6.14.

The Verdict - Estrada's transition to relief pitcher has been good so far, but is still in the early stages.  In a pressure situation he should only be gone to as a last resort, his body of work should preclude him from meaningful innings.

Zach Braddock

The Case - One of the best young arms in the Brewer organization, Braddock has seen his use somewhat limited since a stint on the disabled list.  Even so, since returning to the active roster Braddock has yet to give up a run.  As a lefty, there could be some concern about matching him up with a right-handed hitter.  His numbers are across the board good, a 2.19 ERA in 17 appearances, he's walked six and struck out 13.

The Verdict - A good choice, though maybe not the best one.  Braddock is being carefully managed this year to avoid injury and overuse.  He has the stuff to be a dominant 8th inning pitcher but may not be quite there yet.  Still, Braddock may be the best option so far.

John Axford

The Case - Since blowing a pair of early saves, Axford has been dominant.  He's converted his last 18 and struck out 40 batters in 30.1 innings.  He has an ERA 2.97 and hasn't given up a run since May 21.  Axford also hasn't pitched a save of more than an inning yet in 2011, after doing in multiple times in 2010. He's also pitched in nearly half the Brewer's games this season.

The Verdict - Concern over wearing Axford out seems mixed.  He hasn't pitched a multi-inning save but he's pitched in a high number of games.  The plan seems clear though - the ninth inning is Axford's and the eigth belongs to someone else.

LaTroy Hawkins

The Case - After a forgettable 2010 that resulted in a mostly lost season and shoulder injury, Hawkins started the year on the disabled list.  He joined the team in late April and has been very good since his return.  In his 17 appearance he's given up only one earned run, in his first outing of the year.  Hawkins strikeout numbers haven't been great (8 in 16.1 innings) but he seems to be returning to the form Milwaukee was hoping for when they signed him.

The Verdict - With a career's worth of experience, Hawkins should be the choice.  He's pitched well this year and is well rested, he hasn't seen a game in nearly a week.  But more to point, Hawkins has been a successful reliever for the last decade of his career.

The Truth - Manager Ron Roenicke's decision to put Marco Estrada in for the eighth inning of Tuesday night's game against is befuddling at best and asinine at worst.  His unflinching confidence in Kameron Loe is difficult enough to comprehend at time but there is a difference: Loe has done something to earn his role.  Estrada's big league accomplishments are so minimal that using him in positions like Tuesday night's are a flat out mistake.