Garza to DL with rib-cage strain

Given the nagging nature of rib-cage muscle strains, it came as no surprise Tuesday when the Brewers placed right-hander Matt Garza on the 15-day disabled list, marking the first significant injury this season to one of the team’s starting pitchers.

The Brewers recalled reliever Rob Wooten from Triple-A Nashville to take Garza’s place on the roster, but they did not announce a timetable for Garza’s expected absence, nor did they immediately name a replacement for his spot in the rotation. Marco Estrada, who made 18 Brewers starts before he was bumped to the bullpen before the All-Star break, is the top in-house candidate to start Saturday against the Dodgers.

Garza felt the muscle grab on the 70th of his 71 pitches against the Cardinals on Sunday, and was forced to exit a one-hit shutout and watch the Cardinals rally for three quick runs against his replacements for a 3-2 Brewers loss.

“It was like, ‘Son of a gun,’” Garza said. “You put a bullpen in that situation where everybody is caught off-guard. Your starter has 70 pitches, nobody assumes he’s coming out.”

But there was no doubt, Garza said. He was coming out.

“I’m going to stay positive and say it’s not bad,” Garza said Sunday evening, “but it’s bad enough to where I had to take myself out of the game, and I don’t do that. I had to look at long-term more than short-term. I could have kept going and made it worse, and I could have been out, probably, the rest of the year.”

Garza has now been on the disabled list each of the past four seasons. He suffered what he described as a more severe strain in his rib-cage and back during Spring Training with the Cubs last year, and was sidelined until the third week of May. His four-year, $50 million contract with the Brewers includes some language that protects the team in the event of significant injuries.

Sunday’s setback came at an inopportune time for the team, which owned a one-game lead in the National League Central on Tuesday as it entered a homestand against the top two teams in the National League West (the second-place Giants, followed by the first-place Dodgers).

It was also ill-timed for Garza because he was pitching so well. He’d allowed only two runs on eight hits in 21 innings over his last three starts since a disastrous outing in Washington D.C. on July 19. Even with that one-out, five-run start included, Garza owned a 2.13 ERA and a .142 opponents’ average since the start of July.

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