The Brewers have good news on the horizon: They are getting healthy once again! First, Ryan Braun came off the DL over a week ago after dealing with a strained oblique. Then Carlos Gomez returned from a back injury/suspension/flu.
Now, both Jim Henderson and Tom Gorzelanny may be nearing a return to the team's bullpen. Gorzelanny, who has yet to pitch in the majors this year after shoulder surgery, has been rehabbing in Brevard County recently, and is expected to move up to Triple-A Nashville soon. Though there is no official time frame for him to return, it sounds like he should be activated for the first time sooner than later.
Henderson, meanwhile, will begin a rehab assignment tomorrow with Double-A Huntsville. He has been on the DL since May 2 with shoulder inflammation, but should only need a handful of appearances before he returns. All in all, it seems that both Gorzelanny and Henderson should be back within two weeks.
But who will be removed to make room for them?
Let's split the Brewers' current active roster into categories!
The no-duh-they-will-stay-on-the-roster's (12): Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez, Jonathan Lucroy, Martin Maldonado, Jean Segura, Marco Estrada, Matt Garza, Wily Peralta, Francisco Rodriguez, Will Smith, Tyler Thornburg, Kyle Lohse
Yeah, none of those guys are going anywhere anytime soon.
The probably-safe-from-harms (6): Khris Davis, Mark Reynolds, Logan Schafer, Scooter Gennett, Zach Duke, Brandon Kintzler
The Brewers just don't realistically have any options other than these guys. There isn't an obvious starting candidate behind Davis, Schafer is needed for his capability of backing up any position. Mark Reynolds is the Brewers' best first-base option (and third-base option with Aramis Ramirez out). Scooter Gennett is up as long as Rickie Weeks remains unreliable (always, anymore). Meanwhile, both Duke and Kintzler have been very good out of the bullpen, Duke moreso than Kintzler.
The possible DL candidate (1): Yovani Gallardo
Gallardo suffered a sprained ankle in Tuesday night's game against the Braves. If he has to go on the DL, that will open up one roster spot. For now, he's day-to-day and it doesn't appear likely he would miss more than one start, if that.
The yo-yo (1): Elian Herrera
Herrera is the club's up-and-down player this year, it seems like. When players return from the DL, he's back in the minors. If someone gets hurt, he's top of the list for a potential call-up.
The could-be-but-won't-be-released's (1): Rickie Weeks
People had talked about the Brewers cutting Weeks earlier in the season and eating the remainder of his contract. It's not super necessary to keep two players who can only play second base. But a hot month of May has shelved those talks, and he'll stay on the roster until further notice.
The should-be-released's(2): Lyle Overbay, Jeff Bianchi
Both are probably the least useful players on the team right now. Both will likely remain.
The likely demotion candidate (1) : Rob Wooten
Wooten is the last man in the bullpen, non-Wang division. He hasn't been bad or anything (in fact, he's been pretty good all-in-all), it's just that there is no room for him once Gorzelanny and Henderson return.
The Rule Fiver (1): Wei-Chung Wang
No explanation necessary.
So, the Brewers have two relievers coming back from injury. They need two roster spots. One of those will likely be Rob Wooten's given the fact the Brewers seem to prefer their other relief options to him. But who else will be dropped from the active roster?
Milwaukee could choose to remove a position player from the roster and go with a 13-man bullpen. It would severely limit flexibility, however. Elian Herrera would be the obvious choice, despite his ability to play pretty much every position. That would leave the Brewers with a bench of Rickie Weeks, Martin Maldonado, Logan Schafer and Jeff Bianchi, assuming Mark Reynolds is at third and Lyle Overbay is at first.
Schafer would then be the only backup outfielder while both Ryan Braun and Carlos Gomez are still just back from nagging injuries and Khris Davis is still struggling. Jeff Bianchi/Lyle Overbay are then the dual platoon-mates of Mark Reynolds. It's not ideal, but it's something the Brewers have done before.
The other option, unless the Brewers really surprise and remove a different reliever, would be to remove Wei-Chung Wang from the roster. Which, of course, likely would mean a return to Pittsburgh for the young reliever. The Brewers clearly want to keep him, but they haven't faced as tough of a decision as that which they are about to deal with. Wang was proven he can't be trusted to get major league starters out, and the Brewers need a roster spot. If he is still on the roster in two weeks, I think it's a given Wang will stay with the team all of 2014. I'm not sure he'll make it that long, though.
The wrench in this whole thing is the fact that Henderson and Gorzelanny are not the only injured Brewers set to return soon. Aramis Ramirez will also be back, likely in less than two weeks' time. If the Brewers don't remove a position player beforehand, they will when Ramirez is back.
So say Rob Wooten is off the roster, and say Elian Herrera is off the roster. That creates two roster spots for three returning players. With no more obvious choices to send down, the Brewers will have to get rid of another reliever unless they choose to play with a three-man bench. Will the Brewers sacrifice Kintzler to keep Wang? Will Duke get removed despite his outstanding performance thus far?
Unless the Brewers have another DL-bound player within the next two weeks, they'll have a tough decision to make soon. That could spell the end of Wei-Chung Wang's tenure with the team.