The Brewers are still in their sixth week of playing regular season baseball, and they already need reinforcements for an overworked bullpen.
The team on Saturday optioned outfielder Adam Stern back to Triple-A Nashville and promoted right-handed John Axford in time for an afternoon game against the Phillies. Axford gave the Brewers a 13-man pitching staff, and manager Ken Macha said it would remain that way for the “near future.”
“Whether that’s a week or 10 days, something like that,” Macha said.
Axford was excellent in Spring Training and continued to pitch well at Nashville, where he was 3-2 with a 2.03 ERA (13 1/3 innings, 3 earned runs) and two saves in 12 games.
Brewers relievers had combined for a 5.68 ERA entering Saturday’s game, the second-worst mark of all 30 Major League teams to Arizona’s 7.49, and a league-worst .292 batting average against. They had also been called upon to work 117 1/3 innings, the seventh-highest total of the 30 teams.
Milwaukee’s struggles at the back end of the bullpen with usually-reliable veterans have exacerbated the problem. Closer Trevor Hoffman already has four blown saves, matching his total from all of last season, and a 12.00 ERA in 12 appearances. Setup man LaTroy Hawkins was hit to the tune of a 9.23 ERA in 13 appearances while pitching with weakness in his right shoulder before finally succumbing to the disabled list. Hawkins will be re-evaluated on Monday.