April 2009

Weeks says he's fine

Rickie Weeks had a swollen jaw on Tuesday, the result of an Edinson Volquez fastball that found its way to Weeks’ face on Monday night. But the Brewers’ leadoff man said he felt fine, and that Weeks was out of the lineup a day after his scare was a coincidence, according to manager Ken Macha.

“I had planned on giving him a day off anyway,” Macha said. “This just kind of meshed together.”

Craig Counsell started instead, and a glance at the numbers revealed that Macha had an easy call. Counsell enters the game 7-for-19 in previous at-bats against Reds starter Bronson Arroyo. Weeks was 1-for-20 (.050) with 10 strikeouts.

I asked Weeks if he considered leaving Monday’s game after he was struck. What a stupid question.

“Who, me?” Weeks said, as if he had just been asked whether he had a good recipe for Easter ham.

Yeah, you. Did you think about leaving the game?

“I went down, but I was scared at first, that’s all,” Weeks said. “I’m fine now.”

He should be back in the lineup for Wednesday’s series finale.

Soup's next start bumped back

Jeff Suppan’s next start has been moved back one day, allowing for three between-starts bullpen sessions instead of the right-hander’s usual two.

Suppan is 0-2 with a 12.91 ERA in his first two starts including a loss to the Cubs on Sunday in which he issued six walks, including three with the bases loaded. Manager Ken Macha, who met with Suppan on Tuesday afternoon, hopes the extra day helps Suppan sharpen up.

For his part, Suppan is on board with the plan.

“Absolutely,” he said. “It wasn’t a really big issue. [Macha] said, ‘This is what we were thinking,’ and I said, ‘All right.'”

A team off-day on Thursday allowed Macha to make the move without disturbing the rest of his starting rotation. Yovani Gallardo, who had command issues of his own in Monday’s loss to the Reds, will start in Suppan’s place on Saturday against Mets ace Johan Santana. Suppan will start Sunday opposite Mike Pelfrey.

UPDATE at 5:39 p.m. CT — Following the Jeff Suppan front, I wanted to pass along a link to an excellent piece at Brew Crew Ball that includes a rather remarkable stat.

“Lost cause” is too strong because we’re talking about two starts this season, but Suppan obviously needs to get that fastball working so he can play off it with his other pitches. Perhaps this extra day — not to mention a match-up against Pelfrey instead of Santana — will help.

I do know this: Suppan has a long leash. He’s making a lot of money, yes, but he also has what a lot of fans hate hearing about — a track record. At the risk of going all Dennis Green here, Suppan was exactly who the Brewers thought he would be in his first two seasons. He’s in a slump now, and there’s no way the Brewers just pull the plug without giving him time to find his command again.

UPDATE again — Fixed that link. Gave me something to do while watching the paint dry… er, while watching Manny Parra pick. 

Weeks out of Tuesday lineup

Brewers officials assured us last night that Rickie Weeks was OK after taking a Edinson Volquez pitch off the chin, but the second baseman is out of the lineup for Game 2 of the three-game set. Craig Counsell is in his place:

Craig Counsell  2B
Corey Hart  RF
Ryan Braun  LF
Prince Fielder  1B
J.J. Hardy  SS
Mike Cameron  CF
Bill Hall  3B
Jason Kendall  C
Manny Parra  LHP

Bronson Arroyo is starting tonight for the Reds. He’s 7-5 with a 3.59 ERA in 13 starts and three relief appearances against the Brewers, but he lost two of three decisions last year.  

Hoffman on track for Wednesday bullpen session

Mangaer Ken Macha monitored Trevor Hoffman’s throwing session on Monday and said the rehabbing closer is on track to throw off a mound on Wednesday prior to the Brewers-Reds series finale.

Hoffman hasn’t pitched since March 13 because of a strained muscle in his right side. He will have to throw several mound sessions before a Minor League rehabilitation assignment, meaning Hoffman probably won’t be back until the final week of April, at the earliest.

Back to the regulars vs. Reds

After playing some bench guys on Sunday night, manager Ken Macha returns to his regulars for the opener of a three-game series against Edinson Volquez and the Reds.

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

By the way, with his third career home run on Wednesday in San Francisco, Gallardo tied the Brewers’ franchise record for a pitcher. Brooks Kieschnick, a former position player, hit three of his eight Brewers homers as a pitcher.

Historically bad inning for Suppan, Julio

Brewers starter Jeff Suppan and reliever Jorge Julio tied a modern Major League record tonight by combining to issue four bases-loaded walks in the fourth inning against the Cubs. Since divisional play began in 1969 that’s only happened nine times, including twice in the past five days. The Braves gifted the Phillies four runs via walks on Wednesday.

Suppan was responsible for three of the free passes. He walked No. 8 hitter Koyie Hill with one out and the pitcher on deck to give the Cubs a 2-1 lead. After recording the second out, Suppan then walked Alfonso Soriano and Kosuke Fukudome after working to full counts. He was replaced by Julio, who walked Derrek Lee on four pitches to make it 5-1.

And wouldn’t you know it, the Brewers almost stormed right back. Corey Hart hit a solo home run in the bottom of the fourth inning and Prince Fielder was inches away from a game-tying grand slam in the fifth. Reed Johnson, who had just replaced an injured Milton Bradley, pulled back Fielder’s fly ball and turned it into one of the most dramatic sacrifice flies I’ve ever seen.

Fielder tipped his batting helmet to Johnson. What a play.

Lawrie learns his lesson

Just saw this item in the Brewers’ media clips and it made me chuckle:

According to the Appleton Post-Crescent, Brett Lawrie, Milwaukee’s first-round pick in last year’s Draft, was pulled from the game after grounding out to the pitcher in the third inning of the Class A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers’ win on Saturday. He served as the first base coach for the rest of the game.

“He ran a 5.6 down to first base, 5.6 seconds,” manager Jeff Isom told the newspaper. “I was worried about his legs being hurt or something. So we made a change.”

Lawrie is a hard-working kid, so this certainly isn’t a cause for worry. But it serves as a reminder that even first-rounders need to run hard to first base.

Kudos to Jeff Isom for making that point.

Duffy, Counsell start against Dempster

Chris Duffy gets his first start of the season tonight and Craig Counsell makes his second start as Milwaukee faces Brewer-killer Ryan Dempster and the Cubs in an Easter Sunday night series finale. It’s the Brewers’ first appearance on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball since July 20, 1997, when Scott Karl out-pitched the Yankees’ Hideki Irabu in a 6-2 Brewers win.

Here’s the lineup:

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

Dempster killed the Brewers last seaosn, going 4-0 with a 2.40 ERA in five starts and allowing one run in five innings of the only no-decision. Jason Kendall is the only Brewer with decent career numbers against Dempster (16-for-37, .432). Here are some other key Brewers against Dempster:

Braun: 2-for-15, .133
Mike Cameron: 3-for-18, .167 seven strikeouts
Counsell: 3-for-15, .200
Duffy: 2-for-4, one walk
Fielder: 4-for-16, .250, one home run, two walks, three strikeouts
Bill Hall: 3-for-18, .167 seven strikeouts
Hardy: 2-for-18, .111
Hart: 1-for-14, .071, three walks, six strikeouts
Weeks: 2-for-9, .222, three walks, three strikeouts

Ouch.

In his pregame session with reporters, manager Ken Macha said Trevor Hoffman would throw again on flat ground Monday and was scheduled to throw off a mound for the first time on Wednesday. In the meantime, Carlos Villanueva will continue to fill in, and Villanueva approached Macha on Sunday to essentially say, “I’m ready to go.” That was a good sign, Macha said, that Saturday’s blown save was not affecting the young right-hander.
 

Cameron keeping tabs on Giants rookie

Brewers outfielder Mike Cameron has been keeping tabs on injured Giants pitcher Joe Martinez through a couple of San Francisco veterans, and he sent a care package to Martinez on Saturday.

The package contained some of Milwaukee’s signature Klement’s sausages packed in dry ice. While it was en route, Cameron received updates from Giants players Randy Winn and Aaron Rowand about the rookie Martinez, who suffered a concussion and three small skull fractures when he was struck in the head by a Cameron line drive in the ninth inning of Thursday’s game.

Cameron tried calling Martinez’s hospital room, but Martinez couldn’t talk. Cameron was still shaken by the experience as the Brewers played their home opener on Friday.

“Was it weighing on me? Yeah, yesterday it was,” Cameron said before batting practice Saturday. “[Martinez] couldn’t talk but we did everything, sent him a care package, everything you could possibly thing of. Doug [Melvin, Milwaukee's general manager] and [Brewers vice president of communications Tyler Barnes] put it together, so that was cool.

“It was hard, though. It was. Unless you’ve had a traumatic experience, you don’t know. I’m pretty sure the same things were going through his mind on the way to the hospital that were going through mine.”

In a statement released Friday, Giants medical officials said they expect Martinez to make a full recovery.

“It was good to hear,” Cameron said.

Hoffman close to the mound

Trevor Hoffman played catch again Saturday, and Brewers officials are hopeful that their rehabbing closer will be back on a pitcher’s mound before the team’s homestand concludes on Wednesday.

Hoffman, out since March 13 because of a strained muscle along his rib cage, threw from 120 feet with head athletic trainer Roger Caplinger prior to Game 2 of a Brewers-Cubs series at Miller Park and completed the exercise without incident, according to general manager Doug Melvin.

He still faces a number of steps before appearing for the Brewers in a game and might not be back until the final week of April even in the best-case scenario. Assuming Hoffman can return to a mound before Wednesday’s homestand finale, he would throw at least two such bullpen sessions followed by one or two days of live batting practice against Brewers hitters to test the strength of the strained muscle in his right side. Each of those “throw days” would probably be followed by at least one day off.

After that, Hoffman will be sent out on a Minor League rehabilitation assignment. The destination is to be determined.

“He’s definitely going to pitch somewhere, there’s no doubt about that,” manager Ken Macha said. “There will be a rehab assignment, yeah.”

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