MILWAUKEE — Up visiting from Alabama, Donovan Hand’s parents were right there with him in Nashville when he got the news he was headed to the big leagues.
Don and Betty Hand couldn’t find any flights that would get them to Milwaukee in time for Sunday’s game. They then jumped into the car and drove two hours back to Alabama to pick up their other son before setting off on the long drive to Milwaukee.
They weren’t about to miss their son’s first game in the Major Leagues.
“My dad has dreamed of this for all of his life,” Hand said. “He kind of lived through me and I’ve lived through him, so to speak. He wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
The Brewers selected Hand from Triple-A Nashville early Sunday morning to fill the void left by closer Jim Henderson’s placement on the disabled list.
To clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Hand, the Brewers shifted right-hander Mark Rogers to the 60-day disabled list.
Hand, 27, had a hard time finding a flight himself, but took off from Nashville with his wife Haley around 7 a.m. Sunday morning.
“You’d go with no sleep to get up here,” Hand said. “I’m definitely excited to be here. Hope to help this team win.”
Hand was Milwaukee’s final cut in spring training, but went to Nashville and posted a 3.18 ERA in 28-1/3 innings out of the bullpen. Instead of letting the disappointment of getting so close to his dream get to him, Hand went back down and made sure he was ready when the Brewers needed to tap into the minor leagues.
“I kind of described it at one time, once I left here I kind of felt a long way away,” Hand said. “But I’m back here now. I went down and pitched like they told me to. When the time came, my numbers were good enough and I was pitching well enough to be here.
“Basically all they said was ‘You’ve done what you’ve needed to do. You’ve proved your point.’ At that end of spring training, that was always my goal. I don’t throw 95-96 mph, so you can’t see me for one outing. My body of work for spring training was decent. It definitely opened their eyes. They told me to go down and pitch well and keep my head up and see what happens. When they need somebody just be pitching well.”
Hand has been working in a long relief role in Triple A, pitching multiple innings per outing. With the Brewers in need of length in the bullpen, Hand will slide into a similar role in the big leagues.
“He’s pretty durable so we think we can bring him back and not have to sit him too long,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “We liked what we saw in spring training. We’ll see.”
Drafted in the 14th round by the Brewers in the 2007 draft out of Jacksonville State University, Hand is 29-26 with a 3.57 ERA over seven minor league seasons. Since spending most of 2008 and 2009 as a starter with Double-A Huntsville, Hand became a reliever in 2010.
Milwaukee’s decision to bring up Hand over a starting pitcher may indicate the club is comfortable going with right-hander Alfredo Figaro for a spot start Tuesday against Minnesota.
The Brewers need a starting pitcher for Tuesday after placing right-hander Hiram Burgos on the 15-day disabled list Friday with a right shoulder impingement.
None of the starting pitchers in Triple A have performed to the level where the Brewers are comfortable bringing them up, especially right-hander Tyler Thornburg. If he were pitching well, Thornburg likely would have had an opportunity with the Brewers, but he is 0-6 with a 6.99 ERA for Nashville.
Though Roenicke won’t officially announce it because they may need him if Sunday’s game goes extra innings, Figaro seems to be the favorite to start against the Twins.
“Ideally, if that was the guy we really liked and we thought we had more innings and length from him, probably a little more ideal,” Roenicke said when asked if the team would have preferred to bring up a starter. “Then you don’t disrupt what we’re going to do with a starter for that day if it’s a bullpen guy, which it looks like it probably will be. That probably would have been a little better. But however we do it, I think it will work out.”
Right-hander Mike Fiers may slide into Burgos’ spot on the next turn, but he had to start in place of right-hander Kyle Lohse on Saturday against Pittsburgh.
Lohse, who skipped a start with irritation in his right elbow, planned on making his next start Thursday in Minnesota, but the Brewers now list their starting pitcher for that day as TBA.
Ramirez playing again: Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez is in the lineup for the third consecutive day for the first time since returning from the disabled list.
Ramirez told Roenicke on Saturday that he wanted to play in Sunday’s game, even if it means sitting out Monday afternoon’s game against Minnesota.
“It’s nice to have him in there,” Roenicke said. “Same thing with (Ryan Braun). He’s been fighting stuff, too. I know how the lineup changes when one of the guys is out or if both are out. Aramis is feeling a little better. That’s why we feel we can go another day with him.”
Ramirez is hitting .307 with three home runs and 10 RBI since returning from the disabled list on May 3.