Junior Guerra and the Milwaukee Brewers face the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday. Photo by Kamil Krzaczynski/UPI | License Photo
MILWAUKEE -- Help is on the way for the Milwaukee Brewers' beleaguered bullpen, but they will remain short-handed when they continue their series against the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday.
Right-handers Matt Albers and Joakim Soria have made significant progress as they rehab from hamstring and thigh strains, though neither player is ready to be added to the active roster yet, Brewers manager Craig Counsell said Monday ahead of Milwaukee's 5-2 victory over the Reds at Miller Park.
Albers, out since Aug. 7, is the closest to returning. He performed well during a minor league rehab assignment over the weekend and returned to the team Monday. He reported no more issues with his leg and said he used his time on rehab to work on his sinker and mechanics, two things that were issues as he compiled a 54.22 ERA in four appearances since coming back from a 40-day DL stint for a shoulder injury.
"We're going to kind of play it day to day and see how it goes," Counsell said. "He's doing good. His last three outings went very well. He feels like he accomplished some things and that he's healthy. He's ready. We weren't planning on activating him today unless there was a need. We'll kind of go with that for the next couple of days, depending on need."
Soria will be evaluated again after he faces batters during a throwing session Tuesday.
"We'll let him get through that, and I'd say Wednesday we'll probably be able to figure out what our next step is," Counsell said.
Albers was a big part of the Brewers' early-season success. He had a 1.08 ERA thorough his first 21 appearances while Soria, acquired just ahead of the deadline to shore up what was -- at the time -- one of the top relief corps in baseball, had not allowed a run in six appearances before giving up a ninth-inning grand slam to the Padres' Hunter Renfroe one batter before he was injured Aug. 9.
With those two out and closer Corey Knebel still relegated to lower-leverage duty while he works through issues, the Brewers' bullpen has struggled the last few weeks and will likely be short-handed Tuesday night against the Reds with Josh Hader and Jeremy Jeffress having worked Milwaukee's last two games.
A long outing from right-hander Junior Guerra (6-8, 3.73 ERA) would make things much easier Tuesday. Guerra is looking to bounce back from his last outing, when he failed to get through the fourth in an 8-4 loss to the Cubs in Chicago on Wednesday. Returning to Milwaukee should help Guerra, who has a 2.59 ERA in 80 innings at Miller Park.
Against the Reds, Guerra has a 5.02 ERA in six career appearances (five starts) but is averaging nearly two full runs lower against Cincinnati in two starts this season (3.09), allowing four earned runs over 11 2/3 innings.
Sal Romano's last start left a bad taste, too. The right-hander only lasted 1 2/3 innings in a loss to Cleveland, surrendering six runs on seven hits and two walks with most of the damage coming during a four-run opening inning.
"They did find the holes but I also fell behind every single hitter I faced," said Romano, who is 7-10 with a 5.31 ERA this season. "It's just unacceptable. It's one of those days. I was on a pretty good run and obviously this kind of ruins that."
Prior to that outing, Romano had been on an upswing of sorts. He'd allowed seven runs over his previous 19 2/3 innings over five appearances.
"It's been like pitch good for a couple of weeks, pitch a really, really bad one," Romano said. "There hasn't really been that mediocre game where we're still in the game and we come back and end up winning the game. It's usually out of reach at the time when I come out of the game."
Romano has never beaten the Brewers in his career. He's taken the loss in each of his five career starts against Milwaukee, posting a 5.70 ERA in 23 2/3 innings, including an 0-3 mark and 6.32 ERA at Miller Park.
He's fared better this season, allowing only two runs in each of his two starts against Milwaukee but took the loss in both games thanks to a lack of offensive support.