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Yelich sits with tight oblique, still day to day

Brewers open rivalry series vs. Cubs without new outfielder
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

MILWAUKEE -- "Day to day" remained the prognosis Thursday for outfielder Christian Yelich, whose open-ended absence with a tight right oblique meant the Brewers entered their four-game series against the rival Cubs without one of their most productive early-season hitters.

It was the first instance of that much-debated Brewers outfield depth working in the team's favor. Ryan Braun, Domingo Santana and Yelich have been sharing the corner outfield spots this season.

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MILWAUKEE -- "Day to day" remained the prognosis Thursday for outfielder Christian Yelich, whose open-ended absence with a tight right oblique meant the Brewers entered their four-game series against the rival Cubs without one of their most productive early-season hitters.

It was the first instance of that much-debated Brewers outfield depth working in the team's favor. Ryan Braun, Domingo Santana and Yelich have been sharing the corner outfield spots this season.

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"I think whenever you have your first 'ding' of the year, it always gets a little more attention," said Brewers general manager David Stearns. "But as we know, over the course of 162 [games], there are going to be a lot of times guys are going to be down for a couple of days. That's what we anticipate here."

Brewers manager Craig Counsell wouldn't even go that far, declining to speculate beyond Thursday's game. Counsell said Yelich was hurt swinging the bat sometime during the just-completed series against the Cardinals, though it was not clear whether that happened before or after Yelich delivered a two-strike, two-out, tying home run in the bottom of the ninth inning of Tuesday's walk-off win.

Video: Must C Clutch: Yelich, Braun go back-to-back for win

Yelich, who did not appear in the clubhouse or on the field during batting practice, ended Wednesday leading Brewers regulars in batting average (.385) and second to Lorenzo Cain with a .426 wOBA and 163 wRC+. With Yelich sidelined, Cain and third baseman Travis Shaw remained the only players to start each of the Brewers' first seven games this season.

Brewers officials were happy Yelich said something about his discomfort before it became something worse.

"The thing about baseball is the schedule doesn't really let you heal, so when you need to take a step back, then you have to take a step back," Counsell said. "In the scope of things, one or two games, three days, whatever, a weekend, is not a big deal. You try to minimize it. If we can keep it to that instead of two weeks or something like that, then you're doing the right thing."

Rivalry weekend
This four-game series marks the first test of the Brewers' latest effort to take back Miller Park from Cubs fans. For one week in February before tickets went on sale to the general public, the Brewers sold seats for games against the Cubs exclusively to fans in Wisconsin zip codes, saying in their promotional copy, "Maybe it's fair. Maybe it's not. Either way, we just want to make sure Miller Park is packed with Brewers fans for these 10 crucial matchups."

The Brewers sold several thousand tickets for each game via the presale, according to a spokesperson.

"I don't know what to expect. We'll see if the plan that they hatched has positive results," Counsell said. "I know they tried something different with ticket sales, and I hope it has positive results. I get it, though. Chicago dwarfs Milwaukee in size, and it's easier for a lot of their fans to get here than to Wrigley [Field]. It's not a surprise."

Did Counsell like the marketing idea?

"I'm for more Brewers fans here, for sure. We all are," he said.

"We're very fortunate to have the following we do," Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. "We love our Cubs fans on the road, and it's fun to come out and see our fans. I'm almost certain that if you're from the state of Illinois, and you want to see a game up here, you'll find a way."

Back to normal
After allowing six hits, two earned runs and a pair of inherited runners to score in two uncomfortable relief appearances, right-hander Brandon Woodruff joins Milwaukee's starting rotation on Friday at 7:10 p.m. CT. It marks the first time the team has required a fifth starter this season.

"I think just getting back in a good starting routine is going to be good. I can't wait," Woodruff said. "It's tough. I respect those [relievers] a lot. It's something you have to work at, just like being a starter. You have to learn how to do it."

Woodruff has not started a Major League game since the Brewers' Cactus League contest against the Cubs on March 23, when he allowed four earned runs on six hits in five innings, but Counsell said he did not anticipate the right-hander being on a limited pitch count.

"I'll go as hard as I can go, as long as I can go, until they take the ball out of my hand," Woodruff said.

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

Milwaukee Brewers, Christian Yelich