It's a return engagement for King, who was a productive member of the Brewers' bullpen from 2000-02, a span in which the team lost 289 games. The circumstances now are decidedly different, with manager Ned Yost's club entering play Tuesday 1 1/2 games behind the Cubs in the National League Central. Meanwhile, the Cardinals loom just one-half game behind the Brewers.
"First, it's a shock," King said on a conference call with Washington reporters. "You see the whole trade deadline come and go and you are thinking, 'OK, finish with this team.' You want to finish with respect -- for yourself and the organization. But anytime you get a phone call from the general manager's secretary, it's not good.
"I have a chance to go to Milwaukee. I understand they are a game and a half out, and they are trying to compete and try to get into the playoffs. That team hasn't been there since 1982. ... Sometimes things happen for a reason, and sometimes they don't."
Because he was acquired after Aug. 31, King would not be eligible for postseason games should the Brewers make it that far. King was available on the waiver wire in the days just before Aug. 31, but the Brewers did not bite because they felt covered with Brian Shouse and lefty Manny Parra. That was before the team knew the extent of Parra's thumb injury, and before Monday's bullpen meltdown.
"[King] has been here before, so it's a little different than a guy who has never stepped on that [Miller Park] mound," said Melvin, who mentioned Cincinnati, St. Louis and San Diego as impending opponents with tough left-handed hitters. "This just gives Ned a chance to use [a left-hander] from the sixth inning on, maybe a little earlier than he would before."
King posted a 4.54 ERA in 55 games for the Nationals this season and limited left-handed batters to a .161 average (righties hit .328). King and Shouse (.167 against lefties entering Tuesday) give Milwaukee two situational lefties for the final month of the season, with rookie Mitch Stetter more likely to pitch in low-pressure situations.
"I think it's going to be good for everybody," said Shouse, who entered Tuesday with a 2.27 ERA in 63 games.
King, who will wear No. 45 with the Brewers, is expected to arrive in Milwaukee by about noon Wednesday.
To make room on the 40-man roster for King, the Brewers designated right-hander Dennis Sarfate for assignment. Sarfate was one of the players in the mix for a bullpen spot in Spring Training, and he went 2-7 with a 4.52 ERA at Triple-A Nashville.
The Brewers recalled catcher Mike Rivera from Triple-A Nashville and transferred injured infielder Tony Graffanino to the 60-day disabled list. Rivera wears No. 11.
Rivera provides insurance while backup catcher Damian Miller recovers from a sore calf, though Yost said Miller was "feeling better" Tuesday. The primary catcher, Johnny Estrada, continues to play with a sore hamstring that is "not great, but still playable" and "not an issue right now," according to Yost. The Brewers also promoted Vinny Rottino on Sept. 1, but Rottino is a utility player who only this year focused on catching.
"We like Vinny's development as a catcher, but it's tough to bring a guy up here and ask him to catch [Derrick] Turnbow or [Francisco] Cordero," said Yost, referring to Milwaukee's hard-throwing relievers. "Every game is important, and this just gives us more options."
To take Rivera's spot at postseason-bound Nashville, the Brewers signed Brian Munhall from the independent Northern League.
Despite the Brewers' disappointing July and dreadful August, principal owner Mark Attanasio said Monday, "There's certainly no reason to think Ned won't be back next year." On Tuesday, Yost was asked whether he thinks he is managing the final 25 games of the 2007 regular season to keep his job for 2008.
"No," Yost said flatly. "I feel like I'm managing to win the Central division, and nothing more."
Yost insists he does not read the newspaper, scan the Internet or listen to the radio, but if he did, he would see and hear his job performance picked apart like at no other point in his five seasons at the helm. He put a positive spin on the armchair managing.
"When was the last time fans were feeling joy or [feeling] upset in September to this magnitude?" Yost asked. "So for me, as tough as it is, it is still an extreme amount of fun knowing that our fans are into it.
"If you're not getting second-guessed, it's because nothing is going on. It is a privilege to be in this situation. It is a privilege to be second-guessed, because it means you are doing something worthwhile."
One of those managing moments came Monday, when Brewers relievers lost a 7-4 lead in the eighth inning. Three runs were charged to Turnbow, and Greg Aquino surrendered the key hit, a two-run triple by Hunter Pence.
Yost defended the decision to use Aquino, saying he did not want to use Cordero for a four-out save because Cordero had pitched two of the previous three days, and that he favored Aquino's hard slider against Pence over Matt Wise's soft changeup. And because Pence was so much tougher on left-handed pitchers (.369 entering the at-bat) than righties (.308), he did not want to leave Shouse in the game.
Wise has surrendered eight runs in 11 innings since he hit Cincinnati's Pedro Lopez in the face with a pitch on July 25.
"I still trust him, but he needs to show me down the line here, real quick, that he can be productive like he was before," Yost said. "It's not that I don't trust him, but his outings from that point on have not been very productive."
Right-hander Yovani Gallardo (6-4, 4.66 ERA), coming off a brilliant performance against the Pirates in which he pitched seven innings and hit his second career home run, will start Wednesday's series finale against the Astros and righty Matt Albers (4-6, 5.36). First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. CT.