January 2010

Brewers will give Inglett a good look

The Brewers added another left-handed bat to the roster Wednesday by claiming the versatile Joe Inglett off waivers from the Rangers.  
Inglett, 31, has appeared in the Majors with the Indians and Blue Jays and can play just about anywhere on the diamond. He saw most of his Major League action at second base in 2008 as a fill-in for the injured Aaron Hill and batted .207 .297 that season. In 2009, Inglett logged 99 Major League plate appearances for Toronto and batted .281 with a .347 on-base percentage.  
To make room on the full 40-man roster, the Brewers designated reliever Chris Smith for assignment. Smith appeared in 35 games for Milwaukee last season and posted a 4.11 ERA, but would have had a hard time winning a job for 2010 in a very crowded bullpen.  
The Rangers claimed Inglett off waivers from the Jays on Dec. 4 but designated him for assignment last week to make way for free agent pick-up Khalil Greene. A left-handed hitter, Inglett has played 122 games at second base, a combined 69 games at all three outfield positions and seven at third base at the Major League level. The Brewers formally listed him as an infielder. 
He has a real opportunity to catch on with the Brewers, who appear to have one job up for grabs on the infield and one on the outfield.  
“We’ve got a lot of guys coming to camp but he’s a left-handed hitter and we have a right-handed hitting lineup,” Brewers general manager Doug Melvin. “I told him he would come to camp with a chance to win a job.”  
Milwaukee’s outfield is set from left to right with Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez and Corey Hart, and Jody Gerut is penciled in as the top back-up. The only other outfielder on the roster is 23-year-old Lorenzo Cain, but Cain lost part of the 2009 season to a knee injury and is likely to begin 2010 in the Minor Leagues. The Brewers will also have three left-handed-hitting nonroster outfielders in camp: Trent Oeltjen, Adam Stern and prospect Logan Schafer.  
On the infield, the Brewers re-signed Craig Counsell to be the primary backup but will have lots of competition behind him. Mat Gamel could make the roster if Casey McGehee has a setback with his surgically-repaired knee, and the Brewers also have three other infielders on the 40-man: Adam Heether, Hernan Iribarren and Luis Cruz. Heether and Cruz have options remaining and could end up in the Minors. Iribarren is similar to Inglett in that he’s an out-of-options left-handed hitter who plays second base and the outfield.  
“I think Counsell is locked in and after that we’re pretty open,” Melvin said. 
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Villanueva settles; Hart remains unsigned

The Brewers and reliever Carlos Villanueva agreed to a one-year, $950,000 contract on Tuesday, leaving outfielder Corey Hart as the team’s only arbitration-eligible player left unsigned.  
“It seems we say this every year, but this time there’s something to it: It’s looking more and more like that one’s going to a hearing,” assistant general manager Gord Ash said of the Brewers’ negotiations with Hart.  
Arbitration hearings are scheduled for Feb. 1-21 but baseball’s rules prevent Ash from revealing Hart’s date. Hart was arbitration-eligible for the first time last year and didn’t agree to his $3.25 million deal until the eve of a hearing. 
Brewers director of business operations Teddy Werner is handling negotiations with Hart’s agent, Jeff Berry. 
This time, Hart filed for $4.8 million, $650,000 more than the club’s $4.15 million offer. Hart had an off-year in 2009 made even more frustrating when he needed an emergency appendectomy in early August that sidelined him more than a month. He finished with a .260 batting average, 12 home runs and 48 RBIs. 
Likewise, Villanueva did not have the season he expected. The right-hander was 4-10 with a 5.34 ERA in 58 relief appearances and six starts but did finish strong, with a 3.18 ERA over his final 16 appearances.  
Villanueva had filed for $1.075 million in arbitration and the team offered $800,000, so the sides settled for slightly more than the midpoint. Ash handled final negotiations with Villanueva’s agent, Diego Bentz.  
A deal was struck after Zach Miner of the Tigers and Robinson Tejada of the Royals avoided arbitration with identical $950,000 deals. Villanueva’s case was complicated somewhat by the fact that he has split time between the starting rotation and the bullpen. 
“It is [a complicating factor] except that those other guys are the same,” Ash said. “It is a niche.”
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Reports: Sheets lands with A's

FormerBrewers righty Ben Sheets inked a one-year contract Tuesday with the Oakland A’s, where he will try to re-establish himself as an ace after missing all of 2009 with an elbow injury. The Cubs, Mets, Rangers and Mariners also reportedly showed interest in Sheets, who auditioned for scouts last week in Louisiana. It’s good news for the Brewers that he didn’t end up in the National League Central. 

And it was very good news for Sheets, who is guaranteed $10 million despite the fact he hasn’t thrown a pitch since 2008, and can earn $2 million more in incentives. 
The Brewers sent a scout to Sheets’ throwing session last week but had not talked with agent Casey Close since the Winter Meetings. 
“I’m surprised. I’m not surprised that he signed, but I was surprised that he signed that kind of contract,” Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash said. “But everyone has to do what they think they need to do. It sounds like they had some near-misses on other guys so they wanted to make sure they got this one locked up.”
Won’t it be strange to see Sheets in a different uniform? He’s pitched eight big league seasons, all with the Brewers, and is the franchise’s all-time leader with 1,206 strikeouts. 
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Bush ready for all scenarios

As the Brewers’ union representative, Dave Bush knows better than most that business and baseball often intersect. That means he’s ready for anything in Spring Training. 

Bush agreed to terms on a one-year, $4.215 million contract Monday to avoid arbitration, but still faces a good deal of uncertainty about the 2010 season. The Brewers have six established starters for five spots, and financial considerations could make things somewhat complicated for Bush as he vies for one of them. 
Budding ace Yovani Gallardo and offseason free agent acquisitions Randy Wolf and Doug Davis figure to take the top three spots in the rotation, leaving right-handers Bush and Jeff Suppan and left-hander Manny Parra to battle for the other two. But Parra is out of Minor League options and the Brewers are unlikely to risk losing him via waivers, so he has a foot in the door. That would leave one job up for grabs between Suppan, who is guaranteed $12.5 million in the final season of his four-year contract, and Bush, whose full salary doesn’t become guaranteed until Opening Day. 
If the Brewers cut loose Bush 16 or more days before the season opener, they owe him only one-sixth of his salary. If they cut him between that deadline and Opening Day, he gets one-fourth of his salary. 
There’s also the possibility, of course, that someone could bump to the bullpen. Bush, who will be eligible for free agency after the season, is ready for all of the scenarios. 
“I really haven’t given it much thought, to be honest with you,” he said. “We’re still in the offseason and I’m focused on getting myself in shape and preparing myself for Spring Training, but if I have to come to Spring Training and win a spot, it will be three times in five years. So it’s not anything new for me. I never go into a situation assuming I have a job. I always go in with the mindset that I have to win it. 
“If it turns out that there’s a move to be made, so be it. I’m smart enough to know all the different factors that can play out in a situation like this. There are some of them I can control, and some of them I can’t. If the situation comes up where it doesn’t work for me any more in Milwaukee, then that’s that. There would not be any hard feelings. I’ve enjoyed my time in Milwaukee.
“I understand that there are always business decisions to be made. I’m prepared for any and all of it.”
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Bush, Brewers strike a deal

The Brewers agreed to a one-year, $4.215 million contract with right-hander Dave Bush on Monday, avoiding arbitration and leaving only two arbitration-eligible players left unsigned. 
Bush had filed for $4.45 million in arbitration and the Brewers filed for $4.125 million, so the sides settled for a base salary just below the midpoint. He can earn the difference back and then some in bonuses for innings pitched, with $110,000 available. 
Bush earned $4 million during a 2009 season marred by injury in which he went 5-9 with a 6.38 ERA in 21 starts and one relief appearance. 
With Bush under contract, only two arbitration-eligible Brewers remained unsigned. Outfielder Corey Hart filed for $4.8 million, $650,000 more than the club’s $4.15 million offer, and reliever Carlos Villanueva filed for $1.075 million while the team offered $800,000. 
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Schedule tweaked for national TV

The Brewers announced some game time changes on Monday to accommodate national television broadcasts in 2010:

– The Saturday, April 10 game against the Cardinals has been moved to 2:10 p.m. CT for FOX.  On the next night, Sunday, April 11, the Brewers and Cardinals will play at 7:05 p.m. CT on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball.    
– Ditto on May 15-16. The Saturday, May 15 game against the National League Champion Phillies will air at 3:10 p.m. CT to accommodate FOX, and the Sunday, May 16 Brewers-Phillies game was bumped back to 7:05 p.m. CT for ESPN.
– Two Saturday games at St. Louis have new start times for national TV. Brewers-Cardinals games at Busch Stadium on June 5 and July 3 will be televised nationally by FOX, with both starting at 3:10 p.m.
– Other changes from the original schedule include the Saturday, May 22 game at Minnesota moving to 3:10 p.m. CT, the June 16 game at Los Angeles of Anaheim now at 6:05 p.m. CT, and the Saturday, June 26 game vs. Seattle at Miller Park to 3:10 p.m. CT.
Aside from the changes noted above, all home game times have been changed slightly for the 2010 season, with all games at Miller Park scheduled for first pitch at 10 minutes past the hour.  Weekday night games will begin at 7:10 p.m. while weekday day games will start at 12:10 p.m. in April and May (excluding Opening Day) and 1:10 p.m. in June, July, August and September.  Saturday games (except for April 10, May 15 and June 26) will start at 6:10 p.m.  All Sunday home games (except for April 11 and May 16) are scheduled to start at 1:10 p.m.
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Report: Loretta to retire

Former Brewer Mark Loretta is expected to retire this week, according to ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick
Loretta, 38, was the Brewers’ seventh-round Draft pick in 1993 and played in Milwaukee from 1995-2002, when he was traded to the Astros for infielder Keith Ginter and Wayne Franklin. Loretta had served mostly in a utility role to that point in his career, but signed with the Padres for 2003 and had his best seasons as an everyday second baseman, hitting .314 in ’03 and then .335 in 2004, when he made his first All-Star team and finished ninth in National League MVP balloting. Loretta made another All-Star appearance in 2005 for the Red Sox.
The ESPN.com report said Loretta is expected to move into a front office job with an unspecified club. 
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Brewers dispute Orlando report

A report from an Orlando television station that the Brewers could someday move to central Florida is “ridiculous,” the team’s chief spokesperson said Saturday. 

The story from WFTV said Armando Gutierrez, a Florida real estate developer who is running for Congress, is assembling a group of investors to begin discussions about luring a Major League franchise to Orlando. Gutierrez did not specifically mention the Brewers as a target but WFTV reporter Mark Boyle did, speculating that, “one team that could possibly relocate is the Milwaukee Brewers.”
Totally untrue, Brewers vice president of communications Tyler Barnes said. 
“The reporter or whoever else is putting that out there should do his homework,” Barnes said. “It’s irresponsible. We just finished ninth in attendance, we have one of the best ballparks in baseball and an owner who is totally committed to the [Milwaukee] area. 
“That report is beyond hilarious. I needed a good laugh today, and I got it.”
More than three million fans have passed through the turnstiles at Miller Park in each of the past two seasons and the Brewers ranked ninth of the 30 Major League teams in attendance in 2009.
The team’s lease at Miller Park runs through Dec. 31, 2030 and includes a nonrelocation agreement. 
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Davis deal is official

Doug Davis didn’t get his proper introduction at Miller Park, but he did get something more important: A done deal with the Brewers. 
Davis was supposed to travel to Milwaukee on Thursday night for a Friday morning physical exam but his flight was canceled. So he underwent the procedure later in the day instead, finalizing a one-year contract that guarantees $5.25 million and might just cap the Brewers’ major offseason wheeling and dealing.  
The Brewers announced the signing late in the afternoon and included a statement from general manager Doug Melvin
“Doug Davis has been a very durable pitcher throughout his career,” Melvin said. “His ability to produce quality starts gives our club a chance to win each time he takes the mound.”  
With Davis and fellow free agent acquisition Randy Wolf in tow, the Brewers have six established starting pitchers. Young right-hander Yovani Gallardo and lefties Wolf and Davis figure to fill the first three spots in the rotation, leaving right-handers Dave Bush and Jeff Suppan and left-hander Manny Parra to vie for the other two spots.  
Barring an injury to one of those six pitchers, of course, Melvin and manager Ken Macha could face some tough calls. Parra has been maddeningly inconsistent in his two full seasons with the Brewers, but he is only 27 years old, is out of Minor League options and would almost certainly be lost to the waiver wire if he’s exposed to it. Club officials are trying to be more patient with Parra than they were with Jorge De La Rosa, who was traded to Royals in 2006 and has since become a solid member of the Rockies’ rotation. 
Bush and Suppan are both coming off injury-plagued 2009 seasons. Financial considerations could come into play; Suppan is entering the final season of a four-year contract that guarantees $12.5 million in 2010, while Bush is arbitration-eligible this winter. He’s likely to earn $4.2-$4.3 million next season, but since arbitration contracts aren’t guaranteed the Brewers could release Bush in Spring Training and owe just a fraction of that salary.  
Here’s another option: Bump someone to the bullpen. But even that could be tricky depending on performances in Spring Training, since six spots are already spoken for by closer Trevor Hoffman, setup men Todd Coffey and LaTroy Hawkins, left-hander Mitch Stetter and right-hander Claudio Vargas and Carlos Villanueva. That leaves one opening for a large field of competitors including, if he’s ready, David Riske, who underwent Tommy John surgery last June and is guaranteed $4.5 million in 2010.  
Davis, meanwhile, gets a $4.25 million base salary in 2010 and his contract calls for a $6.5 million mutual option in 2011. If the club declines its half of the option, Davis gets a $1 million buyout. He can also earn $1 million in what a source calls “makeable” incentives in each season of the deal.  
All told, if Davis pitches both seasons for the Brewers and hits all of his incentives, he could earn $12.75 million.  
It’s Davis’ second stint with the Brewers. He revived his career in Milwaukee in 2003, a strange season split between the Rangers, Blue Jays and Brewers. All told, Davis was 37-36 with a 3.92 ERA in parts of four seasons with the Brewers before a November 2006 trade to Arizona, where he went 28-34 with a 4.22 ERA from 2007-2009. 
Along the way he remained durable, logging at least 33 starts and 192 innings in five of the past six seasons. The exception was 2008, when Davis missed the start of the season to get treatment for thyroid cancer. 
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Final Milwaukee Braves manager passes away

Bobby Bragan, the last man to manage the Milwaukee Braves, died Thursday night at home in Fort Worth, Tex. He was 92. 
Bragan managed in the Majors for the Pirates (1956-57), Indians (1958) and Braves (1963-66). He skippered the Braves to three consecutive winning seasons from 1963-65 before the franchise moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta for the 1966 season. 
Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig issued a statement about Bragan’s passing:
“On behalf of Major League Baseball, I am terribly saddened today by the passing of Bobby Bragan. I met Bobby when he was the manager of the Milwaukee Braves and he was a dear friend of mine for nearly 50 years.  He had a long and wonderful baseball career as a player, coach, manager and executive. 
“The Bobby Bragan Youth Foundation, which has supported the scholastic endeavors of more than 400 eighth graders in northern Texas since 1991, is a profound legacy for one of our game’s greatest ambassadors.  All of baseball will miss him, and I extend my deepest sympathies to his family, friends and admirers.”
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