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Opening Day starter Guerra optioned to Minors

Brewers call up Rule 5 Draft pick Wang in corresponding move
MLB.com

MILWAUKEE -- For the second straight year, the Brewers have had to demote their Opening Day starter to the Minor Leagues.

Last season it was Wily Peralta, who pitched so poorly again this year that he was designated for assignment on Saturday. A day later, the Brewers optioned Junior Guerra to Triple-A Colorado Springs in the wake of a second straight outing in which Guerra could not get into the fifth inning.

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MILWAUKEE -- For the second straight year, the Brewers have had to demote their Opening Day starter to the Minor Leagues.

Last season it was Wily Peralta, who pitched so poorly again this year that he was designated for assignment on Saturday. A day later, the Brewers optioned Junior Guerra to Triple-A Colorado Springs in the wake of a second straight outing in which Guerra could not get into the fifth inning.

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The Brewers called up former Rule 5 Draft pick Wei-Chung Wang from Colorado Springs to fill the open roster spot.

Wang converted full-time this season to relief, so the move left the Brewers with only three active starting pitchers. Matt Garza is on the 10-day disabled list with a right calf injury, but might be able to make his next start on Wednesday against the Cardinals. The Brewers will make a decision on that in the coming days while also laying plans for Guerra's next turn.

Among their options in the Minor Leagues is right-handed prospect Brandon Woodruff, who has completed a comeback from a right hamstring injury. Woodruff rebounded from a bad outing for Colorado Springs five days earlier in which he couldn't escape the first inning to pitch the first five innings of Saturday's 3-0 win at Las Vegas. He threw 69 pitches, 40 strikes.

The Brewers could also cover one of those games internally with Paolo Espino, who has been solid in the Minors this season (3.84 ERA in 63 1/3 innings for Colorado Springs) but has a 6.11 ERA in 17 2/3 innings in the Majors.

Or, the Brewers could trade for a starting pitcher before Monday's 3 p.m. CT non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Guerra, meanwhile, will attempt to reclaim some confidence amid difficult conditions. The Sky Sox are in Salt Lake later this week before returning home to Colorado Springs.

"I think Junior is at a spot for me where we need more strikes. I think it's just tough to survive pitching when you're throwing half strikes and half balls," manager Craig Counsell said, referring to Guerra's 143 pitches, 74 strikes over his last two games.

"It's just not sustainable. The misses [Saturday] -- we had spiked fastballs, and that tells me there's either a mechanical issue, but more likely to me, I think we just need to get his confidence going. I think he's just lost some confidence."

It was a swift fall for Guerra, who came to the Brewers off waivers from the White Sox after pitching all around the world. Guerra came out of nowhere in 2016 to go 9-3 with a 2.81 ERA in 20 Brewers starts, topping out at 97 mph with his fastball and generating swings and misses with a devastating splitter.

This season, Guerra was 1-4 with a 4.96 ERA. He endured two stints on the disabled list for leg injuries, including a right calf strain suffered in his first at-bat on Opening Day.

One change from last year was that Guerra did not pitch in Venezuela over the winter as he usually does. He wanted to pitch in his country's playoffs, but agreed not to at the Brewers' urging. Guerra also passed on pitching for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic.

"We could throw out 18 different theories. You pick your theory," Counsell said. "The fact is, he wasn't pitching well and we weren't able to get it right. I understand at this point we try to figure that out -- what was it? We've asked all of those questions, and you're never going to know the answer to that question. I can't produce the answer to that question."

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Milwaukee Brewers, Junior Guerra