MILWAUKEE -- Searching for hits from the bottom of the lineup, Brewers manager Craig Counsell penciled in a new name at shortstop on Sunday, one he might start sending to that position more: Hernan Perez.
Perez is a natural shortstop who had not played there this season. His opportunity came as Opening Day shortstop Orlando Arcia remained buried in a season-long hitting slump that left him with a .204/.238/.265 slash line entering Milwaukee's series finale against the Phillies. Monday will mark one month since Arcia's last extra-base hit, a stretch that included a five-day demotion to the Minors before Tyler Saladino's ankle injury forced a quick return.
"I think there will be times and matchups where we've got to take a chance at something a little different with trying to get some offense and sacrificing some defense," Counsell said. "I think [Perez] has been swinging the bat pretty well, so we'll give it a shot. He's more than capable of it. He'll catch the balls hit to him and make the plays."
In Sunday's 10-9 loss to the Phillies, Perez went 2-for-4 with a double and walk.
Arcia is fourth in the National League in Defensive Runs Above Replacement and Defensive Runs Saved, which is why Counsell and the Brewers have given him such a long opportunity to fix the mechanical habits and ball/strike recognition issues that have led to his lack of production.
Perez entered Sunday batting .324 (24-for-74) with seven extra-base hits over his last 30 games, a stretch that raised his OPS from .511 to .684.
"I'm going to tell you still that I think Arcia is the best option there and the guy that is preferable to get going and to be the guy that's going to be out there every single day," Counsell said. "We'll continue to try to find ways to help Orlando get on track."
Teams sometimes leave a player out of the lineup for several days to clear his mind or so he can put in extra work in the batting cage. Counsell was not prepared to say whether that was the idea for Arcia this time.
Nelson 'trending in right direction'
Sunday marked one month since rehabbing right-hander Jimmy Nelson's check-up with the doctor who performed his shoulder surgery, and he told Milwaukee radio station 105.7 FM The Fan that "it's trending in the right direction right now."
There is no timetable for Nelson to throw off a mound or to return to the Brewers' rotation, because those benchmarks all depend on his repaired right shoulder. He is currently working back toward throwing 150 feet on flat ground, the distance he was at before a shutdown period before and after a visit with Dr. Neal ElAtrrache.
"The last week or two is the best it's gone so far," Nelson said. "Right now, there's a lot of good signs. It's been responding better than it has this whole process. I'm not behind schedule or anything. I'm still on schedule or maybe even ahead of schedule. It's just the fact I got so far ahead of schedule, whenever you get shut down for 10-12 days, everybody starts freaking out."
Nelson said he is down 25 pounds from the start of Spring Training.
Houser joins bullpen, Lopez down
Like clockwork, Jorge Lopez was optioned to Triple-A Colorado Springs on Sunday after pitching two innings in Saturday's loss to the Phillies, and another right-hander, Adrian Houser, was called up to provide the bullpen a fresh arm.
All season, the Brewers have cycled a series of pitchers with Minor League options between the Minors and Majors to help protect their higher-leverage relievers.
"Every time we've asked them, it's often been a multiple-inning appearance, and they've kind of completed the job and done it well," Counsell said. "Lopez, Houser, Alec Asher did it, [Brandon] Woodruff's done it. … They know what's happening. But I also think they know they'll be back. They're kind of sharing a roster spot, almost."
Davies, Miley to begin rehab assignments
Right-hander Zach Davies will begin another Minor League rehab assignment on Tuesday at Triple-A Colorado Springs, and left-hander Wade Miley will join Double-A Biloxi later in the week as both starting pitchers work back from injuries.
Davies, in his second stint on the 10-day DL for right rotator cuff inflammation, is expected to make at least three starts in the Minors this time. Miley, who is on the 60-day DL with a strained right oblique, will probably pitch four times in the Minors, since he is not eligible for reinstatement until July 9.
Miley's final test came Sunday morning, when he faced hitters in a simulated game.