Brewers infielder Mike Moustakas will try to play through a fracture in the tip of his right ring finger, and is hopeful of avoiding an injured list stint. (Todd Rosiak of Milwaukee Journal Sentinal was among those to report the news.) Moustakas suffered the injury yesterday while fielding a ground ball and left the game after the sixth inning. X-rays were negative, though Moustakas isn’t in the Brewers’ lineup today. The third baseman-turned-second baseman has received mixed reviews at his new position depending on which defensive metric you prefer — the Moose has a +3.9 UZR/150 but minus-2 Defensive Runs Saved over 137 1/3 innings as a second baseman this season. No matter the position, Moustakas has continued to hit, with six homers and a .239/.349/.549 slash line through 83 plate appearances.
Free agent reliever Craig Kimbrel is “still in touch” with the Mets and Brewers, tweets The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, who notes that the Mets would only sign the 30-year-old if he were open to “any role” in the team’s bullpen. Rosenthal reported a week ago that the flamethrower’s price has dropped substantially, though whether or not he’s budged on the desire to pitch only in the ninth inning is still an open question. Both clubs’ pens have been far shakier than anticipated in the early going: indeed, apart from the lights-out performance of offseason acquisition Edwin Diaz, New York’s pen has arguably been the league’s worst. Milwaukee, too, has lost Corey Knebel to Tommy John, was without stalwart Jeremy Jeffress until this week, and has gotten middling-at-best output from all other contributors not named Josh Hader. Still, it’s the sloppy rotation – beset by a thus-far return to normalcy from Jhoulys Chacin and a gopher-ball binge embarked upon by rookies Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta – that seems most in need of the Crew’s attention. Allocating what little resources purportedly remain to anything other than a veteran starter would seem a curious choice indeed.
In other news from around the Senior Circuit…
- Per Rosenthal, the Giants are already “willing to talk” about some of their veteran relievers, though closer Will Smith doesn’t appear to be among the names on the list. Lefty Tony Watson, who’s seen his average fastball velocity dip to a career-low 91.0 MPH, figures to be at the fore, along with the richly-paid Mark Melancon. Sam Dyson, Trevor Gott, and Nick Vincent, all of whom’ve had strong 2019 debuts, would likely also be in the mix, with the former’s $5MM 2019 salary seemingly the impetus for such an early position on the block. The club would likely jump at the chance to move Melancon, 34, who’s owed approximately $29MM through 2020. The former closer hasn’t allowed a run thus far in ten ’19 IP, but signs of major regression lurk beneath: the righty’s allowed hard contact at a rate of above 40% for the second consecutive season (after a career-high of 27.1% in his first nine MLB campaigns), has seen his swinging strike rate plummet to a career-worst 8.0%, and is again failing to strike batters out at an alarming rate. Any Melancon move would likely need to be offset by either another bad contract or a significant chunk of change heading with him, but the ever-creative Farhan Zaidi may yet have something up his sleeve.
- Cubs reliever Brandon Morrow, who’s mixed occasional big-league appearances around a litany of DL/IL stints in his 13-year MLB career, has been shut down in his attempted return from a right elbow injury. The 34-year-old was scheduled to miss just the season’s first month, but “did not recover well” from a bullpen session he threw earlier this week, according to MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. The club, who’s already shuffled multiple bullpen pieces after a disastrous late-inning start in the early going, was counting heavily on Morrow to stabilize the mishmash crew. No timetable’s been set for the righty’s return, so the club will have to lean primarily on the well-traveled arms of Pedro Strop, Steve Cishek, and Brandon Kintzler in close-and-late situations.
The Brewers have optioned struggling right-hander Corbin Burnes to Triple-A, per MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy (via Twitter). Also heading down is reliever Jake Petricka, with Alex Wilson and Donnie Hart added to the active roster to take the openings.
Burnes, 24, impressed in a relief role last year after earning a mid-season call-up. But the hope was (and remains) that he’d be a quality starter in the long run. The Brewers decided to entrust a rotation spot to him to open the current campaign. After 17 2/3 innings of 10.70 ERA pitching, though, it was clear a change was in order.
In some ways, Burnes’s first four starts in the majors showed promise. He maintained mid-nineties velocity and a 14.1% swinging-strike rate while racking up 12.2 K/9 against 4.1 BB/9. Trouble is, opponents did quite a lot of damage when they did make contact. Burnes was tagged for eleven home runs (that’s an eye-watering 5.6 per nine) and a 51.7% hard contact rate.
The Brewers will hope that Burnes can sort things out at Triple-A. In the meantime, there are rotation questions to be answered. Freddy Peralta has had his own struggles and also hit the injured list, leaving two spots unspoken for.
Chase Anderson and Aaron Wilkerson are already up in the bullpen and could step into the rotation, though both have plenty left to prove. Perhaps Adrian Houser could be tapped for his first MLB start after a few prior relief appearances; he has thrown well in three Triple-A starts to begin the year. It’s also conceivable the team could pursue a reunion with Gio Gonzalez, who’s said to be triggering an opt-out clause in his deal with the Yankees, though there’ll be other organizations in on Gonzalez and that would mean freeing a 40-man spot.
Looking at the longer-term implications, Burnes will now need to earn his way back to the majors in order to push forward his service clock. Perhaps he’ll have a chance to do so, with paths available both in the rotation and relief corps. He’s sitting on 108 days of service at this point. That means he can spend only 100 days on optional assignment before he’d miss a chance at topping a full year of service by the end of the current campaign.
A fourth ugly start to open the season has put Corbin Burnes’ spot in the Brewers’ rotation in jeopardy, writes Tom Haurdricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “I think we’re going to have a longer conversation this time, and try to figure out what the best way to get him on track is,” said manager Craig Counsell after today’s loss. Counsell wouldn’t guarantee another start for Burnes and spoke of how he thought Burnes threw the ball well but had some mistakes punished in his first few starts; regarding Wednesday’s loss, however, Counsell suggested that Burnes didn’t throw as well and left far too many pitches in the middle of the plate — an assessment with which Burnes himself agreed. With Freddy Peralta hitting the injured list, bouncing Burnes from the rotation would create even more uncertainty in a starting staff that is already accompanied by plenty of questions.
As expected, the Brewers have activated reliever Jeremy Jeffress from the injured list. He had opened the year on a rehab assignment while rebuilding arm strength.
That’s good news for the pen, but the club surprisingly announced another shoulder ailment that impacts the rotation. Freddy Peralta is evidently dealing with a problem in that joint; details remain unknown.
Last night’s outing was another rough one for Peralta, who has failed to record more than ten outs in three of his four starts. He was lights-out in the other, an eleven-strikeout, scoreless gem, but carries a 7.13 ERA for the season.
Angels megastar Mike Trout, who has been unavailable for several days due to a groin injury, has shown improvement and will rejoin the Angels for their series in Texas, per Jeff Fletcher of the Southern California News Group. He remains day-to-day and it is yet unclear when he will be ready to return to the lineup, but the update is certainly welcome news for the Angels. Trout exited the Angels’ April 9 contest with the Brewers after suffering a right groin strain and remained in Los Angeles while the rest of the team traveled to Chicago. The club has managed well in Trout’s absence, finishing a three-game sweep of the Brewers and winning one of two games against the Cubs, with Sunday’s rubber match postponed. The news should certainly inspire some optimism for Angels fans, who have collectively been holding their breath since Trout’s injury. Considering the circumstances, it would feel like the best-case scenario for the Halos to get their franchise cornerstone back after just a handful of games, a stretch in which the team has maintained its winning form.
Here are the latest updates on other injuries from around Major League Baseball…
- Brewers reliever Jeremy Jeffress has completed his rehab assignment and will rejoin the Brewers on Monday, per Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Jeffress, a stalwart of the Brewers’ dynamic bullpen in 2018, has been on the shelf for the beginning of the season with a shoulder issue, which has since been resolved, says Haudricourt. He will join Josh Hader in a Milwaukee bullpen that will be without Corey Knebel, who underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this season.
- In Sunday’s victory over the Orioles, Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi fouled a ball sharply off his right foot and had to exit the game. In some good news for the Sox, though, Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com reports that x-rays on Benintendi’s foot returned negative results, though Benintendi will be day-to-day with a foot contusion. He was replaced in left field by Blake Swihart on Sunday, who could continue to serve as Benintendi’s substitute if he misses any time.
- Orioles righty Alex Cobb, out since April 6 with a lumbar strain, won’t come off the IL when first eligible, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com was among those to report. It doesn’t appear Cobb will miss much more time, however. Manager Brandon Hyde indicated he could start during the Orioles’ upcoming series against the Twins, which runs from April 19-21. Cobb pitched well in his lone start of the season, an April 4 loss to the Yankees in which he threw 5 2/3 innings of two-run ball.
- Seattle Mariners southpaw Wade LeBlanc will miss 4-6 weeks with a grade 2 oblique strain, skipper Scott Servais told reporters, including The Athletic’s Corey Brock (Twitter link). With LeBlanc headed to the 10-day IL, the team has called up right-hander Erik Swanson from Triple-A. Swanson will take LeBlanc’s place in the starting rotation and is slated to make his first Major League start on Wednesday.
The Brewers and Mariners have made a trade, per a Mariners team announcement. The Brewers will acquire catcher David Freitas from Seattle in exchange for minor league pitcher Sal Biasi. Freitas will report to Triple-A with his new team.
In Freitas, who had been playing in Triple-A, the Brewers will add veteran catching depth. The 30-year-old appeared in 36 games with Seattle last season, after spending several years in the minor leagues with the Nationals, Athletics, Orioles, Cubs, and Braves organizations. In 106 Major League plate appearances in 2018, Freitas posted an unimpressive .215/.277/.312 slash line. However, his Triple-A numbers in the last two seasons have been more encouraging: Freitas worked to a .955 OPS in 36 games in 2018, and the early returns in 2019 have been equally promising. He will enter the Brewers’ catching mix behind Yasmani Grandal and Manny Pina, with Jacob Nottingham also on the 40-man roster. Though opportunities at the MLB level may be limited behind the Grandal/Pina combination, Freitas should slot in as the third catcher if needed.
In return, the Mariners will acquire Sal Biasi, a 23-year-old right-handed relief pitcher currently at the Class-A level. Biasi was the Royals’ 11th-round selection in the 2017 draft, but was traded last season to Milwaukee in a minor-league swap. In 116 career minor league innings, Biasi has posted a solid 3.26 ERA and an even 9.0 K/9, compared to 3.9 BB/9. He will represent added depth to the M’s improving farm system.
Multiple reports over the past few weeks have linked the Brewers to free-agent closer Craig Kimbrel, though there have also been indications that the team doesn’t have the payroll available to sign the seven-time All-Star. However, owner Mark Attanasio didn’t slam the door shut on a potential Kimbrel signing Saturday, telling Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that whether the Brewers pursue the 30-year-old is up to general manager David Stearns. “He would help any team,” Attanasio said of Kimbrel, whose reported asking price looks sane in light of his vast career accomplishments and current skill set.
- Meanwhile, in the Brewers’ starting staff, right-hander Corbin Burnes is yielding home runs at a historic rate, Adam McCalvy of MLB.com observes. Burnes surrendered three homers in each of his first three starts, making him the ninth pitcher since 1908 to be victimized to that degree, per McCalvy. Although Burnes owns a a ludicrous 64.3 percent HR-to-fly ball rate across 14 1/3 innings this season, manager Craig Counsell said the Brewers aren’t planning to pull the 25-year-old from their rotation. Rather, they had Burnes meet with members of their analytics department to determine whether his fastball, which has left the yard eight times this year, has become too predictable, Haudricourt tweets. The hard-throwing Burnes’ sudden homer proneness is particularly unexpected given that the former top 100 prospect seldom allowed HRs in the minors; further, the long ball didn’t haunt Burnes to an alarming extent during his 38-inning major league debut last season.
- Late-inning man Jeremy Jeffress is expected to return to the Brewers after one more rehab outing, skipper Craig Counsell tells reporters including Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (Twitter link). Jeffress has been moving at about the pace that was hoped when it was announced he’d open the year on the injured list with a somewhat balky shoulder. He has been knocked around a bit on his rehab assignment, though that’s hardly the focus. Jeffress says he’s gaining velocity and feeling stronger as he goes. He’ll soon get the chance to try to replicate his magnificent 2018 season.
- While the Brewers are reportedly keeping an eye on the majors’ two best free agents, closer Craig Kimbrel and starter Dallas Keuchel, it doesn’t sound as if they’re expecting to sign either hurler. Assistant general manager Matt Arnold told Jim Duquette of SiriusXM on Sunday that the Brewers “do not foresee any additions at this point” from the outside. That may have something to do with the possibility that the Brewers, who are already running a franchise-record season-opening payroll of $122MM-plus, don’t have the spending room left to sign either player for anything close to what they’re seeking. Kimbrel’s current asking price is unclear, but there’s no doubt it’s lofty, while Ken Rosenthal reported Saturday that Keuchel may be looking for a deal in the $18MM-per-year range.