August 2009

Down the stretch they come! Wait, where's Trenni?

sausage+race.jpgFor those who missed it, Milwaukee’s own Trenni Kusnierek put together a feature about the Klement’s Sausage Race that aired this week on the MLB Network, and her abject failure is available for all to see at MLB.com. 

(I feel comfortable calling it a failure, because I once finished third. Although, there were only four sausages then, and I was so far behind that my then-colleague who took pictures labeled them, “smoked sausage.” I still maintain that my third is better than Trenni’s fourth, and it’s my blog so it’s my call.)

Anyway, Here’s the link.

-Adam

Suppan may return next weekend

Injured Brewers starter Jeff Suppan is scheduled to make
a rehab start on Saturday for Class-A Appleton, and depending on the outcome could return as early as next weekend, Brewers manager Ken Macha said Friday.

Earlier this week, Macha said the medical staff put
together a schedule that had both Suppan and fellow starter Dave Bush back with
the club by September 1.

“The [medical staff] hopes that Suppan will be fine,” Macha said of Suppan, who went on the disabled list with a left oblique strain on July 30. “If
he gets through the two [scheduled]
innings feeling good then [he'll be] on the mound for the third. If he’s good
then we’ll give him another inning or so.”

Macha said a team trainer will be with Suppan in Appleton
to monitor him throughout the game. (In other pitching news, Bush will also
take the next step in his rehab and throw in a simulated game on Saturday.)

If Suppan feels good, Macha said the team tentatively has
him lined up to pitch against the Nationals in a four-game series in Washington from August 21-24.

“We’ve got a rough schedule laid out. Hopefully both of
them will come through with flying colors and we’ll see from there,” Macha
said. “As we saw with the last time, Dave Bush went out, had a pretty good
outing [then the] next five days and ran out of gas, so we’ll proceed cautiously.”

-Cash

Brewers near deal with Draft pick Davis

With the deadline for signing 2009 Draft picks looming on Monday, the Brewers appear headed toward a deal with their highest remaining unsigned selection, University of Tennessee outfielder Kentrail Davis.

“The talks are good,” said Brewers amateur scouting director Bruce Seid, whose policy is to not discuss agreements with picks until the contract is signed. “Although we’re not at 100 percent, I feel good about the direction we’re going.”

Seid was in Phoenix this week watching the Brewers’ rookie league affiliate there, but said his travel schedule would bring him to Miller Park over the weekend.

Davis was one of the Brewers’ two selections in the supplemental phase that followed the Draft’s first round. He was the 39th overall pick.

General manager Doug Melvin echoed Seid’s optimism about Davis, who is being advised by Scott Boras, and said the Brewers were also working toward deals with their only other unsigned selections in the first 20 rounds: Right-hander Brooks Hall (fourth round) and shortstop Scooter Gennett (16th round).

“We’re making progress with all three,” Melvin said.

All three players have some leverage in negotiations. Davis has two years of eligibility left at Tennessee, and Hall and Gennett are high schoolers. Hall has committed to the University of South Carolina, and Gennett to Florida State University.

In other Draft news, the Brewers formally announced a pair of signings that have been previously reported. Left-hander Del Howell (15th round) signed on Aug. 1 and reported to Arizona, and outfielder D’Vontrey Richardson (fifth round) signed on Aug. 10.

Richardson, interestingly, signed a 2010 contract. He was a two-sport star at Florida State who has given up football to sign with the Brewers.

“He’s probably not baseball-ready,” Seid said. “He’s a great athlete, but we would rather have him go the instructional league this fall to get ready.”

For now, Richardson is working out with the Class A Brevard County Manatees. Even though he will not play his first professional game until 2010, he will be considered a 2009 signee in terms of Minor League service time. That fact comes into play later, when the time comes for players to be protected on Major League rosters.

“We checked very much into that fact, and [signing a 2010 contract] doesn’t affect him one bit,” Seid said. “The important thing is the date the contract is signed.” 

Teams have until 11 p.m. CT on Monday to sign Draft picks. In most cases, unsigned players return to the Draft pool for 2010.

Brewers hoping to ride Rivera's hot bat

No real surprises in the lineup today. As Brewers manager Ken Macha promised Thursday, Mike Rivera is back behind the plate for the second straight day and Jason Bourgeois is getting the start in right against Houston lefty Wandy Rodriguez. Here are the lineups for both teams:

Milwaukee
Felipe Lopez 2B
Mike Cameron CF
Ryan Braun LF
Prince Fielder 1B
Casey McGehee 3B
Mike Rivera C
Jason Bourgeois RF
Yovani Gallardo RHP
Alcides Escobar SS

Houston

Michael Bourn CF

Miguel Tejada SS

Lance Berkman 1B

Carlos Lee LF

Geoff Blum 3B

Hunter Pence RF

Kasuo Matsui 2B

Humberto Quintero C

Wandy Rodriguez LHP

Postgame thoughts: Rivera, Fielder, Lopez

Some quick hits after a long game:

- The fans who have been pining for Brewers backup catcher Mike Rivera to start more often will get their wish on Friday. Manager Ken Macha intends to start Rivera for a second straight game when Yovani Gallardo takes the mound against the Astros at Miller Park.

And why not? Rivera, who has been with the Brewers all season but only had 63 at-bats before Thursday, belted a pair of home runs and drove in four as Milwaukee beat up on, then held off the Padres to salvage a win in the series finale. Macha wouldn’t commit past Friday, but the sense was that Rivera, who provides some pop to an offense that, outside of Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and Mike Cameron has little, could see more playing time over the final six weeks.

“It’s great,” Rivera said. “I’ve been waiting for this for two years so I’m trying to do my best every time that I’m out there.”

- Speaking of Fielder, he joined Rivera in Thursday’s multi-home run club but wouldn’t emerge from the dining room — off-limits to reporters — to talk about his big day. It would be too bad if last week’s Dodger Stadium experience prompts Fielder to shut out the media.

- Felipe Lopez was just as difficult to locate, but Macha will be seeking him out on Friday. Lopez forgot his fundamentals and dropped what should have been an inning-ending pop-up in the eighth on Thursday, which in turn forced the Brewers to use closer Trevor Hoffman in what once had been a 9-0 game. Macha was similarly puzzled on Tuesday, when Lopez — who, in his defense, has made some terriffic plays at second base and has also been playing through some hamstring issues — couldn’t get to a pair of ground balls.

“One thing about our players is they run every ball out hard, for the most part,” Macha said. “There are a few lapses. That will be a topic of discussion, probably, tomorrow.”

Lopez declined to answer questions on Tuesday. On Thursday, a club official could not find him in the clubhouse.

Brewers, D-backs not talking Davis

Doug Davis back to the Brewers? Milwaukee general manager Doug Melvin doesn’t see it happening.

Following Major League rules, Melvin wouldn’t confirm a report that the Brewers had put a waiver claim on Davis, the Arizona left-hander who pitched for the Brewers from 2003-2006. But Melvin did say that he spoke Tuesday with D-backs GM Josh Byrnes, and didn’t expect the sides to be able to work out a trade.

“I’m not engaged in conversations with Arizona,” Melvin said.

If it’s true that the Brewers put in a claim, the teams would have 48 hours to negotiate a trade. If that window expires and Arizona isn’t willing to let Davis go, he would automatically be pulled back and would remain a D-back.

Davis is owed about $3 million over the final six weeks of the season and will be a free agent at year’s end. He is expected to be a Type B free agent, so if Arizona hangs onto him and he signs elsewhere over the winter, the D-backs would receive a second-round Draft pick as compensation.

Melvin was asked whether Byrnes was asking for too much in return for Davis.

“I’m not saying that,” Melvin said. “He’s asking for what I would probably ask for if we had the same thing. I’m not going to accuse them of asking too much. Teams want to keep their own guys, and Davis has an attachment there because he lives [in the Phoenix area]. It’s not that we haven’t tried.”

Especially with injured starters Dave Bush and Jeff Suppan nearing returns from the disabled list, Melvin is wary of giving up a top prospect for a second-half rental.

“Other than Cliff Lee, who else had made a difference?” Melvin asked. “We tried, but people know the value of pitching. They have the right to ask for your top guy. But is it right to give up a top guy for a [pitcher] who’s going to make seven, eight, nine starts?”

Macha: 'Sharp questions' don't affect me

A day after the Brewers’ made a series of personnel changes, manager Ken Macha insisted that he’s going about business as usual. 

“I’m not going to change any differently than I have all the years that I’ve done this,” Macha said. “I’m going to get here early and prepare, talk to the coaches … put the lineup out, just going to go about business the same way. I’ve been in worse situations. 

“You go through tough times, you know. Guys ask you sharp questions and put your job on the line. If you let all that stuff affect you, you’re going to wind up folding a tent. None of that affects me. We’re just going about our job.” 

Macha’s job has been difficult lately, with the Brewers losing 23 of their 36 games from July 1 through Wednesday, when general manager Doug Melvin dismissed pitching coach Bill Castro, effectively released longtime Brewer Bill Hall and optioned slumping shortstop J.J. Hardy, a former All-Star, to Triple-A. 

Macha is in his first year managing the Brewers but only inked a two-year deal. For comparison, Ned Yost was signed for three years when he originally joined the Brewers in October 2002. When Melvin was asked about Macha’s status on Wednesday, he said only that, “I think we’re all evaluated at the end of the year.”

If Macha was worried about his job status, he was not letting on. 

“My third year in Oakland I had no contract for the next year and we were 15 games under .500 at the end of May,” he said. “I could have been fired at any moment and I’m sure the media was calling for my head. It didn’t affect the way I was going about my job. You can’t let that happen.” 

One reporter asked the manager if he thought the Milwaukee media was calling for his head. 

“I don’t know, I don’t read the paper,” Macha said. “I can just tell by the intonation of every question you give me. … I can tell by the intonation of your voice when you’ve asked me questions questioning either my lineup, why I’m playing people or what the mood of my club is, a bunch of those things. 

“You can ask,” Macha added. “I didn’t say whether asking that question or not is going to affect me. Go ahead and ask me those questions, I’m fine with that.”

The Brewers entered play Thursday 7 1/2 games behind division-leading St. Louis and 7 1/2 games behind Colorado in the National League Wild Card race.

[Edit -- Woke up and fixed the standings thanks to tbbc44's comment.]

Suppan to begin rehab assignment on Saturday

The Brewers’ media notes just came through, and included this nugget: Jeff Suppan will make a rehab start on Saturday with Class-A Wisconsin against Beloit.

Suppan has been on the disabled list with a rib-cage strain. The notes don’t include an update on fellow injured right-hander Dave Bush, who has been out much longer with a triceps injury. Bush threw off the mound Wednesday, and manager Ken Macha said that both pitchers are on a program to return to the rotation before the end of the month.

We’ll try to track down some details about both pitchers’ schedules. Right now, the extra arms would be a boost, allowing the Brewers to move Carlos Villanueva back to the bullpen, where his change-up could help against left-handed hitters while lefty specialist Mitch Stetter tries to figure out why he can’t get them out of late.

What the Yost? Escobar hitting ninth

Brewers manager Ken Macha is channeling his predecessor today, hitting shortstop Alcides Escobar in the nine-hole for Escobar’s first Major League start. You’ll remember that Ned Yost used a similar configuration last season, when he hit the pitcher eighth and catcher Jason Kendall ninth. The experiment was ultimately abandoned.

We’ll ask Macha for his thoughts on that move in a few minutes. For now, here are the lineups:

SAN DIEGO
Tony Gwynn CF
David Eckstein 2B
Adrian Gonzalez 1B
Chase Headley LF
Kevin Kouzmanoff 3B
Kyle Blanks RF
Nick Hundley C
Everth Cabrera SS
Cesar Carrillo RHP

MILWAUKEE
Felipe Lopez 2B
Craig Counsell 3B
Ryan Braun LF
Prince Fielder 1B
Mike Cameron CF
Jody Gerut RF
Mike Rivera C
Manny Parra LHP
Alcides Escobar SS

Davis: 'Going back to Milwaukee would be fun'

According to sources of SI.com, the Brewers put a waiver claim on D-backs left-hander Doug Davis on Tuesday or Wednesday, giving the teams 48 hours from the time of the claim to work out a trade.

Davis told MLB.com Wednesday night that he heard reports of the Brewers’ claim but had not received an official word from either team.  A free agent at the end of the season, Davis said he is seeking a long-term deal.

“Going back to Milwaukee would be fun,” he said. “I know the fans would be behind me.”

Unfortunately, it’s not up to him. The Brewers showed some interest in the 33-year-old ahead of the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline but never came close to a deal. At that time, Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said he didn’t think Arizona GM Josh Byrnes would move Davis at all.

In 24 starts this year, Davis is 7-10 with a 3.62 ERA. It’s his best mark since he posted a 3.39 ERA for Milwaukee in 2005.

Now 33, Davis pitched for the Brewers from 2003-2006 before he was packaged in
an ill-fated deal with the D-backs that brought catcher Johnny Estrada
and pitchers Greg Aquino and Claudio Vargas. The Brewers have already
re-acquired Vargas this season to plug a hole on an injury- and
slump-ridden pitching staff that earlier Wednesday cost pitching coach
Bill Castro his job.

Davis would cost about $3 million over the rest of the season and is eligible for free agency in October. But, for the right price, he could provide insurance for the Brewers in case injured starters Dave Bush (triceps) and Jeff Suppan (oblique) continue to stall on the disabled list.

Melvin typically does not comment about players on waivers. Asked Tuesday whether any pitchers of interest to the Brewers had been waived, Melvin responded vaguely, “Not anyone I want to talk about.” 

Davis also spoke earlier in the day, before the report emerged identifying Milwaukee as the team of interest.

“It’s a win-win situation,” he said of the possibility of being dealt. “I go to a team that’s probably contending, this team gets something they probably need and I still become a free agent at the end of the year and can possibly come back here.”

Pitching in the playoffs is a big carrot for Davis.

“I could get a couple of starts in the playoffs and you’re one game away from a huge contract,” he said. “That’s pretty much what it is. You hit a big home run and you pretty much play for the rest of your career based on that one home run. Just that one big game, you end up showing you could get that big hit or pitch a big game.”

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