DENVER -- The Brewers sent pitching prospect Brandon Woodruff back to the Minors on Sunday with the promise he'd return in September to pitch meaningful innings, perhaps as part of a uniquely deep pool of starting pitchers.For now, the Brewers needed Woodruff's spot for Chase Anderson's return for Sunday's start
DENVER -- The Brewers sent pitching prospect Brandon Woodruff back to the Minors on Sunday with the promise he'd return in September to pitch meaningful innings, perhaps as part of a uniquely deep pool of starting pitchers.
For now, the Brewers needed Woodruff's spot for Chase Anderson's return for Sunday's start after a seven-week stint on the disabled list. Since they do not require a fifth starter again until Sept. 2, a day after active rosters expand from 25 to 40, the preference was to option Woodruff down to pitch regularly before he returns.
"I think he understands he did his job here," said Brewers GM David Stearns, who was part of the meeting in which the move was explained to Woodruff. "He understands he's going to be back here."
Left-hander Brent Suter will be back in September, too, as he has resumed throwing since being placed on the 10-day DL with a rotator cuff strain. If everyone else remains healthy, Counsell could have at least six starting pitchers at his disposal for the second straight September -- or even seven, if club officials see something they like in Junior Guerra since demoting their Opening Day starter to Triple-A last month. Guerra surrendered two or fewer runs in his first three starts since the demotion.
"One of the benefits of September with expanded rosters when you're in a pennant race is you can match up," Stearns said. "We can really take it turn by turn through the rotation, see who we want matched up where and against whom.
"I don't see us going into September with an assigned plan for the entire month. We'll take it turn by turn and see how we want this to go."
Does that risk diminished performances if starters are not pitching every fifth day?
"That is a trade-off," Stearns said. "There will be certain guys we do not take out of their routine, and there will be positions in the rotation we look to maximize matchups. We want to put guys in position to succeed."
Whatever the plan, Woodruff will be part of it.
"That's what I told him. I said, 'You're going to pitch meaningful innings for us in the month of September," Counsell said. "Nobody wants to go back down, but knowing that you're coming back shortly to play a part in some big games is something to look forward to."
• When the Woodruff move was announced Sunday morning, Brewers social media circles erupted with cries of, "Why not Matt Garza?" Garza has surrendered at least seven earned runs in two of his last three starts.
But in in first 16 starts this season, Garza pitched to a 3.68 ERA and a .249 opponents' average, including a 2.45 ERA in the six starts before the last three. Besides that, Garza's contract has an affordable $5 million option for 2018, which, if anything, could make him trade bait in the offseason.
"I think he had a length stretch this season where he was very consistent and gave us a number of quality starts," Stearns said. "Two of the last three, he would probably want back. But that comes with the territory in a Major League season."
• Stearns suggested that call-ups could come in waves, with a small group arriving Sept. 1 and more coming after the Minor League season ends. The Brewers' Triple-A and Double-A clubs are both in postseason contention, but the Major League club's needs come first, Stearns said.
• Catcher Jett Bandy, on the 10-day DL with a fractured rib, played catch Sunday morning and should resume hitting later on the road trip.
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.