Brewers Thursday: Braun returns to lineup

Ryan Braun has missed three of Milwaukee's last five games due to back spasms, including the last two. Milwaukee is hopeful the right fielder will be able to go in each of the Brewers' last four games before the All-Star break.

David Zalubowski

MILWAUKEE — Ryan Braun returned to the lineup for the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday but in a very unfamiliar spot in the batting order.

For the first time since Sept. 14, 2008, Braun found himself in the No. 5 spot of the lineup and will continue to hit there for the foreseeable future.

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke is hoping to find a consistent top four in his lineup and he knows Carlos Gomez, one of Scooter Gennett and Rickie Weeks, Jonathan Lucroy and Aramis Ramirez will be in there almost every day. He also wants to avoid having to replace the No. 2 or No. 3 hitter in the lineup if Braun’s back flares up during the middle of a game.

"Part of that is just making sure he’s out there every day," Roenicke said. "When he’s in the second spot or if I move him back to the third spot and he’s not out there every day, I’m always having to change the lineup. I’d like to do something a little more consistent.

"When Brauny gets back to where I feel like he’s going to play every day and I feel like he’s going to be out there nine innings and not have to ask him every morning, ‘Hey, can you do it today?’ then we will move him back (to the top of the lineup.)"

Braun has missed three of Milwaukee’s last five games due to back spasms, including the last two. Roenicke is hopeful the right fielder will be able to go in each of the Brewers’ last four games before the All-Star break.

Segura sits: After four more weak groundballs Wednesday, Jean Segura was given Thursday afternoon’s series finale with the Phillies off by Roenicke.

The shortstop is in a serious funk at the plate, as Segura is hitting just .176 since the start of June and is 3-for-29 in July.

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"He’s been pressing,"Roenicke said. "We don’t like to give him a day off because of his defense, but it’s to a point where the frustration is there. I think mentally he needs a day off."

Segura has not had an extra-base hit since hitting a pair of home runs on June 20 in Colorado, a span of 66 plate appearances.

"He’s not driving the ball,"Roenicke said. "Some of that is mechanical, but a lot of it is the mental part of what you are trying to do with the baseball.

"Seggy knows he has to change some mechanical things and he’d like to. It’s really hard during the season."

Mulling a change? The Brewers still list Marco Estrada as their scheduled starter for Saturday afternoon’s game against St. Louis, but it seems there’s still a chance Jimmy Nelson could be recalled from Triple-A to pitch.

When asked Thursday if it was safe to assume Estrada will start Saturday, Roenicke said, "I won’t comment on that."

Nelson is lined up to pitch Saturday in Nashville and carries an active scoreless streak of 22 innings in the minor leagues. Milwaukee’s top pitching prospect is 10-2 with a 1.46 ERA in 17 games for the Sounds with 114 strikeouts in 111 Triple-A innings.

The right-hander made a spot start for the injured Yovani Gallardo in late May, working 5 2/3 scoreless innings to earn his first big-league win.

"We’re in discussions all the time about this and what to do, and how do we improve," Roenicke said. "And not just with other people, but how do we improve internally with what we have?

"Sometimes you wait until the All-Star break to do things, but when the timing calls for something to be done, I think you do it. Why wait on something if it makes sense to do it now. That’s what we talk about all the time. We talk about what is going on in here and how guys are feeling on right now, and do we need a change?"

Estrada is 7-6 with a 4.96 ERA in 18 starts for the Brewers this season. He’s allowed 27 home runs in 107 innings, by far the most in the major leagues. Whoever pitches for the Brewers on Saturday will be matched up against Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright, who will enter with a 1.79 ERA on the year.

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