8/10/2014 7:54 P.M. ET
Seeking relief help, Brewers pursued Johnson
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
MILWAUKEE -- After coming up empty in an aggressive bid to acquire a late-inning reliever by the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, the Brewers made a strong play last week for former A's closer Jim Johnson, the right-hander who was released by Oakland on Aug. 1 amid prolonged struggles.
A healthy number of teams inquired on Johnson as a comeback candidate, and Brewers officials got the sense they were a finalist along with the Tigers. Brewers general manager Doug Melvin and pitching coach Rick Kranitz each reached out personally to Johnson, who was open to going to Triple-A to figure out the issues which led to a 7.14 ERA in 38 appearances for Oakland this season.
The two previous seasons, Johnson saved 101 games for the Orioles.
He signed a Minor League contract with Detroit on Tuesday and debuted Friday for the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens. The Tigers have seen closer Joe Nathan struggle at times this season, and this week placed recently acquired reliever Joakim Soria on the disabled list.
The Brewers also inquired on Soria before the Rangers traded him to Detroit in July. Melvin also tried for Arizona's Addison Reed and Brad Ziegler, Colorado's LaTroy Hawkins, Boston's Koji Uehara and Andrew Miller, and San Diego's Joaquin Benoit before the non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Johnson was viewed as a potential setup man for the Brewers, who saw their own projected closer, Jim Henderson, derailed by early season struggles. Henderson has been on the disabled list since early May with a right shoulder injury.
"You look at what goes on from year to year, closers really change roles," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "Guys have really great years, and all of a sudden the next year, they're not doing it."
How does one explain the fickle nature of that job?
"The closer role is a little bit different," Roenicke said. "If you don't have the mentality that you can get over what happened the night before, you can't do the job. It's different when you're in the sixth, seventh, eighth inning. If you blow a lead, you're not losing the game. Somebody's not walking off on you. The mentality has to be a little different for a closer."
Hitless in Minors, Nelson doubles off Kershaw
MILWAUKEE -- -- Brewers rookie starting pitcher Jimmy Nelson doubled in Sunday's 5-1 loss against the Dodgers to extend his hitting streak to three games, which might not sound all that notable until you consider how he started.
Entering a July 27 start against the Mets at Miller Park, Nelson was 0-for-66 at the plate -- 0-for-59 in the Minor Leagues and 0-for-7 in the Majors. He singled that day against Mets right-hander Jacob deGrom, singled again Aug. 5 against the Giants' Tim Lincecum, and doubled in his first at-bat Sunday against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw.
Recapping: Nelson went from hitless over parts of five years to a three-game hitting streak against deGrom, who has garnered some National League Rookie of the Year buzz, and two Cy Young Award winners who have thrown no-hitters this season.
What does Nelson make of his first professional hitting streak?
"I don't know. That's just irony, really," Nelson said. "I got up here and got some tips and we hit BP every day. That's progressing as well."
Nelson's double in the third inning was only the second hit by a pitcher off Kershaw this season, and the first extra-base hit. It was the fourth ever extra-base hit by a pitcher against Kershaw, and the first since 2012.
Alas, Nelson didn't last long at second base. He broke for third on a bouncer to the shortstop and was out easily, the first of two Brewers outs on the basepaths in what became a scoreless inning.
"Jimmy Nelson isn't used to being out there on the bases," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said of the out. "That's always difficult."
Garza won't throw again until he's pain-free
MILWAUKEE -- On second thought, Matt Garza's stint on the disabled list for a left rib-cage strain will almost certainly extend beyond the minimum 15 days, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said on Sunday.
Roenicke had expressed a different mindset a day earlier, saying that until he was told otherwise, he was operating under the assumption that Garza would be back immediately. He had updated information Sunday morning.
"He's not [throwing] any time soon," Roenicke told reporters. "Now, I don't know what that means, but the next few days he's not going to throw."
Garza made improvements last week and was pushed in workouts, Roenicke said, leading to some soreness on Saturday.
"He didn't have a setback, but until he is completely pain-free in a bunch of different motions, they're not going to let him throw," Roenicke said.
Garza is eligible to return from the DL beginning Aug. 19, but, "it's not looking good," Roenicke said.
Off-days could allow the Brewers to operate with only four starting pitchers from Thursday, when Mike Fiers starts against the Cubs, until Sept. 3, but at the moment the club intends to continue to keep all five of its starting pitchers in order.
• Roenicke said it again Sunday -- "Khris Davis is our left fielder" -- and for the second straight ballgame, he proved it, starting Davis over recently acquired Gerardo Parra, despite the fact Parra was 9-for-25 lifetime against Clayton Kershaw.
"When [Davis] is swinging well, I want him out there," Roenicke said. "Numbers are great, but sometimes you can't go by just that."
He's more numbers: Davis entered the day with a .315/.354/.598 slash line against left-handed pitchers. Granted, none of them were named Kershaw.