MILWAUKEE -- Ryan Braun was not in the Brewers' starting lineup on Wednesday, with manager Ron Roenicke citing a flare-up of a right thumb injury that has bothered Braun for weeks.
Braun's absence comes with him squarely in the sports spotlight, after an ESPN "Outside the Lines" report renewed worry at Miller Park that he could face a suspension. But it was also notable because the Brewers sat cleanup man Aramis Ramirez on Wednesday as well, leaving the team without both of its usual middle-of-the-order hitters against A's right-hander Bartolo Colon.
Ramirez has been missing most day games following night games to rest a still-healing knee.
"I would prefer, ideally, to have them [off on] different days," Roenicke said. "Sometimes the way the schedule works out -- what was it, a week ago I had them off the same day, also?"
That was May 27, the first day Braun needed a break because of a painful thumb injury that has forced him to adjust his swing.
"It's the same thing with Braunie," Roenicke said about the nagging injury. "We gain a little bit, and then he'll have a game where it really bothers him. Somehow, we have to get rid of this thing in the thumb. We need our third and fourth hitters. We've got both of them that I'm kind of nursing along, and we really need production.
"I think for us to get on a roll -- we're pitching better now, and hopefully that continues -- but I'm concerned that the offense with [Jean Segura and Norichika Aoki] getting on base a lot, both [Braun and Ramirez] need to drive in runs, and both of them are trying to get by nursing some injuries that're really preventing them from playing well. Braunie hasn't swung the bat well for a while, and Ramie is kind of off and on, but he's not himself, either."
Braun entered Wednesday hitting .292 with nine home runs and 35 RBIs. He is batting .213 with one homer and seven RBIs in his last 15 starts, and is homerless in his last 51 plate appearances.
On top of that, the Brewers went into Wednesday's game 22-35, with Braun back in the spotlight after ESPN reported that Anthony Bosch, the former head of the Miami anti-aging clinic accused of providing banned substances to a number of high-profile players, had agreed to cooperate with Major League Baseball's ongoing probe. According to the report, MLB will seek to suspend some 20 players connected to the clinic, including Braun, based on Bosch's testimony.
Roenicke insisted he has seen no outward signs of frustration from his star left fielder.
"Not outwardly," Roenicke said. "He's frustrated, just like a lot of guys on the team are. He's frustrated for two reasons: Because we're not playing well as a team … and he's not performing at a level he's used to performing at. He has spurts where he does well, but he really hasn't been consistent for a long period of time. Because we're not winning, it becomes bigger to him."
Of the Miami issue, Roenicke said, "It really doesn't bother me, because I don't know what's going on, and really it's not an issue to me. If something comes up, it comes up later on, but I really haven't thought about this. The rest of the team, it's not an issue. It's something that's been ongoing for a while now. Why it came up yesterday, I have no idea. There's no reason for me to think any different about it now than I did in Spring Training."
Thornburg recalled after Estrada sent to disabled list
MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers placed right-handed starter Marco Estrada on the 15-day disabled list on Wednesday with a strained left hamstring and recalled top prospect Tyler Thornburg, whose role on the pitching staff was not immediately clear.
However, Thornburg pitched out of the bullpen in Wednesday's 6-1 loss to the A's, throwing two scoreless innings with three hits allowed.
Thornburg arrived at Miller Park before game time on Wednesday and reported to the Brewers' bullpen. The team will need a starter in Estrada's place on Saturday against the Phillies, but manager Ron Roenicke could not commit to Thornburg getting the nod.
"For Saturday's start, we'll figure out whether it's going to be him or somebody else," said Roenicke, who indicated the answer could be dictated by bullpen usage in the preceding games. "We have some other guys and could have a 'bullpen game.' We could do that if we needed to."
Thornburg, who pitched briefly as a Brewers starter and reliever last season, ranks fourth in the Pacific Coast League with 60 strikeouts this season, but was 0-7 with a 6.75 ERA in his first 12 starts for Triple-A Nashville.
He was pitching much better than those numbers indicate, argued two former Sounds teammates.
"I compare it to going up to the plate and lining out to everybody on the field," said second baseman Scooter Gennett. "Really, it was just bad luck. There were times they would score four or five runs and only one or two balls were hit hard."
Said reliever Donovan Hand: "He would cruise through four or five innings, and then some hits, not even hard hits, would get him. I was with him last year when supposedly he was at his best, and he looked the same to me. Good fastball that he rides up, and a good breaking ball. I don't see where that's off. Maybe his changeup has not been going as well as he wants it to be. Maybe this is what he needs -- a confidence boost."
Thornburg's stay with the Brewers could be brief. The team will have to send down a pitcher on Sunday when closer Jim Henderson comes off the disabled list, and could have another move soon thereafter if left-hander Chris Narveson gets through his third start of a rehab assignment at Nashville. Narveson surrendered six runs while throwing 35 pitches on Tuesday, and the Brewers will decide after one more start whether Narveson needs one more outing for Nashville, or if he is ready to join the Major League rotation.
Estrada injured his hamstring on a pitch in the fifth inning of Monday's loss to the A's. He will be eligible for reinstatement beginning June 19.
Brewers believe Weeks about to get hot
MILWAUKEE -- It was the ninth inning on Tuesday at Miller Park. Tie game, one out, two men on base, including the winning run at second. Rickie Weeks, booed by the home crowd when he entered as part of a double switch an inning earlier because it meant Scooter Gennett's early exit, worked a full count against A's reliever Jerry Blevins.
The seventh pitch of the at-bat was a slider, somewhat up and somewhat in. Weeks connected, and the ball sailed deep to center field -- where it was caught by Oakland's Coco Crisp.
Was that at-bat emblematic of Weeks' emergence from a long, cold slump?
"He's been good -- the last three, four days, really good," manager Ron Roenicke said. "That's a really good sign if he's coming out of this thing. It's really important for our offense."
Gennett started a second straight game on Wednesday and Weeks, who didn't play in the 6-1 loss to the A's, began the day batting .196, including 4-for-46 with runners in scoring position and 0-for-23 with 12 strikeouts with runners in scoring position with two outs. Jeff Bianchi had already been getting starts at second base in place of Weeks when the Brewers promoted Gennett, the Brewers' sixth-best prospect according to MLB.com, on Monday morning. Gennett, Roenicke announced, would platoon with Weeks until someone got hot.
But Weeks may already be getting hot. Including his eighth-inning single on Monday that sparked the Brewers' tying, three-run rally, Weeks was 11-for-34 over his last 11 games, good for a .324/.361/.529 slash line.
"I know most of it has been against left-handers, so hopefully that continues, and we'll see what happens with Scooter," Roenicke said. "We'll figure that out as it goes."
The Brewers only face one more left-handed pitcher on this homestand: the Phillies' Cliff Lee on Friday.
• Roenicke said right-hander Kyle Lohse is expected to be ready for his next start after developing some left hamstring tightness in Tuesday's outing against the A's. Lohse is penciled in to pitch Sunday against the Phillies.
• Thornburg's promotion caused a domino effect of prospect promotions in the Minor Leagues. Jimmy Nelson, No. 8 on MLB.com's list of the top 20 Brewers prospects, was moved up to Triple-A Nashville from Double-A Huntsville, and Drew Gagnon, No. 12 on the list, was reinstated from the Class A Brevard County disabled list and promoted to Huntsville.
Nelson was 5-4 with a 2.74 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 12 starts for Huntsville. Gagnon was 3-4 with a 5.16 ERA in 10 starts for Brevard County.