CINCINNNATI -- Left-hander Chris Narveson's fourth rehabilitation start for Triple-A Nashville on Friday was expected to be his last, and right-hander Marco Estrada was scheduled to begin a rehab assignment of his own early next week, giving the Brewers a number of options for their starting rotation in the coming days.
As of Friday afternoon, nothing was set beyond Alfredo Figaro's start on Tuesday in Houston. That game is the first of six in six days, necessitating a full, five-man pitching rotation. The question was who to slot in, and where to slot them.
"Whether it's Narvy, whether we decide [Tom] Gorzelanny is that guy again, but we're going to need somebody in there," manager Ron Roenicke said.
Narveson has been sidelined since early April with a sprained middle finger.
Estrada has been on the disabled list since June 5 with a strained left hamstring. He was scheduled for a long bullpen session this weekend, followed by an assignment to an affiliate that could be as short as one start.
Braun lands on DL for first time in career
CINCINNATI -- After exhausting all other options, the Brewers placed left fielder Ryan Braun on the 15-day disabled list Friday when the slugger experienced more of the same sharp pain in his right hand during batting practice.
Braun's first swings in five days were viewed as a last chance to avoid the DL for what he has described as an inflamed nerve between his right thumb and index finger. He was removed in the third inning of Sunday's game against the Phillies at Miller Park, and he sat out the Brewers' entire three-game series in Miami, hoping the pain would quiet with some rest.
On one of his first swings behind the batting cage Friday, it was clear from his grimace it did not work.
"More of the same," Braun said. "It basically has been the same for a while. Everything we have tried to get to the point where I can take a regular swing [has not helped]. We've tried different wraps on the bat, different padding on the batting gloves. We've basically tried everything we can think of."
The last resort was Braun's first career trip to the disabled list. The Brewers will formally recall outfielder Caleb Gindl from Triple-A Nashville on Saturday to take Braun's place.
"The next step is something I don't want to do," manager Ron Roenicke said before Braun's batting practice swings. "But if that's the best way to do it, then we'll do it. That's why we want to see where he is today. If he's really good, then we know where to go."
And if he was not really good?
"We've talked about all the different things," Roenicke said.
Braun has been dealing with pain near his right thumb for about a month, yet still entered the weekend among the National League leaders in slugging percentage (ninth, .509), on-base percentage (10th, .380) and OPS (10th, 890). He's hitting .304 with nine homers and 36 RBIs.
The conundrum for the Brewers has been this: Braun can swing a bat, and even him swinging at 60-70 percent of full strength can keep him a dangerous hitter. But is it worth perpetuating the injury over the entire season, or even making it worse?
With no signs of progress, club officials answered "no" to that question. With Braun on the DL, Logan Schafer will continue playing regularly in left field, and the Brewers promoted the left-handed-hitting Gindl from Nashville.
Gindl, batting .364 over his previous 10 games, was a last-minute scratch from the Sounds' lineup on Friday night.
Brewers making progress signing Draft picks
CINCINNATI -- The Brewers hadn't formally announced any signings from last week's First-Year Player Draft as of Friday afternoon, but that doesn't mean amateur scouting director Bruce Seid and his crew haven't been busy.
According to MLB.com's own reporting, plus other media reports and players' posts on Twitter, the team had either signed, or agreed to terms pending a physical exam, with each of its first 11 selections and 12 of its first 13.
Milwaukee may be waiting until it has a signed contract for top pick Devin Williams before announcing any other deals. Williams, a right-handed pitcher from a high school in suburban St. Louis, was in Milwaukee for a physical exam on Wednesday and a motion analysis test on Thursday, and an agreement was expected to be finalized by the end of the weekend.
Williams, who is foregoing a scholarship from Missouri to sign with the Brewers, is expected to receive a signing bonus in excess of the $1,017,300 slotted by Major League Baseball for the 54th overall pick.
Other notable picks were already officially in the fold by Friday. The team's second overall pick, supplemental second rounder Tucker Neuhaus, a left-handed-hitting shortstop, and fifth-rounder Josh Uhen, a right-hander from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, each Tweeted a photo signing their contract, and both traveled from Milwaukee to Phoenix on Friday to begin their professional careers. Neuhaus received a $771,000 bonus and Uhen $250,000, according to Baseball America.
Officially a Brewer!!!! ⚾ pic.twitter.com/aekl394ZBD- Tucker Neuhaus (@Tucker_Neuhaus) June 10, 2013
Third-rounder Barrett Astin, a right-handed pitcher from the University of Arkansas, signed for $584,300, and told fans he will be roommates at rookie-level Helena with 17th round pick Brandon Moore, a fellow Razorback who told the website WholeHogSports.com that he signed with the Brewers on Thursday after getting engaged to his girlfriend at the airport. The Camas-Washougal Post-Record reported that fourth rounder Taylor Williams, a right-hander from Kent State University, signed for $400,000.
Sixth-rounder Garrett Cooper, a first baseman from Auburn, is also headed to Helena. Seventh-rounder Omar Garcia and eighth-rounder Brandon Diaz, speedy center fielders from Florida high schools, had also signed, as had ninth-round pick Tyler Linehan of Fresno State, 10th rounder Michael Ratterree, an outfielder from Rice, and 11th rounder Andy Hillis, a right-hander from Lee University in Tennessee. The most recent to sign was Ratterree, whose deal was reported Friday evening by the Houston Chronicle..
"I'm officially a Brewer," Linehan Tweeted, posting a photo of himself in a Brewers cap.
It was a common sentiment at the end of a busy post-Draft week.
Lucroy among MLB's most productive catchers
CINCINNATI -- It was only a few weeks ago that Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy was lamenting his unproductive start to the season. Now look where he ranks.
Lucroy entered Friday night tied with All-Stars Buster Posey of the Giants and Matt Wieters of the Orioles for the most RBIs (35 apiece) as a catcher. Lucroy, who has 37 RBIs total, has shot up the leader board by logging 17 RBIs since May 31.
"It was a matter of staying persistent and working hard," Lucroy said. "I take a lot of pride in driving people in. Regardless of my average, I want to produce, I want to help the team win, I want to score runs.
"With [Aramis Ramirez] being kind of on and off playing because of his injury, and Corey [Hart] not being in, and [Ryan Braun], his injury, I feel like a lot of the responsibility falls on me to get the job done. I've been fortunate to be put in some situations to drive runners in."
Lucroy, hitting .265 with six homers, did not start Friday because his backup, Martin Maldonado, has been catching right-hander Kyle Lohse's starts. Maldonado drove in two runs, including the tying homer in the eighth inning of a game the Brewers lost in 10, 4-3.
Lucroy's 17 RBIs over his last 12 games were third most in the Majors during that span, trailing the 18 from Paul Goldschmidt of the D-backs and Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies.
In his first 44 games, Lucroy had only 20 RBIs while batting .229, a slow start he continued to resist pinning on the World Baseball Classic. Lucroy was a backup for Team USA and saw only five at-bats in the tournament, then continued to struggle upon his return to the Brewers.
Would he play in the tournament again if asked?
"If I had a chance of playing more, I think I might," he said. "Are you doing yourself a disservice by going and not playing [with your team] in Spring Training? It's a delicate balance."