Crew cautious in use of Hoffman

Crew cautious in use of Hoffman

PITTSBURGH -- Asked Tuesday afternoon if he would be available to pitch a third straight day for the first time this season, Brewers closer Trevor Hoffman was vague at best.

"I would imagine so," he said after playing catch.

He apologized for being obscure, and the clear-cut answer came about five hours later. With the Brewers batting in the top of the ninth inning with a three-run lead, Carlos Villanueva, not Hoffman, warmed up in the bullpen. Villanueva notched his third save of the season, one shy of Hoffman.

Chalk it up to playing it safe. Hoffman, Major League Baseball's all-time saves leader, missed most of Spring Training with a strained muscle along the right side of his rib cage. Since returning to action in the final weekend of April, he has twice pitched on consecutive days but has yet to go three in a row.

"He's 41 and coming off his injury," manager Ken Macha said earlier in the day, after he was asked whether Hoffman was available.

At that time, the skipper wasn't sure.

"He's going to have to give me a definite," Macha said.

Villanueva and fellow right-hander Todd Coffey have served as Macha's alternates, and Villanueva in particular had been spotty before Tuesday. He was 2-for-5 in save chances, though only two of the three blown saves were true, last-inning opportunities. Prior to Tuesday, he had last pitched on Friday against the D-backs, when he took the loss after he was charged with two runs.

Villanueva was much sharper against the Pirates. He threw nine of his 14 pitches for strikes and struck out a batter in a 1-2-3 inning.

"We all have to contribute, and we know [Hoffman] can't pitch every day," Villanueva said. "It's nice to know that when he needs a day off and he's not available we can come in and get the job done. I know he appreciates it. Trust me, we all want him to be out there in the ninth."

Pitching matchup
MIL: LHP Manny Parra (0-4, 5.33 ERA)
Parra remained winless in his fifth start Friday against the D-backs, but at least he didn't suffer the loss. The lefty, who had lost each of his first four starts, shut out Arizona hitters on just 63 pitches through the first five innings before running into trouble in a 30-pitch sixth. He was burned by a pair of two-out walks, including a pass to Conor Jackson that forced in the first run of the game. It was intriguing that Parra walked Jackson on a full-count changeup, a pitch that manager Ken Macha has urged -- strongly -- that Parra use more often.

CIN: RHP Bronson Arroyo (4-1, 4.91 ERA)
Arroyo stymied the Pirates for eight scoreless innings on Friday night in a 4-0 Reds win while giving up four hits and three walks and striking out four. He relied heavily on his fastball and established it early, but used his breaking stuff as the out pitch. A pair of double plays on the ground also helped him stay out of serious trouble. Arroyo has worked exclusively with backup catcher Ryan Hanigan to this point, and it's been especially to the right-hander's liking.

Tidbits
Bill Hall (right hamstring) said he expected to be back in the lineup on Wednesday, which could be bad news for the Reds. Hall is a career .302 hitter against Cincinnati with 18 home runs and 55 RBIs in 88 games. Most of that damage has been done at Miller Park; Hall is a .263 hitter at Great American Ball Park with eight homers and 26 RBIs in 40 games. ... When Corey Hart stole second base in the sixth inning Wednesday, it marked Milwaukee's first stolen base since April 28 and just the team's second attempt since that date. Entering the night, only Atlanta (four stolen bases) had swiped fewer than Milwaukee's eight. ... Rickie Weeks returned to the leadoff spot Tuesday after hitting third in each of the previous two games. Ryan Braun returned to the three-hole after skipping three starts with a tight back. ... Prince Fielder was struck near the right elbow by Pirates reliever Donald Veal's first pitch in the ninth inning, but he stayed in the game.

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Up next
• Thursday: Brewers (Braden Looper, 2-1, 3.10) at Reds (Micah Owings, 1-3, 4.84), 6:10 p.m. CT
• Friday: Brewers (Dave Bush, 1-0, 4.36) vs. Cubs (Randy Wells, 0-0, -.--), 7:05 p.m. CT
• Saturday: Brewers (Yovani Gallardo, 3-1, 3.02) vs. Cubs (Ryan Dempster, 2-1, 4.86), 6:05 p.m. CT

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