MILWAUKEE -- Before they made it through their sixth week of regular season baseball, the Brewers already needed reinforcements for an overworked bullpen.
The team on Saturday optioned outfielder Adam Stern back to Triple-A Nashville and promoted right-hander John Axford in time for their game against the Phillies. Axford gave the Brewers a 13-man pitching staff, and manager Ken Macha said it would remain that way for the "near future."
"Whether that's a week or 10 days, something like that," Macha said.
Axford was excellent in Spring Training and continued to pitch well at Nashville, where he was 3-2 with a 2.03 ERA (13 1/3 innings, three earned runs) and two saves in 12 games.
Brewers relievers had combined for a 5.68 ERA entering Saturday's game, the second-worst mark of all 30 Major League teams to Arizona's 7.49, and a league-worst .292 batting average against. They had also been called upon to work 117 1/3 innings, the seventh-highest total.
"You always keep a little watch obviously," Axford said of the Brewers' bullpen situation. "It's not something to harp on. You can't keep looking at it. What's going to happen is going to happen. I've just got to do my work, that's all I try to do, really."
Milwaukee's struggles at the back end of the bullpen, with usually-reliable veterans, have exacerbated the problem. Closer Trevor Hoffman already has four blown saves, matching his total from all of last season, and a 12.00 ERA in 12 appearances.
Setup man LaTroy Hawkins was hit to the tune of a 9.23 ERA in 13 appearances while pitching with weakness in his right shoulder before finally succumbing to the disabled list. Hawkins will be reevaluated on Sunday or Monday.