CHICAGO -- The Brewers' banged-up bullpen was infused with a fresh arm Tuesday for the start of a critical five-game stretch against the Cubs and Cardinals when right-hander Taylor Williams returned from the 10-day disabled list.
In hindsight, manager Craig Counsell said Williams' soreness was probably a case of fatigue. This is his first full season in the Major Leagues, and his first "normal" season after losing all of 2015 and '16 to Tommy John surgery before pitching on a controlled schedule in a '17 season that ended with a big league callup.
Williams threw a pair of bullpen sessions while he was sidelined, and he did not require a rehab assignment.
"Especially playing the Cubs, it's not going to take a lot to feel good and feel ready to go against these guys," he said.
Williams can be a big part of the Brewers' bullpen when healthy. He got to the All-Star break with a 2.65 ERA and a .180 opponents' average before surrendering five runs in his first two appearances of the second half.
The Brewers opted to shut Williams down after he was charged with four runs on four hits, including a homer, in a 21-5 loss at Dodger Stadium on Aug. 2.
"[The DL stint] was a precaution to some degree, get myself back on the right page," Williams said. "Like Lee [Tunnell, Milwaukee's bullpen coach] always tells us, 'We need soldiers, not heroes.'"
At the moment, the Brewers' bullpen needs production. Corey Knebel was removed from the closer's role last week on the same day the Crew lost Joakim Soria to a right groin strain. Soria joined Williams and Matt Albers (left hamstring) on the DL. Albers was scheduled to begin a multi-game rehab assignment at Double-A Biloxi on Tuesday as Williams returned from the DL, but Soria will need more than the minimum 10 days, Counsell said.
"That's probably the best I can give you right now -- it's going to be longer than 10 days," Counsell said.
That makes Williams as important as ever.
"I feel back to normal and ready to go," Williams said.
Brewers trade for a pitcher
The Brewers sent cash to the Phillies on Tuesday for right-hander Jake Thompson, a 24-year-old with five pitches who had been designated for assignment by Philadelphia. The Brewers optioned Thompson to Triple-A Colorado Springs and opened a 40-man roster spot by designating Alec Asher for assignment. Asher has been back and forth between the Minors and Majors this season.
Thompson has appeared in the big leagues with the Phillies in each of the past three seasons, pitching mostly as a starter in 2016-17 before making nine relief appearances for manager Gabe Kapler this season with a 4.96 ERA. Most of that damage came in March and April; in six appearances since then, Thompson had allowed two earned runs in 7 2/3 innings.
One more rehab start for Davies?
Having so far refused to pay the high prospect prices demanded for starting pitchers on the trade market, the Brewers should have a better idea of right-hander Zach Davies' status after he makes another rehab start on Thursday.
Davies is scheduled to pitch for Triple-A Colorado Springs at Iowa.
"Zach is a guy who has proven it for a couple of years for us," Counsell said. "The injuries he has fought this year [a right rotator cuff strain and a stiff lower back], I don't know if they've been significant, necessarily, but they cost him a lot of time because they came back to back. We're looking at the better part of four months that he's missed.
"What we're doing right now is making sure he's getting the ball every five days. That's the best chance of getting him back into the form we saw last year. It's good to have a guy like that who could be a boost to us."
Progress for Vogt
Catcher Stephen Vogt remains sidelined for the season following right shoulder surgery, but he'll be a bit more of an active participant beginning this weekend in St. Louis when he starts catching pitchers' bullpen sessions.
"I'm not on the field playing," Vogt said, "but I'm still trying to help."
Vogt doesn't expect to be cleared for hitting until November. He has one year of arbitration remaining, but given he's coming off the second major shoulder surgery of his career, the Brewers are likely to non-tender him. Vogt remains hopeful of coming back, even if it means on a Minor League deal.
Incidentally, Vogt did ask his surgeon a few weeks back about the possibility of pulling a Kyle Schwarber should the Brewers reach the postseason. Schwarber provided the Cubs with some left-handed thump in the 2016 World Series coming off knee surgery.
Unfortunately for Vogt, the answer was no.