It has been more than two weeks since Christian Yelich last took the field for the Milwaukee Brewers as he continues to deal with his ailing back. But after undergoing an MRI over the weekend, the team is reportedly optimistic that their superstar outfielder will be back in the starting lineup before the end of the week.
Yelich’s MRI revealed no structural damage according to manager Craig Counsell, who said yesterday that the team was able to rule out “anything significant” in terms of the injury. Milwaukee will continue their current course of treatment for Yelich, who has dealt with back issues regularly during the course of his career. This is the sixth stretch of games he’s missed for back-related issues during his time with the Brewers.
With no structural damage found and the current course seemingly set at “rest and rehab until ready,” it leaves sort of an open timeline as to just exactly when Yelich will be able to return to action, and also makes it seem like this will be just one of those things that the fans and front office will have to deal with annually while Yelich plays out his contract.
The team has fared just fine during Yelich’s absence, going 8-4 over the 12 games he has missed while currently sitting atop the NL Central with a 13-8 record. Pitching has been carrying the team, however, as they’ve struggled to get consistent contributions from the offense on a nightly basis. Despite ranking 8th in the NL with 4.33 runs per game, the club is tied for last on the Senior Circuit with a collective 83 OPS+. No NL team has a lower batting average (.209) or more strikeouts (229) than the Brewers. According to Baseball-Reference, only two members of Milwaukee’s regular starting lineup this year — Omar Narvaez (189 OPS+) and Kolten Wong (147 OPS+) — have been better than the league average on offense this year.
“Pitching and defense” is a recipe that team can win with, and it has generally worked for the Brewers so far this year. But throwing in a lot of close, high-pressure contests over a long season can become taxing on a pitching staff, especially during this unique campaign as each hurler rebuilds their workload after last summer’s 60-game sprint. It would certainly behoove the Brewers to put a few more runs up on the board, and former MVP Yelich — who started the year by hitting .333/.459/.367 through 37 plate appearances — should go long way towards helping that cause.
So too should the return of Lorenzo Cain, who himself is nearing a comeback from his quad injury. Cain hasn’t played since April 13th, but he is making progress with his work on the field, according to Counsell. The Gold Glove winning center fielder took part in some hard running on the field in Chicago before yesterday’s ballgame. After sitting out almost all of last summer’s pandemic campaign, Cain was off to a paltry .154/.214/.423 start in 28 plate appearances, but did basically singlehandedly win the game for the Brewers with a pair of home runs on April 7th.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference