4/30/2014 6:45 P.M. ET
Brewers' roster crunch forces Maldonado to hill
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- Brewers officials were considering a roster move late Wednesday to help fortify a bullpen so taxed that backup catcher Martin Maldonado was called upon to pitch an inning during Milwaukee's 9-3 loss to the Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
Maldonado delivered a scoreless inning as the first Brewers position player to pitch since Joe Inglett in July 2010. Manager Ron Roenicke said there was a "good chance" a reliever would be recalled in time for Thursday's series opener against the Reds.
"We're probably going to do something," Roenicke said. "We're going to confirm it later on. I just talked to [general manager] Doug [Melvin], and we'll talk again once we get to Cincinnati and see what we can do."
The possibilities are myriad. The Brewers played their series against the Cardinals with an injury-depleted bench, but shortstop Jean Segura and third baseman Aramis Ramirez are expected back in the lineup on Thursday night, making it easier to part with a position player to boost the bullpen to eight men if the Brewers opt to go that route.
The Brewers have so far avoided assigning right fielder Ryan Braun to the disabled list with his strained right rib-cage muscle, and Roenicke indicated on Wednesday the club would continue to be patient until Logan Schafer's DL stint expires on Saturday. Utility man Elian Herrera can be optioned, but his versatility is valuable to the Brewers in their current state. Second baseman Rickie Weeks has contributed little but is due more than $9 million for the remainder of this season.
Another option is to make a pitcher-for-pitcher move, which could potentially end the Wei-Chung Wang experiment. Wang, a 22-year-old left-hander who pitched in rookie ball for the Pirates last season, surrendered four runs and six hits in three innings against the Cardinals on Wednesday after Matt Garza exited with a bruised right thumb. Wang has pitched only four times this season, forcing Roenicke to use his other six relievers at a higher rate.
Only 20 big league relievers had been used at least 14 times through Tuesday, and the Brewers have three of them. Closer Francisco Rodriguez entered the day tied for the Major League lead with 16 appearances (all of them scoreless) and was deemed unavailable on Wednesday. Left-hander Will Smith finally allowed a run on Tuesday in his 15th appearance. Tyler Thornburg went two innings on Tuesday for his 13th consecutive scoreless appearance, and has pitched 14 times.
Asked whether the Brewers may be forced to reconsider Wang's spot, Roenicke said, "That's a decision that Doug is going to make. I can say what I think, but he's the one who puts this team together. We talk about things and try to do what's best for now and best for the next couple of years. It can't always be just 'now.'
"It's hard to have a crystal ball in Spring Training and think about getting off to a 20-8 start. Things that happen, you can't plan for everything. I thought he was a nice pickup, and we were hoping we could see enough of him to get a better read. I have a hard time where I am. I'm looking at Major League pitchers who have been out there for years pitching, and you get a comebacker and the guy looks at third base [as Wang did Wednesday]. Those things are going to happen.
"We know where he's at. He's got a nice arm, and we were hoping to see enough of him to get a good read. And we still may."
Among the relievers available at Triple-A Nashville are Rob Wooten, who is on the 40-man roster and has already appeared for the Brewers this season. Another right-handed reliever, Donovan Hand, is pitching well but is not on the 40-man roster. Top prospect Jimmy Nelson is also pitching well in Nashville's starting rotation and is on the 40-man.
"We can get back strong again in our bullpen again if we have a couple of good days," Roenicke said. "Just like it goes bad with one bad day, you can get it back with a few good days."
Of Maldonado pitching, Roenicke said, "Really uncomfortable. We all know he has a good arm. We all know he wants to go out there and throw 95 [mph], and my worse fear is he does that and goes out and hurts his arm."
Did Roenicke ask Maldonado not to air it out?
"I didn't ask him, I told him," Roenicke said.
"I was a little bit [disappointed]," said Maldonado, who topped out at 86 mph but thinks he could have touched 90.
Smith a late arrival to 'ERA Club'
ST. LOUIS -- "Welcome to the ERA club," Jim Henderson said Wednesday, referring to fellow Brewers reliever Will Smith.
Smith, a left-hander acquired from the Royals last winter, was charged with his first run of the season on Tuesday in his 15th Brewers appearance. Allen Craig's RBI triple off Smith tied the Brewers-Cardinals game in the seventh inning, but the Brewers went on to win in the 11th.
It left Francisco Rodriguez, who has a 0.00 ERA through his first 16 appearances, as the only Brewers reliever yet to surrender a run.
"I never thought I would get through the season without giving up a run," Smith said with a shrug. "My job when that happens is to get people out and try not to give up [more] runs."
Smith did that by striking out Matt Adams and Yadier Molina, stranding the go-ahead runner at third base.
Entering Wednesday, Brewers relievers had a 2.16 ERA, trailing only the Padres (1.81) and Giants (2.06) in the Major Leagues. Opponents entered the day hitting .194 against Milwaukee's relievers.
"I don't think it's surprised us; we believe in ourselves and we believe in each other so much," Smith said. "We feel like we can shut down anything, any time we go out there. It's a lot of fun."
Smith has mostly been a starting pitcher in his career, and he said the heavy workload so far has not presented any problems.
"This is kind of a break for my arm," Smith said. "I don't mind it. Hopefully, it's only 10-15 pitches every outing. I still feel fine every day."
'Wei-Chung Wang Wednesdays' a big hit
ST. LOUIS -- Brewers relievers started "Wei-Chung Wang Wednesdays" on a lark last week, but now it's getting big.
Bullpen catcher Marcus Hanel unveiled via Twitter the group's latest dance video on Wednesday morning, set once again to the beat of Wang Chung's 1986 hit "Everybody Have Fun Tonight." This one has legitimate production value, with Wang and his bullpen mates dancing in the shadow of St. Louis' Gateway Arch.
A Milwaukee Magazine reporter reached out to a representative of Wang Chung and yes, the band is aware of and enthusiastic about the Brewers' movement.
"It keeps us loose out there," said lefty reliever Will Smith. "But when the phone rings, all the horseplay gets cut out and it's time to work."
Can they keep it up all season?
"We already have some planned," said right-hander Jim Henderson. "I think the key is keep it simple, goofy and creative."
And keep winning.
"Of course, these things are always great when we win," Henderson said. "We have to keep winning. We're aware of that, too."
• The Brewers have altered the start time of their June 2 game against the Twins by 50 minutes. That game will begin at 6:20 p.m. CT and air, as usual, on 620-AM WTMJ in southeast Wisconsin.
• The Double-A Huntsville Stars placed Brewers 40-man roster member Brooks Hall on the disabled list this week because of irritation in his right elbow caused by an attached bone fragment. Hall received a cortisone shot, assistant general manager Gord Ash said, and the Brewers hope to get him through the season before addressing the issue in the offseason.