October 2009

Still nothing official on Macha

Brewers manager Ken Macha had breakfast Saturday with general manager Doug Melvin, then mentioned 2010 in several different contexts during his daily reporters’ briefing without specifically confirming that he would be back. Melvin still wasn’t ready to make any sort of announcement about Macha’s future, he said through a club spokesperson. 

Gamel commits to Venezuelan winter league

Third baseman Mat Gamel has finalized his plans to play winter ball in Caracas, Venezuela, beginning right after Thanksgiving. It’s going to be a hectic winter, because Gamel also has plans to marry his girlfriend, Julianne, on Nov. 21. The couple had a daughter during Spring Training.

“She understands how important this is, how important in the club’s eyes it is for me to go,” Gamel said. “This game is about sacrifice, and so is marriage. I have to go down there to get some at-bats.”

Among Gamel’s Caracas teammates will be infielder Adam Heether, who spent most of 2009 at Triple-A Nashville.

Braun joins exclusive 200-hit club

AP091003022570.jpgRyan Braun became the latest Brewer to homer his way into the record books.

Braun’s Major League-leading 200th hit on Saturday was a two-run home run, making him the fourth player in Brewers history to reach the 200-hit milestone and the first in 18 years.

Cecil Cooper had three 200-hit seasons, Paul Molitor had two and Robin Yount had one. Molitor was the last to do it, in 1991.

Of the seven 200th hits in Brewers history, three were home runs. Braun’s on Saturday, plus Yount’s on Sept. 28, 1982 in Boston and Cooper’s off the Red Sox’s Dennis Eckersley two days later. All of them were two-run shots, and Yount’s, like Braun’s, came in the first inning.

“I finally feel like I’m locked in,” Braun said Friday, after a three-hit night left him at 199. “I’ve felt great the last two weeks, the best I’ve felt with the bat all year. Better late than never. It’s always good to finish on a positive note, individually and as a team.”

Braun’s first-inning homer off Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse extended his hitting streak to eight games, and he has a hit in 13 of his last 14 games entering Sunday’s season finale.  

Looper to have knee surgery

5caff75a-766e-11de-a06c-001cc4c03286.image.jpgBraden Looper revealed Saturday that he pitched all season with an injured right knee and will undergo arthroscopic surgery in the coming weeks to “clean up” his meniscus.

“It’s part of being an athlete,” Looper said. “You have to deal with certain things at the time and do the best you can.

“It’s something that’s not serious in the sense of a torn ACL. … It’s a very minor procedure. They told me I’d be able to walk out of there.”

Looper made his final 2009 start on Friday night and fell into a 6-0 deficit against Adam Wainwright and the Cardinals, then watched the Brewers rally for 12 unanswered runs and a stunning, 12-6 win. He became the first Brewers right-hander since Cal Eldred 1993 to win 14 games.

He also set a club record by allowing 39 home runs, but kept the Cardinals in the ballpark on Friday to avoid becoming the 18th different Major Leaguer to surrender 40 homers in a season.

“I tried the best I can to get the ball down because that’s my whole game,” Looper said. “I don’t know [if the knee played a part in pitches staying up]. I know I haven’t been a consistent this year. That’s the thing that upsets me, I hope that [the knee] didn’t cause that.”

Looper’s surgery will probably be scheduled for the week of Oct. 12 in Milwaukee. He lives in a Chicago suburb so it would be an easy trip.

The 2009 season was Looper’s first in Milwaukee and he went 14-7 with a 5.22 ERA in 34 starts. His contract includes a mutual option for 2010 that calls for a $6.5 million base salary. If the Brewers decline it, they owe a $1 million buyout.

Escobar tops lineup, Villanueva starts

We’ll see what the Brewers can get from Carlos Villanueva, who hasn’t started since mid-August but is pitching today in place of Dave Bush. Alcides Escobar is hitting leadoff for the first time in his young career.

Alcides Escobar  SS
Craig Counsell  2B
Ryan Braun  LF
Prince Fielder  1B
Casey McGehee  3B
Mike Cameron  CF
Jody Gerut  RF
Mike Rivera  C
Carlos Villanueva  RHP

No Macha news today

Brewers general manager Doug Melvin and assistant GM Gord Ash re-joined the team on Friday on St. Louis, but Melvin said he didn’t plan to make any announcements about manager Ken Macha’s future until Saturday at the earliest.

“I’m not going to do anything today,” Melvin said.

Macha is under contract for 2010 and Melvin is expected to ask him back. What’s unclear is whether Melvin will be willing to tack anything onto the deal, be it a club option for 2011 or more guaranteed years. Macha expected to sit down with Melvin following Friday’s game.

“I’ll let him be the spokesman,” Macha said.

Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio arrived at Busch Stadium with Melvin and Ash about an hour before the start of the season’s final series to address the team.

Brewers begin season's final set

A couple of milestones are in reach for the Brewers this weekend in St. Louis, including a dubious one for Friday starter Braden Looper. He needs to keep the Cardinals in the ballpark to avoid being the first pitcher since 2005 2004 2005 to surrender 40 home runs. On a brighter note, Ryan Braun is three hits shy of 200. He’s 6-for-28 (.214) against Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright, who is aiming for his 20th win.

Felipe Lopez  2B
Craig Counsell  3B
Ryan Braun  LF
Prince Fielder  1B
Mike Cameron  CF
Jody Gerut  RF
Alcides Escobar  SS
Jason Kendall  C
Braden Looper  RHP

More on Looper: Only 17 pitchers have surrendered 40 or more homers in a season, including Hall of Famer Robin Roberts three times and Bert Blyleven, Eric Milton twice and Phil Niekro twice apice. Blyleven set the all-time record when he served up 50 homers in 1986, and Milton was the last to do it, in 2004 2005 with the Reds. 

Brewers doomed to sub-.500 season

AP091001046787.jpgAfter Colorado reliever Franklin Morales struck out Alcides Escobar to end Thursday’s 9-2 Brewers loss, slugger Prince Fielder sat on the dugout and watched the Rockies celebrate their ticket to the postseason.

“I didn’t mind watching,” Fielder said. “It reminds you of what you’re missing.”

The dogpile on the pitcher’s mound came 369 days after Fielder and the Brewers celebrated their own Wild Card clinch last season. Now, with 82 losses and three games to play, the Brewers are guaranteed a losing record.

Manny Parra, who endured an awful final start, saw the last out on a clubhouse television. He immediately turned it off.

“That’s the last thing I want to watch,” he said.

The Brewers aren’t the first team to follow a playoff appearance with a losing season. Since the Wild Card era began in 1995, 21 teams have endured such a slip, plus two more — the 2008 Indians and the 1996 Reds — who came close but finished 81-81. 

Three of those 21 teams had a fall more devastating than Milwaukee’s. The 1998 Marlins, the 2003 Angels and the 2007 Cardinals followed World Championships with losing seasons.

Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio watched Thursday’s final innings in frustration and vowed offseason changes. Among the team’s pressing question marks is Parra, a 26-year-old with loads of talent who has been slow to put it to consistent use.

That was the case again against the Rockies, when Parra recorded five of his eight outs via strikeouts but also walked five — one was intentional — and surrendered five runs. He issued two of the Brewers’ three bases loaded walks. Two of them inexplicably went to Colorado pitcher Aaron Cook, a .116 hitter entering the game.

“I have games like the last game [a win against the Phillies] when I’m able to stick to the plan and execute,” Parra said “Today, I was trying to stick to the plan but I just wasn’t able to accomplish what I wanted to do.

“I just have to forget about it. I know I have the ability. It comes down to fastball command. That’s what it’s all about. I understand that and know that’s what I have to work on.”

McClung tweets his frustration

After sitting idle for an eighth consecutive game on Wednesday night, right-hander Seth McClung wondered aloud about his future with the Brewers.

McClung last month set up an account on Twitter — @73_MC — and has used it to communicate with fans during a busy month. McClung returned Sept. 19 from about seven weeks on the disabled list with a sprained elbow, but before appearing in Thursday’s series finale at Coors Field he had only pitched once since being activated. 

On Wednesday night, he tweeted: “U know that saying, the writing is on the wall? I think I can make out more than just letters concerning me.” 

McClung, who is arbitration-eligible after the season, was asked on Thursday morning to clarify. He was hesitant to take his feelings to the media. 

“It can be interpreted any way you want,” McClung said of his tweet. “I’m not complaining, I’m not trying to make trouble. I’m just frustrated. I don’t mean to talk about it in the media, but I’m honest with myself and it’s hard to watch situations come up in which I’ve performed exceedingly well in the past, and get passed over. Now we’re going on nine days since I’ve pitched last. I’m not saying I’m better than anybody else, I just think it’s my turn. Beyond that, I really don’t want to talk about it in the media.” 

The Brewers avoided McClung last winter when the sides agreed to a one-year, $1.6625 million contract. He is 3-3 with a 4.99 ERA this season in 40 appearances, including two starts. He was having an excellent season in relief — 3.25 ERA in 28 games — until the Brewers moved him into the starting rotation on June 27 after Dave Bush was injured and Manny Parra was sent to the Minors.

McClung finally appeared again on Thursday and escaped a bases-loaded jam in relief of Parra, then worked a scoreless fourth inning to lower his ERA below 5.00. Brewers manager Ken Macha agrees that McClung is completely healthy but said other relievers have simply moved ahead of him on the depth chart including Chris Smith, who pitched in relief on Wednesday. 

“I don’t know what my spot is here,” McClung said. “I’ve had a good run here and I’ve enjoyed it. The way things are shaking up, I don’t know if they have plans for me. I love being here, but that’s not my decision. I would love to be here five, six more years.”

The Brewers may need McClung again this weekend in St. Louis because Dave Bush is skipping his final start to rest his tired right arm. Carlos Villanueva was more likely to be used in a spot start than McClung. 

Same lineup as Crew tries to deny clinch

Corey Hart remains sidelined with his hand injury, so manager Ken Macha is sending out the same lineup that collected 14 hits but went 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position in a loss to the Rockies on Wednesday. The Rockies could clinch the NL Wild Card today even if they don’t finish a sweep of the Brewers, but they would need a Nationals win over the Braves in Atlanta.

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