September 2009

Macha 'comfortable' he'll return in '10

kinhf9Zy.jpgManager Ken Macha’s contractual status never came up during his two-hour meeting with general manager Doug Melvin earlier this week, but Macha said Saturday that he expects to be back to serve the second season of his two-year contract.

“Yeah,” Macha said. “[But] stranger things have happened. I just want what’s best for the club.”

Melvin met individually with Macha and each of the Brewers’ coaches, an annual part of his evaluation of the team. After winning the National League Wild Card under interim manager Dale Sveum last season, the Brewers were eliminated from postseason contention this year with 11 games to play.  

The club’s performance has sparked a discussion of Macha’s job security, though Melvin has made mostly supportive comments. Earlier this week, Melvin wouldn’t rule out making a decision about Macha’s future before the team’s Oct. 4 season finale.

During their evaluation, Melvin sought Macha’s input on building the team for 2010. The fact he’s entering the final year of a contract was not brought up.

“We had a sit-down the other day, and it wasn’t even discussed, Macha said. “We talked about a whole bunch of stuff that we would like to address next year, so, yeah, if that bodes well, that’s it. … With all the conversations I’ve had with Doug, I feel comfortable.”

Here’s another clue that could bode well: Macha spent part of this week looking at apartments for next 2010.

“If I’m the guy next year I’ll certainly be doing my best to win as many games as we can,” he said. “I think that was our focus as the year went on this year.”

Counsell, Gerut, Hardy back in lineup

Manager Ken Macha said he didn’t plan to start Craig Counsell at third base against Pedro Martinez (even though Counsell is 9-for-20 against Pedro in his career), but when Martinez was scratched with a neck injury and replaced by Kyle Kendrick, Macha must have liked the matchup. Counsell is in there tonight for the Brewers, who are trying to push the Phillies’ National League East clinch away from Miller Park.

J.J. Hardy is also starting at shortstop for only the second time since Sept. 19. Jody Gerut is spelling Mike Cameron in center field.

Felipe Lopez  2B
Craig Counsell  3B
Ryan Braun  LF
Prince Fielder  1B
Jody Gerut  CF
Corey Hart  RF
J.J. Hardy  SS
Jason Kendall  C
Braden Looper  RHP

Fielder: I'm not competing with Howard for RBIs

The Brewers may be out of the pennant race, but the chase for baseball’s RBI crown is providing a compelling substitute.

The Brewers’ Prince Fielder and the Phillies’ Ryan Howard continued to jockey for position on Friday, when Howard drove in three runs but Fielder contributed four, three of them on a towering home run in the fifth inning that highlighted the Brewers’ 8-4 win at Miller Park.

“It seems like every time they get an opportunity to knock in a run, they do it. Both of them,” Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun said. “As a baseball fan, you can appreciate how good those guys are at what they do, which is driving in runs. It’s a lot of fun to watch them go head-to-head this time of year.”

Fielder has 136 RBIs with eight games left, and Howard had 135 RBIs with nine games remaining. The Cardinals’ Albert Pujols is next on the list with 129 RBIs, followed by the Yankees’ Mark Texeira at 118. 

“I’m not trying to compete with [Howard],” Fielder said. “I’m just trying to help my team win and really just compete with myself. Keep playing hard and keep producing and see what happens.”

That outlook didn’t surprise Fielder’s manager.

“I would think that as well as Prince has done, he would like to finish it. But I don’t know if that’s what’s driving him,” Ken Macha said. “He got jammed on one play [in the third inning] and ran 100 mph to first. The guy is just playing hard, and I’ve been saying all along that he gives up no at-bats. That’s why he’s in the position he is in.” 

Brewers to face Lee; '09 version of CC

Cliff Lee had a stretch in late August and early September in which he looked human, but he’s otherwise been a sensational midseason pick-up for the Phillies. The Brewers, who missed Lee during their Interleague trip through Cleveland in June, will get a look at him tonight at Miller Park.

Since joining the Phillies in July, Lee is 7-2 with a 2.65 ERA in 10 starts including three complete games and one shutout. Compare that to the Brewers’ acquisition last summer of another Cleveland Indians lefty, CC Sabathia, who was 9-1 with a 1.59 ERA in his first 10 Brewers starts, including five complete games and two shutouts. It’s not supposed to be that easy.

As Brewers GM Doug Melvin points out, Lee was a rare impact pick-up this season. The Cardinals’ acquisition of outfielder Matt Holliday also qualifies, but otherwise many of the July trades had a limited effect.

Back to tonight’s game. Here are the lineups for both teams:

PHILADELPHIA
Jimmy Rollins  SS
Shane Victorino  CF
Chase Utley  2B
Ryan Howard  1B
Jayson Werth  RF
Ben Francisco  LF
Pedro Feliz  3B
Paul Hoover  C
Cliff Lee  LHP

MILWAUKEE
Felipe Lopez  2B
Corey Hart  RF
Ryan Braun  LF
Prince Fielder  1B
Casey McGehee  3B
Mike Cameron  CF
Alcides Escobar  SS
Mike Rivera  C
Manny Parra  LHP

Counsell to win "High Energy" award

craig-counsell-ronny-cedeno-2009-8-30-15-10-27.jpgThe Brewers will honor infielder Craig Counsell tonight as the “We Energies High Energy Player of the Year,” an award settled by fan- and media balloting that recognizes to the player that best personifies the characteristics of hard work and an aggressive approach to playing the game.

Counsell is hitting .179 in September but has had a solid season, batting .279, his highest mark since hitting .282 in 2002, and slugging .407, his highest since 2000. Counsell leads the Brewers with a career-high eight triples and has seen time at third base, second base and shortstop.

Here’s a news release from the Brewers that just came through:

All the ballots have been counted and the Brewers and We Energies will announce the winner of the 2009 “We Energies High-Energy Player of the Year” in a pregame ceremony prior to tonight’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Brewers and We Energies also announced that Joshua Schroeder of Milwaukee was chosen as the “Grand Slam Winner” in the contest.  Schroeder voted for the award online at brewers.com and had his name selected in a drawing.  Schroeder will throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to tonight’s game followed by watching the game from Diamond Box seats at Miller Park.  In addition, he will have the opportunity to have lunch with the 2009 award winner.

Fifty-six (56) lucky fans who voted online also won four (4) Loge Outfield tickets for a Brewers home game this season. 

I had a vote and struggled to choose between Counsell and Prince Fielder, who plays the game as hard as anybody.  In the end I picked Counsell because Fielder is sure to win club MVP honors.

Counsell is a free agent at year’s end. He turned 39 last month, but it comes as no surprise that he intends to play somewhere next season.

**

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Fielder's Little League lesson

News flash: Prince Fielder doesn’t like to sit on the bench. On Thursday, he explained why.

Fielder hasn’t missed a single game this season, making him the Major League leader with 153 games played, and leaving him as the only player in baseball with a chance to appear in all of his team’s regular-season contests. Fielder, in fact, has started all 153, batting cleanup and playing first base.

prince fielder.jpgIt’s no accident. Fielder recalled coming out of a Little League game when he was 12 years old, after fouling a pitch off his foot.

“I came out of the game, and I remember someone being [upset]. They were like, ‘I think you’re all right,'” Fielder said. “That made me feel bad. I didn’t like the way I felt. So from then on, I wanted to play every day.

“I just felt soft. I didn’t like it. If I’m hurt, it’s one thing, but if I can play I want to play.”

Fielder wouldn’t say who that “someone” was.

He has fought through aches and pains this season, but never came close to asking for a day off. Manager Ken Macha never considered giving him one.

“Not even close,” Macha said.

Three Brewers have started all 162 games in the franchise’s 41-season history: Richie Sexson (2003), Robin Yount (1988) and Gorman Thomas (1980). Only Sexson, a first baseman, didn’t make at least one of those starts as the designated hitter. Sexson’s season was especially impressive, considering that he hit 45 homers, drove in 124 runs and played every inning of every game. Fielder was on pace to match that feat until Aug. 12, when he was replaced by a pinch-runner in a loss to the Padres.

Carlos Lee also played in all 162 games for the Brewers in 2005, but he came off the bench one time. Yount started every Brewers game in 1976, but the Brewers lost one game to a rainout that wasn’t rescheduled, and he played only 161 games. 

Melvin's staff evaluations complete

136151_ken_macha__doug_melvin.jpgBrewers general manager Doug Melvin has already wrapped up his annual end-of-season evaluations of the team’s manager and coaches, and wouldn’t rule out making a decision about manager Ken Macha’s future before the Oct. 4 season finale.

“I haven’t decided yet,” Melvin said. “I really haven’t.”

Melvin and Macha met for about two hours at Miller Park this week to analyze the season. That’s standard operating procedure for Melvin, who meets with members of the coaching staff each year to evaluate players and the individual staff member’s own performance.

Macha is finishing the first year of a two-year contract that he signed last October without using an agent. The topic of an extension never came up during his long meeting with Melvin, but neither did the prospect of making a change.

Entering their four-game series against the Phillies, the Brewers were 75-77 and had been formally eliminated from postseason contention.

Melvin will visit the Brewers’ instructional league team early next week but will rejoin the Brewers for their season-ending series in St. Louis on Oct. 2-4.

Fielder aiming for Iron Man mark

Prince Fielder is in his usual spot in the starting lineup tonight, hitting clean-up and playing first base for the opener of a four-game series against the National League East-leading Phillies. Fielder is the only player in the Majors to start all of his team’s games this season, and he’s tied with the Yankees’ Robinson Cano with 152 games played entering tonight.

Four players have started 162 games for the Brewers in the franchise’s 41-season history: Carlos Lee (2005), Richie Sexson (2003), Robin Yount (1988) and Gorman Thomas (1980). Yount also played all 161 games in 1976, when the Brewers lost one game to a rainout that wasn’t rescheduled.

Now that we’ve jinxed Fielder, here’s the lineup:

Felipe Lopez  2B
Corey Hart  RF
Ryan Braun  LF
Prince Fielder  1B
Casey McGehee  3B
Mike Cameron  CF
Alcides Escobar  SS
Jason Kendall  C
Jeff Suppan  RHP

Fall instructionals underway

Each of the Brewers’ first six picks in the most recent First-Year Player Draft are taking part in the fall instructional league in Arizona, and 2008 first-round pick will join the fray once he’s finished playing for Team Canada in the baseball World Cup.

Games against other teams’ instructional league squads began on Saturday, and through Tuesday the baby Brewers were off to a 2-0-1 start. They beat a group of Cubs farmhands, 10-2, on Tuesday, when first-round supplemental pick Kyle Hechathorn allowed two runs in four innings.

For those interested in the list of Brewers participants, you can view a PDF of the roster:
MIL instrux.pdf

Brewers trying to avoid Cubs sweep

Jody Gerut will make a second consecutive start in right field for the Brewers, who need a win to avoid being swept by the Cubs in the final 2009 meeting between the clubs. Chris Narveson starts for Milwaukee against Jeff Samardzija, who will start for the Cubs in place of lefty Ted Lilly.

Felipe Lopez  2B
Jody Gerut  RF
Ryan Braun  LF
Prince Fielder  1B
Casey McGehee  3B
Mike Cameron  CF
Jason Kendall  C
Alcides Escobar SS
Chris Narveson  LHP

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