January 2010

Gerut signs, avoids arbitration

UPDATE at 2:35 p.m. CT — Gerut’s contract is for one year and $2 million. 
The Brewers signed outfielder Jody Gerut to a one-year, $2 million contract on Monday, avoiding arbitration the day before teams and their eligible players are to swap salary proposals.  
Following team policy, the Brewers didn’t announce the terms of Gerut’s new deal. He earned $1.775 million last season, when Gerut batted .230 with nine home runs and 30 RBIs for the Padres and Brewers.  
He was traded from San Diego to Milwaukee on May 21 for outfielder Tony Gwynn, Jr. and struggled to adjust. Gerut went just 4-for-41 (.098) with two RBIs in his first 30 games with the Brewers, then finished strong by going 34-for-120 (.283) with five homers and 19 RBIs over his final 55 games. At the moment, the defensively-versatile Gerut projects as Milwaukee’s fourth outfielder behind left fielder Ryan Braun, center fielder Carlos Gomez and right fielder Corey Hart
With Gerut under contract, the Brewers still have six arbitration-eligible players left to sign. They are starter Dave Bush ($4 million salary in 2009), relievers Todd Coffey ($800,002) and Carlos Villanueva ($447,000), second baseman Rickie Weeks ($2.45 million) and outfielders Gomez ($437,500) and Hart ($3.25 million).  
On Tuesday, arbitration-eligible players who remain unsigned will file a proposal for a one-year contract and their team will counter with its own figure. The sides then continue negotiating until a hearing date, scheduled this year from Feb. 1-21. Often, a deal is struck for a salary near the midpoint, but if sides are unable to reach a deal before a hearing, each presents its case to a panel of judges which selects one figure or the other with no room for compromise.
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Mulder talks tabled for now

The Brewers will wait until next month to consider making a Minor League offer to rehabbing left-hander Mark Mulder, general manager Doug Melvin said Friday.  
Melvin and Brewers pitching coach Rick Peterson met with Mulder in Phoenix on Thursday night and there remains mutual interest in striking a Minor League deal at some point. But Mulder, who has been limited to six Major League appearances since 2006 because of shoulder injuries, is still too early in his throwing program for the Brewers to commit even to a Minors deal, Melvin said.  
“He continues to throw but he’s doing long tossing and flat ground,” Melvin said. “We just haven’t had a chance to see him throw [off a mound]. As soon as he does that, we could talk about a contract.  
“Mark is in agreement with that. He understands that there is no rush to do a contract. He knows we have a good guy in place to help get him back where he wants to be.”  
That would be Peterson, Mulder’s former pitching coach in Oakland. Under Peterson’s tutelage, Mulder finished second in American League Cy Young Award balloting in 2001 and made a pair of All-Star teams. They reunited last summer while Mulder was looking for answers about his mechanics.  
In a sign of mutual interest, Melvin said that Mulder might use the Brewers’ facilities at Maryvale Baseball Park once he’s ready to progress to the next level in his program.  
“We had a nice visit with him,” Melvin said. “We’re interested and he’s interested.”  
Mulder’s agent, Gregg Clifton, was not available for comment on Friday afternoon. 
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Melvin mulling how Davis would fit

Brewers GM Doug Melvin confirmed that he had spoken this week with agent Steve Canter about former Brewers left-hander Doug Davis, a free agent who has some interest in returning to Milwaukee. 
“He’s interested. I’m just not sure we’re going to add anybody at this point,” Melvin said. “We could give opportunities to guys we have, and — this is the big thing — keep our flexibility [to add a pitcher later].” 
Flexibility has been Melvin’s buzzword this winter. He acquired left-hander Randy Wolf at the Winter Meetings and, as the roster stands today, could field a starting rotation led by Wolf and right-hander Yovani Gallardo followed by some combination of Dave Bush, Jeff Suppan and Manny Parra. Melvin mentioned left-hander Chris Narveson and nonroster righty Kameron Loe among those who would get an opportunity to knock one of those incumbents out. 
Davis has been extremely consistent in recent seasons, logging at least 33 starts in five of six seasons since finding a home with the Brewers at the end of 2003. He was 37-36 with a 3.92 ERA in parts of four years with the Brewers before Melvin traded Davis to Arizona in November 2006. In 2009, Davis posted a 4.12 ERA for the D-backs. 
But “there are issues there,” Melvin said, meaning roster management issues. Melvin said that adding a pitcher would mean you have four pitchers — the newcomer, Parra, Suppan and Narveson — for two spots in the rotation. Parra and Narveson are out of Minor League options. Suppan is in the final season of a multi-year contract, so his $12.5 million salary is guaranteed. Then there is Bush, who has options left but owns enough Major League service time to refuse an optional assignment and elect free agency.  
“It’s not like you could keep two and option the other two out,” Melvin said. “You would probably lose them. Are you willing to do that? That’s the question we have to ask ourselves.” 
Melvin asked that and other questions this week, when he gathered his staffers in Phoenix for a pitching symposium. Melvin deemed the meeting a success but did not have any drastic changes to announce. The team will continue its pitching tandems at Class A Wisconsin and the rookie levels, in which two starters piggyback each other every fifth day. The group also addressed conditioning and workload issues.
“Any time you get this many people together it’s always productive,” he said. “It’s hard to get all of these people — the doctors, the trainers, coaches, front office staff — together in the same place. The No. 1 goal is to develop starting pitching.”
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Brewers to attend Sheets session

Brewers GM Doug Melvin said he will dispatch area scout Jeremy Booth to the University of Louisiana-Monroe on Tuesday to watch former Brewer Ben Sheets throw for teams. Booth covers Louisiana and southern Texas for the Brewers. 
Cost remains a major hurdle to a reunion between the Brewers and Sheets, who didn’t pitch at all in 2009 after undergoing elbow surgery. Melvin said he has not spoken with agent Casey Close about Sheets since the Winter Meetings last month, and indicated that Booth’s attendance at Tuesday’s showcase falls under due diligence.  
“It doesn’t hurt,” Melvin said. 
The Cubs, Dodgers, Cardinals, Rangers and Blue Jays are among the other teams planning to send scouts to watch Sheets throw off a mound. 
“They’re going to like what they see,” Sheets told ESPN.com this week. 
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Sheets to throw for teams

Ben Sheets is set to audition for teams in a throwing session at the University of Louisiana-Monroe next week, according to a report on ESPN.com (here’s a link to an MLB.com story based on that report). According to ESPN, six to 10 teams have expressed interest in the former Brewers righty, who did not pitch at all in 2009 after undergoing elbow surgery. 

It’s difficult to see Sheets fitting into the Brewers’ budget, but I am working to determine whether they will dispatch a scout to see how he’s faring. 
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No big league invite for Hopper

The Brewers this week signed former Reds outfielder Norris Hopper to a Minor League contract that included an invitation to Major League Spring Training but it doesn’t include an invitation to Major League Spring Training camp, two club officials said Thursday afternoon. 
Hopper will draw on a $430,000 if he spends time with the big league club. He will turn 31 in late March and split his entire 2009 season between the Triple-A affiliates of the Reds, Nationals and White Sox, batting .281 with a .337 on-base percentage. 
Hopper appeared in 168 games for the Reds in parts of three seasons from 2006-2008. He played 121 games in 2007 and batted .329 with a .371 on-base percentage, 51 runs scored and 14 stolen bases. 
Hopper can play all three outfield positions and is a right-handed hitter, which could be a bonus if the Brewers need bench help in 2010. All three of Milwaukee’s outfield starters — left fielder Ryan Braun, center fielder Carlos Gomez and right fielder Corey Hart — hit righty, but backups Jody Gerut and Hernan Iribarren are left-handed hitters and so are Trent Oeltjen and Adam Stern, the nonroster outfielders already invited to big league camp. Prospect Lorenzo Cain is a right-handed hitter, but after an injury-plagued 2009 season he’s likely to begin 2010 in the Minors. 
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Burdette to be honored in Walk of Fame

After two years of narrow misses, former Milwaukee Braves right-hander Lew Burdette garnered enough votes for induction to the Miller Park Walk of Fame, the Brewers announced Thursday. 

Former Braves and Brewers players needed to appear on 75 percent of ballots from a group of Wisconsin reporters and club officials to gain election, and Burdette’€™s 25 votes gave him enough.  Pitcher Teddy Higuera was the closest to election among former Brewers with 64 percent of the vote (21 ballots). 
Other notable names approaching election were Brewers George Bamberger (61 percent of the vote) and Mike Caldwell (52 percent), and the Braves Johnny Logan (61 percent).
Burdette was a member of the Milwaukee Braves from 1953-63, and in the 1957 World Series he went 3-0 with a 0.67 ERA (two earned runs in 27 innings) to earn MVP honors.  Overall with Milwaukee, Burdette went 179-120 with a 3.53 ERA.  He led the National League with 21 wins in 1959 and his 2.70 ERA in 1956 also led the NL.  
Six former Brewers players and two former Braves did not reach the necessary 5 percent of the vote to remain on the 2010 ballot.  A total of 33 ballots were returned this year and there were 15 Braves and 30 Brewers on the ballot.  The ballots included on-field personnel who wore a Brewers or Braves uniform for a minimum of three seasons but have been retired from playing/managing roles for at least three seasons. All players and managers receiving votes on at least 5 percent of the ballots will remain eligible in 2011.
In 2007, the first year that former Milwaukee Braves players were on the ballot, the Brewers welcomed Eddie Mathews, Warren Spahn and John Quinn to the Walk of Fame.  Other past winners of the award include Hank Aaron, Rollie Fingers, Paul Molitor, and Robin Yount in 2001; Commissioner Bud Selig and Cecil Cooper in 2002; Bob Uecker and Harry Dalton in 2003; Jim Gantner and Gorman Thomas in 2004; and Don Money and Harvey Kuenn in 2005.  No one was elected in 2006, 2008 or 2009.
The ceremony to induct Burdette into the Walk of Fame is set for Friday, June 11 at Miller Park.
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Braun, Fielder on list to attend "On Deck"

From the Brewers’ PR department: 

Twenty-nine current Milwaukee Brewers players plus a host of alumni, coaches, front office executives and broadcasters are scheduled to participate in Brewers On Deck, set to take place Sunday, January 31, 2010 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Midwest Airlines Center.
Brewers On Deck is the annual Fan Fest that bridges the gap between winter and Spring Training.
Players, coaches and alumni scheduled to attend include:
John Axford                
Ryan Braun
Josh Butler
Dave Bush
Todd Coffey
Tim Dillard
Alcides Escobar
Prince Fielder
Yovani Gallardo
Mat Gamel
Jody Gerut
Carlos Gomez
Corey Hart
LaTroy Hawkins
Trevor Hoffman
Hernan Iribarren
George Kottaras
Casey McGehee
Chris Narveson
Manny Parra
David Riske
Chris Smith
Mitch Stetter
Jeff Suppan
Claudio Vargas
Carlos Villanueva
Rickie Weeks
Randy Wolf
Gregg Zaun
Ken Macha
Brad Fischer
Stan Kyles
Rick Peterson
Willie Randolph
Ed Sedar
Dale Sveum
Jeff Cirillo
Jim Gantner
Gorman Thomas
Greg Vaughn
Robin Yount
Tickets for Brewers On Deck are on sale now. Adult tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door while tickets for children ages 14 and under are $9 in advance and $15 at the door. Tickets may be purchased online at brewers.com/ondeck.
Brewers On Deck will feature a number of activities for the entire family.  Autographs and photos from Brewers players and coaches, “Game Shows” featuring Brewers players, interactive games, Q&A sessions with players and staff, vendor booths with baseball memorabilia, the Brewers Charities Rummage Sale and many other activities will all be a part of Brewers On Deck.
Autograph sessions will be staggered during the event, and autograph tickets — ranging from free to $25 each — will be available on the day of the event only.  There will be 250 autograph coupons available for each player and coach at the event.  Cash will be the only form of payment accepted at the pay stations in the autograph area.  Additional details regarding the autograph schedules will be available at a later date.
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Yost lands with Royals

The Kansas City Royals announced today that they had hired former Brewers manager Ned Yost as a “special advisor to baseball operations.” It’s Yost’s first job in baseball since the Brewers dismissed him as manager with 12 games remaining in the 2008 season. 

Yost spent 2009 at home in the Atlanta area but has been trying to get back into the game. He was a finalist for the Astros’ managerial opening, but Brad Mills got that job instead. 
Speaking of the Astros, they designated former Brewers outfielder Jason Bourgeois for assignment today to make room for newly-signed pitcher Brett Myers. Houston claimed Bourgeois off waivers from Milwaukee in October. 
And fellow former Brewer Brad Nelson re-signed with the Mariners on a Minor League contract. The Brewers released Nelson, a longtime farmhand who was once considered Milwaukee’s top prospect, after he began the 2009 season 0-for-21 at the plate. 
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Brewers, Mulder to meet Thursday


The Brewers’ long-awaited sit-down with free agent left-hander Mark Mulder is set for Thursday evening, when the sides will meet to begin discussing whether Mulder’s road back from injury will continue to Milwaukee’s Spring Training hub. 
Mulder, who didn’t pitch at all in 2009 while he recovered from shoulder surgery, lives in Scottsdale, Ariz. and Brewers officials gathered this week at Maryvale Baseball Park in neighboring Phoenix for a pitching symposium. The confluence offers an opportunity for a face-to-face meeting with Mulder and his agent, Gregg Clifton, that could kick-start talks toward a contract. 
“I think it will just be a nice chance to get together and talk and then we’ll go from there,” Clifton said. “But I don’t think it will take weeks and weeks to figure out, assuming they are interested in getting something done.”  
Given Mulder’s medical history, the Brewers are planning to offer a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training. The team’s contingent at Thursday’s meeting is likely to include general manager Doug Melvin and assistant GM Gord Ash, plus pitching coach Rick Peterson, whose relationship with Mulder dates back to their years together in Oakland.  
Clifton, speaking via telephone on Tuesday while watching Mulder throw a side session at home off a backyard mound, indicated a willingness to discuss a Minor League offer.  
“If the parties want to be together, we can always make the financial side of it work,” Clifton said. 
The Brewers are interested in the 32-year-old as a bounce-back candidate. Mulder has made only four starts since Aug. 29, 2006 because of shoulder injuries, but he won 15 games in five straight seasons from 2001-2005 and Brewers officials are intrigued by the notion that he could rediscover his form with help from Peterson.  
That relationship goes back to 1998, when Peterson was the A’s pitching coach and Mulder was the second overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft. Mulder joined Peterson in the big leagues in 2000, and in 2001 Mulder went 21-8 with a 3.45 ERA and finished second in American League MVP balloting. He made the AL All-Star team in 2003 and 2004 before Oakland traded Mulder to the Cardinals for a package of players highlighted by pitcher Dan Haren in December 2004, and Mulder made 32 starts for St. Louis in 2005 before shoulder woes set in.  
He was limited to 17 starts in 2006 and eventually underwent rotator cuff surgery. He signed a two-year free agent deal with the Cardinals but made only three appearances in 2007 before a second surgical fix, then made three more appearances in 2008 before another shut-down. 
At some point last summer, Mulder reunited with Peterson for help with his mechanics. Peterson is an expert in biomechanics, a process intended in part to help pitchers avoid injuries, and spent most of the year founding a company called 3P Sports that offers training services to amateur and professional athletes. The Brewers hired him in October.  
Mulder, meanwhile, continued his rehab.  
“He’s feeling wonderful,” Clifton said. “The final phase is finalizing his mechanics to the point where he can be successful on an every-outing basis. He feels healthy and as strong as he’s ever felt. If we can figure something out and get something finalized with the Brewers, I know he’s very excited about the chance to work with Rick and get back with people he’s very comfortable with.” 
Brewers starters combined for a 5.37 ERA in 2009, the worst mark in the National League. Melvin has already added left-handed free agent Randy Wolf to the mix as a replacement for righty Braden Looper, whose option was declined after the season. For now, Wolf and right-hander Yovani Gallardo are projected to top a starting rotation that also includes right-handers Dave Bush and Jeff Suppan and left-hander Manny Parra
The Brewers also have left-hander Chris Narveson on the 40-man roster, and former All-Star Chris Capuano will be in camp as a non-roster invitee who, like Mulder, is attempting a comeback from injury. Capuano hasn’t pitched in the Majors since 2007 and underwent his second career Tommy John surgery in May 2008. 
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