CHICAGO -- Jacob Barnes, fresh up from Triple-A San Antonio on Sunday, said he saw only the first two innings of Jimmy Nelson's latest rehab outing but got the sense from being around Nelson in recent days that the right-hander is feeling more and more himself as he inches back toward the big leagues.
Nelson threw 84 pitches over 5 1/3 innings for the Missions at New Orleans on Saturday night, settling in after a pair of first-inning homers to allow three runs on five hits, with a walk and five strikeouts.
"He was sweating like he always does. Same old Jimmy," said Barnes. "I was like, 'Dude, I hope you have six jerseys.' But from the two innings I saw, he looked good.
"He's -- the mindset's there for sure. He's getting locked in. He's very routine-oriented; he's doing all that again. So he's excited."
What kind of report did Brewers manager Craig Counsell hear?
"Look, for me, he took the ball after five days, threw 85 pitches, performed. He felt good, is ready to do it again the next time," Counsell said. "It's exactly what you want to happen. Just keep pitching and taking the ball. That's progress and that gets us closer to him becoming an option -- and that's what we want."
Nelson will stay with the Missions and is scheduled to start again on Friday at home.
Asked what would come after that, Counsell said, "I don't think we're even thinking about it like that. I think we're thinking, 'Just keep going and pitch, Jimmy.' We're in a pretty good spot in our rotation right now. I think what we're trying to do is keep moving closer to becoming an option for us. That's what he's doing right now, and that's what yesterday was -- another step. In six days, he'll take another step toward that. It's progress and very good news on our side.
"One of the conversations we had when we signed Gio [Gonzalez] is, 'What if everyone is healthy?' That's what you want to say. That's the question you want to always ask. You always feel like you can come up with an answer to that question. It's the other question -- when you don't have an answer for the other question -- is when you're in trouble."
Braun sidelined by hamstring
Ryan Braun missed a second straight start Sunday with a sore left hamstring, denying him a favorable matchup against Cubs left-hander Jon Lester in a ballpark at which Braun has thrived in his career. Given the threat of a minor injury becoming much more serious, it was not worth the risk.
Braun hopes to return during the Brewers' next series in Philadelphia.
"I hope so," Braun said. "I felt the hamstring grab on me a little bit when I was tagging up from second to third [in Friday's win]. Obviously, I have to get to the point where I don't feel it grabbing when I'm jogging so I can get out there and sprint. I'm hopeful and optimistic that I'm back soon, but it's a hamstring, so you have to get it right. It's one of those things you can't take a chance with. You turn one to two days into one to two months real easily."
Barnes back, Smith sent down
Burch Smith earned his trip to the Major Leagues in the wake of an 18-inning game. He endured a trip back down in the wake of a 15-inning game.
The Brewers recalled reliever Jacob Barnes from Triple-A San Antonio and optioned Smith back down to fortify the bullpen after Cubs catcher Willson Contreras hit Smith's 56th pitch for a walk-off home run in the 15th inning of Chicago's 2-1 win. Barnes was brought back as a fresh arm to fortify the bullpen for Sunday's series finale against the Cubs.
It was only a week earlier that Smith was brought up in similar circumstances to replace Taylor Williams after Williams got extended work in an 18-inning win over the Mets.
"It's the reason I got here, so it's kind of hard to be upset about it," Smith said. "It's part of the game. I just came up and did the best I could. I'm just going to keep getting better and keep going."