Yelich placed on 10-day injured list (back)

April 18th, 2021

MILWAUKEE -- After holding out for a week in hope his stiff back would loosen up, the Brewers placed on their already-brimming 10-day injured list on Saturday.

Instead of calling up a hitter in Yelich’s place, the Brewers opted for an extra bullpen arm in right-handed reliever Eric Yardley. He pitched a scoreless inning in Saturday’s 7-1 win over the Pirates while Yelich watched again.

“Pretty frustrating to say the least,” said Yelich, who was off to a good start (.333/.459/.367, 139 wRC+) in his bid to bounce back from a down year in 2020. “You just don't really want to get out of the rhythm of the season. The stop, start, taking probably close to two weeks for me, at least, from not playing to playing games. It's something you've got to deal with and just get back out there, but it's disappointing not to be out there. It's frustrating that it popped up again.”

Yelich said “setback” was too strong a word, but the decision to place him on the IL represented at least a step back. since manager Craig Counsell had cited positive progress for Yelich the day before. The outfielder, who hasn’t played since coming out of last weekend’s series finale at St. Louis, was at American Family Field on the team’s off-day Thursday to resume baseball activities, and he took more batting practice on Friday before the Brewers hosted the Pirates. On Friday, Counsell sounded optimistic, pointing out that Yelich had always avoided the IL when his occasionally balky back acted up in his first three seasons with the Brewers.

A day later, however, the outlook had changed. The Brewers backdated Yelich’s IL assignment the maximum of three days, so the earliest Yelich can return is Saturday at Wrigley Field against the Cubs.

“We ramped it up [Friday], but we didn't go forward today,” Counsell said Saturday afternoon. “That was a sign that we just needed to slow down. So, we'll do that, take a couple more days without baseball activities and see where that leads us.”

Is there worry this could lead to a long-term absence?

“No. We're not anticipating that,” Counsell said.

Yelich joined second baseman Kolten Wong (oblique) and Lorenzo Cain (quadriceps) on the IL, leaving the Brewers without a trio of Gold Glove Award winners and lineup mainstays.

The Brewers remain hopeful about Wong, who was out on the field taking ground balls and running the bases on Saturday afternoon. Wong is eligible to come off the IL on Tuesday in the middle of the Padres series, but is expected to need a couple of days beyond that, Counsell said.

“The number of guys we've lost right now from an offensive perspective is definitely significant,” Counsell said. “It does change your offense, there's no question about it. Hopefully, it's a short-term thing and they're back in there soon.”

“We know we need them in the field,” said Freddy Peralta, who pitches Sunday against the Pirates. “We also have players that are doing the job, guys who are taking very good ABs and they are good on defense, too. So, we want to have Yelich and Cain back again soon healthy, that's important for our season. But we can play. We're ready to compete. We have good players behind Lorenzo and Yelich.”

Last call

• Counsell and the Brewers remain committed to letting 2020 National League Rookie of the Year Devin Williams work through his early-season slump in the Major Leagues rather than a low-pressure situation at the alternate training site. On Friday, Williams surrendered the first-ever home run on his signature changeup, a two-run shot by Pittsburgh’s Gregory Polanco in an outing that left Williams’ ERA at 9.82. Asked why it was better to let him continue to work things out in the Majors, Counsell said, “Because we think he's one of our better pitchers."

• For Yardley, this is already his second stint with the big league club. He was on the Opening Day roster, but yielded five earned runs on seven hits and three walks in five innings and was sent down April 11.

• Lucas Erceg, a former Top 10 Brewers prospect who has stalled since a stint in the prestigious Arizona Fall League in 2017, is in the early stages of converting into a two-way player, farm director Tom Flanagan said. A third baseman by trade, Erceg pitched in college at Cal in 2014 and ’15 before transferring to Menlo College for ’16, when the Brewers drafted him in the second round.

“Still early in process, but he pitched in college as well, so it comes somewhat natural to him,” said Flanagan, who indicated Erceg will continue to play a lot of third base.