MILWAUKEE -- Ten days since an unfortunately placed foul ball fractured his right kneecap and ended his season, Christian Yelich is still swollen, but improving.
The thinking on Friday as the Brewers entered their final series at home of the regular season was that Yelich would not travel with the team on its weeklong trip to Cincinnati and Colorado. He is on crutches for at least the next week, making travel difficult. And since the team’s athletic trainers have active players to tend to, it makes more sense for Yelich to do his rehab at Miller Park, where he has been working on an anti-gravity treadmill.
So far, so good, according to Yelich. The Brewers expect him to be running by Halloween before transitioning into a normal offseason, president of baseball operations David Stearns said.
“We’re waiting for the swelling to go down but every day, his range of motion gets better,” Stearns said. “Step 1 is he’ll be able to walk on it. Then you strengthen. There’s a lot of waiting involved at this point. The bone just has to heal.”
If all goes as planned, it will be a quiet offseason for Yelich, who remains squarely in the running for a second straight National League Most Valuable Player Award. Despite his absence since Sept. 10, Yelich is only one home run behind fellow candidate Cody Bellinger’s total, and Yelich led all NL players, as of Friday, in some of the most important statistical categories that many voters use to make their selections, including Weighted Runs Created Plus (174), Weighted On-base Average (.441), OPS (1.100) and the Fangraphs version of Wins Above Replacement (7.8).
Yelich, the reigning NL batting champion, moved into the lead in this year’s race Friday by virtue of the Nationals’ Anthony Rendon going 0-for-4. By night’s end, Yelich’s had the top spot at .32924, ahead of the D-backs’ Ketel Marte’s .32865 and Rendon’s .32759. Yelich is also third in the league with 30 stolen bases.
So, a second straight MVP Award is possible. If Bellinger or another candidate finishes on top, the consolation prize would be a more restful winter.
“Having a calm offseason would be a good thing,” Stearns said. “He’ll have plenty of time to prepare.”
• Lorenzo Cain said his left ankle felt “good enough” on Friday, a day after he exited the Brewers’ win over the Padres with pain in the joint. The Brewers’ athletic training staff was able to devise an effective tape job to stabilize the ankle so Cain could start the team’s series opener against Pittsburgh.
“He's gotten beat up, but he wants to be in there. He knows it's important,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “We need him in there against the left-handed pitcher, for sure.”
It appears the Brewers will face all right-handed starting pitchers the rest of the way, which could help in finding spots for Cain to rest. Left-handed-hitting Trent Grisham has had some success in place of Cain over recent weeks.
• After clearing every test since rejoining the rotation off a two-month stint on the injured list for a left oblique strain, Brandon Woodruff will start on Sunday against the Pirates, with Gio Gonzalez again likely to follow. The Brewers made that decision on Friday after Woodruff recovered from what he termed normal between-starts arm soreness.
• Yasmani Grandal returned to the lineup after Thursday’s rare day off but manned first base, giving his legs another day of relative rest. The plan is for Grandal to catch the Brewers’ remaining games beginning Saturday.