MINNEAPOLIS -- The Brewers swapped-out right-handed relievers on Saturday, optioning Tim Dillard back to Triple-A Nashville to open the spot they needed for veteran Takashi Saito's return from the 15-day disabled list.
Club officials had been debating the move, since it became clear earlier in the week that Saito was ready to return from a left rib-cage injury. In sending down Dillard, the Brewers opted to continue on with an 11-man pitching staff, including six relievers, at least through this weekend's Interleague series at Target Field.
Dillard surrendered 10 earned runs and 17 hits over 18 innings for Milwaukee. Eight of the runs and 12 of the hits came in his final eight appearances, spanning 8 1/3 innings.
He was one of two or three players considered for removal from the 25-man roster to make room for Saito, said manager Ron Roenicke, who obviously could not reveal the other options. Assistant general manager Gord Ash said, "it's safe to assume we considered all the possibilities," and that includes two position players with options -- Mat Gamel, who was promoted before this Interleague trip to serve as the Brewers' designated hitter, and third baseman Casey McGehee, who has been fighting a season-long slump.
The Brewers opted to keep Gamel at least through Sunday, the team's final game with a DH. At some point after that, Gamel could resume his role as Nashville's starting first baseman.
"I don't know if it will happen right away, but certainly we're going to get back to 12 [pitchers]," said Ash, who considers Gamel best suited for everyday duty instead of a big league bench role behind first baseman Prince Fielder.
"I think it's been pretty clear in the couple of seasons we've had him up before that he's best served in the lineup," Ash said. "It doesn't mean that hitters aren't continually maturing and adjusting, but I think he's the kind of hitter who needs to play. It's hard for him to sit."
Slumping McGehee to sit several days
MINNEAPOLIS -- They dropped him in the batting order, and now the Brewers are planning to give Casey McGehee a couple of games off. It's the latest attempt to help the team's 2010 RBI champ shake his season-long slump.
McGehee, coming off consecutive 0-for-4 games, was 2-for-22 over the previous week. He is batting .221 this season and may have needed the break. He was uncharacteristically intense following Friday's loss to the Twins, and sat staring into his locker after other teammates had dressed and left.
"I mean, I want to play. But if this is what it takes to get me going, I'd rather give it a couple of days than be still spinning my wheels come September," McGehee said. "It will be good for me to have a day or two to just kind of recharge and get back going."
He added, "It could be worse," a tongue-in-cheek reference to the fact he has Minor League options remaining. Brewers officials have discussed internally whether a stint at Triple-A Nashville might benefit McGehee, but that would be a last-resort move for a player who led the team with 104 RBIs last season.
The slump has puzzled everybody.
- 131 wins
- 121 wins
"It's no secret, everybody knows he's struggling," assistant general manager Gord Ash said. "Sometimes these struggles, they take on a larger life. The deeper you get, the harder you try. It's like a swimmer. What they tell you when you're drowning is not to panic, to relax. That's a lot easier said than done.
"He's going through all that, but he's a dedicated guy and wants to do well. We'll just give him a break here for a couple of days and see if he can regroup. ... Nobody has the right answer, but you can't stay with the status quo. We'll see where it takes us."
Brewers deep into Trade Deadline prep
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Brewers will gather their pro scouts at Miller Park next week to continue fine tuning a strategy for the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Considering the calendar has flipped to July, has chatter among baseball officials started to heat up?
"It's heating up from the point of view that everybody is deep into their homework," Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash said. "There have been very preliminary conversations, but nothing firm, yet."
The Brewers may look to improve the back end of their bullpen, though the return of veteran setup man Takashi Saito from the disabled list on Saturday could be a big help. A national report earlier in the week indicated Milwaukee would seek a right-handed bench bat.
The Brewers rank 20th of the 30 Major League teams in OPS from the shortstop position, and 28th at third base. But while Ash would not totally rule out acquiring a regular, he said, "it's not at the top of the list."
"We're in a pretty good spot, really," Ash said. "We're not out there looking, like we were in '08, for a front-of-the-rotation starter. Those are very hard to get, and we've got those. Now, we're trying to do the fine-tuning."
Saito's reinstatement from the DL on Saturday gave Brewers bench coach Jerry Narron a true test for his lineup card, written daily in beautiful calligraphy. He wrote both Saito's name and Twins shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka in Japanese kanji, the first time this season that Narron has had two such imports on the same card.