May 2009

Iribarren replaces Weeks on roster

Landed in Houston a while ago and got the not-so-surprising news that the Brewers promoted Triple-A Nashville second baseman Hernan Iribarren today to replace the injured Rickie Weeks.

Iribarren, who made his Major League debut in two stints with the Brewers last season, was hitting .311 in Nashville. The promotion no doubt came as good news for a player who got the bad news over the winter that he had qualified for an extra Minor League option. At the end of last season, Iribarren thought that he was out of options, meaning the Brewers would have had to keep him in the Majors or expose him to the other 29 teams on the waiver wire.

Iribarren is a left-handed hitter and also has outfield experience, though he appeared exclusively this season at second base.

Who should play 2B with Weeks out?

Friday’s rainout blew up by travel schedule so I am not with the team in St. Louis tonight, but I am told by the intrepid reporter filling my shoes that Doug Melvin said shortstop Alcides Escobar will begin seeing some action at second base for Triple-A Nashville.

Escobar was not being considered for an immediate promotion, Melvin said. I wonder if that could change in the near future if Escobar adapts quickly.

So, here are some internal candidates to play second base. Who do you think should get the nod?

– Craig Counsell
– Casey McGehee
– Escobar
– Hernan Iribarren (hitting .311 at Nashville)
– Jason  Bourgeois (hitting .323 at Nashville as an OF, but can play 2B)

Am I missing anybody?

The other option, obviously, is for Melvin to look for help outside the organization. The free agent who jumps to mind is Ray Durham, who finished last year with Milwaukee and as far as I know remains unemployed. Who else would you look at if you were in Melvin’s shoes?

Weeks to have wrist surgery, out for year

Rickie Weeks’ super-fast hands are the reason he ascended to the big leagues in the first place, but they are also the reason he just can’t seem to get his Brewers career on track.

Weeks will undergo season-ending surgery this week to repair a torn sheath that surrounds a tendon in his left wrist, an injury he suffered on a first-inning strikeout on Sunday in St. Louis. The decision was made after Weeks visited Monday with Phoenix-based specialist Dr. Don Sheridan, who has performed two previous surgeries on the former first-round Draft pick.

One of those surgeries was for the same injury in his other wrist. That was in Fall 2006, about one year after Weeks first saw Sheridan and underwent a procedure to repair a torn ligament at the base of his left thumb.

“It’s just very, very disappointing for him personally, putting the team aside,” Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said. “I have a lot of favorite players, and he’s one of them for me, just because how he goes about his business.”

Weeks was very good at his business this season, batting .272 with a .340 on-base percentage. Entering Monday night’s game in St. Louis he was tied with first baseman Prince Fielder for the team lead with nine home runs, and was tied with Corey Hart for the lead in runs scored, with 28.

His quality start had quieted some of the critics that have hounded Weeks since the Brewers made him the second overall pick in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft. But he had worked extensively to improve his defense, and this season was putting up offensive numbers that were tempting manager Ken Macha to consider dropping Weeks from leadoff to a run-producing spot in the batting order.

The surgery will sideline Weeks for at least 4-6 weeks, Melvin said.

“I just told him it was very unfortunate, you were becoming the player we all believed you could be,” Melvin said. “Rickie always believed he could put up the numbers he was putting up. He was on pace for 100 runs and 100 RBIs. … I told him, ‘you still have a long career ahead of you.’ Its just unfortunate that it came when he was putting it together.”

With Weeks out, Craig Counsell started at second base on Monday. The Brewers did not immediately announce who would be promoted from the Minors to fill Weeks’ spot.

Ash on Weeks: 'Obviously, we're concerned'

From the desk of the Director of the Obvious: The Brewers would not have made the quick decision to send second baseman Rickie Weeks to see a specialist 1,400 miles away if he had nothing more serious than a sore left wrist.

But “sore wrist” was the only diagnosis on Sunday, when Weeks was injured on a swinging strike three in the first inning in St. Louis. After the game, he already had a flight booked to Phoenix to see the same doctor — Don Sheridan — who performed surgery on Weeks’ right wrist in 2005 and the base of his left thumb in 2006.

Weeks will visit with Sheridan today. Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash, the point man on injury issues, said the team would make an announcement as soon as Weeks gets a more complete diagnosis and an idea of what comes next.

“Do you think we wake up and decide to send somebody across the country if it wasn’t serious?” Ash said. “That’s about as obvious as can be. … Obviously, we’re concerned. Obviously, there might be a problem, and rather than wait around for five or six days to see what happens, let’s see now.”

Club officials made that decision very quickly as, or shortly after, the Brewers batted around and scored four runs in a first inning that began with Weeks’ strikeout. Shortly after Craig Counsell moved from third base to second and Bill Hall entered the game at third, a club spokesperson announced the nature of Weeks’ injury. Head athletic trainer Roger Caplinger consulted with team physician William Raasch and Ash, and decided to send him to Phoenix. The club’s traveling secretary booked Weeks’ flight before the end of the game.

The injury is especially unfortunate since Weeks is having a fine season. He is batting .272 with a .340 on-base percentage and, along with first baseman Prince Fielder, leads the team with nine home runs. Weeks is tied with Corey Hart for the team lead in runs scored, with 28. 

The rest of the Brewers remained in St. Louis on Sunday and will play a make-up of Friday’s rainout on Monday night. That means the team is about a four-hour drive or a short flight from Nashville, home of their Triple-A affiliate.

Ash was asked if any players made the trip to St. Louis just in case it becomes clear Weeks will head to the disabled list.

“No. You can’t do it,” Ash said. “I know clubs do it, but it’s against the rules.”

Options at Nashville would include Hernan Iribarren, a left-handed hitter who played stints with the Brewers last season and is hitting .311 in the Minors this year while playing exclusively at second base. Nashville is also home to slick-fielding shortstop Alcides Escobar, but with third baseman Mat Gamel promoted to the Majors last week, it’s unlikely the Brewers would want both of their top prospects sitting on the big league bench.

With right-hander Kyle Lohse starting for St. Louis on Monday, left-handed hitter Counsell will probably play second base. The Brewers will then travel to Houston to face two left-handers — Mike Hampton and Wandy Rodriguez — in those games, so righty-hitter Casey McGehee is an option. McGehee played a lot of second base in Spring Training and replaced Weeks there on April 21 in Philadelphia after Weeks collided with shortstop J.J. Hardy.

Weeks to see familiar hand specialist

Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks will travel to Phoenix on Monday to see a hand specialist after exiting Sunday’s game with soreness in his left wrist.

Dr. Don Sheridan has twice performed surgery on Weeks, in 2006 for a right wrist injury and in 2005 to repair a tendon at the base of Weeks’ left thumb. The 26-year-old leadoff hitter did not say Sunday whether his current ailment resembles the others.

“It’s the left wrist, and that’s all I want to say right now,” Weeks said. “I’m going to get it checked out. I can talk to you all some other time.”

Was he worried about it?

“It’s an injury, you know?” Weeks said. “I’m going to go get it checked out, so I’m not sure.”

He was hurt on a swinging strike three in the top of the first inning, when Weeks felt “a little pressure, a little tug” in his wrist. The Brewers went on to score four runs in the inning against Cardinals starter Todd Wellemeyer, but Weeks exited the game in the bottom of the inning when the Brewers took the field. Craig Counsell moved from third base to second and Bill Hall entered the game as the third baseman.

Both of those players could be back in the lineup on Monday because Weeks will not be back in time for the finale of a rain-altered, three-game series. He will probably re-join the Brewers on Tuesday in Houston, unless Sheridan suggests an alternate course.

First Lawrie, now Dykstra to 2B

Switching to second base is apparently en vogue for 2008 Brewers Draft picks.

Dykstra01 copy.jpgFirst it was Brett Lawrie, who was a catcher when Milwaukee snagged him in the first round of last year’s Draft but asked to move to second over the winter. Now second-rounder Cutter Dykstra, who has been a center fielder so far as a pro, is making the same switch, the Appleton Post-Crescent reported.

The Brewers demoted Dykstra from Class A Wisconsin to rookie-level Helena on Saturday and told him he’ll be a second baseman from now on. Dykstra will spend the five weeks before Helena’s June 23 season-opener at the team’s facility in Phoenix adjusting back to the infield. He played shortstop in high school.

“Middle infield has been my position my whole life,” Dykstra told the newspaper. “I was getting more and more comfortable in the outfield, but coming back to second base is like coming back to my home.”

Weeks out with sore wrist

Rickie Weeks struck out leading-off Sunday’s game in St. Louis and then exited with soreness in his left wrist before the Brewers took the field in the bottom of the first inning.

The Brewers batted around in the frame for a quick, 4-0 lead, and Craig Counsell moved from third base to second to replace Weeks. Bill Hall entered the game as the third baseman.

Weeks has a history of hand and wrist issues, but it was his right wrist, not his left, that needed surgery in 2006. The year before, Weeks had surgery on his left thumb to repair a torn ligament.

Braun has numbers vs. Wellemeyer

Ryan Braun has been pretty quiet since he homered on back-to-back nights against the Cubs on May 8-9, going 3-for-19 with no RBIs in five games since then. Maybe today is his day; he’s 6-for-8 in his career against St. Louis starter Todd Wellemeyer with a home run and two walks.

Craig Counsell starts at third today over Bill Hall. Counsell is 2-for-4 against the St. Louis right-hander, Hall is 0-for-8.

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

Monday's make-up to be televised

Brewers interim PR director John Steinmiller confirms that Fox Sports Wisconsin will indeed broadcast Monday’s game, and it will be in high-definition.

FS Wisconsin was set to air Friday’s series opener in HD before that game was rained out and rescheduled for Monday, an off-day for both the Brewers and Cardinals.

Macha sets post-rainout rotation

Brewers manager Ken Macha made his upcoming pitching rotation official after a 1-0 win over the Cardinals on Saturday. Friday’s rainout forced him to juggle things a bit, but here is the plan:

Sunday at St. Louis: Manny Parra
Monday at St. Louis: Braden Looper
Tuesday at Houston: Dave Bush
Wednesday at Houston: Yovani Gallardo
Thursday at Houston: Jeff Suppan

Looper was originally supposed to pitch Tuesday and Bush had Wednesday, but both can bump up and still be starting on regular rest because Monday was supposed to be an off-day. Macha waited for the result of Looper’s bullpen session Saturday morning to make the decision official.

Gallardo threw just 30 pitches before Friday’s game was washed out, but instead of using him in Looper’s place Tuesday in Houston, Macha is essentially counting the rainout as a missed start and using Gallardo on his regular day.

“This will be almost like he’s missing a turn,” Macha said. “You know what? if you just look at the short term you probably say, that’s a tough thing to do. But I think long-term, it will be good for him. He’s got some innings right now, and he’s also had some stressful innings. He pitched five innings a couple of times and had 100 pitches, and those are some stressful innings. I think, in the long run, you have to look long-term as opposed to short-term.”