Villar nears rehab games; Feliz becomes FA

June 19th, 2017

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers second baseman , on the 10-day disabled list with a lower back injury, participated in a series of hitting, fielding and running drills Monday at Miller Park and suddenly is on the brink of a Minor League rehab assignment.

"I feel good. One-hundred percent," Villar said.

If Villar is playing in the Minors by the weekend, he could be ready to rejoin Milwaukee's active roster by sometime next week in Cincinnati. That would leave manager Craig Counsell to decide the proper ratio of playing time for Villar, who has slumped this season to a weighted runs created plus (wRC+) of 61, tied for eighth-lowest among Major League qualifiers, and , whose 162 wRC+ in his first 116 plate appearances leads Brewers hitters.

"That's a good equation. What Eric has done has really been a boost for this team," Brewers general manager David Stearns said. "He has earned a lot of playing time. I think we'll go from there. Jonathan Villar was a huge part of this team last year. He had a really impressive year. He has had periods this year when we've seen some of that and, obviously, periods when he has struggled. We'd love to be able to get him back where he was, so he's going to continue to get opportunities.

"But Eric has made himself into a really meaningful part of our lineup. I think Craig has the ability to balance that and give both of those guys a chance to contribute to our team."

Said Counsell: "I think there's space for us to give [Villar] some playing time. But we're looking for the players who are helping us win games, for sure."

Feliz becomes free agent

The Brewers fielded calls on after designating him for assignment last week, but his $5.25 million salary impeded a trade, so they released Feliz on Monday and absorbed the remainder of his contract.

Feliz became a free agent and can sign with any team. A new club would be on the hook for only a prorated portion of the league minimum salary.

"We waited through the period to see if we could work something out with another club, and we were not able to do it," Stearns said. "We had a level of interest, but when you're dealing with a player with that level of money left, sometimes that can stand in the way."

Feliz, who made a name as the closer for a Rangers team that went to back-to-back World Series in 2010 and '11, was coming off a solid season with the Pirates but was bit by the home-run bug this year. Besides allowing eight homers in 27 innings, Feliz pitched to a 6.00 ERA and a career-worst ratio of 1.4 strikeouts per walk.

But the velocity was still there -- Feliz averaged 96.4 mph with his four-seam fastball, according to Statcast™. Both Stearns and Counsell predicted another team would take a chance on Feliz as a bounceback candidate.

"Neftali is going to pitch for somebody soon, I'm sure," Counsell said. "I wish [him] the best. Certainly, he'll pitch for somebody soon."