March 2009

Gameday: March 16 vs. Cubs

I’m back after a few days poolside and Mike Cameron is back to work, too, after missing a few days with a ribcage injury. The lineup against the Cubs:

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

Lindsay Gulin, Sam Narron and Chris Narveson are scheduled to pitch behind Bush today.

We’ll also get a look at right-hander Braden Looper, who is scheduled to work in Minor League camp at 1:15 p.m. CT. It will be his first live action since the team’s intrasquad game on Feb. 24. He was scratched from a Feb. 28 start because of his own ribcage injury.

We are also waiting for further word on left fielder Ryan Braun, who re-injured his — you guessed it — ribcage last night in a World Baseball Classic game. Manager Ken Macha indicated that Braun was returning to Phoenix for an examination, but I am still trying to confirm that with the Brewers’ front office.

Brewers PR man Mike Vassallo just passed along the official diagnosis for Braun. He has a strained right intercostal, is day to day and will remain with Team USA in Miami. 

Gameday: March 12 vs. Padres (Cameron out)

Mike Cameron has been shut down for at least a few days with a ribcage injury, so Chris Duffy gets the start today in center field. Here’s the lineup:

Rickie Weeks  2B
Craig Counsell  3B
J.J. Hardy  SS
Prince Fielder  1B
Corey Hart  RF
Brad Nelson  LF
Chris Duffy  CF
Jason Kendall  C
Jeff Suppan  RHP

Cameron tweaked a muscle between his ribs, near his left armpit, during relay drills on Wednesday. He said he suffered a similar injury during 2007 Spring Training with the Padres and it sidelined him a month. He’s hoping that he caught this one early enough to limit his downtime.

Gameday: March 11 at White Sox

Reliever David Riske is scheduled to make his first Cactus League appearance on Wednesday and Minor League slugger Brendan Katin gets a shot as the designated hitter when the Brewers travel to Glendale to face the White Sox. Here’s the lineup:

Rickie Weeks  2B
Mike Cameron  Lorenzo Cain CF (Can’t read my own handwriting)
Corey Hart  RF
Prince Fielder  1B
Casey McGehee  3B
Trot Nixon  LF
Brendan Katin  DH
Jonathan Lucroy  C
Alcides Escobar  SS

Righty Dave Bush starts for the Brewers and will be followed by Riske, Jorge Julio, Mitch Stetter and Chase Wright.

In the morning session, Brewers starter Braden Looper threw a successful, 42-pitch bullpen session, his first mound work since he suffered a strained muscle at the back of his ribcage. He’s on a schedule to be ready for the April 10 home opener against the Chicago Cubs.

Looper, Gamel among medical updates

Manager Ken Macha came armed with more medical updates on Monday:

– Braden Looper is scheduled to throw off the mound on Wednesday for the first time since he strained a muscle on his ribcage. The Brewers are not projecting beyond that, and there remains some question about Looper’s availability for the start of the season.

– Backup catcher Mike Rivera has been cleared to take batting practice. He strained his right hamstring during baserunning drills last week.

– Another catcher, Angel Salome, traveled with the team to Scottsdale on Monday and served as the bullpen catcher. If he passes that test, he should be cleared for batting practice on Tuesday.

– Mat Gamel threw for the third day in a row from 90 feet, a good sign that his strained right shoulder is feeling much better. The next step for Gamel is to be cleared to take infield.

– Outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. is pain-free but the medical staff is “still trying to figure out” the next step, Macha said. Gwynn also has a shoulder injury and had a cortisone shot last week.

Gameday: March 9 at Giants

The Brewers are back in Scottsdale today to face Barry Zito and the Giants. Here’s the lineup:

Rickie Weeks     2B
Craig Counsell    3B
J.J. Hardy          SS
Prince Fielder     1B
Mike Cameron    CF
Lorenzo Cain      RF
Chris Duffy         LF
Jason Kendall    C
Manny Parra      LHP

Brewers relievers have tossed 14 1/3 scoreless innings entering the game, a streak that Mitch Stetter, Eddie Morlan, Omar Aguilar and Nick Green will look to extend.

In news, the Brewers returned righty reliever Joe Bateman to Minor League camp today. Bateman tossed a clean inning against the Royals on Sunday but wasn’t very effective in his previous three Cactus League innings, allowing five earned runs on four hits and two walks.

UPDATE: The Brewers also passed along word that right-hander Cody Scarpetta would be returned to Minor League camp on Tuesday and would be officially optioned at a later date. Remember that he’s on the 40-man roster a few years early due to special circumstances, and his first big league camp was limited to one appearance in a “B” game. 

Brewers release Gagne

The Brewers released reliever Eric Gagne on Sunday and announced the right-hander will rehabilitate his right shoulder injury at a private facility in suburban Phoenix.

Gagne was in Milwaukee’s camp as a non-roster invitee hoping to win an Opening Day roster spot, but his bid was derailed last week when he developed soreness in his shoulder. An MRI scan revealed damage to the labrum and rotator cuff, and two doctors recommended that Gagne receive a cortisone shot and try rehab before succumbing to surgery.

One of those doctors, Angels physician Lewis Yocum, will supervise Gagne’s progress at Physiotherapy Associates in Tempe, Ariz., a private facility that is popular during the offseason with scores of Major Leaguers.

“Rather than have him rehab at Grand Central Station over there on the Minor League side,” said assistant general manager Gord Ash, referring to Milwaukee’s complex at Maryvale Baseball Park, “it’s probably better that he’s in that [private] environment. If and when he’s ready to pitch, we’ll look at him again.”

Gagne’s deal would have paid a $1.5 million base salary if he made the Major League roster.

Prospect Wright to undergo Tommy John surgery

Brae Wright, a left-handed Brewers pitching prospect who may have had a spot in the Triple-A Nashville starting rotation, will undergo Tommy John surgery to repair a torn ligament in his elbow, a team spokesman said Sunday.

Milwaukee physician Dr. William Raasch will perform the surgery, though it was not immediately known when it would take place. Tommy John procedures typically sideline a pitcher for at least nine months, or up to a year.

Wright, 25, had his finest season in 2008, going 6-10 with a 3.59 ERA and 120 strikeouts versus 60 walks at Double-A Huntsville. Wright worked a Southern League-leading 170 2/3 innings, then appeared in the Arizona Fall League.

Hall homers off Riske in simulated game

While the rest of the Brewers worked out Sunday morning, reliever David Riske and third baseman Bill Hall together took a step forward in their return from injuries.

Riske threw a simulated game on a Minor League field against a group of hitters that included the rehabbing Hall, who followed J.R. Hopf’s leadoff single with a two-run home run. In all, Riske faced six hitters — Hall batted three times — and threw precisely 20 pitches, which was his target. After Hall’s long homer to right, Riske retired the next four hitters in order and drew raves from Hall about the deception on his fastball.

It was Riske’s first action since undergoing right elbow surgery last September, and he has not had any setbacks. Hall is cautiously working back from a slight tear to his left calf.

Gameday: March 8 at Royals

Hernan Iribarren gets his first spring start at an unlikely spot, and will man third base for the first time as a Brewer when the team faces the Royals today in Surprise.

Rickie Weeks               2B
Trot Nixon                    CF
J.J. Hardy                    SS
Corey Hart                   RF
Scott Thorman             1B
Brad Nelson                 LF
Jonathan Lucroy           C
Chris Duffy                   DH
Hernan Iribarren            3B

Right-hander Yovani Gallardo gets the start, and Jorge Julio, Tim Dillard and Cody Scarpetta are scheduled to follow.

Macha: 'Catchers are my point guards'

Ken Macha did some catching during his own playing career, and he gathered his backstops in the conference room at Maryvale Baseball Park on Saturday to let them know how important they are.

“Everybody says, ‘pitching, pitching, pitching,'” Macha said. “But really, these catchers are my point guards.”

The captain of the group is veteran Jason Kendall, who led the Majors in starts last season and is very familiar with Macha from a two-year stint together in Oakland.

“Our preparation was such that I could almost tell you every pitch that was coming,” Macha said. “You like to have that familiarity. I wanted the younger guys to understand that they have to evaluate the pitchers and use their stuff accordingly.”

It was the first of two morning meetings for Macha. About 45 minutes after the catchers’ meeting broke up, Kendall was back in the conference room along with a number of the team’s established players, like Jeff Suppan, Mike Cameron, Prince Fielder, J.J. Hardy and Corey Hart. Macha wanted input from the players on team rules like dress code and curfew.

Major League Baseball’s security division has asked teams to submit their list of team rules this year, so Macha wanted to make sure everyone was on the same page.