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Hoffman back in action, but as setup man

Hoffman back in action, but as setup man

MINNEAPOLIS -- Trevor Hoffman was released from the Brewers' repair shop on Sunday, but did not return to action as the team's closer.

Instead, Hoffman, Major League Baseball's all-time leader with 596 saves, became the 14th pitcher in history to pitch his 1,000th game while working as Milwaukee's setup man. He needed only 10 pitches, nine of them strikes, in a perfect eighth inning that helped preserve a 4-3 win over the Twins that avoided a three-game sweep.

John Axford allowed a run and then loaded the bases in the ninth inning, but notched the save. In his 18th season, Hoffman logged his first career hold. The 1,000th appearance meant more.

"I'm proud of the fact I was able to reach that," he said. "It talks about durability. I'm glad to get there."

Hoffman might pitch a few more of the middle innings for the Brewers as he searches for the form that gave him 37 saves last season in 41 chances. He entered Sunday 5-for-10 in save opportunities with a 13.15 ERA and had not pitched since a blown save in Cincinnati on Tuesday.

Asked before the game about his willingness to work innings other than the ninth, Hoffman said he was "ready to go. It's about winning ballgames. We briefly discussed it, and it's obviously not where I want to pitch, but I've put myself in this position and put the team in a [poor] position. [Manager Ken Macha] needs to worry about many different facets of what's going on, so if I go out and throw the ball better than I have for a little bit, then things will change back."

Macha and pitching coach Rick Peterson discussed the arrangement in a brief chat with Hoffman on Friday. On Saturday, Hoffman took part in his second pregame bullpen session with Peterson, working on mechanical adjustments related to arm slot that Peterson believes will add more downward movement to his pitches.

"It's nice to be active again," Hoffman said. "Our little hiatus of work hopefully will pay off."

Even if it paid off in a setup situation. Working with a 4-2 lead, Hoffman struck out Trevor Plouffe before a showdown with reigning American League MVP Joe Mauer, who had Sunday off until he appeared as a pinch-hitter. Mauer hit a ball back to the mound, where Hoffman backhanded it and threw to first for the second out. Alexi Casilla popped the next pitch to third baseman Casey McGehee in foul ground to end the inning.

Did Hoffman see a difference in his stuff?

"Not really. It was more in the swings that I got," he said. "There was a little bit more deception again to my pitches."

Carlos Villanueva was 1-for-2 in save opportunities in place of Hoffman before Axford got the call on Sunday. The Brewers also added a new weapon to the bullpen Sunday in 22-year-old left-hander Zach Braddock, a hard-thrower who could someday evolve into a closer.

"It's a kick in the stomach to everybody when the team blows a save," Macha said. "I don't want to put anybody on the spot because guys are out there ... doing the best they can. The whole thing is under a microscope."

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