With injuries to Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez, Jean Segura and Logan Schafer, the Brewers have done a lot of roster and lineup juggling in the last couple weeks. Infielder Jeff Bianchi represented himself well in Segura’s absence, and thankfully Ramirez hasn’t missed a lot of time. But the day-to-day status of Braun, which has kept him off the field for nearly a week, has created a vacuum in the outfield. The Brewers finally addressed the situation Friday, calling up Caleb Gindl from Triple-A Nashville. Reliever Jim Henderson was put on the disabled list in a related move.
With Braun and Schafer out, the Brewers had been lining up with only two healthy outfielders on the 25-man roster (Khris Davis and Carlos Gomez). The Brewers recently gave outfield starts to utility man Elian Herrera, who can play out there in a pinch but is a woeful substitute on a longer-term basis.
Herrera showed his inexperience in right when called upon to play there for multiple games, misplaying balls and having trouble with throws. Herrera is primarily an infielder, so his lack of polish in the outfield is understandable, but another ill-advised alternative the Brewers briefly explored was first/third-baseman Mark Reynolds, who has now appeared in a grand total of four games in the outfield in his career.
Schafer should be back soon, but in the meantime it was smart to call up another well-trained outfielder to supplement the players with whom manager Ron Roenicke can construct a reliable lineup. Gindl, 25, is not the most athletic outfielder to put it mildly, but he received 132 at-bats in 2013, appearing in 57 games. That experience last year will help him acclimate to the big leagues this year, and Roenicke has wasted no time, plugging Gindl into the seventh spot in the lineup Friday as his right-fielder.
As consistent as the Brewers have been so far in 2014, it’s been a mix of players who have gotten the job done, including callups from Nashville. Braun is not only a vital cog in the Brewers’ offense. He’s also a crucial, unsung part of their outfield defense, and with Braun taking up a roster spot but unable to play, the Brewers found themselves in a tight spot with Schafer also unavailable.
This weekend’s games with the Reds will be interesting to watch, partly to see if Braun plays or not. With two guys on the roster who can only play second base (Scooter Gennett and Rickie Weeks), a short bench becomes a more-pressing matter if the starters cannot play regularly due to injuries. Elian Herrera was sent back to Nashville already, and Gindl’s stay with Milwaukee this time around may not be long either.
Braun has not played in part due to his muscle injury but also because any potential DL stint could be backdated if he continues not to play. Hence, he would not have to spend the entire 15 days on the DL should he be moved there eventually. I suspect Braun’s status will be decided over the weekend. If he can’t go this weekend (he’s not in the lineup Friday), he might be shelved for a while and Schafer and Gindl will split time in the outfield.
The Brewers have been fortuitous so far in that they’ve been able to cover injuries in the infield by rotating players around and using the bench. However, injuries to Schafer and Braun have exposed the outfield as a problem area should they lose more than one outfielder at a time. The team must be careful not to use a Band-Aid fix if Braun needs significant time to recover. It’s a coherent strategy to sit Braun but keep him off the DL if he can play again very soon. However, using infielders in the outfield is a desperate way to make up for losing key outfield depth.