MILWAUKEE — His sore back not recovering as hoped, the Milwaukee Brewers placed outfielder Christian Yelich on the 10-day injured list Saturday ahead of their game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at American Family Field.
Yelich hadn't played since last Sunday, when he was in the starting lineup against the Cardinals in St. Louis. He was pulled in the second inning with what the team described as lower back soreness and missed all four of Milwaukee's games since.
There was hope Yelich could return for this weekend's series against the Pirates. He went through a workout during Thursday's off day, but after a lack of improvement Friday the decision was made to send him to the injured list.
"We ramped it up yesterday but didn't go forward today," Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said. "That was a sign that we just needed to slow down so we'll do that, take a couple more days without baseball activities and see where that leads us."
Counsell is the third Brewers starter to land on the injured list, joining second baseman Kolten Wong (oblique) and center fielder Lorenzo Cain (hamstring). Those three normally fill the top three spots in the lineup.
"We'll just have to fill in around those guys until they get back," Counsell said. "The number of guys we've lost right now from an offensive perspective is definitely significant. It does change your offense, there's no question about it. Hopefully it's a short-term thing and they're back in there soon."
Wong was on the field taking ground balls for a second straight day Saturday. He's eligible to return Monday, when the Brewers open a three-game series in San Diego, though he might need a little more time.
"We're making progress," Counsell said. "The fact that he's doing baseball stuff means we're getting close."
None of the three is expected to miss significant time.
"We're missing some guys and our depth is being tested a little bit right now," third baseman Travis Shaw said. "It's a 'next-man-up' kind of thing and we all have confidence in the guys coming in, stepping up and getting some hits."
Cain's injury cleared a spot for Jackie Bradley Jr. to get regular playing time while Wong's absence has allowed Counsell to use Bradley in the leadoff spot.
Bradley brought a .163 average into the series opener Friday but went 1-for-4 to extend his hitting streak to six games.
"He's a streaky guy but he's going to get going," Counsell said. "I like getting him a lot of at-bats, that's the biggest thing and when you're hitting first obviously that's what happens."
The Brewers are counting on first baseman Keston Hiura to heat up, too. After starting the season 0-for-20 with 10 strikeouts, Hiura went 4-for-12 with a double, home run and four RBIs in his next three games.
He's gone hitless in three games since but has drawn four walks during that stretch, which Counsell said was an encouraging sign.
"His at-bats have improved but we need Keston to hit," Counsell said. "There's no question about it."
To replace Yelich on the roster, Milwaukee recalled right-hander Eric Yardley from the team's alternate training site.
Yardley posted a 9.00 ERA in five appearances before getting sent down earlier in the week in favor of left-hander Angel Perdomo.
"I'm not sure Eric got completely locked in," Counsell said at the time. "Even in spring he was battling himself a little bit at times but he'll get on track."
If Yardley can return to his 2020 form (1.54 ERA in 23⅓ innings), it would go a long way toward stabilizing a bullpen that has yet to sort itself out ahead of closer Josh Hader. Milwaukee's relievers have combined for a 4.86 ERA, better only than the Colorado Rockies among National League squads.
Counsell isn't ready to sound the alarm just yet, noting that it's still early in the season and the relief corps is much younger and less experienced than in years past.
"I think we're in a good place," Counsell said. "I'm comfortable with what we're doing."
Freddy Peralta (2-0, 0.69 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound Sunday when the Brewers wrap up their series with the Pirates. In 13 innings that included two starts and a relief appearance, Peralta has allowed one run while striking out 24. Peralta is 1-0 with a 3.72 ERA in 10 career appearances against Pittsburgh.
Pirates starter Chad Kuhl (0-1, 6.75) is 4-0 with a 1.73 ERA in eight appearances (seven starts) against the Brewers with a 1.85 ERA in four starts at American Family Field.