7/11/2014 11:00 P.M. ET
Roenicke: 'Impossible' to keep Nelson in Minors
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
MILWAUKEE -- If the slumping Brewers had a hitting version of Jimmy Nelson, the pitching prospect who tore up the Triple-A Pacific Coast League during the first half of the season, he might have been promoted Thursday night, too.
But the Brewers do not have a big league-ready hitter like that, so Nelson arrived solo to join a team that had lost nine of its last 10 games and was seeking a proverbial shot in the arm. Rule 5 Draftee Wei-Chung Wang was moved to the disabled list to make room for Nelson on the active roster, and Marco Estrada was bumped to the bullpen so Nelson can start Saturday night against the Cardinals.
"Things aren't going as well the last week, week and a half, and I think that any time you do something that the players are excited about, I think it's good," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "That's not a snub on Marco, it's just a guy [Nelson] that has probably been the best pitcher in the Minor Leagues."
Nelson, 25, who also started one game for the Brewers last September and one game in Miami in May, was 10-2 with a 1.46 ERA in 17 games (16) starts this season in Nashville while holding opponents to a .179 average.
Fifteen of Nelson's 16 starts were quality starts, and his last three were scoreless.
"Even though Marco's pitched, we think, better the last four games," Roenicke said, "Jimmy was making it impossible for us to keep him down there."
Nelson joined a team stuck in a slump, averaging only 2.5 runs per game over its past 10 games.
Did that backdrop add any pressure?
"No, not really," Nelson said. "I'm going to carry out my game plan. I've been doing my same routine all year, and I'm going to focus on my game plan and executing my pitches. …
"Personally, I felt like I was ready [for a promotion], but at the same time, there were things I was working on. There's things you are always polishing up and refining."
Roenicke declined to say definitively that Nelson was a permanent addition to a rotation that ranked ninth in the National League with a 3.80 ERA. Estrada had held opponents to a .222 average over his past three starts, but owns a 4.96 ERA and had allowed 27 home runs -- eight more than any other Major League pitcher entering Friday's games.
"He wasn't happy. I don't want him to be happy," Roenicke said. "But he understood."
Estrada's next appearance will be his first Major League outing in relief since July 8, 2012, snapping a streak of 54 starts. The Brewers briefly discussed adding Nelson to the bullpen to help solve the recent struggles of setup men Brandon Kintzler and Will Smith, but decided Nelson could help the team more as a starter.
"It's just that I think this guy deserved a chance," Roenicke said. "[General manager] Doug [Melvin] has been talking to me about him and wanting to make a change. Regardless of which area of our game isn't going well right now, we felt it was the right time to do it."
Uecker reunites with Costas in MLB Network booth
MILWAUKEE -- Bob Costas has anchored nine Olympic Games and been on the mic for World Series games, Super Bowls and NBA Finals. So where did his on-air reunion Friday night with old friend Bob Uecker rank among those broadcast endeavors?
"At least in my top 500," Costas said.
It was the sort of quick, deadpan answer usually provided by Uecker, the 80-year-old voice of the Brewers and a longtime favorite of Costas. They worked together beginning in the 1990s on NBC Game of the Week telecasts and have reprised the relationship dozens of times since, sometimes in Spring Training, sometimes during the regular season on the Brewers Radio Network. On Friday, Uecker joined Costas in the middle innings of an MLB Network telecast.
What's the funniest thing Uecker has ever said in Costas' presence?
"The funniest things," Costas said, "you can't print, and I can't say."
Here's a favorite story that is suitable for print: In the late 1990s, the two were working a Rangers-Yankees playoff game. During a particular tense moment, late in the game, the director cut from one close-up to another and Costas rattled off the names. Joe Torre. Andy Pettitte. Johnny Oates. Juan Gonzalez.
Uecker remained silent. Then the camera cut to a full moon above the stadium, and Uecker finally spoke up:
Costas still cracks up telling the story for the hundredth time.
But in the end, his favorite thing about Uecker is his enduring love of the game.
"He still loves it," Costas said. "It's the rhythm of his life. He's pushing 80 and he still sounds great. I think he'd have less energy and be less happy if he wasn't around the ballpark all the time."
Lucroy named to All-Star starting lineup
MILWAUKEE -- With the first-place Brewers fighting a funk, catcher Jonathan Lucroy was not eager to discuss being added to the National League's starting lineup for Tuesday's All-Star Game.
"I'm starting today," Lucroy said, indicating his focus was on the Brewers' remaining three games before the All-Star break, and not the All-Star break itself.
By virtue of being the leading vote-getter on the player ballot, Lucroy was an automatic replacement for an injured Yadier Molina in the starting lineup, giving the Brewers a trio of starters (Lucroy, center fielder Carlos Gomez and third baseman Aramis Ramirez) for the second time in franchise history. The Brewers also had three starters in 2011.
Lucroy will be only the second Brewers catcher to start an All-Star Game. Ted Simmons started in 1983.
"It will be fun," Lucroy said. "I hate it because it's an injury. The whole injury thing is brutal. But like I said, it is what it is and I'm going to do my best to help the team win."
Lucroy said he had no inside information about who NL manager Mike Matheny of the Cardinals will choose to start the All-Star Game. Since the Brewers and Cardinals were playing an important weekend series at Miller Park -- the Brewers entered with a two-game lead over the Cards in the NL Central -- Lucroy doubted they would chat about it before meeting in Minneapolis.
"Any of those guys are going to be good, whether it's [Adam] Wainwright or [Clayton] Kershaw or whoever else is in the running for it," Lucroy said. "It's going to be awesome to catch any of those guys."
Brewers place Wang on DL with shoulder tightness
MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers placed Rule 5 Draft pick Wei-Chung Wang on the disabled list late Thursday with what the club said was left shoulder tightness, a move that could actually increase Wang's workload in the coming weeks.
Because of his inexperience -- Wang pitched in rookie ball last year -- the 22-year-old appeared only 13 times during the Brewers' first 93 games and compiled a 11.12 ERA. Roenicke said the plan called for several weeks of rest before Wang began a throwing program, followed by a Minor League rehabilitation assignment. The Brewers could even have Wang start some games, which would be his role in the Minors beginning next season.
That could take the parties all the way to September, when rosters expand and Wang could return to the Majors to watch what the Brewers hope is a pennant race.
"This came up pretty fast yesterday, and ... we haven't talked about whether he was going to start once he comes back or whether he was going to relieve," Roenicke said.
Rule 5 Draft rules demand that a player remain on his claiming team's roster all season, including at least 90 days of active duty. Wang has already fulfilled that requirement, so even if he remains on the DL for the rest of the season, he would be a part of the Brewers for the future.
The rules required a physician to certify that Wang is actually injured, a safeguard meant to prevent teams from inventing reasons to place Rule 5 picks on the DL.
Asked whether the DL stint could benefit Wang's development, Roenicke said, "Sure. That's the hard thing with what we were doing with him, is it was so inconsistent as to what we were doing. He would go 10 days, sometimes 12 days. That's what makes it so hard -- you want to develop him, and you also want him to pitch well for you, yet the inconsistent work is tough on a guy."