MILWAUKEE -- Brewers manager Craig Counsell said Christian Yelich took "a big step" in his comeback from a stiff back on Monday, when the outfielder and club officials expressed equal confidence he will avoid the disabled list.
Now, can Yelich make similar progress in the final days of All-Star Game balloting? It will require a big step, to say the least.
Yelich remained 10th and Lorenzo Cain 12th among National League outfielders when Major League Baseball's final Monday afternoon update was released with four days remaining to vote. The top three will form the league's starting outfield.
• Vote Brewers for the 2018 MLB All-Star Game
Of more immediate concern to Yelich was getting back on the field. He hasn't played since leaving Thursday's game in Cincinnati after one at-bat, but he took early batting practice on Monday and fielded fly balls in the outfield. He remained off-limits for Monday's game against the Twins.
"We're getting closer," Yelich said. "Every day has been better so far."
Fans may cast votes for starters at MLB.com and all 30 club sites -- on computers, tablets and smartphones -- exclusively online using the 2018 Camping World MLB All-Star Ballot until Thursday at 10:59 p.m. CT. On smartphones and tablets, fans can also access the ballot via the MLB At Bat and MLB Ballpark mobile apps. Each fan can vote up to five times in any 24-hour period, for a maximum of 35 ballots cast.
Following the announcement of this year's All-Star starters, reserves and pitchers, fans should return to MLB.com and cast their 2018 Camping World MLB All-Star Final Vote for the final player on each league's roster. Then on Tuesday, July 17, while watching the 2018 All-Star Game presented by Mastercard live on FOX, fans may visit MLB.com to submit their choices for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet with the 2018 MLB All-Star Game MVP Vote.
Nate Orf, freed
In need of a bat with Yelich sidelined at least another day, the Brewers' decision-makers thrilled fans who had been pushing a #FreeNateOrf movement on social media, not to mention Orf himself, by promoting the former undrafted free agent to the Major Leagues on Monday.
To make room for the 28-year-old Orf, who went right into the starting lineup at second base against the Twins, the Brewers optioned reliever Aaron Wilkerson back to Triple-A Colorado Springs.
Orf, a former catcher who converted to the infield at Baylor University after undergoing Tommy John surgery, told a story about Brewers scout Brian Sankey asking him if he would sign for $1,000 if Sankey could get it approved. Orf responded that, heck, he would sign for a Snickers bar.
He wound up getting $500.
"I cost myself $500," Orf said after making it to the Majors. "Not a good move."
His persistence, however, paid off. Orf batted .291 with a .388 on-base percentage over parts of six Minor League seasons before Monday's promotion, capped by a two-homer, four-hit game for Colorado Springs on Sunday.
"Let's go," he said. "I played a game 24 hours ago and the swing feels nice right now. I think it's best-case scenario, jump right into it feeling good at the plate. … Yesterday, I hit two home runs in the game and I was standing out in the dirt thinking, 'You're going to have to go earn this thing. You're going to have to produce and force a hand to get up there.'
"Little did I know, an hour later, I was getting the call."
SkySox manager Rick Sweet broke the news in the middle of a full clubhouse.
"It's the day you put all the work in for," Orf said. "This is why I signed for $500, to grind out as long as I needed to, to have this day come. To see it come to fruition. It's what it was all about the whole time."
'Nothing to report' on top Draft pick
Brewers general manager David Stearns couldn't handicap the club's chances to sign top Draft pick Brice Turang before Friday's deadline, and declined to say whether the sides were even in active negotiations.
The Brewers have signed all of their other selections in the first 10 rounds, and are believed to have several above-slot agreements with players beyond that. MLB.com's Jim Callis reported Monday night that the Brewers had signed 12th-rounder Korey Howell for $210,000 -- $85,000 of which counts against Milwaukee's pool. How far beyond the roughly $3.01 million slotted for Turang at No. 21 overall the Brewers can go to lure him away from a scholarship to LSU depends on how many other bonuses in excess of $125,000 go to other players from Rounds 11-40.
"There's nothing to report," Stearns said. "The deadline is this Friday and we'll see what happens between now and then."
• Brewers head physician Dr. William Raasch examined right-hander Zach Davies on Monday to make sure that there was nothing significantly structurally wrong with Davies' back. Davies is on the 10-day DL with a shoulder injury, but it was back discomfort that forced him out of a rehab start at Class A Wisconsin on Thursday.
• Infielder Tyler Saladino's rehab assignment was advanced from Wisconsin to Colorado Springs as he continues a comeback from a sprained left ankle.