Notes: Are 13-man staff's days ending?

Notes: Are 13-man staff's days numbered?

MILWAUKEE -- When the Brewers elected to become the league's only team with a 13-man pitching staff in mid-April, manager Ned Yost had to sell the move to bench coach Robin Yount.

"He told me it was only going to be temporary," Yount said last month. "I didn't know what I was getting into. ... It feels permanent to me."

It might finally be over this week. With the pitching finally stabilized and right-hander Rick Helling set to return from the disabled list on Monday or Tuesday, Yost said the team is mulling a return to a 12-pitcher, 13-hitter configuration.

"I don't think it has hurt us much," Yount said of playing a positional man short. "We don't do a lot of pinch-hitting for our [starting] position guys. It's probably come up a few times, where we've felt like our hands were tied."

Still, Yount would welcome the move.

"We'd have more options," he said. "Sometimes when you're a man short, you feel leery about pinch-running a guy. But the thing is, you have to have the right guy. It doesn't help to just have a body. In a perfect world, you'd have a switch-hitting guy that could [run] and play all the positions out there, but how many of those guys are out there?"

Who would it be? Brewers general manager Doug Melvin returned Sunday morning from a tour of several Minor League affiliates, including Triple-A Nashville, and said he would meet with Yost on Monday to discuss a decision.

Should the Brewers elect to recall a position player, potential callups include utility man and Wisconsin native Vinny Rottino, who plays the most positions (third base, first base, catcher and the corner outfield spots), outfielder Tony Gwynn, Jr., who may have the best speed (team-high 17 steals), and outfielder Nelson Cruz, who has the best overall numbers (team-high 14 home runs, 49 RBIs and 49 runs scored).

Another intriguing option is infielder Chris Barnwell, a 27-year-old originally selected in the 25th round of the 2001 First-Year Player Draft. He is not regarded as a blue-chip prospect but would give the Brewers depth at a position of need while shortstop J.J. Hardy continues to recover from an ankle injury.

"Each year, he has gotten better," said Brewers first base coach Dave Nelson, who met Barnwell while serving as the Brewers' roving outfield and baserunning instructor from 2001-2002. "Scouts told me the same thing I'm sure they've told him, 'You'll never play in the big leagues.' Well, I played 11 years in the big leagues.

"It's easy to find five-tool players. Everybody can see those guys, but they don't always pan out. There are a lot of guys like Chris Barnwell in the big leagues."

No clues: Yost said he would also discuss with Melvin plans for the team's pitching staff once Helling is back in the fold. The skipper was typically secretive about the various scenarios.

"I know what I want to do," Yost said. "We'll just see if what I want to do matches with what Doug wants to do."

Helling's Minor League rehab starts put him in line to join the rotation on Tuesday, a spot currently occupied by right-hander Carlos Villanueva. In his first Major League start last week, Villanueva pitched six scoreless innings at Cincinnati, and Yost left open the possibility that Villanueva could be sent to the bullpen.

"Do I want him starting? Yes," Yost said. "But it's not a necessity right now."

Or, Villanueva could remain in the rotation and Helling could go to the bullpen. Assuming Helling is activated and a position player is called up, the Brewers would have to send down two pitchers.

Making progress: Hardy took about 60 ground balls on the field for the second straight day, a sign he is making progress from a right ankle injury.

"He's still not at full speed yet," Yost said. "Yesterday was all right at him, today they moved him a little bit more laterally."

Hardy suffered a severe ankle sprain on May 16. He would have been back earlier, but a tendon has been "moving around" the outside of Hardy's ankle, preventing him at times from putting weight on the joint.

On deck: The Brewers begin an Interleague series against the Tigers on Monday when Milwaukee's Doug Davis faces Detroit's Jeremy Bonderman. The team is expecting upwards of 25,000 fans for all three games in the series.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.