April 2009

Melvin: Brewers aren't in on Pedro

Barring some unforeseen circumstances, Pedro Martinez won’t be pitching for the Brewers at Miller Park this season.

The Boston Globe reported Sunday that, “the Brewers may be emerging in the hunt” for the veteran free agent, but Milwaukee general manager Doug Melvin shot down the rumor before the Brewers began a three-game series against the Pirates at Miller Park on Monday. In fact, Melvin pointed out, only the Pirates had more “quality starts” — in which a starter works six or more innings and surrenders three or fewer earned runs — this season. Pittsburgh had 12 quality starts entering Monday’s games. Milwaukee, Kansas City and the Chicago Cubs had 11 apiece.

Many GMs, including Melvin, consider the notion of quality starts overrated, but it’s at least one indication that the Brewers’ starting rotation is not exactly in dire straits.

“I’ve never talked to his guy,” Melvin said, referring to Martinez’s agent, Fernando Cuza. “Our starting pitching hasn’t been that bad.”

Brewers look to keep streaking vs. Pirates

The Brewers have won 12 in a row over the Pirates, the longest active winning streak in the Majors by one team over another. They have also won 15 in a row at home against Pittsburgh, which is also the longest active streak in the majors. Braden Looper will look to extend those streaks to 13 and 16 games tonight.

The lineups:

Nyjer Morgan  CF
Freddy Sanchez  2B
Craig Monroe  LF
Adam LaRoche  1B
Eric Hinske  RF
Andy LaRoche  3B
Jason Jaramillo  C
Brian Bixler  SS
Jeff Karstens  RHP

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

Here’s another statistical nugget from the Brewers: Since the start of 2006, Looper is 11-2 with a 2.58 ERA in 24 April appearances, 14 of them starts. Only two pitchers have more April wins over that span: Toronto’s Roy Halliday (13) and Boston’s Josh Beckett (12).

"Border Battle" set for Friday

It’s no coincidence that the Class A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers team set to take the field Friday at Miller Park is stocked with prospects.

“We wanted to put our best foot forward,” Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash said.

The Brewers are in the first season of a four-year player development with the Timber Rattlers, a Midwest League team based just outside Appleton, Wis. at Fox Cities Stadium, about 100 miles north of Miller Park. Before the Brewers came to town, Wisconsin had been a Seattle Mariners affiliate since 1993.

The new partnership will be on display Friday night at Miller Park as the Timber Rattlers and Peoria Chiefs take part in the third so-called “Border Battle.” The concept was first introduced in 2003, when the Brewers-affiliated Beloit Snappers, featuring Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks and Manny Parra, faced the Timber Rattlers in front of more than 15,000 fans. The event was staged again in 2004 with the same two teams before going on hiatus.

Now it’s back, and by Thursday afternoon the Brewers had already sold 15,000 tickets at $10 apiece. Seats are still available

Milwaukee wanted to make a good first impression in Appleton, so they sent eight of the team’s top 30 prospects, as rated by Baseball America. Among the hitters to watch are 2008 first-round Draft pick Brett Lawrie and second-rounder Cutter Dykstra. The pitchers include Wily Peralta and Cody Adams, both of whom are scheduled to work in the Border Battle, 2008 supplemental first-round pick Evan Fredrickson and big right-hander Cody Scarpetta, the lone Rattler on Milwaukee’s 40-man roster. Scarpetta matched his professional best by striking out 10 batters in a win on Wednesday over Peoria.

All of those prospects, many with less than a year of professional experience, could make for a development year in Appleton. But it also gives Brewers fans from Central Wisconsin an opportunity to see the next wave of talent headed to the big leagues.

“There was only one more we made there with winning in mind,” Ash said. “And that was signing a veteran back-of-the-bullpen guy.”

That would be Jim Henderson, a 27-year-old who has played as high as Triple-A and was looking for work after the Cubs released him late in Spring Training. He is more than three years older than any other player on the team, and Brewers officials figured it was important to have someone with experience in the closer’s role.

The current installment of prospects were scheduled to arrive at Miller Park early in the day Friday for lunch, a tour of the ballpark and some early work on the field. Ash will be in attendance, as will director of player development Reid Nichols.

The idea is to reinstate the Border Battle as an annual event, Ash said. Summer-like temperatures are expected on Friday, and Brewers officials were planning to play under an open roof.

Prospect Gillespie bumped up to Triple-A

The Brewers “traded” Triple-A outfielder Jason Tyner to the Tigers’ top affiliate on Wednesday to clear a spot for prospect Cole Gillespie, who was slowed by a sore right elbow to start the season but was ready to report to Nashville on Thursday.

Tyner was sent to Toledo for future considerations, but don’t hold your breath. It was really about finding him a job because opportunities were thin in Nashville and, with Gillespie joining the fray, about to become even thinner.

“We didn’t know what the situation was going to be at the end of Spring Training when [Tyner] became available,” Brewers assistant GM Gord Ash said. “We didn’t think [Tony] Gwynn would get to Nashville, so we were planning for him not being there.”

But Gwynn did clear waivers and was assigned to Nashville. The Sounds also have Jason Bourgeois, another player similar to both Gwynn and Tyner.

“So with Tyner, we were able to accommodate him with a trade rather than release him,” Ash said.

Gillespie started the year at Class A Brevard County to test his elbow. He went 2-for-2 on Wednesday night with a pair of walks and batted .349 during his stay there. 

In another move, Ash said the Sounds were poised to place left-hander Sam Narron on the seven-day disabled list with a sore elbow. Ash spoke Thursday morning with Triple-A trainer Jeff Paxson, who expects Narron to miss only a week or so. To fill the spot, Double-A closer Juan Sandoval was promoted to Nashville.  

Cameron fifth, Hardy sixth again

No lineup surprises this morning. Mike Rivera is back behind the plate to pair with starter Dave Bush, and manager Ken Macha left Mike Cameron and J.J. Hardy in their new spots.

I wondered last night whether Macha might give Prince Fielder a break. He’s hitting .170 overall, .154 against left-handers and World Series MVP Cole Hamels is pitching for the Phillies.  

2B Rickie Weeks
RF Corey Hart
LF Ryan Braun
1B Prince Fielder
CF Mike Cameron
SS J.J. Hardy
3B Bill Hall
C Mike Rivera
RHP Dave Bush

Rehab for Riske

Brewers reliever David Riske has opted for a course of rehab to strengthen the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. In three weeks or so, Riske and the team will determine whether he needs a surgical fix that would end his season.

The decision to try rehab was made after Riske visited Monday in Los Angeles with noted orthopedist Lewis Yocum, who concurred with the original diagnosis from Brewers head physician William Raasch. Both doctors believes that the “laxity” in Riske’s UCL can be overcome without Tommy John surgery.

“It’s not torn. If it were torn, then it would be an automatic decision to repair [with surgery],” Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash said. “But because it’s not torn and there is only very minor laxity to it, the idea is to try to rehab it for three weeks or so to see if you can strengthen the area around it. If not, then he might be facing a surgery.”

Riske will re-join the Brewers on Friday in Houston and then will work out in Milwaukee from April 27 through at least May 14. On May 15, the Brewers begin another three-city road trip. 

Riske is under contract this season and next as part of a three-year contract with the Brewers. Even if he avoids surgery this season, there are no guarantees that he’s in the clear for 2010, according to Ash.

“If he can strengthen it to the point where he can make some contribution this year, then you’ve still got time to do surgery for his next contract,” Ash said. 

Lineup: Weeks in, Hardy down

Second baseman Rickie Weeks said he suffered a mild concussion on Tuesday night when he was clipped by shortstop J.J. Hardy, but he went through a battery of tests this afternoon and was deemed able to play.

There was a significant change in the lineup, though. Hardy, who batted fifth in his first 12 starts this season, was moved down to the six-hole. Hardy enters the game hitting .125, and he was replaced in the five-hole by center fielder Mike Cameron, who is hitting .333 with a team-high four home runs.

The lineups:

Rickie Weeks  2B
Corey Hart  RF
Ryan Braun  LF
Prince Fielder  1B
Mike Cameron  CF
J.J. Hardy  SS
Craig Counsell  3B
Jason Kendall  C
Braden Looper RHP

Jimmy Rollins  SS
Shane Victorino  CF
Chase Utley  2B
Ryan Howard  1B
Jason Werth  RF
Raul Ibanez  LF
Pedro Feliz  3B
Lou Marson  C
Joe Blanton  RHP

Game to resume

A Phillies official just announced that they intend to resume play at 9:45 p.m. CT.


Hoffman throws 18 pitches for Nashville

Brewers closer Trevor Hoffman began what is supposed to be a two-game rehabilitation assignment at Triple-A Nashville tonight and allowed one run on two hits — both doubles — in an inning of work at Memphis. He struck out one batter and did not issue a walk.

Hoffman threw 18 pitches, 10 of them for strikes, in his first game since a March 13 Spring Training outing. He had been sidelined since then by a strained muscle along the right side of his rib cage.

Weeks out; McGehee manning second

Second baseman Rickie Weeks may have been clipped by shortstop J.J. Hardy before both players hit the dirt on a funky play behind second base in the first inning, and Weeks has just been replaced in the game by Casey McGehee.

Weeks and Hardy converged on a Chase Utley ground ball, with Hardy ranging past second base to scoop up the baseball before tumbling in the dirt as Utley reached on an infield hit. Weeks was headed the opposite direction and he tumbled, too, but was slow to get up.

Weeks finished the inning in the field but was replaced by McGehee in the bottom of the second.