MILWAUKEE — Christian Yelich’s on-again, off-again back trouble was on again Monday, so the Brewers held their star left fielder out of the lineup for the first time in the young season.
Yelich departed Sunday’s 9-3 win in St. Louis in the bottom of the second inning with a sore lower back, a problem that has occasionally bothered him for years. There was some hope he’d be able to play Monday’s series opener against the Cubs at American Family Field, but the team opted for a cautious approach this early in the season. Monday was Game No. 10 of 162 on the schedule.
“We’re still in a day-to-day situation,” manager Craig Counsell said. “There was enough there today that it didn’t feel like he should be in the lineup.”
The Brewers had a good Plan B in Jackie Bradley Jr., who made his first start in left field since 2015 with the Red Sox. Milwaukee signed Bradley at the start of Spring Training to add depth to an outfield with Yelich, Lorenzo Cain and Avisaíl García, knowing Yelich would need occasional days off for his back and Cain was getting his legs back under him after electing not to play most of the shortened 2020 season.
“I think it’s worked out fine so far,” Counsell said of his outfield rotation. “It does feel like it raises the floor for us, is probably the best way to say it. We’re putting a great player in the lineup every day. Our outfield defense has been really good so far. Jackie hasn’t gotten hot with the bat yet, but I think he’s shown us defensively why he’s got such a great reputation. The way we’ve played defense in general has been a big part of this pitching story.”
Yelich may have been in a thoughtful mood as the rest of the team began batting practice Monday. He shared a video of Brewers legend Robin Yount from 2017 that has recently resurfaced on social media, in which Yount talks about the bond between players and fans.
“It’s easy to get lost in the grind sometimes and lose sight of what playing this game is really about,” Yelich wrote on Twitter. “You never know who came to watch you for the first and only time. You owe them your best. Every. Single. Day.”
Yardley out, Perdomo in
Righty reliever Eric Yardley, the Brewers’ unsung hero a year ago, was demoted on Monday after a tough start to his sophomore season in the Major Leagues.
The Brewers optioned Yardley to the alternate training site in Appleton, Wis., while calling up left-hander Angel Perdomo, who was a strike-throwing machine in Spring Training and gives Counsell an additional left-handed bullpen option alongside Josh Hader and Brent Suter.
Yardley, winner of the Unsung Hero Award from the local chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in 2020 after he led the team with 24 appearances, posted a 1.54 ERA and held right-handers to a .208 average, had struggled to produce clean innings since the start of Spring Training. He was charged with six runs on 14 hits in eight innings in the spring and five runs on seven hits in five one-inning appearances to start the regular season. Including three walks and two hit batters, Yardley’s WHIP was 2.00.
“A couple things,” Counsell said in explaining the decision. “One, I feel like we’re about to face a couple teams where having another left-hander is impactful and can be useful. Angel threw the ball very, very well in Spring Training, and we think he can help us. Two, this is what you’re going to see during this season with guys in our bullpen a little bit. And then three, I’m not sure Eric got completely locked in — you know, it was just three appearances [in which Yardley surrendered runs], but even through the spring he was just battling himself a little bit at times.
“He’ll get on track. He’s going to be back soon, I would guess. We’re going to count on Eric as we counted on him last year, but we are going to actively manage our bullpen this year.”
Are players with Yardley’s unique sidearm delivery more susceptible to getting out of whack?
“Probably the uniqueness of it gives us a little less information to lean on as far as seeing it a lot and using other guys as examples. So I think that would make it maybe a little harder to help him, maybe, if anything,” Counsell said. “But Eric’s been a good strike thrower. That’s one thing he’s been good at, I think, and he’s just battling it a little bit. He’ll get it straight. He’s athletic, he’s smart. He’ll get it straightened out, and he’s going to help us.”
• The Brewers will be facing a suddenly reconfigured Cubs bullpen this week. Relievers Jason Adam, Dan Winkler and Brandon Workman were placed on the injured list Monday, and the Cubs announced that bullpen coach Chris Young had tested positive for COVID-19. Cubs manager David Ross told reporters that everyone with the Cubs’ traveling party in Milwaukee had tested negative on Monday.
• With Kolten Wong on the 10-day injured list, Keston Hiura got his first start of the season at second base on Monday. It’s not ideal, Counsell said, after Hiura spent Spring Training learning first base, but the Brewers believed it represented the best alignment against Cubs starter Adbert Alzolay.
“The season rarely allows you your ideal circumstances every day,” Counsell said.
• Travis Shaw woke up feeling much better Monday after fouling a pitch off his right ankle and departing Sunday’s win, so he was back at third base against the Cubs.
“We’re getting a little bit back to normal,” Woodruff said. “I’m used to tailgating as well, coming from the Southeastern Conference, man, every Saturday for football is a big tailgating day. … That makes the game day, the ballpark experience, more fun. I’m glad it’s opening back up.”