Davies pitches shutout for Class A Wisconsin

Right-hander expected to return Sunday in Washington

August 28th, 2018
MILWAUKEE, WI - MAY 24: Zach Davies #27 of the Milwaukee Brewers pitches in the fourth inning against the New York Mets at Miller Park on May 24, 2018 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)Dylan Buell/Getty Images

CINCINNATI -- On one hand, it was Class A ball, and if really is healthy and ready to rejoin the Brewers for a pennant race after missing most of this season with shoulder and back ailments, he should have success against hitters who are years away from the big leagues. Davies certainly did that on Monday night, when he carved through all nine innings on just 85 pitches in a shutout victory for the Brewers' Midwest League affiliate.

On the other hand, it was Class A ball, where many a Major League pitcher has found trouble in spot starts.

"I've been there," left-hander said. "They're up there being aggressive. They want to impress their coaches. If they get good wood off a rehab guy, it can really help them with their confidence and get some notice from their organization. When I was there, I saw some good swings."

The Brewers optioned Davies to Class A Wisconsin last week after his Minor League rehabilitation assignment expired. They weren't quite ready to reinstate him to the Major League roster after months of stops and starts for a rotator cuff injury and then back stiffness. But the organization didn't want to send him all the way to Triple-A Colorado Springs or Double-A Biloxi, so he stayed close to home and threw his seven-hit, no-walk, six-strikeout gem on Monday night in Clinton, Iowa.

Now, Davies is finally poised to return. He is expected to be recalled on Sunday in Washington, D.C., on the first day he is eligible.

Brewers manager Craig Counsell was not ready to say whether Davies would slot into Milwaukee's starting rotation. He made 28 starts in 2016 and tied for a National League-high 33 starts in '17 before encountering health hurdles this year, starting with a left oblique strain in Spring Training.

"He pitched well. It's another good start for him," Counsell said. "All along, we talked about, 'Just go out there every five days and keep taking the ball, get into a routine, have a good feeling.' I think we're there. He's been on a regular turn now and starting to get some good results."

Counsell added: "He pitched well, but you feel like you should pitch well at that level. Obviously, you're making a lot of good pitches, no matter where you're at, if you're getting through nine innings of a game."

Counsell offers Thames encouragement

There was a time when it was a given would find his way into the lineup against a right-handed pitcher for the Reds, a team he has tormented over the past two years. But Thames has been on the bench for 14 of the Brewers' first 23 games in August, including Tuesday. He entered the series with a .457 OPS and a Weighted Runs Created Plus of nine for the month.

Counsell said he recently offered some words of support.

"I don't necessarily buy into, 'Well, there's a red uniform out there, he's going to play well,'" said Counsell, who attributed the decline in Thames' at-bats to the late-season surge of left fielder . "[Thames] hasn't been red hot, certainly, and the at-bats have been a little bit more spread out.

"But I told him this the other day, this is not dissimilar to last year. He didn't have a great August, and then he had a September that was pretty important for us. We're going to need everybody here. At some point, Eric is going to need to come up with a big hit somewhere that's going to be a difference maker."

To Counsell's point, Thames had a .691 OPS and a 75 wRC+ last August, then surged to a .995 OPS and a 159 wRC+ in September.

Last call

Davies wasn't the only 40-man roster pitcher to enjoy a big Monday night. Right-hander threw 86 pitches over seven innings of Colorado Springs' 7-0 win in Oklahoma City. Houser walked one and struck out five.