MILWAUKEE -- Brandon Kintzler concedes he is not throwing the ball as well this season as last, when he was the Brewers' shutdown setup man. But the right-hander also lamented his recent run of bad luck.
"I can easily turn it around," Kintzler said. "I feel like I'm one pitch away or one break. … I've had so many bad breaks it's unbelievable. It's been happening for a month."
He pointed to Gerald Laird's infield RBI double in Atlanta on May 22 and Josh Willingham's two-out, run-scoring chopper on Monday. Willingham hit the ball too softly for Brewers third baseman Mark Reynolds to have a play.
"The main thing is knowing you're still making good pitches," Kintzler said. "Last night, I made a good pitch to get out of the inning. It didn't happen. I've made a lot of good pitches to get out of innings but it just hasn't happened."
Kintzler has also made some poor pitches, a fact he readily acknowledges. Working mostly with his "heavy" fastball last season, he posted a 2.69 ERA in 71 appearances, including a 2.09 ERA over his last 59 appearances. He retired nearly three-fourths of his first batters faced (52 of 71) and stranded more than three out of four baserunners (16 of 21).
In 21 games entering Tuesday, Kintzler's ERA stood at 3.86, but he had retired only 12 of 21 first batters faced (57 percent) and stranded four of seven inherited runners (57 percent). He spent time Tuesday afternoon with pitching coach Rick Kranitz working to improve the sink on his fastball.
"It's mechanical," Kintzler said. "I've done some timing stuff and drills with Kranitz trying to slow things down instead of forcing the issue. I'm trying to force the sink instead of letting it happen. … You see the alignment, you repeat the delivery and hopefully you can take it into the game. It's always different when the hitters get into the box. You have to be mentally confident in the process. This game is a process and will definitely test you. I'm being tested. Last year was a breeze; this year is testing me."
Kintzler has two factors working in his favor.
Most importantly, he says he is healthy, insisting that the shoulder injury that forced him to the disabled list in April is a non-factor. Kintler has also maintained the strong support of manager Ron Roenicke, who has been adamant that for the Brewers to remain successful, Kintzler must play a prominent bullpen role; and that for Kintzler to get sharp, he must continue pitching in important situations.
Roenicke wants to see Kintzler's fastball "down with movement and life on it. That also comes with confidence. If it's got more life, it may show up 92-93 [mph], but there's a difference between when you're really trying to pump and get it there, and when you're confident it happens. There's more life on the ball."
Kintzler is trying to keep that confidence level high.
"It's very hard, but that's why you have to have belief in the process that it's going to happen," he said. "The last missile I gave up, I hung a changeup to [Marlins slugger Giancarlo] Stanton and he hit it probably 150 mph. Luckily it was a single. Other than that, it's been a lot of singles and weak contact. I know if I'm making a good pitch, I'll start getting some of those weaker ground balls -- hopefully right at somebody."
He added: "I feel terrible that I've let the team down. Hopefully I can and will get it going so I can help make it easier on some of the other guys who always have to come in. I want to do well for Ron, too, for having confidence in me. I think he saw what I did last year. … The thing is, I can't always go off last year. I had a good year last year, but this is a new year. The league makes adjustments."
Aramis to return as designated hitter vs. Twins
MILWAUKEE -- The potent Milwaukee lineup will get a boost on Wednesday, when third baseman Aramis Ramirez is expected to be activated from the disabled list against the Twins.
Ramirez has been sidelined for three weeks with a strained left hamstring but says he feels ready to go following a two-day rehab stint with the Class A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. Ramirez went 2-for-6 over two games and played four innings at third base on Sunday before he left the game after a rain delay.
Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said the scouting report from his son, Wisconsin coach Lance Roenicke, was positive.
"He said he swung the bat really good yesterday," Roenicke said. "The first day, his timing was a little off. Yesterday was good. The last ball he hit, he hit a bullet to first base, which tells you he's really staying back on the ball, seeing the ball well. He said he moved around a lot, so [those are] good signs."
Ramirez and the elder Roenicke confirmed that Ramirez would be used as a designated hitter on Wednesday before a re-evaluation. Ramirez went through pregame activities with the Brewers on Tuesday and said that playing DH would allow him to play nine full innings on his first day back.
"I don't want to [come out of the game early], and that's one of the reasons I went to rehab," Ramirez said. "I didn't want to play five innings and leave. With the DH I can play the whole game, and when I play the field, it's going to be nine innings."
Roenicke said he knew where he would slot Ramirez in the lineup, but he would not reveal his plans. Though Ramirez has not been in the starting lineup in any position other than third or fourth since joining the Brewers in 2012, he said he was open to moving elsewhere given the productivity of Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Gomez in the respective third and fourth spots.
"I usually hit third and fourth in Chicago, and since I've been here I've hit fourth, but it doesn't really matter," Ramirez said. "The bottom line is winning games, and the first four guys in the lineup, 'Siggy' [Jean Segura], 'Brauny,' and 'Luc' and then Gomez, they're doing a pretty good job, so there's no reason for us to change the lineup."
The Brewers optioned Elian Herrera to Class AAA Nashville on Tuesday night to make room for Ramirez on the roster. Roenicke said the club chose to keep Irving Falu rather than Herrera because Falu was a stronger defensive infielder.
• Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy's absence from Tuesday's starting lineup was no cause for concern, Roenicke said. Lucroy was due a day off after starting every game since May 13.
"I've been keeping him in there because I really thought we need him in there," Roenicke said. "It just got to a point where we had to do it. To pick between now and the next two nights, now seemed to be the day to do it. I don't want to do it, but he needs to."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. Caitlin Swieca is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.