January 2010

Braun doesn't expect Fielder extension

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Ryan Braun is rooting for Prince Fielder to sign a longterm extension with the Brewers. Braun, after all, is under contract through 2015 and has the luxury of hitting in front of Fielder in the lineup. 
But Braun is not holding his breath.
“He’s going to do whatever is in his best interests, whatever is best for his family,” Braun said. “He’s earned the opportunity to go out there and see what free agency is like, see who’s interested and how much they are willing to pay.
“Obviously, I want him here. But it’s a business and I just want what’s best for him. I think everybody recognizes the circumstances and the situation that he’s in and that the team is in. To me, it’s going to come down to what’s best for his family. He’s close enough to free agency that it doesn’t make a lot of sense for him to sign a deal at this point. You have to be [realistic].”
Fielder talked to reporters on Sunday for the first time since the end of the season and his contract was a major topic of discussion. You can read more about it here
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Fielder working to keep off the weight

Prince Fielder’s comments about his contract were the lead item from Sunday’s “On Deck” event, but he also talked to reporters about his offseason regimen to control his weight. 
Fielder moved his family into a new house this winter in Windermere, Fla., the upscale hamlet near Orlando made infamous in recent months because it’s also the home of Tiger Woods. With all of the commotion, Fielder has mostly stayed in, playing with young sons Jaden and Haven and staying in shape. Fielder’s new home is outfitted with a pool, a gym — “A little miniature-Ballys,” he said — and an indoor batting cage. He’s working to maintain his playing weight from last season, “or maybe to get a little better.” 
“I have to work out or I’d be huge,” Fielder said. “That’s not an option for me. … I don’t want to turn into an obese person, because I can.” 
He likes the Brewers’ offseason moves to far, and Sunday’s “On Deck” event gave Fielder a chance to catch up with newcomers like Randy Wolf, LaTroy Hawkins and Gregg Zaun. His contract could be a major issue swirling around the Brewers as they gather at Maryvale Baseball Park for Spring Training, but Fielder is much more interested to focus on baseball. 
“I’m just looking forward to having a better year as far as the team,” he said. “Whatever happens after that is cool. As long as we improve, I’m happy.”
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Riske blames Maddux for arm woes

On Monday, David Riske will be just eight months removed from Tommy John surgery, a procedure that can require 12 months of rehabilitation. Still, the reliever is hoping to be active for the Brewers on Opening Day. 
“I’d say it’s a long shot, but it’s a possibility,” Riske said. “It just all depends on how fast it responds, and then when I can face hitters and how fast it responds after that.”
Riske has been rehabbing at home in Las Vegas and began throwing off a mound two weeks ago. That’s a significant milestone.
The Brewers would love to get some production from Riske this season because so far his three-year contract has not paid off. Riske says his troubles began during his first Spring Training with the Brewers in 2007, when then-pitching coach Mike Maddux tried to introduce a curveball to his repertoire. 
“I wish I would have never, ever tried to learn those breaking balls because that’s really w
hat triggered it,” Riske said. “What do you do? You want to do what they want, and it gradually got worse and worse. … My whole career, I threw 95 percent fastballs, and I’ve had a pretty good career up until last year. I wish I would have just said no.”
Riske said he objected, but tried to pitch through the pain. He posted a 5.31 ERA in 45 appearances in 2008 and was shut down after Sept. 7. 
Riske is due $4.5 million in 2010 and his contract calls for a $4.75 million option for 2011 or a $250,000 buyout. 
He expects to be limited at the start of Spring Training and will follow a program prescribed by Brewers’ doctors. Pitchers and catchers will participate in their first formal workout on Feb. 22. 
“I miss competition,” Riske said. “I’ve been competing with my boys at home, and that’s just not the same. I want that back. I just want to go pitch without hurting.”
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Blogging from "On Deck"

Thousands of Brewers fans lined up early this morning at Milwaukee’s downtown Midwest Airlines Center for “Brewers On Deck,” a day-long fanfest that features autographs, photo sessions, memorabilia booths and a big corner stage for question and answer sessions and other events. 

Here are the updates as they appeared throughout the day:
5:31 p.m. CT — Attendance figures are in, and 10,638 fans attended Brewers On Deck on Sunday. That’s 227 more than attended last year, when the team was coming off a playoff appearance. 
5:05 p.m. CT – Ryan Braun is rooting for Prince Fielder to sign a longterm extension with the Brewers. Braun, after all, is under contract through 2015 and has the luxury of hitting in front of Fielder in the lineup. But Braun is not holding his breath.
“He’s going to do whatever is in his best interests, whatever is best for his family,” Braun said. “He’s earned the opportunity to go out there and see what free agency is like, see who’s interested and how much they are willing to pay.
“Obviously, I want him here. But it’s a business and I just want what’s best for him. I think everybody recognizes the circumstances and the situation that he’s in and that the team is in. To me, it’s going to come down to what’s best for his family. He’s close enough to free agency that it doesn’t make a lot of sense for him to sign a deal at this point. You have to be [realistic].”
3:36 p.m. CT — On Monday, David Riske will be just eight months removed from Tommy John surgery, a procedure that can require 12 months of rehabilitation. Still, the reliever is hoping to be active for the Brewers on Opening Day. 
“I’d say it’s a long shot, but it’s a possibility,” Riske said. “It just all depends on how fast it responds, and then when I can face hitters and how fast it responds after that.”
Riske has been rehabbing at home in Las Vegas and began throwing off a mound two weeks ago. That’s a significant milestone.
The Brewers would love to get some production from Riske this season because so far his three-year contract has not paid off. Riske says his troubles began during his first Spring Training with the Brewers in 2007, when then-pitching coach Mike Maddux tried to introduce a curveball to his repertoire. 
“I wish I would have never, ever tried to learn those breaking balls because that’s really what triggered it,” Riske said. “What do you do? You want to do what they want, and it gradually got worse and worse. … My whole career, I threw 95 percent fastballs, and I’ve had a pretty good career up until last year. I wish I would have just said no.”
Riske said he objected, but tried to pitch through the pain. He posted a 5.31 ERA in 45 appearances in 2008 and was shut down after Sept. 7. 
Riske is due $4.5 million in 2010 and his contract calls for a $4.75 million option for 2011 or a $250,000 buyout. 
He expects to be limited at the start of Spring Training and will follow a program prescribed by Brewers’ doctors. Pitchers and catchers will participate in their first formal workout on Feb. 22. 
“I miss competition,” Riske said. “I’ve been competing with my boys at home, and that’s just not the same. I want that back. I just want to go pitch without hurting.”

2:25 p.m. CT – Jeff Cirillo is staying busy these days. He’s an active investor in the Walla Walla Sweets, a newly-formed baseball team in the West Coast League, a summer wood bat league for collegiate prospects. Cirillo produced his cell phone and showed off the club’s logo, a proud father showing a photo of his kids. The club is named for one of Walla Walla, Wash.’s chief exports, the sweet onion.
Cirillo is involved in everything from player procurement to business operations. He’s also a Major League scout for the D-backs and said he’ll also be involved in some on-field instruction this year. 
1:27 p.m. CT — Prince Fielder Fielder moved into a new house this winter in Windermere, Fla., the upscale hamlet near Orlando made infamous in recent months because it’s also the home of Tiger Woods. With all of the commotion, Fielder has mostly stayed in, playing with young sons Jaden and Haven and staying in shape. Fielder’s new home is outfitted with a pool, a gym — “A little miniature-Ballys,” he said — and an indoor batting cage. He’s working to maintain his playing weight from last season, “or maybe to get a little better.” 
“I have to work out or I’d be huge,” Fielder said. “That’s not an option for me. … I don’t want to turn into an obese person, because I can.” 
He likes the Brewers’ offseason moves to far, and Sunday’s “On Deck” event gave Fielder a chance to catch up with newcomers like Randy Wolf, LaTroy Hawkins and Gregg Zaun. His contract could be a major issue swirling around the Brewers as they gather at Maryvale Baseball Park for Spring Training, but Fielder is much more interested to focus on baseball. 
“I’m just looking forward to having a better year as far as the team,” he said. “Whatever happens after that is cool. As long as we improve, I’m happy.”
12:56 p.m. CT – Fielder isn’t sweating his contract situation, unlike so many of the Brewers fans who asked for his autograph at the Brewers’ annual fan fest on Sunday. 
Fielder is two seasons shy of free agency, and the Brewers are already engaging agent Scott Boras in some casual conversations about a long-term extension. Trouble is, there is little or no precedent for a Boras client of Fielder’s star caliber accepting such a deal over the riches available on the open market, and many Milwaukee fans are already counting down the days to Fielder’s inevitable departure.
Not so fast, he said. 
“In the end, it’s my decision,” Fielder said. “But as my agent, he’s going to make sure that I have the most information possible about what’s going to benefit me and my family. That’s what it’s about first. My family has to be happy, and then I go from there.
“There’s no urgency right now as far as that.”
Asked whether he was worried about the fact that fellow star first basemen Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard and Adrian Gonzalez are all lined up to reach free agency at the same time as Fielder, he responded with a smile, “I’m younger than all of them, and I’m pretty good.”
Fielder said he won’t set a deadline for talks, though he said he “could tell [Boras], ‘Beat it,'” at some point if he doesn’t want to talk business any more. If the negotiations don’t progress, Fielder would earn his $10.5 million in 2010 and be eligible for salary arbitration one more time this winter. If he has a season like the one he enjoyed in 2009, when Fielder belted 46 homers and tied for the Major League lead with 141 RBIs, it could be a record-breaking case. 
The Brewers took a chance on Fielder in 2002, when they made him the seventh overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft and were skewered by some Draft analysts who were already expressing concern about Fielder’s weight. Instead, Fielder charged through Milwaukee’s Minor League system and took over first base at Miller Park for good in 2006. He set a franchise record 50 home runs in 2007, teamed with left fielder Ryan Braun to lead the Brewers
to their first postseason appearance in a generation in 2008, then set club marks for RBIs and walks in 2009.
That history matters, according to Fielder. 
“I came up here and I love it here,” he said. “My thing is I want to stay here as long as possible. For now, I’m here for two more years anyway. All that other stuff, hopefully, will work out.”
Even though it’s a major long shot, Brewers fans sure hope so. 
11:56 a.m. CT – Brewers bench coach Willie Randolph will begin the season on the disabled list.
Randolph underwent surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon in his elbow and attended “Brewers On Deck” with his right arm in a brace. Randolph said the injury was the result of wear and tear from throwing so much batting practice in 2009 — coaches throw hundreds of pitches every day — and decided recently that he had to have the problem fixed. 
Ben Sheets, of course, underwent flexor tendon surgery a year ago and missed the entire 2009 season. Randolph expects to be back earlier; he said he hopes to be back on the mound in May. 
11:30 a.m. CT -- Manager Ken Macha and pitching coach Rick Peterson were first up on the main stage and answered questions from reporters and from fans. Most of the discussion, perhaps since Peterson was present and perhaps because it was such a disaster last season, was the pitching. 
“It will all come down to the pitching,” Macha predicted. 
Before he met them in person on Sunday, Peterson had already reached out to many of the team’s pitchers via telephone. Those conversations were mostly about building relationships, Peterson said, though he’s also spent time breaking down video and data and jotting down ideas about improvements.
Those nuts and bolts discussions will begin in Arizona, Peterson said. 
“I want them to understand first that I’m an asset for them,” Peterson said. “Right now I’m doing my homework.”
So far, he likes what he sees. 
“I think this could be a really special year,” Peterson said. “You think about winning 80 games last year and having the worst starting pitching in baseball. If we can make some incremental differences … I think that we can go into Spring Training with the hope of playing in October.”
Other highlights from the session:
- Macha again endorsed Rickie Weeks for the top spot in the lineup. “If I was to write a lineup today, he would be the leadoff hitter,” Macha said. 
- Peterson said the team is in “wait and see right” mode with left-hander Mark Mulder. The sides have discussed a Minor League contract, and Peterson indicated that the ball was in Mulder’s court at this point. 

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Edmonds excited to launch comeback

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Jim Edmonds is a four-time All-Star and an eight-time Gold Glove outfielder, so he doesn’t have a lot of experience competing for a job in Spring Training. He understands that he’ll have to do precisely that beginning next month. 
“They didn’t make me any promises,” said Edmonds, who inked a Minor League contract with the Brewers on Friday that included an invitation to big league camp. “But I’ll get to go in there with a chance to show them I can still play.” 
Edmonds, 39, has not seen big league pitching since the 2008 postseason, when he capped a solid second half with the Cubs. But he was among the veterans searching in vain for a job amid a poor economy last winter, and when he didn’t find any offers to his liking, Edmonds opted to take a year off. 
Now the Brewers are hoping that Edmonds mounts a comeback similar to Gabe Kapler’s two years ago. Kapler, who like Edmonds is represented by agent Paul Cohen, returned from a year off and was an extremely productive extra outfielder for Milwaukee in 2008, batting .301 in 96 games. 
Edmonds has not seen a live Major League pitch since Game 3 of the National League Division Series on Oct. 8, 2004 Oct. 4, 2008. Might that be an issue as he launches his comeback? 
“I don’t think so,” Edmonds said. “I’ve been hurt before and missed time, and I never had a problem coming back. I’ve been hitting the last week a lot more than I normally do, and it’s going really well. I’m pretty excited that I was able to pick it up again. I was in St. Louis this week hitting with Albert and that was a lot of fun.” 
That would be Albert Pujols, one of the greatest hitters on the planet. That reunion, Edmonds said, reinforced his desire to get back into baseball. 
He made it clear in recent weeks that his intention was to return, and his first choice was to do so in St. Louis, where Edmonds played from 2000-2007 and won a World Series ring. Cardinals general manager Jon Mozeliak told Edmonds on Wednesday that he didn’t see a fit, so Edmonds looked elsewhere and found a new home in Milwaukee on Thursday afternoon. 
He reportedly will earn an $825,000 base salary if he makes the Brewers’ roster with an opportunity to earn as much as $2.5 million with incentives. If Edmonds isn’t added to the 40-man roster by March 25, he can elect free agency. 
That “out” date is 12 days before the Brewers’ season opener. 
“You know what? I don’t know how that is going to go,” Edmonds said. “I’ve played 15 years and I’ve probably had a guaranteed job in 13 of them.” 
In those 15 seasons, plus a September call-up with the Angels in 1993, Edmonds is a .284 hitter with a .377 on-base percentage, 382 home runs and 1,176 RBIs. Brewers general manager Doug Melvin, looking for left-handed bench bats to compliment a right-handed-heavy starting lineup, first contacted Cohen about Edmonds during the 2009 World Series, but for months Edmonds didn’t see a good match. 
That changed this past week. 
“It has been a little bit of an adjustment change on my part,” he said. “I was away from the game last year but I was never really retired, and I had to decide whether I wanted to go into a situation to prove myself. I’ve been fortunate in my life to have made a good amount of money and played for a long time, but I’ve worked really hard in the past couple of months and have been doing a lot of hitting and it has come back to be quick.”
His next task is to win a job. The Brewers’ projected outfield starters, from left to right, are Ryan Braun, newcomer Carlos Gomez and Corey Hart, and Jody Gerut is penciled in as the primary backup. Edmonds is among four non-roster outfielders invited to camp with Trent Oeltjen, Logan Schafer and Adam Stern. Schafer will almost certainly begin the season in the Minors, as will the other outfielder on the 40-man roster, Lorenzo Cain.  
Edmonds is by far the most experienced of the group. Stern has 37 Major League plate appearances over three seasons with the Red Sox and Orioles. Oeltjen logged 73 plate appearances last August and September with the D-backs. Edmonds has 7,708 career plate appearances for the Angels, Cardinals, Padres and Cubs. 
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Talks stall between Hart, Brewers

Corey Hart and the Brewers passed a deadline of sorts Friday without a contract compromise, and now it appears likely that the team will end its long streak without an arbitration hearing. 
Hart, the Brewers’ lone arbitration-eligible player who remains unsigned, filed for a $4.8 million salary in 2010 and the team countered at $4.15 million. The Brewers wanted a deal by the end of business Friday, and club negotiator Teddy Werner and Hart’s agent, Jeff Berry, had a series of discussions this week but were unable to reach an agreement.
Arbitration hearings are scheduled for Feb. 1-21 in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area and Hart’s is still several weeks away. Last year, negotiations with Hart went down to the wire before the sides struck a $3.25 million deal on the eve of a hearing. 
“We just don’t have the appetite to go through that again,” Werner said. “We made a good-faith effort to get something done a few weeks ahead of time, but at some point you’ve got to say, ‘It’s time to prepare for a case.’ Nobody wants to go to a hearing, but I don’t want to be in a position in a couple of weeks where we’re back to where we are today, talking about the same number. To me, that’s a waste of time for both sides. 
“We didn’t want this to drag out,” Werner added. “We filed a number that we feel is very strong in his process and we were hopeful that we could reach some common ground. They felt like the number that we put out there this week was not appropriate for how they view Corey’s performance.” 
Berry wrote in an e-mail that Hart’s salary submission and the midpoint between the player’s filing and the team’s, “are consistent with the established framework for other arbitration eligible players with similar seasons.”
“We’re not rooting for a hearing and we’re not looking to break new ground,” Berry wrote. “We simply want Corey to be compensated at the level which the salary arbitration system has deemed appropriate.”
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Edmonds appears on St. Louis radio

Jim Edmonds isn’t even on the Brewers’ roster yet, but he apparently intends to spend a lot of time in the outfield at Miller Park this summer. 
Edmonds won’t be available to speak to the Milwaukee media until next week and I will try to touch base on Saturday, but he did have some interesting comments Friday morning for 1380-AM in St. Louis. Edmonds inked a Minor League contract with the Brewers on Thursday, and among the first questions he fielded was about what made the Brewers a good fit. 
“They told me that I would get a chance to play every day against right-handers,” said Edmonds, who indicated he was told he would mostly play center field but could also spell Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun or right fielder Corey Hart. “And it’s a good place to hit and a good place to play. I think that’s a good young team and I can help there. They reached out a long time ago and I really didn’t feel it. It just kind of happened.”
“Chance” may be the operative word, because Edmonds must first win a 40-man roster spot. According to reports on Thursday, he can elect free agency if he isn’t added to Milwaukee’s roster by March 25. 
Later, asked whether he might bounce around the diamond a bit, Edmonds said: “I’m going there to play center field. Hopefully, everything works out.”
The Brewers let incumbent center Mike Cameron escape via free agency this winter after that traded for 24-year-old Carlos Gomez. The plan is to use Gomez as the everyday center fielder, and backup outfielder Jody Gerut, who is already on the 40-man roster, can also play that position. 
Edmonds, though, has quite a pedigree. He has won eight Gold Glove Awards, including six straight from 2000-2005. He is also 39 years old, and will turn 40 on June 27.
“I want to be able to go out there and show everybody I can still play,” Edmonds said. “That’s about it. I don’t have a chip on my shoulder. I don’t really care about what everybody thinks anymore.”
More notes from his radio interview:
- Edmonds spoke with former Cardinals teammate Jeff Suppan and former Padres teammate Trevor Hoffman about the Brewers before committing this week. 
“They said it’s quiet and a good place to really focus in on baseball and they like their team,” Edmonds said. “So I’m going to give it a shot. If it doesn’t work out then I can always walk away and say I have it my last chance, and move on from there.”
- Cardinals GM John Mozeliak called on Wednesday to explain that the Cardinals didn’t see Edmonds fitting their plans. Edmonds said he appreciated the gesture. 
“They told me they weren’t interested and didn’t have any place for me,” Edmonds said. “At least John called me and was honest with me. He said that they didn’t have any at-bats for me and were more interested in a few other things right now.”
- Edmonds, who did not play in 2009, dismissed rumors that he is not in game shape.
“I’ll show everybody just like I did in Chicago,” Edmonds said, referring to his strong second half for the Cubs in 2008. “I’ll be ready to go when the bell rings, just like I always am. I feel great. I feel better than I’ve felt in five years, and that’s what the key is. If I can’t do it, I can’t do it. But at least I’ll give it a shot.”
- His agent, Paul Cohen, spoke with the Yankees “off and on” in recent weeks about whether New York might have a job for him.
“They were kind of up in the air whether they wanted a right-handed hitting left fielder or a left-handed hitting left fielder,” Edmonds told the radio station. “I don’t know what the other teams were. [Playing for the Yankees] would have been fun for a year, for sure.” 
- Might he have some ‘What am I doing?’ moments as Spring Training wears on?
“I don’t think so. I’ve already pretty much turned the corner in my head about this,” Edmonds said. “I’m just going to look at it as if it’s just another season and go out there and do the best I can. If things aren’t working out and I’m not getting playing time, yeah, then I’ll think something might be up. Other than that I’m pretty excited about it, pretty positive.”
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Upcoming online chats

Brewers TV play-by-play man Brian Anderson will take part in an online chat Friday at 10 a.m. CT in which I am sure he will answer all of your concerns, and a trio of players will follow him on Sunday. Gregg Zaun, Manny Parra and Carlos Villanueva will take part in a chat at 3:30 p.m. CT Sunday during the “Brewers On Deck” event. 

You’ll have to be registered with MLB.com to submit questions for both chats. More information is available by clicking through to Brewers.com.
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Brewers, Edmonds strike Minors deal

Jim Edmonds is indeed going to launch a comeback in the National League Central, but not with the Cardinals.  
The Brewers closed a deal with the veteran outfielder on Thursday for a Minor League contract with an invitation to Major League Spring Training camp, where Edmonds will compete with a cast of other left-handed hitters for a spot on Milwaukee’s bench.  
Edmonds made it clear at the Cardinals’ fan fest last week that he wanted to get back into the game after sitting out the 2009 season. He will turn 40 in June, but Brewers general manager Doug Melvin likes that Edmonds can play all three outfield positions and is eager to reach some personal milestones. Edmonds is 18 home runs shy of 400 for his career.  
In parts of 16 Major League seasons, Edmonds is a .284 hitter with four All-Star appearances to his credit and eight Gold Gloves. He last played in 2008, hitting .235 with 20 homers and 55 RBIs in a year split between the Padres and Cubs.  
“He’s left-handed, he’s a professional, he can play everywhere, he knows the division and he’s hungry,” Melvin said. “I’m sure you lose a step as you get older, but I have a lot of faith in the veteran guys like Edmonds and [Craig] Counsell and [Trevor] Hoffman. [Edmonds] has his juices flowing and he wants to play. This guy has had a pretty good career.” 
Melvin wouldn’t say specifically what Edmonds would earn if he makes the Major League roster but said the deal was similar to the one he stuck with Gabe Kapler prior to the 2008 season. Kapler came out of semi-retirement that year to play with the Brewers for $800,000 and was a productive extra outfielder, hitting .301 in 245 at-bats. Edmonds and Kapler share the same agent: Paul Cohen
FoxSports.com reported that Edmonds would make $850,000 if he makes the team and could earn another $2-$2.5 million in incentives.
Assuming he seals a deal and then wins a job, Edmonds could be yet another left-handed bat off the bench for the Brewers, who have a very right-handed starting lineup. The current fourth outfielder, Jody Gerut, is also a left-handed hitter, and so are nonroster invitees Trent OeltjenLogan Schafer and Adam Stern. The Brewers also picked up utility man Joe Inglett off waivers on Wednesday, and he hits left-handed, as does backup infielder Craig Counsell. The Brewers officially list Hernan Iribarren as an infielder, but he can play outfield, too.
The Edmonds deal could cap the Brewers’ offseason maneuvering, though Melvin said the door remained open to a Minor League deal with left-hander Mark Mulder.  
“You’re always working, looking at things that could help your club,” Melvin said. “But I don’t know where else we would add right now.”  
Edmonds will wear No. 15 for the Brewers.
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Some Joe Inglett trivia

Two things you have to know about Joe Inglett:

– He’s already had a Miller Park moment. Inglett hit a grand slam off David Riske on June 19, 2008, a Blue Jays-Brewers game that was memorable because the Jays nearly spoiled a big day for Dave Bush. Bush took a no-hitter into the eighth inning that day and the Brewers had an 8-0 lead, but Toronto scored once in the eighth and six more times in the ninth before Salomon Torres closed out an 8-7 win. 
Among the players who trotted home on Inglett’s only career grand slam was Gregg Zaun, who signed with the Brewers in December. 
– He has a sweet nickname: Voodoo Joe. The moniker came from former Jays manager John Gibbons, who noticed on more than one occasion that just when the team was poised to demote Inglett to the Minors, injury to another player would prolong his stay. 
Hopefully, Inglett doesn’t have the same knack with the Brewers. 
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