Garza on schedule for first start after scare

Right-hander on pace to pitch Wednesday after exiting game with shoulder soreness

Garza on schedule for first start after scare

MILWAUKEE -- After enduring a shoulder scare in Houston, Matt Garza remains scheduled to start Wednesday against the Giants, Brewers general manager David Stearns said on the eve of Opening Day.

Garza exited an exhibition game on Friday in Houston with a tight right shoulder, but he and manager Craig Counsell later characterized that decision as a precaution and expressed hope that Garza would not have to miss a start.

That hope persisted on Sunday, when Garza was scheduled to throw off the mound at Miller Park.

"Clearly, whenever you have an injury with any sort of shoulder tightness or discomfort, you want to proceed cautiously,' Stearns said. "But so far, he's felt good. He'll throw a side today, and we'll see how that goes. As of now, he's still on schedule."

The Brewers' Plan B for Wednesday is Taylor Jungmann, who is currently scheduled to pitch Friday against the Astros on extra rest.

Bullpen in flux

Jeremy Jeffress is the Brewers' closer. Beyond that, the team heads into Opening Day with relief roles up for grabs.

Injuries are the culprit. Will Smith will miss a significant chunk of the season after tearing a ligament in his right knee while taking off his shoe, and Corey Knebel joined Smith on the 15-day disabled list Saturday with a left oblique strain.

So, who will pitch high leverage spots in the late innings?

"Clearly, JJ is one of them, and beyond that, it's going to be Craig matching up the best he can with the pieces he has in place and seeing if guys step up," Stearns said. "We certainly have opportunity here for guys to establish themselves as high-leverage relievers in the bullpen, and we're confident that some of them will."

Jeffress strikes out Marte

Besides Jeffress, the Brewers' Opening Day bullpen includes Michael Blazek and Tyler Thornburg, who has pitched some high-leverage situations for Milwaukee over the past two years, plus newcomers Blaine Boyer, Chris Capuano and Carlos Torres and rookie Ariel Pena. Capuano is the only left-hander.

Torres was just added Saturday on a one-year contract. Stearns said the Brewers tried to sign him over the winter before he took a Minor League contract with the Braves.

The Brewers didn't see Knebel's injury coming. He pitched a scoreless inning against the Astros on Thursday without incident, but he felt a twinge while playing catch Friday morning and alerted the Brewers' athletic training staff.

"He was as surprised as everyone, I think, when he played catch and felt a little pull," Stearns said.

Nolin has UCL sprain

Stearns clarified that left-hander Sean Nolin has a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow, not an elbow strain as originally reported, and could face Tommy John surgery. First, Nolin will rehab the injury in an effort to avoid surgery.

"There are always different degrees of sprain, so we're going to go through a rehab process with Sean over the next six weeks or so," Stearns said. "Our hope and expectation, and Sean's expectation, is that rest and rehab will alleviate some of the discomfort. If that's not the case, then clearly we'll have to re-evaluate it and determine whether surgery is a possibility."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.