Injury Update

By Nathan Petrashek

There are about to be a whole lot of roster moves, a reflection of just how crippled the Brewers have been for the first month of the season.  Some of them have happened already, some of them will happen tomorrow, some of them will happen during the month of May.  Here’s the latest on the Brewers fallen:

Jeff Bianchi activated; Khris Davis optioned:  IF Jeff Bianchi was placed on the DL this spring with left hip bursitis, which sounds pretty epic but is really just inflammation that can cause joint stiffness.  His unavailability led in part to the Brewers to pick up Yuniesky Betancourt, who’s knocking the stuffing out of the ball, so I guess we should all be thankful for that.  In any case, Bianchi is back now, which means the Brewers currently have four – count ’em, four! – shortstop types on the active roster.  OF Khris Davis, who has received just a handful of plate attempts, was sent down to AAA Nashville.  Bianchi hit .188/.230/.348 with the Brewers last season, although he sports a minor league career triple slash of .286/.340/.411.

Aramis Ramirez activated; Josh Prince optioned: Ramirez was down for a month after sliding awkwardly into second base.  Despite missing nearly all of April, the team will bring him right back into the fold, though he will probably see plenty of time off early on.  Josh Prince is being sent down to Nashville in a corresponding move.

Chris Narveson:  Narveson has been playing catch as he rehabs a sprained finger on his pitching hand.  He’s slated to return in Mid-May.

Mark Rogers:   Rogers, officially placed on the DL with “right shoulder instability,” but unofficially with loss of velocity, command, and everything else that makes a pitcher go, started a rehab assignment on April 23.  The Brewers will need to decide whether to activate him to the major league club or cut ties with him by May 23; he’s not likely to clear waivers.  For what it’s worth, Rogers has not pitched well since beginning his rehab stint; he’s walked 6 over 3.2 innings against just 1 strikeout, and has allowed at least 1 run in 2 of his 3 appearances.

Corey Hart:  Hart had right knee surgery in January. He just rejoined the team and is currently throwing, doing water aerobics, and exercising to strengthen his quads.  Hart, on the 60-day DL, is eligible for reinstatement on May 30, but it’s anyone’s guess whether he’ll make that goal.

Taylor Green:  Green started the season on the DL with a hip injury.  He elected to have season-ending surgery in late April.

Mat Gamel:  Gamel had season-ending knee surgery on March 8.

Starters Announced

As predicted, Yovani Gallardo gets the opening day start versus the Reds, followed by Wolf and Marcum.  Chris Narveson will pitch the home opener at Miller Park.  Brewers have yet to name a fifth starter.

I’ve caught some flack for dismissing Wily Peralta as a candidate for the number five spot.  I’m willing to consider that I underestimated him, but he hasn’t pitched above AA and his numbers there are hardly Strasburgian.  He’s not having the kind of spring I’m sure he wishes he’d be having, either, with a 6.00 ERA over 6 innings a 4 walks to 3 strikeouts. 

If Mark Rogers is ready, he’s the obvious choice, but I have my doubts.  If he’s not, I’ll stand by my Kintzler and DiFelice recommendations.

Disaster Strikes

Seems like there are only about six baseball players who manage to avoid the disabled list every year.  Zack Greinke isn’t one of them.

Of course, everyone knew it would happen eventually.  I was only half joking when I suggested the other week that the Brewers pick up Kevin Millwood now to fill in for whomever would get hurt down the road.  Fortunately, Greinke’s cracked and bruised ribs (injuries he received in a game of pickup basketball, of all things) aren’t expected to keep him out for more than four weeks.  But that’s long enough that Greinke will likely miss opening day.  So what do the Brewers do in the meantime?

Yovani Gallardo, Randy Wolf, Shaun Marcum and Chris Narveson are the pitchers still standing.  My guess is Roenicke decides to start Gallardo on opening day, followed by Marcum and Wolf in games two and three versus the Reds.  That would give us Narveson for the home opener.  Not exactly a name that inspires a ton of confidence in the fans.  But hey, if that’s how it shakes out, good for the kid.

So who becomes the #5?  Manny Parra, who has been maddeningly inconsistent in his past starts, is pretty much out of the question.  I get the sense he is now exclusively a bullpen arm, a role in which he was very effective last year.  Besides, he’s only pitched a third of an inning in Spring Training due to lower back tightness. 

Mark Rogers, one of the Brewers’ big-league-ready prospects, hasn’t pitched at all this spring because of shoulder tightness.  Shoulder injuries have sidelined him for a few years now, so you can expect the Brewers to take a cautious approach.  No help here either.

I’ve heard Wily Peralta’s name mentioned as a spot-start candidate, but I’m skeptical he’s the right guy.  Although he has logged more innings than many other candidates, those innings have been pretty unremarkable; in 42 innings of AA ball last year, Peralta pitched a respectable 3.61 ERA, but had almost as many strikeouts (29) as walks (24).  And he hasn’t really distinguished himself this spring, either, with a 4.50 ERA in four innings and 3 walks to 1 strikeout.

But I am intrigued by two other guys:  Brandon Kintzler and Mark DeFelice.

Kintzler was signed by the Brewers in 2009 and was immediately placed with AA Huntsville.  Since then, he’s had stints with AAA Nashville and appeared in 7 games for the Brewers last year.  Kintzler didn’t do so hot with the big league club (7.36 ERA in 7.1 innings with 9 K to 4 BB), but has some impressive minor league stats (2.95 ERA with a 5.50 K/BB ratio in 2 AA seasons; 2.36 ERA with a 3.50 K/BB ratio in 1 AAA season).  He’s performed admirably so far this spring, too, with a 1.59 ERA over 5.2 innings with 3 strikeouts and no walks.

Everyone probably remembers Mark DiFelice, who last pitched for the Brewers in 2009.  He lost the entire 2010 season to shoulder surgery and is currently on a minor league contract with a spring training invite.  DiFelice has made the most of it, going 3 innings with a 3.00 ERA with 5 K and 1 BB.  DiFelice was pretty decent with the Brewers in 2009, too, making 59 appearances for a 3.66 ERA and a 3.20 K/BB ratio. 

What’s clear is that someone who didn’t necessarily expect to pitch in the big leagues at the start of spring training might very well get an opportunity here.  Both Kinsler and DiFelice have shown promise and are likely making an impression on the Brewers’ new skipper, which could help their chances considerably.