5/1/2014 8:31 P.M. ET
Brewers promote Wooten to fortify bullpen
By Alyson Footer and Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
CINCINNATI -- Rob Wooten understands it's likely this big league stint won't last very long, but he intends to make it very hard for the Brewers to make that decision, if they are thinking of sending him back down anytime soon.
Circumstances, more than performance, often dictate an on-the-bubble player, especially when it comes to relievers. There is a need for Wooten right now -- a big one, given how far the bullpen has been stretched of late -- but he may be expendable if Logan Schafer is deemed ready to come off the disabled list when he's eligible Saturday.
Still, Wooten, who was up with the Brewers from April 13-20, is ready and willing as he joins a bullpen that has swelled to eight relievers.
"There's tired guys down there," he said. "I'm here to hopefully relieve those guys a little bit."
The corresponding move was the interesting part: The Brewers optioned utility man Elian Herrera, choosing to hold onto Rule 5 Draft pick Wei-Chung Wang and second baseman Rickie Weeks, the two members of the Opening Day roster who have played the least this season.
With Wooten, who made four appearances during his first stint with the Brewers, Milwaukee is up to 13 pitchers for the first time this season, including eight in a terrific bullpen that entered Thursday fourth in the Majors with a 2.45 ERA despites Wang's 10 earned runs in six innings.
"We know how important the arms are," manager Ron Roenicke said. "We know that to keep the bullpen fresh and strong for the rest of the year that we can't keep going at this pace."
Bullpen help was deemed a priority because the Brewers have three of the 24 most-used relievers in the Major Leagues, in terms of appearances. Closer Francisco Rodriguez was second in the Majors with 16 games (all of them scoreless) and was deemed unavailable Wednesday. Left-hander Will Smith finally allowed a run on Tuesday in his 15th game. Tyler Thornburg went two innings on Tuesday for his 13th consecutive scoreless appearance and has pitched 14 times.
Wooten last pitched Saturday with Triple-A Nashville, so he should be well rested for the first couple of games of the Brewers' series in Cincinnati.
"I'm pretty fresh," he said. "I'm ready to go -- chomping at the bit."
Because the Brewers have been playing -- and winning -- so many close games, Wang has pitched four times in the team's first 28 games; two scoreless appearances and two more during which he surrendered 10 earned runs on 13 hits including three home runs.
Weeks was batting .188 with a .257 on-base percentage in 35 plate appearances as the right-handed-hitting half of the Brewers' second-base platoon. The remainder of his $11 million salary this season is guaranteed.
Reynolds fills in at right field for Brewers
CINCINNATI -- Over eight seasons and 988 games in the big leagues, Mark Reynolds' positional breakdown is as follows: 713 games at third base, 268 at first, four at second and three in right field.
Well, make that four in right field.
Reynolds got the start there for Thursday's opener in Cincinnati, out of sheer necessity. Elian Herrera's demotion left the Brewers a little short-handed in the outfield, considering Ryan Braun is still recovering from an oblique strain and Logan Schafer is on the DL for a hamstring injury.
That leaves Carlos Gomez and Khris Davis as the only two fully healthy outfielders, which created a need for someone -- in this case, Reynolds -- to get a spot start out there.
"You could kind of see it coming when they sent Herrera down and Brauny still can't play, and Schafer's still coming back from the hamstring thing," Reynolds said. "I'll go out there and give it a whirl."
There's not much preparation required, other than abandoning his normal infield pregame routine in order to shag fly balls and get acclimated to the outfield during batting practice.
"I'm all right with it," he said. "I'll go out during BP and just shag and try to figure out the surroundings out there, and do the best I can."
Lyle Overbay also was an option to get a spot start in the outfield, but Roenicke ultimately gave the nod to Reynolds, based on who played there more during Spring Training.
Braun approaching return; Garza's thumb improving
CINCINNATI -- Ryan Braun was quick to say that he had no major updates to report on his sore oblique, other than he felt he was making progress toward returning to game action.
"I'm always optimistic, but I think if I look too far ahead ... we don't have a target date or anything like that," he said. "I get as much treatment as I can and hope that it gets better. It's headed in the right direction. It's getting better for sure."
The outfielder hasn't played since last Saturday and could return this weekend. So far there hasn't been any serious discussion to place him on the disabled list.
"He has to be able to do some baseball activity," manager Ron Roenicke said. "We feel like whether it's Saturday or Sunday, we'll get him back in."
Meanwhile, Matt Garza, who left his start in St. Louis on Wednesday with a bruised right thumb, is also making progress.
"The trainers are happy," Roenicke said. "He's still black and blue, but the swelling's gone down. I don't know if it's gone completely."
Garza will be further evaluated during a side session Friday.
"We think everything's going to be fine," Roenicke said. "If he goes out there and says he can't do it, we'll have to change our plan."
• Francisco Rodriguez missed significant time during Spring Training due to a couple of issues and didn't find out until the very end that he had won the closer's job. No wonder he referred to the last couple of months as "crazy," seeing that he ended up as the Brewers Pitcher of the Month after a stellar April.
"K-Rod" did not allow a run over 16 innings and logged 13 saves in a month that saw the Brewers run their record to 20-8. Rodriguez struck out 23, and opponents batted just .132 against him.
"I would say it's been a crazy couple of months," he said. "To be able to bounce back and have a good month without having all the strength that I was looking for, I feel good about it."
Additionally, Carlos Gomez was named Brewers Player of the Month after hitting .293 with seven homers and 15 RBIs.
• Wooten was in the right place at the right time when he was called up, seeing the Triple-A Nashville club was playing at home when he got the news. Nashville is just a four-hour drive from Cincinnati, so Wooten and his wife were able to drive up to meet the Brewers for their series with the Reds.
Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter. Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.