The road Mike Fiers has traveled to his third start of the season Sunday has been a long and winding one to be sure, but the right-hander is doing his best to embrace his role as a "utility pitcher" for the Brewers.
On Sunday, he'll have his biggest assignment of the year as he takes on left-handed ace Cliff Lee and the Phillies in a game the Brewers hope locks up a series sweep at Citizens Bank Park and makes it a winning five-game road trip.
Certainly, Lee's presence on the mound for the Phillies poses quite the obstacle for the Brewers and Fiers, what with Lee going 4-1 with a 1.80 ERA in six May starts as one of the hottest pitchers in the game.
But Fiers has shown this year he can handle just about anything. After beginning the season as the fifth starter for the Brewers, he was sent down to Triple-A and then transferred to Class A so he could be near his ill mother. A Mother's Day callup to the bullpen followed, then a start and three innings of relief in an extra-inning game on Tuesday. Now it's time for Fiers to return to the rotation.
"Right now that's my job, the 'pen and starting," Fiers said. "It's what I have to do. As long as I'm pitching, it doesn't matter. I just want to show that I can pitch here when any opportunity presents itself."
As a starter, Fiers is 0-2 with a 10.00 ERA, giving up six earned runs in five innings against Arizona in April and then four earned runs in four innings against the Pirates last weekend.
But on Tuesday, he came through with three no-hit innings in relief against the Twins, allowing two walks while striking out four.
"I didn't expect to be in that game, but you never know," Fiers said of his surprise outing against Minnesota. "Hopefully it helps me Sunday."
If Lee continues on the pace he has been on over the last several weeks, Fiers and the Brewers will take all the help they can get. One start after throwing a shutout against the Marlins, Lee pitched eight strong innings against the Red Sox on Tuesday for his sixth victory of the season -- matching his 2012 total.
Lee is 0-1 with a 5.08 ERA in five career starts against the Brewers, last facing them last August at Miller Park, allowing three earned runs in 7 2/3 innings while striking out a season-high 12 while taking the loss.
Brewers: Power duo vs. Lee
With both Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez fighting through physical issues during the Brewers' stretch of 20 games in 20 days, it's possible one or both could get a rest Sunday against Lee and the Phillies.
Then again, they're both as good against Lee as anyone could be expected to be. Braun, who has been dealing with a sore right thumb, is 8-for-16 with three homers against Lee. Ramirez, still gaining strength in his left knee, is 5-for-16 with three homers and a double.
Phillies: Brown gets a nod at No. 3
Domonic Brown made his first appearance in the No. 3 hole Saturday, as Jimmy Rollins was out with a sore foot from two foul balls Friday night. Brown went 1-for-4 with a single and a run scored in his first assignment in the key offensive spot.
That Phillies manager Charlie Manuel would choose Brown should come as no surprise after how the outfielder performed this May, batting .303 (33-for-109) with four doubles, one triple, 12 home runs and a .991 OPS.
"I figured because Domonic is smoking 'em, I was going to stick him third," Manuel said. "That's why he's hitting third. But I'm not saying where Domonic will hit [in the future] because he is going to tell me."
• Saturday's victory marked the Brewers' first back-to-back wins since April 29-30.
• These two teams won't be waiting long at all to meet again after this series concludes. The Phillies will visit Miller Park for a four-game set starting Thursday.
In between, the Brewers will host Oakland in an Interleague set for three games and the Phillies have three at home against Miami.
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.