MILWAUKEE -- Before they made it through their sixth week of regular season baseball, the Brewers already needed reinforcements for an overworked bullpen.The team on Saturday optioned outfielder Adam Stern back to Triple-A Nashville and promoted right-hander John Axford in time for their game against the Phillies. Axford gave the Brewers a 13-man pitching staff, and manager Ken Macha said it would remain that way for the "near future." "Whether that's a week or 10 days, something like that," Macha said. Axford was excellent in Spring Training and continued to pitch well at Nashville, where he was 3-2 with a 2.03 ERA (13 1/3 innings, three earned runs) and two saves in 12 games. Brewers relievers had combined for a 5.68 ERA entering Saturday's game, the second-worst mark of all 30 Major League teams to Arizona's 7.49, and a league-worst .292 batting average against. They had also been called upon to work 117 1/3 innings, the seventh-highest total. "You always keep a little watch obviously," Axford said of the Brewers' bullpen situation. "It's not something to harp on. You can't keep looking at it. What's going to happen is going to happen. I've just got to do my work, that's all I try to do, really." Milwaukee's struggles at the back end of the bullpen, with usually-reliable veterans, have exacerbated the problem. Closer Trevor Hoffman already has four blown saves, matching his total from all of last season, and a 12.00 ERA in 12 appearances. Setup man LaTroy Hawkins was hit to the tune of a 9.23 ERA in 13 appearances while pitching with weakness in his right shoulder before finally succumbing to the disabled list. Hawkins will be reevaluated on Sunday or Monday.
Macha responds to Fielder's frustration
MILWAUKEE -- Brewers manager Ken Macha does not mind that first baseman Prince Fielder vented some frustration about the team's struggling pitching staff after another blowout loss Friday night. Among other thinly-veiled comments, Fielder said the hitters are, "doing the best we can."But Macha would prefer that his players focus on their own job and let him worry about the big picture. "My thought about baseball is that everybody has got a job to do," Macha said. "So you have to pay attention to your job and do that well, and when the day is done you have eight position players and the number of pitchers you used, and you add up what they did in their boxes and you either win or lose the game. "One thing that's great about Prince is he takes it to heart when we lose. He really wants to be on a winning team, a winning organization. He strives to win. So as long as guys are paying attention to their little boxes and doing them properly, I think the wins and losses are going to be my responsibility in the end. He needs to continue to work to get to the numbers that he wants to, and if he does that, that's taking care of his box, and he's going to help us win games. I think our pitching will get better. "That's my responsibility, and I will be held accountable for us winning or losing games," Macha said. "I'm glad that I have a player on the field who's my cleanup hitter and has a tremendous amount of concern about is winning or losing games. "I don't want hitters looking at the pitchers or pitchers looking at the hitters. I said last night about the finger-pointing, there should be none of it going on. Everybody take care of what they can take care of. Let me worry about the other stuff." The Brewers were 15-20 entering Saturday's game against the Phillies, including 4-12 at Miller Park.
Edmonds' injury could extend Stern's stay
MILWAUKEE -- Perhaps Adam Stern should not pack his bags just yet.Stern was optioned to Triple-A Nashville before Saturday's game against the Phillies and planned to travel there on Sunday morning. In the meantime, Brewers center fielder Jim Edmonds strained a left rib-cage muscle and exited in the fourth inning, leaving Milwaukee short of outfielders. Edmonds was hurt on a check-swing in the bottom of the second inning. He grounded out, had a word with assistant athletic trainer Dan Wright and then played one more inning in the field. But Jody Gerut took over for Edmonds in the top of the fourth, when the Brewers announced that Edmonds had strained an oblique muscle. Such injuries almost always linger, and the speedy Stern would be the most obvious choice should the Brewers need reinforcements. Usually, players must spend at least 10 days in the Minors after a demotion before they are eligible for a callup, but an exception is made for players who replace someone on the disabled list. Stern would love to stay. His cups of coffee in the big leagues have been more like shots of espresso. In 2007, Stern was called up by the Orioles after outfielder Corey Patterson was placed on the bereavement list, and played only three innings as a defensive replacement without getting an at-bat before returning to the Minors. More than three years passed before he was promoted to the Brewers last week, and Stern made his debut Friday night with a pinch-hit strikeout in front of his parents, who made the 10-hour drive from London, Ontario. On Saturday, three days after he arrived, Stern appeared headed back to the Minors. The Brewers optioned the 30-year-old outfielder to Triple-A Nashville on Saturday in favor of reliever John Axford, who's needed in a shaky bullpen. "It's a half-cup of coffee," Stern said. But Stern was smiling. "It's the game. You go down, do your thing and hope you get back, right?" Stern said. "That's all you can ask for. I'm just happy that they gave me an opportunity to get back to the big leagues. I know how tough it is to get back here, and that makes me appreciate it that much more."
Suspended prospect Jeffress nears return
MILWAUKEE -- Suspended Brewers pitching prospect Jeremy Jeffress is eligible for reinstatement on Friday, but his return to the mound will probably be delayed by a minor arm injury, assistant general manager Gord Ash said.Barring any rainouts at Class A Advanced Brevard County in the coming days, Jeffress' 100-game ban expires on May 21. He might have been able to hit the ground running at Brevard County if not for a bout of tightness in his right forearm that developed last week at extended spring training camp in Phoenix. Jeffress, Milwaukee's first-round pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, was suspended last June under the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, his third failed test for a "drug of abuse." One more violation would result in a lifetime ban. Unlike the Major League program, which strictly adheres to performance-enhancing drugs and amphetamines, Minor League players also can be suspended for using drugs like marijuana, cocaine and others. Jeffress has admitted in the past that he had a problem with marijuana, but he has been through a series of treatment programs during his suspension and has fulfilled all of his obligations, according to Ash. "He has been very, very good about it," Ash said. Jeffress will resume his career at Brevard County when he's ready, and the Brewers would like to promote him to Double-A Huntsville at some point soon thereafter. Club officials will face a decision after the season, when Jeffress must be placed on the 40-man roster or be exposed to the Rule 5 Draft.
The Brewers had a couple of high-profile guests for batting practice on Saturday. Green Bay Packers first-round draft pick Brian Bulaga borrowed Rickie Weeks' bat to hit some booming home runs, totaling 14 in an extended session. Old friend Larry the Cable Guy was mingling around the cage a bit later as well. Larry has visited before as a guest of former Brewers manager Ned Yost. ... Through Friday night, the Brewers had played 24 games of three hours or longer, most in the Majors. ... Manager Ken Macha reiterated that the Brewers are sticking with left-hander Manny Parra, who made a pair of errors in a tough outing Friday. He conceded that Parra has been, "a little confounding."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.