PITTSBURGH -- The Brewers placed a second starting pitcher on the 10-day injured list in as many days on Sunday, and this time it was the man who pitched on Opening Day.
Jhoulys Chacín hit the IL with a lower back strain amid a flurry of moves the morning after a 13-inning win over the Pirates sapped Milwaukee’s pitching. The Brewers also optioned catcher Jacob Nottingham to Triple-A San Antonio in order to recall two relievers, Jacob Barnes and Taylor Williams, to help cover the finale of a four-game series at PNC Park.
The Chacin move came a day after the Brewers placed Gio Gonzalez on the IL with what manager Craig Counsell nebulously termed as “dead arm.” With both veterans shelved, the Brewers will call up Jimmy Nelson to make his first Major League start in nearly two years on Wednesday against the Marlins at Miller Park, and Freddy Peralta will rejoin the rotation on Thursday against the Marlins or Friday against the Pirates.
“Like I was talking with Gio, I haven’t been on the [injured] list since ’14 when I had my shoulder problem,” Chacin said. “I never really wanted to go back. It really stinks when you go on the [IL], but sometimes bad things happen and you can’t really do anything about it.
“It’s not the right time for me because I really want to go out, pitch and try to get better. Sometimes things happen for a reason.”
Chacin said his back didn’t stiffen up until he was playing catch Saturday, which explains why he didn’t mention being hurt during his extensive comments following Friday’s 9-4 loss, in which three of the Pirates’ seven runs against Chacin in 2 2/3 innings scored via bases-loaded walks -- including one to pitcher Chris Archer. Chacin, whose ERA rose to 5.74 through a dozen starts, did say that he needed to do a better job to keep his spot in the rotation.
Asked that night whether the Brewers would consider giving Chacin some kind of break, Counsell said, “We have to figure out how to get him pitching the way he’s capable of. I think that’s what our mission is going to be.”
Asked again whether that could entail a break, Counsell repeated, “We have to figure out how to get him pitching really well.”
A balky back provided an avenue, it appears, even if the timing presented challenges.
“With Gio going on the IL, not ideal timing, but that’s where we’re at,” Counsell said. “Maybe a break also can get him feeling a little better and freshen him up. If we can get past some of the stiffness, we can possibly work on some things in the bullpen. But down two starters on the same day is not idea.”
Chacin said he did feel a tweak in his back while swinging the bat Friday, but it didn’t affect his pitching. He routinely has dealt with minor back stiffness for the last 4-5 years.
“They said it’s inflamed more than we’re used to, and more in the middle of my back, so they said maybe it’s good to take a break to let it heal better,” Chacin said. “Maybe it’s going to help me when I go pitch after that. We’ll see.”
Mike Moustakas was out of Sunday’s lineup after being hit on the right hand by Felipe Vazquez’s 101 mph heater in Saturday’s extra-innings Brewers win, but said he was available in a pinch. X-rays were negative -- mostly.
“I’m good,” Moustakas said. “But my finger’s still broken!”
That’s right -- the X-ray happened to catch Moustakas’ right ring finger, which remains fractured at the tip from a previous hit by pitch. He has been swinging a hot bat despite some lingering discomfort from that fracture.
When they grinded out a 12-10 win in 13 innings Saturday, the Brewers handed a loss to a Pirates pitcher who had cheered Ryan Braun & Co. as a kid. Right-hander Alex McRae grew up in New Berlin, Wis. and graduated from Eisenhower High School in 2011 before college at Jacksonville University. He got a cup of coffee in the Majors last season, but appearances on Thursday and Saturday in this series represented his first games against the Brewers.
After Thursday’s appearance, McRae called the experience surreal. Especially getting Braun to ground out.
“When Braun came up, everybody was watching,” said McRae, 26, whose father is still a Brewers season ticketholder. “I got a lot of texts after the game, like, ‘I can’t believe you’re pitching against Ryan Braun right now.’ It was a pretty cool experience.”
McRae is one of the four active Major Leaguers born in Wisconsin, with the Phillies’ Pat Neshek (Madison), the Angels’ Jared Walsh (Brookfield) and the Tigers’ Jordan Zimmermann (Auburndale). Only McRae and Zimmermann stayed in the state for high school.
McRae thanked the Racine Hitters, a travel ball team that also produced recent first-round picks Gavin Lux (20th overall to the Dodgers in 2016) and Jarred Kelenic (sixth overall to the Mets in 2018).
“I think people are finally starting to realize there are some good players in Wisconsin,” McRae said.