Kintzler set to rejoin Brewers
An already deep Brewers bullpen will get one arm deeper Friday when right-handed setup man Brandon Kintzler comes off the 15-day disabled list.
Kintzler took the final step in his recovery from a slight rotator cuff strain Wednesday afternoon when he threw a 40-pitch simulated inning, with suspended catcher Martin Maldonado standing in the box from the left side.
“He didn't swing at all so it made me feel good about myself,” joked Kintzler. “Everything felt good.”
Kintzer is eligible to come off the DL today but that's an off-day on the Brewers' schedule. Before being sidelined, he made five scoreless appearances.
“It's probably good; it gives me an extra day,” said Kintzler. “The whole bullpen gets an extra day. And I can see how I feel tomorrow, too. They want to see if I recover OK.”
Kintzler emerged as one of the top setup men in the National League last season, compiling a 2.69 ERA over 71 outings. He began this year in that role, but manager Ron Roenicke said he would try to ease him back into action if possible.
“Right off the bat, I probably can't pitch him like I pitched these other guys,” said Roenicke. “We'll go a little slower with him. Hopefully, we'll start to score more runs and we won't have to use all these guys.
“He's one of those guys that doesn't matter what inning I put him in, what situation I put him in, whether it's left-handed or right-handed, he's really good. He showed that last year. He did a nice job for us.”
Though he said it was more stressful to watch games from the sideline than pitch in them, Kintzler said it made him feel better that the relief corps continued to excel.
“It was like I didn't have to come back so fast because the guys were doing so well,” he said.
Second to none
Having been moved from eighth in the batting order to second in place of struggling Jean Segura and between Carlos Gomez and Ryan Braun, second baseman Scooter Gennett is bound to see better pitches than when he hit in front of the pitcher.
“In front of Ryan Braun would be nice to hit,” said Roenicke. “I hit in front of Mike Schmidt one time. Surprisingly, I walked some and Mike Schmidt came to me and said,
'I'm not getting on you but how did they walk you so much when I'm hitting behind you?' He was right.”
As for seeing better pitches in the No. 2 spot, Roenicke said, “I think over the long run you do but from game to game I don't know if it's that much difference. You know going into a game what your strategy is against certain hitters. If your command is off that day and you get behind in counts, now you have to look at the hitter behind you. But if his command is on, you don't really get pitched that differently.
“He was swinging good. He's a really good hitter. He's hit everywhere he's gone. He uses the whole field; he drives the ball. He's got surprising pop. The only thing is, the more he plays, he'll understand the strike zone better and the zone will get smaller for him. That's a problem that most young guys have, is trying to figure out the strike zone.”
Gennett actually was swinging the bat well batting eighth, compiling a .385 average in nine games in that spot. In his first two games batting second, he was 4 for 10 (.400).
“It's tough,” Gennett said of batting eighth. “It's just different, especially when it's two outs and there's an open base. You don't know if they're going to go after you.
“You look at our whole team and everybody has contributed in some way. I'm just thankful to be in the lineup anywhere. It's a good spot to be in but just being in there is fine with me.”
Segura, who got off to a blazing start during his dynamic 2013 season, obviously was pressing after a slow beginning this year. Roenicke tried to take some pressure off him by dropping him to eighth in the order but said Segura also must swing at strikes.
“He's one of the guys chasing too many pitches out of the zone,” said Roenicke. “It's hard to hit when you swing at that pitch out of the zone and instead of being 1-0 (in the count), you're 0-1. The pitcher has a chance to throw another ball on the corner.
“If you're always swinging at those pitches, you don't get yourself ahead in the counts where the pitcher has to throw you a pitch to hit. He's thinking a lot. That's why I moved him down so he wouldn't have to feel he's got to get on base for guys.
“Hopefully, he's in a spot where you relax a little bit. You know you're still important but it's not the same as if you're hitting second.”
Perhaps Segura found the at-bat to get him going Wednesday night. In his first at-bat in the second inning, he lined a three-run homer to left off Padres right-hander Tyson Ross.