Brewers promote Wooten to fortify bullpen

Brewers promote Wooten to fortify bullpen

CINCINNATI -- Rob Wooten understands it's likely this big league stint won't last very long, but he intends to make it very hard for the Brewers to make that decision, if they are thinking of sending him back down anytime soon.

Circumstances, more than performance, often dictate an on-the-bubble player, especially when it comes to relievers. There is a need for Wooten right now -- a big one, given how far the bullpen has been stretched of late -- but he may be expendable if Logan Schafer is deemed ready to come off the disabled list when he's eligible Saturday.

Still, Wooten, who was up with the Brewers from April 13-20, is ready and willing as he joins a bullpen that has swelled to eight relievers.

"There's tired guys down there," he said. "I'm here to hopefully relieve those guys a little bit."

The corresponding move was the interesting part: The Brewers optioned utility man Elian Herrera, choosing to hold onto Rule 5 Draft pick Wei-Chung Wang and second baseman Rickie Weeks, the two members of the Opening Day roster who have played the least this season.

With Wooten, who made four appearances during his first stint with the Brewers, Milwaukee is up to 13 pitchers for the first time this season, including eight in a terrific bullpen that entered Thursday fourth in the Majors with a 2.45 ERA despites Wang's 10 earned runs in six innings.

"We know how important the arms are," manager Ron Roenicke said. "We know that to keep the bullpen fresh and strong for the rest of the year that we can't keep going at this pace."

Bullpen help was deemed a priority because the Brewers have three of the 24 most-used relievers in the Major Leagues, in terms of appearances. Closer Francisco Rodriguez was second in the Majors with 16 games (all of them scoreless) and was deemed unavailable Wednesday. Left-hander Will Smith finally allowed a run on Tuesday in his 15th game. Tyler Thornburg went two innings on Tuesday for his 13th consecutive scoreless appearance and has pitched 14 times.

Wooten last pitched Saturday with Triple-A Nashville, so he should be well rested for the first couple of games of the Brewers' series in Cincinnati.

"I'm pretty fresh," he said. "I'm ready to go -- chomping at the bit."

Because the Brewers have been playing -- and winning -- so many close games, Wang has pitched four times in the team's first 28 games; two scoreless appearances and two more during which he surrendered 10 earned runs on 13 hits including three home runs.

Weeks was batting .188 with a .257 on-base percentage in 35 plate appearances as the right-handed-hitting half of the Brewers' second-base platoon. The remainder of his $11 million salary this season is guaranteed.

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter. Adam McCalvy is a reporter for Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.