Barrios' bullpen hopes dashed by injury

Brewers waiting to see if prospect will require surgery on shoulder

Barrios' bullpen hopes dashed by injury

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Coming off a promising showing last September, right-hander Yhonathan Barrios has been bumped from the Brewers' bullpen competition by a right shoulder injury that will force him to the Opening Day disabled list.

Whether Barrios requires surgery or merely an extended course of rest and rehabilitation remained an open question as of Thursday, when his records were sent to Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion. Barrios declined to specify the nature of his injury, pending Andrews' response.

"We're just waiting," Barrios said. "I think he's going to look at it [Friday] and send back the results. This happens in baseball. We need to be mentally strong. It's not easy, but you need to accept it happens in baseball, especially with a pitcher."

Brewers Spring Training: Tickets | Schedule | More

Barrios, 24, is relatively new to pitching, having converted from third base beginning in 2013, four years after he signed with the Pirates out of Colombia. Pittsburgh traded him to Milwaukee last July for third baseman Aramis Ramirez, and Barrios thrived in his new organization, posting a 3.15 ERA in 16 regular season appearances for Double-A Biloxi, then working 6 2/3 scoreless innings over five September games with the Brewers.

"I was really comfortable on the mound," Barrios said.

That changed in November, while he was pitching in Venezuela. Barrios was shut down and traveled to Phoenix to rehab at Maryvale Baseball Park, and was considered healthy at the start of Spring Training. But he felt renewed discomfort during a bullpen session and was scratched from his first scheduled appearance in the Cactus League.

"He will not be healthy to start the season," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "So, we're going to wait for the second opinion, and then he's going to make a decision on a course of action. For him, it's better to wait.

"It's unfortunate. Injuries are unfortunate. The guy worked hard to get here, obviously. But whatever he decides, he'll work hard."

The Brewers have five relievers penciled into what will probably be a seven-man bullpen on Opening Day. They are left-hander Will Smith and right-hander Jeremy Jeffress, plus right-handed setup men Michael Blazek, Corey Knebel and Tyler Thornburg.

Barrios was one of the pitchers vying for the two remaining jobs. The remaining competitors are right-handers Blaine Boyer, Hiram Burgos, Tyler Cravy, David Goforth, Junior Guerra, Zack Jones, Ariel Pena and Daniel Tillman, and left-handers Chris Capuano, Franklin Morales and Sean Nolin.

That list of players includes a complicated set of circumstances. Pena and Nolin are out of options. Cravy, Goforth and Guerra are on the 40-man roster, but have options. Boyer, Burgos, Tillman, Capuano and Morales are not on the 40-man roster, which is full.

In a separate category is Jones, who has yet to pitch because of a shoulder injury. He is a Rule 5 Draft pick, and thus must remain on the 25-man roster or be offered back to the Twins. Jones pitched to hitters in live batting practice Thursday and could appear next in a game.

Counsell on potential closers

So, Counsell and the Brewers have decisions. First among them: Do they want to keep a second lefty with Smith on the Opening Day roster?

"I want everything," Counsell said with a laugh. "You always want choices, certainly. But you want the guys that you think are going to get people out, so there's always a give and take and the way your talent stacks up."

Of the larger bullpen battle, Counsell said, "The best way to say it is they're certainly all in the mix. I wouldn't say we're much closer now to making a decision there. I think the guys have performed, really."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.