MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers' Domingo Santana isn't quite back to playing right field at Miller Park yet, but his optimistic demeanor in the clubhouse on Wednesday afternoon represented one of the most positive signs the team has seen from the young outfielder since he hit the disabled list on June 10.
Much of the last two and a half months have been frustrating for Santana, 24, who was placed on the 15-day DL twice in that span, first with a shoulder injury and then right elbow soreness. Now in the midst of a second rehab stint with Class-A Wisconsin, Santana is finally pain-free and progressing toward a return to Milwaukee.
Back with the Brewers on Wednesday -- though still inactive -- due to an off-day on the schedule for Wisconsin, Santana once again had a confidence about him. If the timeline he gave is accurate, Santana could be back with the Crew next week.
"That's a big step, I think, through this," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said of Santana's optimism. "We're cautious, but I think the optimism that he's showing is pointing to the right direction."
Santana was shut down from baseball activities in the immediate aftermath of his initial elbow soreness. Over a month into his DL stint, Santana began his first rehab assignment with Wisconsin, but suffered what Counsell described as a "big setback" on July 25. Understandably, frustration mounted as he was once again shut down.
"Who would be a happy man?" Santana said. "I'm just here, watching them all, the teammates, play and I can't even do anything. That's frustrating, especially for me coming over here and trying to get an opportunity to play every day."
Santana noted that he finally feels past the injury. He'll return to his rehab assignment over the weekend while Wisconsin plays in Beloit and suggested the final step before a return to Milwaukee could be an advancement to a higher Minor League level to face better pitching.
Coming into the season, Santana was slotted as the everyday right fielder in his first full big league season.
"We were doing a couple of exercises that were really bothering it," Santana said last week. "We got together and talked and eased down on the exercises to see if it doesn't get as tight. It's been a lot better and a lot looser, so we're going to try it again."
In 40 games this season, Santana is batting .234 with a .737 OPS. He has walked in an impressive 14 percent of plate appearances, but also has struck out in 34.7 percent of his trips to the plate.
Curt Hogg is a reporter for MLB.com based in Milwaukee This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.