MILWAUKEE -- Lorenzo Cain was advised to be smart about the right rib cage injury that knocked him out of Tuesday's game against the Reds and kept him sidelined Wednesday at a critical time for the Brewers, who were trying to hang onto postseason position with 10 games to go.
How do we know he's trying to be smart? Because in a two-minute chat with reporters, Cain said so no fewer than five times.
"It's something I want to play through, but they told me to be smart about it," Cain said. "So, I guess when the pain and soreness is out of there, I'll be back on the field."
Cain, the National League leader in the Baseball-Reference version of Wins Above Replacement, and second to teammate Christian Yelich in the Fangraphs version entering Wednesday, said he felt discomfort on Friday or Saturday against the Pirates. He adjusted his swing to stay on the field, raising all manner of alarms among Brewers coaches by Cain's second at-bat of Tuesday's loss to the Reds. Cain struck out on a foul tip in the fourth inning and was removed from the game.
Cain did not undergo an MRI, and he does not believe one is necessary. The pain at the back of his rib cage has not gotten better since the initial tweak, but it also has not gotten worse.
The Brewers hope missing one game Wednesday, coupled with Thursday's off-day, will give Cain time to heal for Friday's opener of the season's final road trip to Pittsburgh and St. Louis.
"Any sort of muscle pull, you're taking a risk, for sure," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "Lorenzo was able to go out there, but you end up protecting yourself, and that almost can be worse. We need to weigh that. … He's so good at what he does, that he can get away with it a little bit. But there's a point where we're risking the big injury."
The timing is suboptimal, Cain conceded.
"It's tough, because I definitely want to be out there," Cain said. "I definitely don't want to miss a game. We had that conversation [Tuesday] night. They told me … that I'm not looking myself up there right now."
• There was a reason Ryan Braun was on the bench for a third straight game Wednesday: He experienced a recurrence of back discomfort on Tuesday, when he was limited to pinch-hitting duty against the Reds. Braun has dealt with recurring tightness in his surgically-repaired back for several years.
"It's a little bit better today, but Domingo [Santana] is swinging the bat well, and I think we can get over the hump with Brauny if we get him through today," Counsell said.
• There was better news for infielder Travis Shaw, who was back in the lineup after a scare in Tuesday's loss when he was struck in the right knee by a 95-mph fastball. Shaw had already been cleared to play by the time he and the rest of the team took the field for batting practice.