The waiting game didn’t work.
Before Wednesday’s series finale with the Atlanta Braves at American Family Field, the Milwaukee Brewers placed shortstop Willy Adames on the injured list and recalled infielder Keston Hiura from Class AAA Nashville.
Adames suffered a high left ankle sprain on a slide into home plate early in Sunday’s game at Miami and missed both Monday’s and Tuesday’s games.
After showing some improvement Tuesday, Adames was given an additional day of recovery in hopes he might be able to avoid an IL stint.
Now, with the move retroactive to Monday, he’ll be out until at least May 26, with Luis Urías continuing to fill in at shortstop.
The decision to bring back Hiura was easy. He had been on a tear at the plate since being optioned to Nashville on May 6.
In five games with the Sounds, Hiura hit .421 with three home runs and 10 runs batted in while compiling an OPS of 1.417.
“It was good,” said Hiura, who found himself in the lineup already Wednesday, batting eighth and playing first base with left-hander Max Fried on the mound for the Braves.
Then, several hours later he found himself mobbed by his teammates after hitting a walk-off, two-run homer to cap a 7-6 victory.
“I was seeing the ball well. I’ve been seeing the ball pretty good for the most part. I think it was more so just getting those at-bats, being able to play back to back, multiple days in a row, make those adjustments from day to day.
“Things felt good. I was able to hit a lot of pitches that I should be hitting. Try to build off that.”
Hiura actually had been performing well in his initial stint with the Brewers too, building off a strong spring in which he hit .393 and led the team with four homers, 12 RBI and an OPS of 1.414.
He revamped his setup at the plate in the offseason, a move that quickly paid dividends.
Through 15 games of part-time duty with the Brewers that included six starts at first base, three at second base and three as designated hitter, Hiura hit .216/2/5/.688 before being sent down with Milwaukee needing an additional bullpen arm (Luis Perdomo).
“The rosters decreased in May, so I knew there was a chance (of being demoted),” Hiura said. “But I just try to do my job and whatever happens, kind of happens. It was good to get consistent ABs and get in there every day and help them win some games.”
The back and forth certainly isn’t foreign to Hiura, who had four stints with the Brewers in 2021 as he’s spent the season trying to gain a foothold.
“Yeah, I think last year definitely helps,” he said. “Going up and down, getting pinch-hits or playing every other day or whatever, I think that was kind of the first adjustment I made, and I learned from those.
“Heading into this year, just understanding my role. I’ve realized the past year that if I’m not starting in a game, stay engaged, stay locked in because that at-bat could come. If I’m not focused or as engaged as I can, it’s going to make it a lot more difficult.”
How long Hiura’s stay with the Brewers lasts remains to be seen, with Andrew McCutchen p to be reinstated from the COVID-19 injured list on Friday.
More:The Brewers remain confident their lineup will hit lefties. So far, though, the results are ugly.
Pitcher Ethan Small off to impressive start with Nashville Sounds
Speaking of players tearing it up at Nashville, perhaps no one has had a better performance than Ethan Small.
The left-hander, who is Milwaukee’s fourth overall prospect as rated by the Journal Sentinel, is 3-1 with a 1.95 earned run average and WHIP of 1.18 through seven starts. He also has struck out 46 in 32⅓ innings and is limiting opposing batters to a .149 average.
“He’s been dominant like always,” said Hiura, who had a chance to play behind Small last week. “The way he controls the game, even though sometimes he gets behind in counts, he’s able to get back pretty quickly and bounce back. He got drilled by a line drive last week.Stayed in the game and did well.
“There was a player on the other team, I think he was hitting .370. It was either his first at-bat or his second at-bat. He bunted for a base hit and got to second base. I was like, ‘Dude, you’re hitting .370, why are you bunting right now? He said, ‘Dude, you don’t understand. I ca n’t see his changeup of him. No one on our team can see his changeup from him. This is the best opportunity I have to get on base.’
“Second at-bat or the at-bat after that, he tried to bunt again, too. It just gives you a glimpse of what the other team is thinking of when they’re facing him. He’s doing great down there. He’s going to have a great future, for sure.”
All that said, don’t look for the 2019 first-round pick to be pitching out of the Brewers’ bullpen in the immediate future.
“We view Ethan as a starter, and we think he’s going to function best in that role, so we’re going to keep him starting for as long as we can down there,” president of baseball operations David Stearns said. “He’s still got work to do. I think he knows that. I think he’ll continue to work, and his opportunity will come.
The Brewers have a history of promoting pitchers they view as long-term starters to help them in the bullpen to start — Brandon Woodruff in 2017 and Corbin Burnes in 2018 are the most prominent examples — and manager Craig Counsell said in spring training he believed Small would make his major-league debut at some point this season.
So it would appear the question isn’t if but more like when.
“I think the course of our season and our needs are going to dictate that,” Stearns said. “I think for now, his proper place is in the starting rotation where he can continue to accumulate length and continue to throw strikes. That’s probably the most important part of that development.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism