- The Brewers announced that outfielder Ryan Braun exited their game against the Rockies on Friday with discomfort in his left calf. The severity of the injury isn’t clear, but with Christian Yelich done for the year and Lorenzo Cain playing through injuries, a serious ailment for Braun would be another unwelcome development for the Brewers’ outfield as the playoffs approach. While the 35-year-old Braun is no longer the star he was in his prime, he has still contributed a valuable .285/.343/.505 line with 22 home runs and 11 steals on 12 attempts in 508 plate appearances this season. [UPDATE: Braun suffered a strain and will undergo an MRI, per Adam McCalvy of MLB.com.]
- Brewers megastar Christian Yelich, who suffered a fractured kneecap after fouling a ball off his right knee, is showing signs of progress more than a week after the injury. Per Adam McCalvy of MLB.com, Yelich could be walking with crutches in about a week, with the possibility of running as early as the end of October. That’s not to say that he’ll be ready in time for a potential playoff return, however. While that doesn’t make the absence of the Brewers’ franchise player any more bearable, it’s encouraging that he’s making progress in his recovery.
With Kolten Wong unlikely to play for at least “several days,” the Cardinals will turn to Tommy Edman at second base and return Matt Carpenter to regular duties at third base, per Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Wong is undergoing an MRI to determine the severity of a left hamstring strain he suffered in last night’s game, and his status for the remainder of the Cardinals’ season is up in the air at the moment. The 24-year-old Edman is the latest in a seemingly ceaseless parade of largely unheralded Cardinals prospects to immediately emerge as an impact contributor in St. Louis. A sixth-round pick in 2016, he’s never sniffed a Top 100 ranking, entering the season 12th among Cards prospects at Baseball America and 20th at Fangraphs. But Edman has hit at a .289/.325/.481 clip with 10 homers, 15 doubles, five triples, 13 steals and a 17.9 percent strikeout rate through his first 83 MLB games (302 plate appearances). He’d supplanted the struggling Carpenter as the Cards’ primary third baseman but will now slide over to second base, where he’s logged 857 minor league innings in his pro career.
More from the division…
- Pirates righty Jameson Taillon is taking as optimistic an approach to his second Tommy John surgery as possible, writes Adam Berry of MLB.com. The right-hander feels that he used the downtime from his first surgery in 2014 to improve other areas of his game and believes he can do the same this time around. “I’m seriously confident I’m going to find a way to get better from this one,” said Taillon. “Whether it’s mechanics, how can I take stress off my elbow, how can I get stronger, how can I age better, how can I dive into analytics and video.” Taillon acknowledged that he lost “a lot, a lot, a lot of money” because of the timing of the injury, which came on the heels of his first trip through arbitration and will wipe out his entire second year of arbitration. However, the 27-year-old also said he hopes to pitch for another seven or eight seasons upon returning from surgery and isn’t focusing on the more short-term financial ramifications.
- Brewers outfielder Tyrone Taylor had already gone home for the season and was in the process of applying for an offseason job with FedEx when he got the news that he’d instead be joining the MLB club, Robert Murray of The Athletic writes (subscription required). Taylor’s career has been filled with ups and downs, but after a series of injuries and poor performances, he put himself back on the map with a strong 2018 showing that landed him on Milwaukee’s 40-man roster. He’s been limited to a pinch-hitting role thus far but relishes the opportunity to not only be in the dugout for a playoff race but also to pick the brain of veterans players like Christian Yelich on a daily basis. “You want rookies feeling comfortable and welcome,” Yelich said of his talks with Taylor. “All of that is creating a culture – a winning culture.”
- Lorenzo Cain was forced out of the Brewers’ game Thursday afternoon due to left ankle discomfort, the team announced. Cain hit a solo homer in the bottom of the fourth, but was replaced by Trent Grisham in center field in the top of the fifth. Injuries have plagued Cain all season, as thumb, wrist, and oblique problems have contributed to his career-worst 76 wRC+ (from a .251/.316/.357 slash line and 10 homers) over 592 plate appearances. He’s “greatly wobbled,” per Tom Haudricourt of the Miilwaukee Journal, who adds that Cain could undergo more tests.
- Brewers righty reliever Corey Knebel is “continuing to make progress” in his recovery from the Tommy John procedure he underwent in March, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel relays. Knebel expects to return to throwing from a mound when spring training rolls around, per Haudricourt. It’s all the more impressive on the Brewers’ part that they’re in the thick of the wild-card hunt without having received anything from Knebel, who was one of their best bullpen options from 2017-18.
Brewers skipper Craig Counsell said today that top starter Brandon Woodruff will make his long-anticipated return tomorrow, as Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel was among those to report (Twitter links). He has been sidelined since late July with an oblique strain.
Without any remaining minor-league games to utilize for rehab work, Woodruff will obviously not hit the ground at full stride. The Brewers are clearly planning ahead for a truncated outing, though just how long he’ll last hasn’t been divulged. The club did indicate that veteran lefty Gio Gonzalez will take the ball from Woodruff.
It’ll be interesting to see how the 26-year-old Woodruff throws upon his return. Indications are that the team is bullish on his work to date, though game conditions will pose a different challenge. With a tight postseason race coming down to the wire, Counsell will need to extract as much value as possible from Woodruff while also ensuring he doesn’t push the valuable young pitcher too far too fast.
If the Milwaukee organization is able to sneak into the postseason, Woodruff will be a fascinating part of the picture. He likely won’t be fully built up to shoulder a full starter’s workload, but could be used in tandem fashion. And it stands to reason that his workload might increase with each successive outing, which could make Woodruff a larger and larger factor.
Woodruff will still be short of two full years of MLB service at season’s end, so he’s well shy of arbitration eligibility. But he’s on track to qualify as a Super Two at the end of the 2020 campaign. With ample cheap control remaining, Woodruff is a major piece of the near-future puzzle in Milwaukee. Thus far in 2019, he has thrown 117 2/3 innings of 3.75 ERA ball with a strong combination of 10.4 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9.
- The Brewers have climbed back to within one game of the Cubs in the NL Wild Card race, and Jordan Lyles is a big reason why, observes MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. MLBTR’s Jeff Todd noted two weeks ago that Lyles’ deadline acquisition from the division-rival Pirates was proving to be a quiet boon for the Brew Crew, and the tall righty has chipped in three sterling starts since then. As McCalvy notes, Lyles has made only small changes to his repertoire post-trade; indeed, catcher Yasmani Grandal attributed Lyles’ breakout to improved consistency in pitch execution and better sequencing. Soon to turn 29, Lyles is ticketed for free agency again this winter, where he figures to do better than the $2.05MM deal he wrapped up with Pittsburgh his last go-round.
With a .301/.369/.571 line, 16 home runs, and nine stolen bases in his first 295 plate appearances in the majors, Brewers infielder Keston Hiura has this season put on prominent display the skills that made him a top-10 pick in the 2017 Rule IV draft. Today comes word that the UC Irvine product is a little closer to putting those tools to further use, as Adam McCalvy of MLB.com tweets that Hiura did a full workout (including batting practice) before logging one at-bat in today’s game against the Cardinals (link). Hiura has been out with a left hamstring strain since Aug. 31. Though the club certainly awaits his return with eagerness, they have been doing just fine for themselves in Hiura’s absence. Saturday’s win brings their record to 8-2 over their last ten contests. They are now just 1.0 games back of the Cubs for the last Wild Card play-in spot.
- Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel provided a couple injury updates Friday on the Brewers, who are now a game behind the NL’s second wild-card position (Twitter links). Top starter Brandon Woodruff is still on track to return in the next week, but it’s unclear whether he’ll start or relieve. Woodruff will throw a bullpen session Saturday as he continues working back from the oblique strain he suffered July 21. And catcher Manny Pina, out with a concussion since Sept. 5, isn’t recovering as quickly as the team hoped he would, according to manager Craig Counsell. The Brewers have “to stack some good days in a row” for Pina before he’s capable of returning, Counsell said. Milwaukee has been in fine shape behind the plate without Pina, of course, as it boasts one of the game’s elite catchers in Yasmani Grandal.
It hasn’t been a good week for the Brewers on the injury front (obviously), but they’re on the verge of getting one of their best arms back from the IL, general manager David Stearns tells Adam McCalvy of MLB.com (Twitter link). Right-hander Brandon Woodruff threw to hitters yesterday, and the organization is “very pleased” with how Woodruff looked in that session. Stearns adds that the expectation is that Woodruff will be able to pitch in a big league game “sometime within the next week.”
Woodruff, 26, hasn’t pitched in a game since July 21 due to what is clearly a rather significant oblique strain. He’s been rehabbing for a bit now but won’t have the luxury of ramping back up with a minor league affiliate, so he could be used in short stints his first few times out, McCalvy adds. There’s not much time to build him back up to a full starter’s workload, though perhaps if the Brewers secure a Wild Card spot and advance into divisional play, he’d be an intriguing multi-inning weapon either out of the ’pen or in a truncated (by design) starting capacity.
Prior to landing on the IL, Woodruff had been the Brewers’ most valuable starter. Through 20 trips to the hill and 117 2/3 innings, he’d turned in a 3.75 ERA with averages of 10.4 K/9, 2.2 BB/9 and 0.92 HR/9 to go along with a 43.6 percent ground-ball rate. Woodruff’s 11.6 percent swinging-strike rate and 33.5 percent opponents’ chase rate were both improvements over the 2018 campaign, as was his 96.2 mph average fastball velocity.
Fielding-independent metrics and Statcast both loved Woodruff’s work on the mound as well. He logged a 3.09 FIP and 3.46 xFIP while generally excelling at limiting hard contact. Woodruff’s average opponents’ exit velocity was in the 93rd percentile among big league hurlers at just 85.7 mph, and only five percent of MLB starters limited opponents in terms of barreled-ball rate.
The Brewers have rattled off six consecutive wins and suddenly find themselves tied with the Cubs for the second Wild Card spot in the National League. Not only that, they’re just four games back of the Cardinals for the NL Central lead and have a three-game series in St. Louis set to begin tomorrow. It doesn’t sound like Woodruff will factor prominently into that series, but his looming return is all the more important to the Brewers now that they’re squarely back in both the Wild Card and division races with 17 games to play.