Chris Capuano continued his journey back from a second Tommy John surgery with another solid outing for Triple-A Nashville on Sunday. Cappy went 6.2 innings, allowing 7 hits but only 2 earned runs, and he walked one batter and struck out another.
A few days ago, we learned that Capuano actually has an "out" clause in his contract that allows him to declare free agency if he isn't on the 25-man roster by May 29. As battlekow noted tonight, that leaves him with one more possible start for the Sounds before a decision has to be made.
The pitching situation in the big leagues is pretty messed up after the Twins series, and things don't seem to get much better despite the off day on Monday -- a start lasting less than one inning and an extra-inning game will do that to a pitching staff, and that was before what was left of the bullpen had to carry the team to a win on Sunday.
With Marco Estrada and Manny Parra likely out of commission for awhile as they recuperate from the past couple games, if the Brewers have to continue burning through relievers in the upcoming series against Houston, I think odds are good that we see Capuano wear a Brewers uniform before that "out" date becomes an issue.
The only problem is that adding Capuano to the roster would not only require a corresponding 25-man roster move, but he'd also need to be added to the currently-full 40-man roster. It took until Sunday to add Zach Braddock to the roster because of 40-man issues, and adding Cappy would require more roster juggling. So, what moves could be made if Capuano has to be added within the next week? Here's a few:
DFA Claudio Vargas. This is the easiest option -- you clear a 25-man and a 40-man roster spot at the same time, cut loose a pitcher who's contributed to the bullpen's performance issues, and can easily slide Capuano into Vargas' present role as a long man (or shift Parra/Estrada back to the bullpen in that role). It's a shame Vargas hasn't been as good as he was last year, but he's quickly being left without a role with the presence of Zach Braddock and John Axford in the majors now.
DFA Jeff Suppan. Another option that would be celebrated, but isn't as likely as the Vargas scenario. The front office continues to say Suppan's salary isn't keeping him on the roster, but there's just no other way to explain his presence in Milwaukee. Just about anyone in the minors could fare as well as Suppan has as the mop-up man, and Capuano surely would be able to at a much cheaper price. I wouldn't count on this scenario happening, though -- as long as Suppan is healthy, he's going to be on the roster, no matter how redundant it is.
Option Braddock or Axford, remove Cruz or Heether from 40-man. A move that would seem to be totally counter-productive, but one that I still wouldn't put past management. The bullpen has a pair of fresh (young) arms in Braddock and Axford, and they represent a contrast to the rest of the Brewers staff, which is filled with soft-tossers. Swapping out one of these two with Capuano while keeping Vargas and Suppan would be making the pitching staff weaker, but this is also the same team that decided Suppan would originally be better for the 5th rotation spot than Parra or Chris Narveson. Don't put it past them.
As for the corresponding 40-man move, I only throw Luis Cruz and Adam Heether out there because the Brewers' big league infield depth seems strong, and there's not much reason for either to be on the 40-man roster. The Brewers can risk losing them without much consequence.
Regardless of whether or not Capuano makes the full return to the big league roster, one thing is certain -- just getting back to this stage is impressive. The list of pitchers to come back from two Tommy John surgeries -- especially at Capuano's age -- is incredibly short. Who thought he'd be this close to making it back to the majors when they heard he'd need the surgery again?