"He has a right shoulder capsular injury," Counsell said. "We're working on a second opinion for Brandon over the next couple of days. Frankly, his availability for the whole season is up in the air at this point."
Woodruff, 30, went 5-1 with a 2.28 ERA over 11 starts this season but missed more than two months because of shoulder inflammation. He returned to the big league roster in August and pitched well, going 4-1 with a 2.13 ERA over eight starts.
In his last regular-season start Saturday, Woodruff struggled against the Miami Marlins, giving up four runs over five innings, and later said he felt some discomfort. However, it wasn't until he played catch Sunday that he realized something was wrong.
"Had the live (throwing session) the other day and the ball was coming out great, but I didn't feel that great," Woodruff said. "I didn't think anything of it. And then playing catch yesterday is when I first realized it was a very similar thing to what I was having in Arizona before I had that MRI. I basically just went in and told them what I was feeling."
The news comes one day after the Brewers wrapped up a regular season in which they won 92 games and landed their third NL Central title in six years. Woodruff, as part of a rotation big three along with Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta, has been a key part of Milwaukee's run of success, finishing fifth in the 2021 NL Cy Young balloting.
Woodruff has considerable postseason experience, starting four games and appearing in eight playoff contests dating back to 2018, posting a 3.18 ERA in them. Burnes will take the ball for Milwaukee in Game 1, as Counsell planned, but he declined to name a starter for Game 2, the slot in which Woodruff would have been likely to appear.
"It's tough to have one of your better arms go down," Burnes said. "Obviously we don't know the extent of what's going on and how long it's going to be. But it means that it's another opportunity for another guy to step up and fill his shoes and try to replicate what he would do out there on the mound."
Woodruff wasn't ready to give up on the idea of returning should the Brewers advance to what would be an NLDS series against the Los Angeles Dodgers or later in the playoffs. That possible scenario should gain clarity over the next few days as he seeks further medical advice.
"A lot of it is up in the air," Woodruff said. "I'm going to go get a second opinion. I'm still waiting to figure out all those details in the next few days."
The Brewers' staff led the majors this season with a 3.71 ERA and appears to be well positioned to fill the void opened up by Woodruff's injury, even though the big righty is one of the NL's top hurlers. In the end, the injury and the bad timing of it might have as much of an emotional impact as anything.
"It just popped up at the wrong time," Woodruff said. "But maybe it's also a blessing because maybe I can have it taken care of."
Woodruff paused as he grew emotional.
"We've got a good clubhouse," he said. "And I want to be a part of that. And, you know, sitting here now, I may not. That's the hard part."