MINNEAPOLIS -- Norichika Aoki has claimed Milwaukee's leadoff spot with a consistent bat, but he's also impressed Ron Roenicke with his defense.
Aoki is becoming a more reliable option at the corner outfield positions, the Brewers manager said. Aoki started Sunday's game in right field against the Twins, the 17th game this season he's started at the position. Milwaukee entered Sunday with an 11-10 record in games in which Aoki started in left or right field, but 3-7 with him as the team's center fielder.
"Left and right field, I like what he does," Roenicke said. "Center field, his jumps are pretty good -- it's just foot speed."
Aoki struggled to make accurate throws earlier in the season, missing cutoff men, Roenicke said. But his arm strength has been a pleasant surprise.
"When we first scouted him, that was a question mark," Roenicke said. "There's not an arm strength issue. To put him in right field is no problem for me. He knows what he's doing. He's a smart player. I like him in the corners."
Offensively, Aoki entered Sunday with a .293 average. He gave Milwaukee an early 2-0 lead during Saturday's game with a second-inning two-run single that scored Rickie Weeks and Taylor Green.
"I like him there [in the leadoff spot]," Roenicke said. "He'll have an off-day, but the next day he'll bounce right back and get you a couple hits. He does a nice job."
Estrada slated for rotation duty upon his return
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Brewers will still likely re-insert Marco Estrada into the starting rotation when he is activated from the disabled list, despite strong outings from rookie Michael Fiers.
Estrada threw three shutout innings and surrendered four walks and one hit in his first rehab start for Triple-A Nashville on Saturday. The right-hander was placed on the DL on May 25 with a right quadriceps strain.
"His command was a little erratic, but he threw the ball pretty good," Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said. "He wasn't missing a lot, but was just off the plate, so he had some walks. He felt good."
Estrada is expected to throw again for Nashville on Thursday with a 75-pitch limit. If all goes well, Estrada will start for the Brewers against Cincinnati on June 26, according to Roenicke. Fiers' impressive string of starts since being called up last month means Milwaukee has no reason to rush Estrada's return, but Roenicke said the club still likes Estrada in its rotation.
Fiers is 2-2 with a 3.60 ERA in four starts.
"It's been talked about," Roenicke said. "I still think that Marco can be a good starter. And [pitching coach] Rick [Kranitz] does too. So that's what our thoughts are right now. But that's not to say that Fiers can't. I've just had a little longer look at Estrada. I like his stuff. I like his command. I think if we can keep him healthy, he can be a good fourth, fifth starter."
The 27-year-old Fiers may still be able to remain on the staff as a long reliever. Southpaw Manny Parra is supposed to assume those duties, but Milwaukee has recently utilized him as a late-inning specialist against left-handed hitters.
"He would give us that length in the bullpen that we're kind of missing," Roenicke said. "It would be kind of nice to have an Estrada or a Fiers in that bullpen to give us length when we need it. If you have a bad start, those guys go in and you don't use everybody."
Crew expects Ishikawa, Izturis to return soon
MINNEAPOLIS -- Travis Ishikawa and Cesar Izturis will likely rejoin the Brewers for their Interleague series against the White Sox next weekend after beginning rehab assignments on Saturday.
Ishikawa went 2-for-4 with 3 RBIs in the second game of a double-header for Triple-A Nashville on Saturday. Izturis went 0-for-3 in the first game, but "felt good," Roenicke said. Izturis was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring on May 26, while Ishikawa was sidelined with a left oblique strain.
Milwaukee's current plan is for Izturis to return on Thursday's off-day before the team's three-game series with the White Sox that begins on Friday, Roenicke said. Roenicke hopes Ishikawa will be back with the big league squad in time for Saturday's game.
Jordan Garretson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.