MILWAUKEE -- When the Brewers swapped Jhoulys Chacin and Wade Miley in their upcoming pitching rotation, it was a subtle change with potentially significant implications.
It meant that in addition to lining up the way they want for the remaining two weeks of the regular season, the team has October baseball in mind.
The Brewers must get to the postseason first, but by having Chacin start Sunday against the Pirates instead of Monday against the Reds, it lined him up for a start in St. Louis the following week, and then for a potential National League Wild Card Game on Tuesday, Oct. 2.
"It's more than that. It's the rest of the [regular] season," manager Craig Counsell said. "We are trying our best to put guys in the best place to succeed. You guys all put your heads right to the math [of lining up for the playoffs] but we're worried about the next two weeks. The next two weeks is where we've got to do our work and it's where our focus has to be."
Chacin has a 2.28 ERA in four starts this season against the Cardinals (vs. 4.82 in two starts against the Reds) and Miley has been particularly effective in his two starts against the Reds, including an Aug. 30 start in which he allowed one run in 7 1/3 innings.
But then there's the possibility of a Wild Card Game. The Brewers entered Friday 1 1/2 games behind the Cubs in the division. They also led the Wild Card standings, with a three-game edge on the Cardinals and a four-game cushion on the next-closest team, the Dodgers.
"Like I've always said, this is something I really wanted when I signed here -- to pitch in meaningful games," Chacin said. "Hopefully in the next couple weeks, we can celebrate making the playoffs. We have 15 more games, but right now it feels like we've earned our way. We're finishing the season strong and in a good way, so I think that's going to push us more in the playoffs."
Of a potential start in a Wild Card Game, Chacin said, "I've been watching it on TV the last 5-6 years, and it's really fun. You always visualize yourself being in that game and how fun it is and how much pressure and everything, and that makes it more special. But we're only one game back with 15 games and right now, I feel like if we can keep putting pressure on the Cubs, they might get into a slump of 3-4 games, and then we can take the division. That's where our focus is right now."
Timber Rattlers, Brewers agree
While their Triple-A fate remains to be determined, the Brewers are locked into first-class affiliates at the Class A level after signing another two-year extension of their player development contract with the Midwest League's Wisconsin Timber Rattlers on Friday. The deal now runs through 2022.
"It's been a great affiliation -- one of the best Minor League relationships I've ever been a part of," said Brewers GM David Stearns.
"From a fan standpoint, it's great," Timber Rattlers president Rob Zerjav said. "From a business standpoint, it means a lot. To see the success down here with the Brewers and to see a lot of the guys that came through Appleton, all the way back to Lorenzo Cain and Jeremy Jeffress -- they were some of the first guys to come through. The contributions they are making now is just great."
The Brewers' only expiring PDCs are with Triple-A Colorado Springs, which is moving to San Antonio for next season with a still-to-be-determined affiliation, and rookie-level Helena. The Helena franchise is moving to Colorado Springs and is widely expected to remain with the Brewers, though that has not been finalized.
The Triple-A situation is more fluid but should be settled within the next 10 days. The Brewers are one of a handful of Major League teams with expiring agreements at that level.
Energetic left-hander Brent Suter has shed the metal brace protecting his surgically repaired left elbow and been cleared to return to the dugout for games. He got that clearance last week during a promising follow-up visit in Cincinnati with the doctor who performed his Tommy John surgery in July.
"If I give one left-handed high five, though, I'm out," Suter joked.