MILWAUKEE -- Given the nagging nature of rib-cage muscle strains, it came as no surprise on Tuesday when the Brewers placed right-hander Matt Garza on the 15-day disabled list, marking the first significant injury this season to one of the team's starting pitchers.
The Brewers recalled reliever Rob Wooten from Triple-A Nashville to take Garza's place on the roster, but the club did not announce who would take over Garza's turn in the rotation for his scheduled start on Saturday against the Dodgers.
Marco Estrada, who made 18 Brewers starts before he was bumped to the bullpen prior to the All-Star break, is one candidate to make the start, but Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said the team would need Estrada in the bullpen for the next few games. He mentioned Mike Fiers, who is 8-5 with a 2.55 ERA for Triple-A Nashville, as a serious candidate.
Garza has now been on the disabled list each of the past four seasons. He suffered what he described as a more severe strain in his rib cage and back during Spring Training with the Cubs last year, and was sidelined until the third week of May. His four-year, $50 million contract with the Brewers includes some language that protects the team in the event of significant injuries.
Garza said on Tuesday that he feels confident that this injury is much less severe than the one he sustained last season.
"It's more precautionary than anything," Garza said. "Really don't know a time frame or anything. Just didn't want to surprise anybody if I couldn't go in five [days]. It's more of their call, not mine. It's, once again, a waiting game.
"[With last year's injury,] you're really tired for about two weeks. You don't sleep comfortable, you don't eat. It's hard to do your daily stuff. But I don't have that [now]. It's more one or two certain movements and the pain is centralized, which is awesome, because now we know where it's at and where to hit. The stuff they gave me was all positive on the feedback, and that's all I can go with."
While injuries of this nature can be tricky, both the right-hander and his manager expressed hope that Garza would be able to return within the 15-day DL term. He would be eligible to return on Aug. 19.
"We'll look at it like it is just going to be the 15 days, but we'll determine that as we go on," Roenicke said. "He won't pick up a ball or throw it for a while. He'll do some stuff inside, some plyos inside and keep his arm active. These things are hard to tell. Obliques sometimes last longer than you think. He says he doesn't think he did it bad. Hopefully that's the case."
Garza felt the muscle grab on the 70th of his 71 pitches against the Cardinals on Sunday, and he was forced to exit a one-hit shutout and watch the Cardinals rally for three quick runs against his replacements for a 3-2 Brewers loss.
"It was like, 'Son of a gun,'" Garza said on Sunday. "You put a bullpen in that situation where everybody is caught off-guard. Your starter has 70 pitches, nobody assumes he's coming out."
But there was no doubt, Garza said. He was coming out.
Sunday's setback came at an inopportune time for the Crew, which owned a one-game lead over St. Louis in the National League Central on Tuesday as it entered a homestand against the top two teams in the National League West (the second-place Giants, followed by the first-place Dodgers).
It was also ill-timed for Garza because he was pitching so well. He'd allowed only two runs on eight hits in 21 innings over his last three starts since a disastrous outing in Washington D.C. on July 19. Even with that one-out, five-run start included, Garza owned a 2.13 ERA and a .142 opponents' average since the start of July.
But having experience with these types of injuries, Garza understood the Brewers' desire to be cautious.
"Yeah, I understand it," Garza said. "I don't like it, but I understand it. Being competitive, you don't want to come here and not do anything. You want to feel like you're doing stuff. Best thing for me is kind of just take a step back and kind of get away from myself. That's the best thing."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. Caitlin Swieca is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.