Woodruff set to return Sunday: 'I'm smiling, man'

August 3rd, 2023

MILWAUKEE -- For the first time in nearly four months, this is true: is scheduled to start a game for the Brewers.

Barring something unforeseen, Woodruff will come off the injured list to start Sunday’s series finale against the Pirates at American Family Field. It will be the right-hander’s first Major League start since April 7, before he landed on the injured list with a sub-scapular strain that represented the first major arm injury of the 30-year-old’s pro career.

“I’m smiling, man. It’s been so dadgum long,” Woodruff said after shagging fly balls during batting practice on Thursday as the Brewers opened a weeklong homestand. “Obviously, I hold myself to a high standard and expect a lot of myself, but just being healthy [after] not being able to play for three months up here, it puts a lot of things in perspective a little bit. I'm just happy I get to pitch."

Woodruff, a two-time National League All-Star, owns a 2.97 ERA since becoming a regular member of Milwaukee’s starting rotation in 2019. His healthy return would be a huge boost for a staff that has held its own in spite of myriad injury issues.

And Woodruff is not the only Brewers starter back in action. Left-hander Wade Miley pitched four promising innings in Wednesday’s walk-off loss to the Nationals in his own return from the IL. In Miley’s case, it was a left elbow injury.

“I feel like with our starting pitching, looking that far forward hasn’t done us any good, but everything that Woody has done in the last three weeks has been good news every day,” manager Craig Counsell said. “That’s the best news. It’s good news today as far as how he feels, how he looks. That’s the most encouraging thing.”

Woodruff is coming off a trio of Minor League starts in which he pushed his pitch counts from 32 on July 22 to 52 on July 27 (both for High-A Wisconsin) to 72 on Tuesday night for Triple-A Nashville. He expects to be in the range of 75 to 80 pitches against the Pirates on Sunday.

“I don’t know if there’s any expectations,” Woodruff said. “I’ll just be happy to throw a pitch out here. That’s the reality of my situation I’ve got going on; I’ve made two starts [in the Majors] and three in the Minor Leagues, so the reality is I’ve made five starts all year. Now when I go out there, my mindset is, ‘I’m going to go out there and put up zeros and do my job to the best of my ability.’ But I don’t know if there’s any expectations, you know, [with it] being my first one in a while.”

Said Counsell: “It’s definitely a big add. I feel like our guys have done a nice job, but obviously, if you can hand Brandon Woodruff the ball in a regular rotation, that’s what you want to do.”