June 2009

Melvin planning to hold Escobar, Gamel

Brewers general manager Doug Melvin parted with his top prospect to land an ace last July, but sounds hesitant to do so again this summer.

Third baseman Mat Gamel and shortstop Alcides Escobar aren’t exactly off-limits, but Melvin said on Tuesday that he did not expect to trade either young player to acquire a pitcher before the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline.

“I find that almost impossible,” Melvin said. “You never say never, but it’s not my focus at all. Young players are valuable, you know? You talk about teams looking for hitting, and shortstops are so valuable. If you don’t have one, you can go years without having one.”

Gamel is proving valuable, too. He was hitting .336 at Triple-A Nashville before a promotion to Milwaukee last month, and will remain in the Majors even though the Brewers won’t need to employ a designated hitter for the rest of the regular season. Gamel went 7-for-23 (.304) on the Brewers just-completed road trip.

Escobar has spent the entire year at Nashville and was hitting .295 with 27 stolen bases and 53 runs scored through his first 71 games this season.

But Melvin proved last season that he’s not afraid of making a splash. He included then-top prospect Matt LaPorta in the package of players that lured CC Sabathia from the Indians, a trade that propelled Milwaukee to its first postseason appearance in 26 years.

This year, he’s shopping again. The Brewers placed Dave Bush on the disabled list Tuesday with a triceps injury and will keep Manny Parra at Nashville for the foreseeable future. That leaves two holes in the rotation.

But with so many clubs still considering themselves contenders, the trade market is quiet.

“You don’t have that many clubs call,” Melvin said. “I talked to a GM today and it’s probably the first one I’ve talked to, about players or what we’re doing, in 10 days or so. It’s not like it’s a daily routine.”

Bush to DL; MRI reveals triceps injury

Dave Bush’s right arm is not just tired, it’s injured. And the Brewers right-hander was placed on the disabled list Tuesday for the first time in his career.

An MRI scan on Monday revealed a micro-tear at the base of Bush’s right triceps, the same spot he was struck by a Hanley Ramirez line drive in Florida earlier this month. The Brewers promoted right-hander Mike Burns from Triple-A Nashville to join the starting rotation beginning Thursday against the Twins.

The Brewers will need another new starter on Saturday to replace left-hander Manny Parra, who was demoted to the Minor Leagues on June 13 and will remain there for at least a few more starts. Manager Ken Macha said he wouldn’t reveal that choice until Wednesday, but it will probably be Seth McClung, who has been a key cog in the bullpen this season.

Bush has never missed an outing due to injury, going all the way back to his Little League days. That streak will end Thursday.

“That part is disappointing,” Bush said. “It’s not a relief to know I’m on the DL, but it’s a relief to know I wasn’t out of my mind for thinking something wasn’t right. At the same time I was hoping the doctor was going to say, ‘Look there’s nothing wrong. You just have to work your way through it.'”

McGehee back at 2B, Kendall hitting leadoff

Casey McGehee, who served as Milwaukee’s designated hitter in Detroit to rest his sore right knee, is back at second base tonight against left-hander Francisco Liriano and the Twins at Miller Park, where the teams will play under National League rules.  Jason Kendall is reprising his role as a leadoff man.

Here’s how Ken Macha will send them up:

Jason Kendall  C
Casey McGehee  2B
Ryan Braun  LF
Prince Fielder  1B
Corey Hart  RF
Mike Cameron  CF
J.J. Hardy  SS
Bill Hall  3B
Jeff Suppan  RHP

"Cat" gets a start against Verlander

For those who missed it on Twitter, here’s Milwaukee’s lineup against the Tigers today:

Craig Counsell  2B
Casey McGehee  DH
Ryan Braun  LF
Prince Fielder  1B
Frank Catalanotto  RF
Mike Cameron  CF
Mat Gamel  3B
J.J. Hardy  SS
Jason Kendall  C

RHP Yovani Gallardo

Macha said he started Catalanotto in an ongoing effort to keep his bench players sharp, and managers tend to make those kinds of moves on the road. But it’s a somewhat odd day to do it, since Catalanotto enters the day 1-for-10 with two strikeouts against Tigers starter Justin Verlander. The lone hit was a home run.

The Brewers are 0-3 in Catalanotto’s previous starts.

Macha didn’t mention any injury issues for Hart, who’s 10-game hitting streak is the longest by a Brewer this season.

What to do about Dave Bush?

Dave Bush revealed after the Brewers’ 9-5 loss Detroit today that he’s been dealing with some arm fatigue since that line drive off his elbow earlier this month in Florida. That at least explains his recent results, but now the Brewers have to figure out what to do about it.

Bush threw only 51 pitches against the Tigers and would make his next start on Thursday against the Twins unless the team makes an adjustment.

There are options. The Brewers have been working with four starters since demoting left-hander Manny Parra to Triple-A Nashville on June 13, but will need another arm by June 27. The team could easily promote a fresh arm from the Minors to take Bush’s place on Thursday  — say, right-hander Mike Burns, who worked four scoreless innings in his only appearance for the Brewers this season and would be on regular rest. Bush, then, could rest up and start against the Giants next weekend.

The team made a similar move with right-hander Jeff Suppan in April after the veteran got off to a poor start, and it appeared to help. Had Parra not pitched himself down to the Minors, Macha said the Brewers would have probably used someone in Bush’s place on Saturday.

“These few days off could have done a little but [for Bush] like it did for Suppan,” manager Ken Macha said. “But with four starters at this time, we’re unable to do that.”

Macha and general manager Doug Melvin will meet in Milwaukee on Tuesday to discuss the options. Bush said he would let the decision-makers do their jobs.

Macha explains Bush-Kendall pairing

Mike Rivera had the same reaction to today’s starting lineup as many fans might have. He thought it was a mistake.

Rivera was preparing for his usual pairing with Saturday starter Dave Bush when manager Ken Macha posted a lineup with Jason Kendall at catcher. Macha paired Rivera with Bush this season to give Kendall more regular rest, but said team off days two days before and two days after Saturday’s game meant Kendall didn’t need the break.

“I’m going to wait for my turn,” a disappointed Rivera said.

Macha insisted that the switch had nothing to do with Bush’s recent struggles, which continued Saturday with five runs in just three innings.

Bush admitted after his last start that he was “out of sync.” Did Rivera think that had anything to do with the way he was calling games?

“I don’t think so,” Rivera said. “Everybody is going to have ups and downs. … We’ve been good. We’ve been on the same page at the same time.”

Brewers tried, but didn't see Pedro pitch

Brewers general manager Doug Melvin confirmed a report that he sent a scout to watch free agent right-hander Pedro Martinez work out in the Dominican Republic on Friday.

The Brewers sent two scouts, in fact. But they never saw Pedro pitch.

“This was twice [this week],” said Dick Groch, the Brewers director of pro scouting. “The second time we sent people there, his publicist was there and the publicist says, ‘He’s on his way.’ He was already 45 minutes late. … We had other workouts to do. We can’t wait forever. We [told the scout], ‘Go. You can’t stay there forever.'”

The scouts were Bruce Seid, Milwaukee’s amateur scouting director, and Fernando Arango, the club’s Latin American coordinator. They were already in Santo Domingo for a series of showcases with amateur players ahead of the July 2 international signing date. Melvin, who is on the lookout for pitching help, figured it made sense to swing by for a look at Martinez.

Groch’s understanding was that the handful of scouts from other teams left at the same time. That contradicted a report from Hoy, a major newspaper in the Dominican Republic, that said Martinez threw 75 pitches Friday at Estadio Quisqueya in Santo Domingo in front of reps from Yankees, Rangers, D-backs, Nationals, Cubs, Indians and Angels.

A separate report from SI.com’s Jon Heyman that said six teams, including the Brewers, watched Martinez “perform a pitching demonstration.” ESPN.com’s Buster Olney wrote on his blog that, “At least several teams walked away from Pedro Martinez’s throwing session unimpressed and uninterested in signing him.”

The Brewers didn’t walk away unimpressed, because they never saw Martinez at all. Martinez’s longtime agent, Fernando Cuza, was not immediately available to clarify his client’s situation.

“He might have worked out at a different time,” Melvin said. “We don’t know that. All I know from our people is he wasn’t there when we were told to be.”

The Brewers, who are operating with four starters at the moment but will need to add a fifth on Saturday, have not ruled out Martinez if he comes at the right price. But they are not going to jump in and make an offer if they can’t see him throw, Melvin said.

“I don’t know what the demands are, but it doesn’t matter what they are,” Melvin said. “If you can’t watch him throw, it doesn’t matter what his demands are. Would you go put an offer on a house without looking at the house?”

The Brewers have been actively scouting the top talent available in the Dominican Republic, where young players aren’t subject to the just-completed First-Year Player Draft. They have made splashy signings there before, including Roque Mercedes in 2004 and Rolando Pascual and Wily Peralta in 2005. Mercedes has a 0.95 ERA in 21 relief appearances at advanced Class A Brevard County, and Peralta has a 3.68 ERA in 13 appearances this season at Class A Wisconsin. Pascual is working with the Brewers-Orioles co-op affiliate in the Dominican Republic.

Might they add another player after July 2?

“We’re looking at it,” Melvin said.

No more Bush-Rivera pairing?

With Mike Cameron serving his one-game suspension today, Jody Gerut gets the start in center field. The only other notable change is that Jason Kendall, not Mike Rivera, is serving as the catcher. Usually, Mike Rivera (who began his career with the Tigers) handles Bush.

That’s an interesting switch considering Bush’s recent struggles. Maybe manager Ken Macha or pitching coach Bill Castro think Bush needed a different approach. Maybe Bush requested the switch. Macha will meet with reporters at the start of batting practice, and we’ll see what he has to say.

In the meantime, here is the lineup for what appears to be a beautiful day in Detroit:

Craig Counsell  2B
Casey McGehee  DH
Ryan Braun  LF
Prince Fielder  1B
Corey Hart  RF
Mat Gamel  3B
J.J. Hardy  SS
Jody Gerut  RF
Jason Kendall  C

RHP Dave Bush

Trade talks? Brewers' Groch in town with Melvin

Ah, to be a fly on the wall in the lobby of the Brewers’ hotel in Detroit on Friday morning, when manager Ken Macha met with GM Doug Melvin and Dick Groch, head of the team’s pro scouting operation. The men talked over coffee for nearly two hours, a sort of “State of the Brewers” discussion.

“We covered just about everything,” Macha said. “The bench, position players, starting pitchers, bullpen.”

They talked about Manny Parra, who was demoted to Triple-A last weekend and made his first start there on Wednesday. Then they discussed the options to take Parra’s place in the rotation when the Brewers need a fifth starter again.

And yes, the conversation turned to what Macha deftly referred to as, “what may be going on out there in baseball at this time.” Translation: Free agents or trade targets who could help the first-place Brewers, most likely to bolster the pitching staff.

“For you guys,” Macha told reporters, “There’s a lot of club’s still in it. That’s the way they feel. Every team in the National League Central feels like they’re in it, as in the American League Central.”

Another translation: Few teams are willing to talk about trading away the type of top-flight arm the Brewers are seeking.

Did Macha and Melvin discuss specific targets?

“He did mention a few names,” Macha said. “Are you going to get me in trouble with tampering?”

One name that wouldn’t get the manager in trouble is Pedro Martinez, a free agent who reportedly worked out for teams on Friday. SI.com’s Jon Heyman wrote on his Twitter account that the Brewers were among the teams in attendance, but Melvin has consistently downplayed his interest in Martinez to this point.

Does Macha feel good that Melvin will make a move?

“Let me put it this way: [Melvin] is keenly aware of avenues that would make our ballclub stronger,” Macha said. “But almost every Major League team is still either buyers or they consider themselves [contenders]. There’s no fits, like a jigsaw puzzle, where ‘You guys need X, we’ve need Y. You have Y, we have X. Let’s do it.’ There’s not a whole lot of that.”

It’s still early in the season for serious trade talks. Last year, the Brewers struck very early to get CC Sabathia, and that deal wasn’t official until July 7.

McGehee at DH, Gamel at third

On the advice of head athletic trainer Roger Caplinger, Brewers manager Ken Macha is giving Casey McGehee at least one more day to rest his sore right knee. McGehee, hitting .319 with 10 RBIs over his last 19 games, is still in the lineup as the designated hitter, so Mat Gamel, who served as Milwaukee’s DH in Cleveland, is playing third base.

Ryan Braun is also back in action. He exited Wednesday’s finale against the Indians because of lower back tightness, but declared Friday afternoon that the ailment was, “not an issue.”

Here are the lineups:

Craig Counsell  2B
Casey McGehee  DH
Ryan Braun  LF
Prince Fielder  1B
Corey Hart  RF
Mike Cameron  CF
J.J. Hardy  SS
Mat Gamel  3B
Jason Kendall  C

RHP Braden Looper

Curtis Granderson  CF
Placido Polanco  2B
Miguel Cabrera  1B
Marcus Thames  DH
Don Kelly  LF
Brandon Inge  3B
Josh Anderson  RF
Dusty Ryan  C
Adam Everett  SS

RHP Armando Galarraga