One of the new parts of the CBA signed during the offseason involved changing the 15-day DL to a 10-day disabled list, shortening the time a player must spend on the DL when placed on it. It allowed teams more flexibility when dealing with injuries, as placing a player on it doesn’t restrict them as much as it had in the past. However, as with any new rule, there’s a learning curve to it. Learning how to use it properly takes time, and there’s bound to be bumps in the process. The Brewers are experiencing some of those bumps with Ryan Braun’s current injury.
Back on Sunday, April 30, Ryan Braun came out of the game with a right forearm strain, and was listed as day-to-day. The Brewers believed he would only be out for a few days, so they didn’t put him on the DL. He pinch-hit two days later, but the injury wasn’t getting better. He flew back to Milwaukee after the Cardinals series for an MRI, and the results came out clean. He then rejoined the team and was still available for pinch-hit duty, but hasn’t played, is still day-to-day, and “might” be back Tuesday.
At this point, it’s been over a week since Ryan Braun’s initial injury, and it’s still not certain that he will be back for the series against the Red Sox. We’re now approaching the ten day mark for that injury. That brings up a question: Why didn’t the Brewers just place Braun on the 10-day DL? Instead of playing a man down (which already hurts since they are only operating with 12 position players), they could have called up someone from the minor leagues and had a full bench available. It would have given Braun time to recover and not hurt the Brewers over the last week.
Considering the injury, it’s likely the Brewers initially thought that Braun would only be out a few days. If he was gone only 2-3 days, a DL stint wouldn’t make sense. However, once it hit the 4 to 5 day mark, that’s when a DL stint would start to make more sense, especially if the team knew he could still miss a few more games. This is where that pinch hit on Tuesday really starts to hurt the team.
The 5 day mark hit on Friday, when Braun flew back to Milwaukee to visit with the team doctor for the MRI. If Braun had not pinch hit on Tuesday, the Brewers could have placed him on the DL right there, backdated it to Tuesday (new DL rules allow for only 3 day backdate), and called up a bench bat to cover for 7 days. In this case, calling up someone like Michael Reed would have worked, as he’s already on the 40-man, used an option, and bringing him up to sit on the bench for a few days wouldn’t disrupt the development of other prospects (who they could bring up as well, but bringing them up to sit on the bench is not ideal). Instead, Braun is still not on the DL and his return on Tuesday is not a guarantee.
Of course, there’s the other side to consider as well: What if Braun didn’t need more than 2-3 days to recover? He then has to spend an extra week out because he must spend 10 days minimum on the DL. That’s a valid concern, but it’s a risk-reward scenario with less risk than before. In the case of Braun, his other nagging injuries meant there’s a little more reward in a DL stint. Also, missing time this early in the season isn’t as critical as missing time late in the season. If the Brewers were in a September run, missing those seven days could be very hurtful, so the risk is higher. In the early part of a year that’s not expected to be competitive, it’s a low risk proposition.
The question the Brewers face now is what to do with this injury starting with Tuesday’s game. They’ve basically had to play a man down for a week, and could continue to if Braun isn’t ready to go (there’s a 75-80% chance he’ll play Tuesday). If Braun still isn’t ready to play on Tuesday, would the Brewers consider the DL then? They still have the option to backdate three days and bring someone else up for seven days. They wouldn’t have to play with a short bench and can give Braun time to rest properly. If they choose not to DL him, he could be ready to go, or could continue to play day-to-day for a few more days, continuing to hamper the Brewers bench (especially since they’re already down with a 13-man pitching staff). If another position player takes a day-to-day injury during that time, a DL move would almost be forced at that point due to how short then bench would be.
The Brewers are learning how to handle the 10-day DL, but there’s a lot of opportunity lost with how they’ve handled it with Ryan Braun so far. With only 10 days required on the DL now, placing a player on the DL with a day-to-day injury shouldn’t be as much of a concern as before. Hopefully this whole process with Braun will lead to better decisions with future day-to-day injuries based on what they learned here.
EDIT: Updated original article to reflect new three-day backdate rule.