No. 4 prospect Small out with left hand injury

July 18th, 2021

Top Brewers pitching prospect will be shut down for at least two weeks with a strained tendon in his pitching hand, casting some doubt on the potential for a September callup to the Brewers.

Small, a left-handed starter ranked No. 4 on MLB Pipeline’s list of Milwaukee’s top prospects, was feeling discomfort in his left middle finger prior to getting the final outs of the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game in Denver on July 11, according to Brewers farm director Tom Flanagan, which bothered him in that appearance. Small allowed successive hits to American League prospects Spencer Torkelson (a single), Jeter Downs (double) and Austin Martin (single) and was charged with two runs before striking out two hitters to end an 8-3 National League win.

After he’s shut down from throwing for two weeks, Small will have to build back up his arm strength over the course of several more weeks before he’s ready to pitch again. He does have time on his side; because the Minor League schedules were pushed back a month this year, and then recently extended, Triple-A Nashville has games on the regular-season schedule through Oct. 3, a full month later than usual.

Small has a 1.77 ERA and 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings in 11 starts this season between Double-A Biloxi (eight starts) and Nashville (three starts). He was promoted to Milwaukee’s top affiliate in late June.

As for a September callup, that's to be determined. The rule this year limits teams to 28 players over the final month, down from 40 after Sept. 1 pre-pandemic.

In other Minor League matters:

Left-hander Antoine Kelly, MLB Pipeline’s next-highest-rated Brewers pitching prospect after Small at No. 6, did well in his first outing in the Arizona Complex League and was promoted on Sunday to pitch at Class A Carolina, the Brewers’ Low-A affiliate. Kelly has been working back from offseason surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome.

No. 5 Brewers prospect Mario Feliciano is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment in the Arizona Complex League on Monday, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Feliciano, who made his Major League debut earlier this season, has been sidelined since May by an impingement in his throwing shoulder.

Outfielder Corey Ray, ranked 24th and one of the optionable hitters who has been back and forth between the Minors and Majors this season, is back on the injured list at Nashville and will be down another 2-3 weeks. He was just preparing to return from a quadriceps injury.

No. 7 Brewers prospect Aaron Ashby is back to starting games for Nashville, but the Brewers have not abandoned the concept of using him in relief to prepare him for that role with the Brewers later this season. Rather, Flanagan said, Ashby has been pitching three- and four-inning stints at the start of games because that’s where the Sounds’ needs have been, due to callups to Milwaukee and other roster machinations. Once that rotation resettles, Ashby is expected to return to the bullpen.

Last call
• “Yes, we want to watch the Bucks game, too,” the Brewers tweeted on Sunday while announcing they’d moved Tuesday’s first pitch against the Royals from 7:10 p.m. CT to 3:10 p.m. CT to avoid overlapping with Game 6 of the NBA Finals. The Bucks have a 3-2 lead in the series and can win their first championship in 50 years with a win over the Suns in downtown Milwaukee at 8 p.m. CT on Tuesday night.

• After Jake Cousins pitched on both ends of a 43-minute rain delay in the seventh inning on Saturday, the question was whether the Brewers sent him back to the mound by choice, or whether they had to do so to fulfill the three-batter rule. After all, Cousins had faced only two batters before the delay, and the inning wasn’t over. The answer from the Brewers’ clubhouse on Sunday morning was no -- there is an exception in the rule for weather delays or other interruptions. Milwaukee sent Cousins back to the mound by choice, which proved to be a good decision when he threw two more pitches to Tucker Barnhart to finish a three-pitch strikeout that began before the delay.

• Luis Urías is a shortstop by trade, but he said he’s taken to third base since shifting over in the wake of the Willy Adames trade. Urías was charged with an error in the 10th inning of Saturday’s extra-inning win, but also made two spectacular defensive plays in the ninth and the 11th, including a double play in the ninth that might have saved the game.

“I kind of like third base because it’s a lot of reaction,” Urías said. “You don’t have to think about it. The one that I missed that [Jonathan] India hit, I felt that was a rocket. I like it because there’s a lot of reaction. It’s fun to play third base.”