Where We’re At

If you’d have told Ron Roenicke, whose squad was reeling with injuries at the end of spring training, that the Brewers would be playing .500 ball on the verge of getting Zack Greinke and Corey Hart back, I’m sure he’d have said, “I’ll take it.”

Hart and Greinke, two key cogs in the Brewers’ postseason aspirations, are slated to return at the end of April.  Hart began his rehab assignment Tuesday at AAA Nashville, going 0-2 with a strikeout.  The Brewers expect that he will need about 20 at-bats before he is ready to come off the DL.  Greinke has also been moved to Nashville after facing one over the minimum in three innings of scoreless ball at Class A Brevard County.

The Brewers have plenty of other injured players, though.  Sergio Mitre still has not pitched after being hit by a line drive on April 18, though he should be back soon.  Nyjer Morgan was placed on the DL today after a thigh bruise he sustained in an unnecessary collision with Pittsburgh catcher Ryan Doumit failed to heal; Brandon Boggs has been recalled from AAA to take his place.  Manny Parra (back) is improving and is expected back in late April, as is offseason acquisition Takashi Saito (hamstring). 

The pitching injuries have left the Brewers a bit short, but, by and large, the replacements have performed spectacularly.  Marco Estrada is 1-0 in two starts with a 3.46 ERA.  And aside from one mistake pitch to Shane Victorino that cost the Brewers a win against Philly, Brandon Kintzler has performed admirably (1-1, 3.86 era, 6:1 k:bb). 

The Brewers (9-9) are currently third in the Central behind St. Louis (10-9) and Cincinnati (10-9). 

The Crew starts a three-game home series tonight against the Astros (7-12) featuring ace Yovani Gallardo (1-1, 4.62 era, 13:9 k:bb) versus righty Nelson Figueroa (0-2, 7.31 era).  Gallardo has struggled mightily in his past two starts, but looks to get back on track tonight against a weak offensive lineup.  Gallardo has never lost to the Astros in Milwaukee, so lets hope the trend continues.

Climbing Off The Ledge

I confess, I was one of the guys holding his breath as Axford took the ball in the ninth inning of today’s 5-4 win over the Atlanta Braves.  He got behind young slugger Jason Heyward early, and ball four was a pitch that bounced about four feet in front of home plate.  Axford’s velocity has been fine, but his control seemed to elude him throughout the spring and as he blew his first save opportunity on Opening Day.  I was really starting to sweat when Axford started off two-and-oh against Alex Gonzalez.

But all my worrying was unnecessary.  Axford recovered and struck out Gonzalez on a foul tip, and started off the next two batters with strikes.  Both at-bats ended with the ball in play, but in the gloves of Rickie Weeks and Nyjer Morgan, respectively.

So with two wins in the books, Brewers nation can climb off the ledge after their 0-4 start. 

Fielder was back to his old self today, sort of.  He’s still searching for home run numero uno, but he did have three solid hits and had a hand in each of the five Brewers runs that crossed the plate.  Bet he’s happy to get that off his chest.

Gomez was back to his old self, too, but that’s not such a good thing.  He could have given the Crew an insurance run in the bottom of the 5th had he taken any kind of slide into home plate from third base.  Instead, he did some sort of late belly-flop maneuver that allowed Atlanta catcher Brian McCann to apply an easy tag.  Other than that, Gomez went 1-3 with a walk.  Yes, a walk, bringing his on base percentage to a sparkling .227.  I know it’s early, and I think Gomez has a longer leash than most think, but he’s going to need to improve both his average (.150) and on base percentage or else he’ll be watching Nyjer Morgan shag down fly balls in center the rest of the season.

And, last but not least, a big congrats to Marco Estrada on his first major league win.  He pitched a very nice game, going six innings with four strikeouts and a walk.  Other than a major mistake pitch that Heyward hammered into the right field bleachers for three runs, Estrada had decent control, throwing 54 of his 83 pitches for strikes.  He relied mostly on a 91-92 mph fastball, mixing in an occasional curveball and changeup.   I know he was primarily called up for this start, but I’d expect him to stick around for a little while while Zack Greinke continues to rehab.