He was pretty good on Monday night, working four scoreless innings of relief for the win in Milwaukee's extra-inning triumph over Chicago. Villanueva threw 68 pitches, but only 37 for strikes, one area in which he still needs improvement.
"You come in to throw strikes. That's the most important part of that situation," Villanueva said. "But I do feel that I am getting used to the 'pen and adjusting to it."
Villanueva "was just a body," manager Ned Yost said, when the Brewers promoted him from Double-A Huntsville to the Majors last May to fill a hole in a battered bullpen. Over two stints with Milwaukee, Villanueva went 2-2 with a 3.69 ERA in 10 games, six starts. Between those stays he went 7-1 with a 2.71 ERA at Triple-A Nashville.
Still, when the Brewers began Spring Training, Yost did not think Villanueva would start the year in the bullpen. The starting rotation was set, and many observers expected the Brewers to send Villanueva to Triple-A so he could remain a starter.
"He earned it," Yost said of Villanueva's spot on the roster. "He filled a need for us. We're trying to win games."
Mr. Wrigley: Three of Prince Fielder's four multi-homer games have come against the Cubs at Wrigley Field: April 29 and May 12 of last season, and then Monday night, when Fielder hit a solo homer in the eighth inning and another in the top of the 12th that put the Brewers on top.
Fielder added another home run in Tuesday's win, driving a two-run shot into the teeth of a northeast wind blowing straight in from center field. After hitting two homers in his first 69 at-bats this season, Fielder clubbed three in his first eight at-bats at Wrigley Field. He was hitting .262 with five homers and 14 RBIs through Tuesday.
But don't expect Fielder to analyze his offensive stats.
"Last year I analyzed everything," he said. "I would hit in the cage from 1 [p.m.] to when we took batting practice. That doesn't help you at all. That just makes you tired. Now I just try to make it simple.
"[Hitting coach Jim Skaalen] is great. He doesn't clog us with too much information or with too many mechanics thoughts. He just says, 'Try to hit the ball on the barrel.'"
Extra work: While the rest of his teammates played cards or worked in the batting cage before the series opener, outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. had taken over the right-field corner and was going through agility drills with Brewers strength and conditioning specialist Chris Joyner.
Some of the drills came from Gwynn's offseason work with football players at San Diego State University, where his Hall of Fame dad is the baseball coach. Some came from Joyner.
"I'm not playing as much, so I'm trying to keep my legs in shape," Gwynn said. "I'm always a little paranoid about losing a step, so I've got to stay sharp."
Gwynn is the sixth outfielder on Milwaukee's roster. Entering play Wednesday, he had only 13 at-bats in 15 games and had appeared mostly as a pinch-hitter or defensive replacement.
Aquino to DL: Right-handed reliever Greg Aquino still felt sore during a throwing session at Triple-A Nashville on Wednesday, so the Brewers placed him on the 15-day disabled list with right forearm tightness.
The team had optioned Aquino to the Minors last weekend after two bad outings, and he did not reveal the soreness until after that decision was made. A team doctor who saw Aquino in Milwaukee on Sunday initially said the 29-year-old would be fine after a few days of rest.
Because rules prohibit teams from demoting injured players, the Brewers had to void Aquino's option to Nashville before placing him on the Major League DL. He will draw a big-league salary and will continue to accrue service time during his layoff.
TV note: FSN Wisconsin announced that it had shuffled the broadcast schedule, adding a pair of Wednesday afternoon games: June 6 against the Cubs and June 20 against the Giants. Both games begin at 1 p.m. CT and will be replayed at 7 p.m.
One of the games replaces the April 13 Brewers-Cardinals rainout. The other replaces next Monday's game against the Cardinals at Miller Park, which will no longer be televised by FSN Wisconsin, but will air nationally on ESPN.
On deck: The Brewers continue their long stretch against National League Central opponents with a three-game series in Houston beginning Friday. Chris Capuano, who beat the Astros at Miller Park on Saturday, will start against Roy Oswalt, who lost to the Brewers on Sunday. Capuano and Oswalt tied for the Major League lead with 25 quality starts last season (six or more innings with three or fewer earned runs), but Capuano has yet to record one this year. Nonetheless, he's 3-0.