HOUSTON -- Ryan Braun is not the Brewers' only injured middle-of-the order hitter. Cleanup man Aramis Ramirez reluctantly has agreed that his balky left knee is contributing to his recent dip in production at the plate.
"I'm not 100 percent, and everybody knows that," Ramirez said. "I'm not healthy. It's a little tougher to play when it's like that, but I have no choice."
Ramirez has twice sprained his left knee this season on slides into second base, once in Spring Training and again in the fifth game of the regular season. He returned after missing 23 games and has been playing at less than full strength.
Ramirez is resting every fourth or fifth game, and this week has served as the Brewers' designated hitter for Interleague Play against the Astros. He has had several minor setbacks along the way, most recently on a slide into home plate during the Brewers' June 6-9 series in Philadelphia.
His ninth-inning home run in Wednesday's win was his first since a two-homer game in St. Louis on May 17, ending a power drought that spanned 99 plate appearances and parts of 24 games. It was Ramirez's third extra-base hit in his first 14 June games.
But with three-hole hitter Braun and projected five-hole hitter Corey Hart on the DL, Ramirez plans to "keep playing as long as I can." He entered Thursday four hits shy of 2,000 for his career.
"When it gets to the point that I can't do it, then we'll talk about it," Ramirez said. "I have a real good relationship with Ronnie [manager Ron Roenicke], so he would be the first person I tell."
Said Roenicke: "We need him. Not necessarily [to] hit home runs, [though] that was nice, but we need him to have good at-bats. He's still dangerous. People still don't really want to pitch to him with men on base."
Braun may require longer DL stint
HOUSTON -- A second opinion of Ryan Braun's painful right hand injury confirmed the original diagnosis, but raised the likelihood of a much longer stint on the disabled list to allow it to heal.
The hope when Braun was placed on the 15-day DL for the first time in his career was that it would be a minimum stay, making him eligible as early as Tuesday against the Cubs at Miller Park. That remains an outside possibility, but the more likely scenario after Braun's visit with hand specialist Don Sheridan in Phoenix has him taking more time -- as long as a month -- to allow healing time for a bruise and an inflamed nerve near his right thumb.
Braun was reluctant to share the precise plan he was discussing with club officials, but he did say the recommendation was merely rest, and that some sort of surgical fix would not be necessary.
"It was nothing that we didn't expect," Braun said. "What's kind of nice is we get some clarity, at least. We have a better idea of, confirmation of what we're dealing with."
Braun played for several weeks with pain, but lost his power, going homerless in his final 65 plate appearances before exiting a June 9 game against the Phillies. The Brewers held Braun out of the subsequent three-game series in Miami, hoping rest would correct the issue, and when it did not, the club opted to place him on the DL.
In the ensuing days, Braun continued to take swings to keep his hands and arms loose and in shape. After visiting with Sheridan, the decision was made to shut down completely, Braun said.
"We'll see what happens at the end of this DL, and it sounds like he's going to have to swing and see how it feels and see if we can cushion it enough to when he goes out there, we don't go back to where he was when we went on the DL," manager Ron Roenicke said.
Asked about the prospect of a longer stay on the DL, Roenicke said, "I can't answer that until he really starts swinging and we see what's going on. … I know he told me what [Sheridan] thought, and it could be longer, but we'll have to see."
K-Rod approaches 300th career save
HOUSTON -- By working around a pair of one-out singles in Wednesday's 3-1 win over the Astros, Francisco Rodriguez moved to the brink of a milestone he has been chasing for nearly two years.
It was his 299th career save, but only his eighth since the Brewers traded for Rodriguez on the night of the 2011 All-Star Game and made him a setup man. Since then, he has been patiently inching closer to becoming the 25th pitcher in Major League history to log 300 saves.
Now that he was on the cusp, "the adrenaline is going to be there, for sure," Rodriguez said. "I'm going to prepare myself the same I do every day and be sure to stay aggressive against those guys."
Rodriguez has five saves this season, most coming while closer Jim Henderson was on the disabled list with a hamstring injury. Henderson is back now, and he is the regular closer again, according to manager Ron Roenicke, with Rodriguez ready to fill the role when Henderson is unavailable.
So why did Henderson pitch the eighth innings of Wednesday's win and Thursday's loss? On Wednesday, it was a "need to pitch" day for Henderson, who had been idle on all but one of the previous seven days. With the Brewers trailing, 1-0, after seven innings, Henderson was already warming in the bullpen when Rickie Weeks hit a go-ahead, two-run home run. Instead of sitting Henderson down and holding him for the ninth, Roenicke opted to pitch Henderson as scheduled and used Rodriguez for the save.
On Thursday, Roenicke said it was because he preferred Henderson against Astros catcher Carlos Corporan, who had homered in his only at-bat against Rodriguez. It did not work out; Corporan hit a game-tying home run off Henderson and the Brewers went on to lose.
"I'm hoping we get on some winning streaks and we can have a lot of save opportunities] in a row," Roenicke said. "When you do that, Henderson is going to pitch a lot and is going to need a day. When he needs a day, Frankie is there. But if we just go in a normal game and everybody is rested ... we'll set it up [with Henderson as the closer].
"I told Frankie, all of us obviously want him to get that 300. But I don't want to just do things because of numbers. We need to win games, we need to try to do things the way we think it's best."
Racing sausages about to turn 20 years old
HOUSTON -- The Brewers plan to say Happy 20th Birthday to Klement's Famous Racing Sausages with a celebration of cased meats next week at Miller Park.
The running wienies jumped from the old Milwaukee County Stadium scoreboard to the field on June 27, 1993, debuting as live racers on the warning track and launching a tradition that has spread around Major League Baseball. The Brewers will mark 20 years since that debut with -- what else -- a June 27 sausage breakfast, followed by a ceremony at Miller Park later in the day and a race of the three originals: No. 1 Bratwurst, No. 2 Polish and No. 3 Italian.
Since their birth, the racers have enjoyed the thrill of victory, spawned an entire section of memorabilia in the team stores at Miller Park and inspired imitations at 15 other Major League ballparks. They have also swallowed tough losses and been alternatively misplaced, assaulted (by the Pirates' Randall Simon in 2003) and kidnapped (by some fans in suburban Milwaukee this spring).
The race began as a scoreboard animation in the early 1990s with Bratwurst, Polish and Italian running toward Milwaukee County Stadium against a backdrop of the city. In the fall of '92, Milwaukee graphic designer Michael Dillon of McDill Design presented an idea to Brewers vice president Gabe Paul, proposing to transform the race from animation to live action.
On June 27, 1993, as the Sausages approached the stadium on the scoreboard video, the left field doors swung open and, to the surprise of players and fans, out came seven-foot mascots. The three made their way to home plate with Bratwurst (worn by Dillon) winning.
For the remainder of the 1993 season, the Sausages raced live only at those games with particularly high attendance. In '94, the live Sausage race resumed on Sunday, May 29 -- the day the Brewers retired Robin Yount's No. 19 jersey -- with sponsorship from Klement's, and has been a fixture at every home game since.
Hot Dog joined the race later in the decade. In 2007, after a one-race tryout the previous year, Chorizo made it a five-some.
The June 27 birthday party begins at 6 a.m. CT at NorthPoint Custard, 2272 N. Lincoln Memorial Dr. along the shore of Lake Michigan. The first 250 fans will receive a free sausage breakfast sandwich , a coffee and an exclusive 20th Anniversary Klement's Famous Racing Sausages commemorative T-Shirt. Fewer than 500 of the shirts will be made, and the event will be first come, first served.
The Brewers play the Cubs that afternoon at Miller Park, where the original three racers will be honored again.
• The Brewers reinstated left-hander Chris Narveson from the disabled list on Thursday and outrighted him to Triple-A Nashville, where he had been rehabbing a sprained finger. The move removed Narveson, who was a member of Milwaukee's Opening Day bullpen, from the 40-man roster.
• The club also announced that right-hander Nick Bucci would begin a rehab assignment with the rookie league Arizona Brewers on Thursday night. Bucci (shoulder) is currently on the Double-A Huntsville disabled list.