Wooten up, Herrera down for Brewers
The Brewers recalled right-handed reliever Rob Wooten from Triple-A Nashville on Thursday in a move that was expected to help bolster a hard-worked bullpen.
The corresponding move was the interesting part: The Brewers optioned out 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 so far this season.
Herrera had been starting in right field while Ryan Braun recovers from a right rib-cage strain. Barring a surprise early return for Braun on Thursday night in Cincinnati — “He’s closer. He’s not going to play [Thursday],” manager Ron Roenicke said Wednesday afternoon — Mark Reynolds appears to be the top option to start there. He has appeared in right field three times in the Major Leagues, but never as a starter.
Lyle Overbay and Jeff Bianchi are also options for corner outfield spots while Braun heals. The Brewers could revisit the idea of a backdated stint on the disabled list for Braun when another outfielder, Logan Schafer, returns from the disabled list on Saturday.
With Wooten, who made four appearances during an April stint with the Brewers, Milwaukee is up to 13 pitchers for the first time this season. The team was able to make that move Thursday because third baseman Aramis Ramirez and shortstop Jean Segura are expected back in the starting lineup. Ramirez had missed two starts with a bruised left elbow, and Segura had been limited to bench duty since he was smacked in the face by Braun’s bat during a dugout accident on Saturday.
Wang, a 22-year-old left-hander who pitched in rookie ball for the Pirates last season, surrendered four runs and six hits in three innings against the Cardinals on Wednesday after Matt Garza exited with a bruised right thumb. Wang has pitched only four times this season, forcing Roenicke to use his other six relievers at a higher rate.
Only 24 big league relievers had been used at least 14 times through Wednesday, and the Brewers have three of them. Closer Francisco Rodriguez was second in the Major Leagues with 16 appearances (all of them scoreless) and was deemed unavailable on Wednesday. Left-hander Will Smith finally allowed a run on Tuesday in his 15th appearance. and Tyler Thornburg went two innings on Tuesday for his 13th consecutive scoreless appearance, and has pitched 14 times.
Asked Wednesday afternoon whether the Brewers may be forced to reconsider Wang’s spot, Roenicke said, “That’s a decision that Doug [Melvin, the Brewers’ general manager] is going to make. I can say what I think, but he’s the one who puts this team together. We talk about things and try to do what’s best for now and best for the next couple of years. It can’t always be just ‘now.’ We have to think about what happens down the road.”
Was Roenicke willing to share publicly what he thinks?
“No, he said. “Really, it’s too hard for me. I’m seeing a guy that pitched rookie ball. I’ve been removed from rookie ball for a long time, and I really can’t make a judgment.”
He conceded it’s more difficult for a contending team to keep a Rule 5 guy than for a rebuilding team.
“It’s hard to have a crystal ball in Spring Training and think about getting off to a 20-8 start,” Roenicke said. “Things that happen, you can’t plan for everything. I thought he was a nice pickup, and we were hoping we could see enough of him to get a better read. I have a hard time where I am. I’m looking at Major League pitchers who have been out there for years pitching, and you get a comebacker and the guy looks at third base [as Wang did Wednesday]. Those things are going to happen.
“We know where he’s at. He’s got a nice arm, and we were hoping to see enough of him to get a good read. And we still may. We’ll get him out there enough.”
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 has surrendered 10 earned runs on 13 hits including three home runs.
Weeks is batting .188 with a .256 on-base percentage as the right-handed-hitting half of the Brewers’ second base platoon. The remainder of his $11 million salary this season is guaranteed.
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