Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News arrow-downArrow Down icon Arrow Up icon

Yelich (back) nearing return; Houser recalled

@AdamMcCalvy
May 3, 2019

MILWAUKEE -- After a few days limited to the athletic training room and the underground batting cage because of a stiff back, Christian Yelich said his batting practice on the field Friday went “great,” putting him on the verge of returning to game action for the Brewers. Yelich wasn’t in

MILWAUKEE -- After a few days limited to the athletic training room and the underground batting cage because of a stiff back, Christian Yelich said his batting practice on the field Friday went “great,” putting him on the verge of returning to game action for the Brewers.

Yelich wasn’t in the starting lineup on Friday against Mets left-hander Steven Matz. A right-hander, Zack Wheeler, is scheduled to start Saturday.

“It’s up to them [the medical staff], but I could play,” Yelich said. “I feel good, so whenever they say I can run out there, that’s when I’ll go. I did everything today -- ran, hit, did the whole deal. So it’s all good news.”

Yelich’s last start was Sunday against the Mets at Citi Field, when he departed in the fifth inning after his lower back tightened up. The Brewers took an exceedingly cautious approach considering his importance to the team; Yelich entered Friday tied with the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger for the Major League lead with 14 home runs, and he ranked second in MLB to Bellinger in wins above replacement (2.4 fWAR), weighted runs created plus (215) and slugging percentage (.804). He's third behind Bellinger and Mike Trout with a .460 on-base percentage.

“Whatever the lineup is, we’re missing him,” manager Craig Counsell said. “Jesús [Aguilar] is going and Eric [Thames] is playing some outfield and has done a nice job. Ben Gamel’s played a little more because of this and done a nice job. The guys that have filled in for him have done a pretty good job, really. Jesús may not have been in there the last couple days if Yelich was available, so we got something good from that.”

Houser recalled from Triple-A
Counsell was not ready to reveal the result of club officials’ “conversation” about Freddy Peralta’s starting rotation status Friday after the 22-year-old struggled against the Rockies the day before. But the Brewers did make a roster move, optioning reliever Jay Jackson to Triple-A San Antonio and recalling right-hander Adrian Houser.

Houser was San Antonio’s Opening Day starter, and he made his first Major League start against the Cardinals last month during a brief call-up. So he is obviously one candidate to take Peralta’s place if the Brewers opt to make a change.

But first, Houser will pitch out of the bullpen.

“We’ll get closer to [Peralta’s spot] and see what our pitching looks like and then make a decision from there,” Counsell said. “Adrian goes to getting outs for us. We wouldn’t have brought him up just to hang out.”

Is it fair to speculate that if Houser is fresh on Tuesday, when that spot comes around again during the Brewers’ home series against the Nationals, that he would start?

“You are free to speculate whenever you want. It’s your right entitled to you,” said Counsell playfully. “As we get to that game, who’s been used, how they’ve been used, will help frame that decision for us.”

Encouraging signs
Jeremy Jeffress’ food truck, “Bread & Butter,” is scheduled to open this weekend near the Sausage Haus outside Miller Park. That’s a new development. More important for the Brewers is that Jeffress is starting to look more like the pitcher of old.

Counsell was encouraged to see Jeffress put a 95 mph on the stadium scoreboard in Thursday’s loss to the Rockies, when he pitched for the second straight day. In the first of those back-to-back outings, Jeffress’ fastball averaged 94.1 mph, the best reading of his seven appearances since returning from a spring bout of shoulder weakness. He then averaged 93.8 mph on Day 2, his second-best reading this season.

“I don’t know if we can say, ‘This is J.J. of 2018,’ yet, but I think what we’re all encouraged by is that we feel like it’s going in the right direction,” Counsell said. “That obviously would be a big add to how we look at our bullpen and how the games look. That’s an important thing to move forward and have happen, and it was a really good sign.”

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram and like him on Facebook.