MILWAUKEE — Remember when the Milwaukee Brewers had too many outfielders?
Even manager Craig Counsell, despite his assurances at the time, wasn't sure exactly how Jackie Bradley Jr would fit into an outfield group that appeared set with Lorenzo Cain, Avisail Garcia and Christian Yelich. So far, the arrangement has worked out even better than Counsell expected.
"When we envisioned this, I think the start of the season would be the most challenging time because they’d likely be healthy so we’d be trying to find regular spots for them," Counsell said. "We’ve just divided the series up."
Prior to Monday's game, which saw Bradley, Cain and Garcia starting together for the first time because of Yelich's sore back, Bradley and Yelich appeared in nine games each while Garcia saw action in eight games and Cain in six.
Yelich leads the group with 37 plate appearances. Garcia had 32, Bradley 28 and Cain 22 heading into Monday night's game against the Chicago Cubs. While Bradley (.103 batting average, .340 OPS) and Cain (.182, .750 OPS) have yet to really get going at the plate, all four have played significant roles in the Brewers' run-prevention efforts.
"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," Counsell said. "Our outfield defense has been really good so far."
The four-for-three arrangement has helped Counsell manage an early-season issue with Cain's oblique and now Yelich's back problem without missing a beat while also leaving outfielder Billy McKinney free to serve in a pinch-hitting role.
"It’s worked out fine so far," Counsell said. "We’re putting a great player in the lineup every day."
The Brewers swapped relievers Monday afternoon, sending right-hander Eric Yardley to their alternate training site while recalling left-hander Angel Perdomo.
Yardley allowed five earned runs — including a home run — with two hit batters, three walks and two strikeouts over five innings in five appearances after posting a 6.75 ERA and 2.125 WHIP in eight Cactus League outings.
"He was just battling himself a little bit at times," Counsell said. "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."
Perdomo made three appearances last season and allowed seven runs (six earned) on seven walks and three hits while striking out five in 2⅔. innings. In eight spring training outings, he struck out 12 of the 24 batters he faced and didn't allow a run over 6⅓ innings.
"Angel threw the ball very, very well in spring training and we think he can help us," Counsell said. "We're about to face a couple teams where having another left-hander is impactful, and can be useful."
From the infirmary
Yelich is still day-to-day after soreness in his lower back forced him from the Brewers' victory in St. Louis Sunday.
"There was enough there today that didn't feel like he should be in the lineup," Counsell said.
While Yelich sat out for the first time this season, third baseman Travis Shaw returned to the lineup after he fouled a pitch off his leg Sunday and was pulled for precautionary reasons.
"He woke up feeling better," Counsell said. "He was out there taking some ground balls (pregame) and he's doing all right."
Around the horn
The Brewers combined for a team batting average of .172 (40-for-232) over their first seven games but went 22-for-75 in their back-to-back victories over the Cardinals. ... Shaw began the day third in the National League with 10 RBIs this season. ... Milwaukee's starting pitchers have worked at least five innings and allowed no more than one earned run in six consecutive starts after Freddy Peralta allowed just a run over five innings Monday.