March 2009

Bad news for Aguilar, Periard

The dreaded oblique strain strikes again.

This time it has afflicted right-hander Omar Aguilar, who was added to the 40-man roster over the winter and is a candidate to close games for Nashville. Aguilar has been shut down with a strained muscle in his side, an ailment that has sidelined the likes of Brewers closer Trevor Hoffman and starter Braden Looper this spring.

There is no timetable for his return to the mound, according to assistant GM Gord Ash.

Ash also said that Alex Periard, another right-hander added to the roster during the offseason, received a cortisone injection earlier this week because of lingering soreness in his right shoulder. The injury prevented Periard from participating in big league camp, and he was formally optioned to Double-A Huntsville on March 16.

“If he doesn’t react well to the shot, we’ll probably have to do a scope,” said Ash, referring to a surgical procedure to determine the precise nature of Periard’s injury.

In brighter Minor League news, left fielder Ryan Braun and infielder Craig Counsell got three plate appearances apiece in the Triple-A game on Saturday and were no worse for the wear. Braun, of course, is still fighting a strained muscle at the back of his ribcage and Counsell has been slowed by swelling in his right knee.

Braun will play again in Minor League camp on Sunday.

Oakland PD on Macha's mind

Brewers skipper Ken Macha, a coach and manager in Oakland for eight years from 1999-2006, wanted to go on the record Saturday morning with his support for that community and its police department.

More than 25,000 citizens attended a memorial service at Oakland’s basketball arena on Friday for the four police officers killed in the line of duty earlier in the week.

“I thought it was nice that they had that service and rallied behind that,” Macha said. “We kind of, sometimes, take for granted the police officers that protect us along with our servicemen and firefighters. Those guys put themselves in jeopardy every day, and I don’t know if we appreciate them as much as we should. My prayers go to their families.”

This is serious

Brewers are taking the field right now in their home whites for the first time this spring. They must really want to beat the A’s today.

EDIT: Check that, they are the “Cerveceros” jerseys that the Brewers wear during the regular season for their Spanish-speaking fans. This year’s Cerveceros Day at Miller Park is June 27 against the Giants. A cerveza sounds pretty good right now…

Hart home sick

Couple of notes from Ken Macha’s daily chat with reporters:

– Right fielder Corey Hart was sent home sick for the second straight day. Macha provided some gory details, but let’s just say that Hart has some gastrointestinal issues. “He looked terrible,” Macha said.

– It sounds like Carlos Villanueva will fill-in for closer Trevor Hoffman to start the season, assuming Hoffman opens the year on the disabled list. Villanueva may have sealed the job with back-to-back quality outings Thursday and Friday.

– No. 5 starter Dave Bush will probably start the season in the bullpen and could pitch an inning on Opening Day as a final tune-up for his April 11 start against the Cubs. His last Spring Training outing is supposed to fall on April 6, but that’s an off-day for the Brewers and the date that players scatter from Maryvale Baseball Park for the start of Minor League seasons.

– No. 3 starter Manny Parra and No. 4 starter Braden Looper will both stay behind in Phoenix when the Brewers go to Los Angeles on Thursday for two exhibitions against the Dodgers. Parra’s day to pitch is the second of those two games, but Macha wants to use it to give the relievers work instead. Looper’s day is April 5, an off-day. Both will pitch in Minor League camp.

– Left fielder Ryan Braun and infielder Craig Counsell are playing a Minors game today. Counsell is to play four innings and get three at-bats to test his swollen knee. Braun will simply play the game to test his strained ribcage muscle.

Gameday: March 28 vs. A's

Jeff Suppan makes his next-to-last start start before Opening Day when the surging Brewers meet the slumping A’s (in case anyone is actually paying attention to Cactus League results) at Maryvale Baseball Park today.

Here’s how Ken Macha lined ’em up:

Rickie Weeks  2B
Chris Duffy  LF
J.J. Hardy  SS
Prince Fielder  1B
Mike Cameron  CF
Bill Hall  3B
Vinny Rottino  RF
Jason Kendall  C
Jeff Suppan  RHP

Todd Coffey, David Riske and Jorge Julio are slated to follow Suppan, who is on the bump for seven innings or 105 pitches. Riske is aiming for his second scoreless outing in a row, which would qualify as a bona fide streak.

Macha also listed reliever Mark DiFelice as his starter for Sunday’s game against the Giants. It’s Yovani Gallardo’s day to pitch, but he will work the Triple-A game instead to avoid giving Giants hitters a preview of April 8 in San Francisco. It’ll be an “A” team in Scottsdale; the only position player not on the travel list was Mike Rivera, and he’ll presumably stay back to handle Gallardo.

I’m not exactly sure yet what that means for Ryan Braun. My understanding was that he might play a few games in Minor League camp to test his ribcage injury, but his name was circled this morning to travel to Scottsdale. We’ll be chatting with Macha in a few minutes and I’ll ask about Braun.

Have $80 to burn? Braun will help you spend it

This got buried in my story the other day about Ryan Braun’s ribcage injury, but any Brewers fans/orthopedists in the Phoenix area who would like a word with the All-Star outfielder could get their chance on Saturday, when Braun hosts an event at a local mall to promote his line of designer t-shirts.

The public event is scheduled to feature teammates Mike Cameron and J.J. Hardy and fellow Major Leaguers Derrek Lee of the Cubs, Grady Sizemore of the Indians and Andre Ethier of the Dodgers. It’s from 6-9 p.m. PT at Nordstrom Rail at the Scottsdale Fashion Square, 7055 E. Camelback Rd.


Gameday: March 27 at Rangers

Sorry gang, I got sucked into a story about the Brewers’ roster debate and completely forgot that there was a game tonight. Without further ado, I present the still Ryan Braun-less Brewers lineup:

Tony Gwynn Jr.  CF
Chris Duffy  LF
Casey McGehee  1B
Bill Hall  3B
Brad Nelson  RF
Mike Lamb  DH
Mike Rivera  C
Hernan Iribarren  2B
Alcides Escobar  SS

Dave Bush gets the start while Mitch Stetter, Carlos Villanueva, David Riske and Mark DiFelice are scheduled to follow. Riskie will try again to throw his first scoreless outing this spring.

A couple of other notes from Friday’s workout back at Maryvale Baseball Park:

– Trevor Hoffman is “treading water” in his return from an oblique injury. It would take a miracle for him to avoid starting the year on the disabled list, and Macha has no idea who will close games in the interim. if Hoffman indeed opens the year on the DL it means the Opening Day bullpen is all but set, with both DiFelice and Jorge Julio making the cut. Lindsay Gulin and Wes Littleton also remain active in big league camp, but I’m guessing they will be among the next round of cuts on Monday or Tuesday.

– Braun, who underwent an MRI scan on Wednesday that revealed no structural damage in his lower back and ribcage, took batting practice on Friday and is slated to play a Triple-A game on Saturday. By holding him out of “A” games, the Brewers leave open the possibility of a backdated stint on the disabled list. In that case, Braun would only have to miss the first four games of the regular season, but no one wants to go there just yet.

– Yovani Gallardo is also slated to work in a Minor League game instead of making his start against the Giants on Sunday in Scottsdale. It will be a “bullpen game” for the Brewers and the Giants have a similar plan, a move to hide the starters in anticipation of the teams’ season-opening series in San Francisco. 

– Craig Counsell is still out with swelling in one of his knees. Macha said he doesn’t think it is serious.

Gameday: March 26 vs. Rangers (Braun out)

Ryan Braun is banned from the batter’s box today, but there is no word yet as to whether he will be sent out for further testing on his ribcage strain. Braun insisted to us this morning that he could hit, but instead will shut it down in an attempt to get healed.

“In my opinion, with this injury, to get back to 100 percent, you have to take swings, you have to throw, you have to run at full speed, you have to do all of those things,” Braun said. “It’s a fine line between getting worse and getting through it. That’s what we’re trying to figure out, whether to push it or rest it.”

The lineup against the Rangers, as Braden Looper makes his first Cactus League start:

Rickie Weeks  2B
Chris Duffy  LF
Corey Hart  RF
Prince Fielder  1B
J.J. Hardy  SS
Mike Cameron  CF
Bill Hall  3B
Jason Kendall  C
Braden Looper  RHP

Braun out with ribcage stiffness

Ryan Braun’s return to the Cactus League didn’t last long.

Braun, the Brewers left fielder who is back from the World Baseball Classic, never took the bat off his shoulder in two plate appearances against the Dodgers and then left the game in the bottom of the fourth inning with what a Brewers spokesperson called, “right side stiffness.” Braun has been dealing with that ailment for about 10 days, and it’s a recurrence of the problem that dogged him last August and September.

It would be very bad news for the Brewers if this injury lingers, but Braun did not seem worried before taking the field on Wednesday. He said the current injury “is in the same place, but it’s far less severe,” than the intercostal strain that he played with in 2008.

“It’s a little scary because it’s similar to last year,” Braun said. “But the good thing is that I know what to expect, I know how to deal with it and get back on the field. It’s not where it needs to be yet.”

Salome, Bourgeois join cut list

The Brewers made two more roster moves at lunchtime today, optioning catcher Angel Salome to Triple-A Nashville and returning nonroster infielder/outfielder Jason Bourgeois to Minor League camp. The moves came a few hours after the Brewers optioned third baseman Mat Gamel and outrighted pitcher Wes Littleton to Nashville and released outfielder Trot Nixon

I’m guessing the two most recent moves were delayed because manager Ken Macha did not have time to meet with the players individually before the morning workout.

Salome got only 11 at-bats in Cactus League games (3-for-11, .273) and has been limited to defensive duties of late by a lower back injury. He missed a huge opportunity to impress new manager Ken Macha, but he’s still the team’s top catching prospect and will have a great shot at a call-up if the Brewers suffer an injury in the catching ranks.

Bourgeois was also limited, spending the first few weeks of Cactus League games in Minor League camp rehabbing from a broken thumb. After he returned, he also went 3-for-11 in seven games. Bourgeois will play second base and the outfield in Nashville.