6/1/2014 6:33 P.M. ET
Open to starting, Smith posts big month in relief
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
MILWAUKEE -- Left-hander Will Smith is one-third of the way to one of the best seasons for a reliever in Brewers history, but even with his recent success he remains open-minded about his long-term role with the organization.
In other words, if the Brewers asked him to move back to the starting rotation, he would do it.
"I want to be in the big leagues," Smith said Sunday, after he was named the Brewers' pitcher of the month for May. "I am being honest, because of what I went through last year [with the Royals], going up and down seven times. It put things in perspective, like, 'Who cares what you do, as long as you're up here?'"
Smith became quite familiar last year with the three-hour drive between Triple-A Omaha and Kansas City, but he now appears a big league fixture with the Brewers. They acquired him in a November trade for Nori Aoki and ticketed Smith for a bullpen role in 2014, with the idea that he could switch back to starting if needed.
It has been a good fit so far. Smith entered Sunday with the second-best ERA (0.36) among Major Leaguers who have pitched in more than 10 games this season. Only San Francisco's Jean Machi (0.33) has been harder to score against. Among pitchers who have logged at least 20 innings, only eight had more strikeouts per nine innings than Smith's 12.79.
The best ERAs in Brewers history for pitchers who appeared in at least 10 games belong to Julio Machado (0.69 ERA in 10 games in 1990), Ray Searage (0.70 ERA in 21 games in 1984), Doug Jones (1.00 ERA in 32 games in 1991) and Rollie Fingers (1.04 ERA and 28 saves in 47 games in 1981, when he won the American League MVP Award and Cy Young Award in a strike-shortened season).
Like Fingers', Smith's best pitch is a sharp slider. But asked to identify the key to his early-season success, Smith didn't mention that pitch.
"Getting people out," he said. "I'm keeping things simple. I'm not trying to over-think the situation. Get the ball to Frankie [Rodriguez, the Brewers' current closer] with a lead. If I do that, we have a good chance of winning."
While Smith was honored for his pitching, Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez was voted the team's player of the month for May after batting .354 with four home runs, 16 RBIs and seven stolen bases for the month.
Henderson cleared to throw but yet to start
MILWAUKEE -- Brewers reliever Jim Henderson on Sunday had cleared a mandatory shut-down period after receiving a cortisone shot in his balky right shoulder earlier in the past week, but he was yet to resume throwing as the club took a cautious approach to his comeback.
Henderson, pegged as the Brewers' closer before a shaky Spring Training prompted a change of plans, has not been throwing since experiencing a setback during a Minor League rehabilitation appearance.
"It's always a concern when you go on rehab and you have to stop on rehab," manager Ron Roenicke said. "So he's back in the training room, they're doing some exercises to get him to the point where there's no issue at all and then they'll go back to the throwing program. I'm hoping it happens soon, but I don't know. I haven't talked to him whether it's [Monday] or the next day where we are.
"This needs to go away," Roenicke added. "We don't want to start him throwing and have him go out again and all of a sudden have this happen again. We have to make sure that when we start him up that he doesn't have the issues. He's feeling really strong, in with the trainers and where they monitor strength and all, he's doing really well."
Brewers affiliates post strong start to season
MILWAUKEE -- The big league Brewers and each of their top two Minor League affiliates entered play Sunday in first place, part of a strong start for the organization.
• At 124-99 (.556), the Brewers' Minor League system entered the day with the fourth-best winning percentage among all organizations, trailing the Mets (.607), D-backs (.594) and Rangers (.558). The 124 wins tied the Astros for third most, behind the Mets and D-backs (133 wins each).
• The Triple-A Nashville Sounds led the Pacific Coast League's American Northern Division with a 31-26 record (.544), two and a half games ahead of New Orleans. Right-hander Mike Fiers entered his Sunday start with 85 strikeouts, most of any Minor League pitcher, and Nashville's pitching staff led the league with a 3.42 ERA.
• The Double-A Huntsville Stars had the most wins in baseball at 39-17 (.696). The Stars began the day on an eight-game winning streak and led the Southern League's North Division by 12 1/2 games. Right-hander Tyler Cravy was leading the way at 8-1 with a 1.76 ERA in 12 games (10 starts). His ERA led the Southern League.
• Huntsville owned the second-best team ERA in the Southern League (2.90), and Class A Advanced Brevard County had the second-best team ERA in the Florida State League (2.65).
• In the Class A Midwest League, Wisconsin catcher Clint Coulter was tied for the league lead with 19 home runs and ranked second with 39 RBIs. He was Milwaukee's top Draft pick in 2011.
• Right-hander Wily Peralta said he was not experiencing any back discomfort on Sunday, a day after he was briefly visited by Roenicke and head athletic trainer Dan Wright during a start against the Cubs. That scare came in the second inning, and Peralta was able to remain in the game into the sixth.
• Aramis Ramirez went 0-for-2 on Sunday, the first day of his rehab assignment with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. He popped out to second base in his first at-bat and struck out in his second. He played four innings at third base and recorded one defensive putout but did not return in the fifth inning after the game was delayed by rain.
Ramirez was scheduled to continue his rehab assignment on Monday, weather permitting. After Sunday's 9-0 victory over the Cubs, Roenicke suggested that Ramirez would join the Brewers on Wednesday in Minnesota.
"We'll see what's happening with rain up there, but hopefully he can play tomorrow, get back here, take a day and maybe Wednesday," Roenicke said. "I've talked to [GM] Doug [Melvin] about it, and that's what we're planning, but those things change. Maybe the weather changes that a little bit."