Brewers have options in Hoffman's absence

Brewers have options in Hoffman's absence

PITTSBURGH -- The easy part for Brewers manager Ken Macha and pitching coach Rick Peterson was giving struggling closer Trevor Hoffman at least a two-day break. Now comes the hard part: Finding someone else to do the job.

It appears the leading candidate is another changeup specialist, right-hander Carlos Villanueva.

"I don't think it's a secret that 'Villa' is the guy who has thrown the ball the most consistently down there," Macha said. "That's going to have a little weight to us. Let's see where we are in the game."

Hoffman was not the only struggling member of a Brewers bullpen that entered Wednesday's game at PNC Park with a 6.25 ERA, 29th of the 30 Major League teams, ahead of Arizona's 7.98. Hoffman's ERA is 13.25 after he surrendered three runs on Tuesday in his fifth blown save, a 5-4 loss to the Reds in Cincinnati.

Macha said he would not use Hoffman in either of the Brewers' two games against the Pirates, and the leading backup entering the season -- LaTroy Hawkins -- is on the disabled list with a shoulder injury and expected to linger there past Saturday, when he's eligible to return. Hawkins saved 11 games for the Astros last season while closer Jose Valverde was injured.

The only other Brewers reliever with significant closing experience is right-hander Todd Coffey, who saved 24 games between Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Louisville in 2004 and has since logged 11 saves in the Majors. But Coffey has traditionally struggled against left-handed hitters, who have hit him at a .319 clip in his career.

Villanueva entered Wednesday's game with a 3.05 ERA in 19 appearances, a .182 batting average against and 27 strikeouts in 20 2/3 innings this season.

Macha would not commit to a timeline for Hoffman's return to the closer's role, or whether he would return to that role at all.

"This isn't just a focus on Trevor Hoffman," Macha said. "We have some other things that have to get straight, too."