20-game stretch has taxed Milwaukee's bullpen

Brewers climb into outer edges of National League wild-card race

Published On: Sep 10 2012 01:29:15 AM CDT   Updated On: Sep 10 2012 12:25:03 PM CDT
Milwaukee Brewers pitcher

The Milwaukee Brewers are 17 games into a stretch in which they will play 20 in a row before getting a day off.

Though they have fared well over that period, climbing into the outer edges of the National League wild-card race, it has taxed their bullpen -- even with September call-ups -- and forced players to go with aches and pains.

"Last year, we had a lot of off days in September and that really works out nice," manager Ron Roenicke said. "But the two stretches, a 20-gamer and 16 (in a row) at the end, that's pretty rough. You have help, but it's mainly a double-switch or pinch-hit.

"I'll still probably give guys some days off, but right now they know that they need to play and we'll see what happens. But that doesn't mean if you give a guy a day off that you've given up on what's going on. If you give that guy a day off and he's better for the next 10, that's probably a good thing to do."

Third baseman Aramis Ramirez returned to action Saturday after missing two games with a lower back strain. He told Roenicke he wanted back in the lineup and went 3-for-3 with a single, double, homer and two walks.

"I've been around long enough," Ramirez said. "I know when I can play and when I can't. I came here today and went to (Roenicke's) office and told him I'm good to go.

"Nobody in here is (100 percent healthy). It's September. We've played 140 games. That's a lot of games. I guarantee you nobody here is 100 percent."

With no off days of late and several tight victories, the late-inning relievers were getting overworked. Roenicke said some were off-limits Sunday but wouldn't reveal their names to protect his strategy.

"The numbers we have are fine," he said. "It's just that you get late in a game and you want certain guys pitching seven, eight and nine. When you're close and you're using them every night, somebody else is going to have to do it."