February 2010

Capuano, Loe, Narveson raising eyebrows

Chris Capuano was pleased with his throwing session on Tuesday, his first action in big league camp since he suffered an elbow injury nearly two years ago. His manager was pleased, too. 
“One of the impressive things is that he threw change-ups, and his arm action on the change-up was very good,” Ken Macha said Wednesday morning. “I kind of liked what I saw there.”
Macha said he’s also been impressed by big right-hander Kameron Loe. Pitching coach Rick Peterson told Macha he liked what he’s seen from lefty Chris Narveson. 
“Last year we were kind of looking for people to fill the spots,” Macha said. “We’ve got tremendous competition for the spots this year. We’ve got a tremendous amount of depth in this camp.”
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Rehabbing right-hander Mark DiFelice stopped by the field Wednesday morning as the big league campers stretched. He’s sidelined following shoulder surgery and said he is probably a month away from beginning a throwing program. 
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Catcher Gregg Zaun returned to action on Wednesday after sitting out Tuesday with a stomach ailment. 
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Capuano: 'Arm not even a thought'

For the first time in 709 days, former Brewers All-Star left-hander Chris Capuano was just one of the guys on Tuesday.  
Capuano, attempting a comeback from his second career Tommy John surgery, was among the Brewers pitchers who threw off a mound on Day 2 of formal workouts at Maryvale Baseball Park. Capuano threw a full arsenal of pitches — fastball, slider, change-up — in his first action with fellow Major Leaguers since March 17, 2008, when he re-injured his left elbow in a Cactus League game against the Mariners.  
“Finally, for the first time in a while I really feel healthy,” Capuano said after his 45-pitch session. “My arm is not even a thought. It’s fun to just go out there and play.” 
Capuano is operating without any restrictions this spring after finishing last season with a pair of rookie league affiliates. For the second straight year, the 2006 All-Star and 2005 18-game winner is in Brewers camp on a Minor League contract.  
Brewers manager Ken Macha, who joined the team last season while Capuano was still on a strict rehabilitation program, was particularly looking forward to Tuesday’s session.  
“I have to give this guy some credit with the amount of work he’s put in to get to this particular point,” Macha said. “Not just that, talking about him with Doug [Melvin, Milwaukee's general manager] and Gord [Ash], the assistant GM, this guy is a pretty established Major League pitcher. … I think he’s got a particular passion for the game and he’s going to play it all out. Good for him.”  
Capuano is not considered a candidate for the Opening Day roster because he pitched in just six low-level Minor League games last season. He probably will need some extensive time in the Minors this season to prove he’s healthy.  
But player and manager both are holding out hope that Capuano could help the big league club in the future. For now, the idea is to stretch Capuano’s arm as a starter.  
“It would be nice to strike some gold from somebody,” Macha said.  
Said Capuano: “I look around and see a lot of pitchers and a lot of lefties, and I know the competition is going to be steep. But it’s important to have a good spring and show them that I’m in top form so that even if they don’t bring me up right away it could happen at some point later. … In my experience, if I’ve earned it, I’ve usually gotten it. Hopefully, if I do well I can earn my spot.  
“People have been asking me, ‘After two years, does it feel strange?’ And the honest answer is that it does not. Maybe it’s because of all the familiar faces, guys like Doug Davis and Claudio Vargas, it feels surprisingly normal.” 
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All-lefty bench a possibility

The Brewers’ starting lineup figures to lean right this season, but manager Ken Macha said Tuesday that he could end up with an entirely left-handed hitting bench.  
“It tests the manager, whether he can sit one of the right-handers down and get the left-handers in [the lineup],” Macha said.  
Many of the starting positional players haven’t even reported to camp yet and things could change over six weeks of Spring Training, but the Brewers for now project to have six right-handed hitters in the regular lineup (second baseman Rickie Weeks, shortstop Alcides Escobar, third baseman Casey McGehee and an all-righty outfield of Ryan Braun in left, Carlos Gomez in center and Corey Hart in right. Catcher Gregg Zaun is a switch-hitter, and Prince Fielder bats left-handed.  
Then comes a bench that could have plenty of lefty bats. Craig Counsell is a lock to be the primary backup infielder and Jody Gerut is back as the fourth outfielder. The leading candidate for the other infield spot is probably waiver pick-up Joe Inglett (organizational veteran Hernan Iribarren is out of options and could be an interesting candidate, too), and the Brewers will give nonroster invitees Jim Edmonds and Trent Oeltjen a chance to win the final outfield spot. Among the potential backup catchers is George Kottaras, who could have an edge over prospects Jonathan Lucroy and Angel Salome because of his experience and over the experienced Matt Treanor because Treanor isn’t on the 40-man roster.  
Counsell, Gerut, Inglett, Iribarren, Edmonds, Oeltjen and Kottaras all bat left-handed.  
The key, Macha said, would be sprinkling some of those left-handed hitters into the lineup to balance the bench.  
“We’ll see how that plays out,” he said.
Some other notes from Macha’s Tuesday morning chat with reporters:
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Left-hander Chris Capuano, the former All-Star and 18-game winner attempting a comeback from his second career Tommy John surgery, was among the Brewers pitchers scheduled to throw off a mound Tuesday. Macha was looking forward to it. 
“I have to give this guy some credit with the amount of work he’s put in to get to this particular point,” Macha said. “Not just that, talking about him with Doug [Melvin, Milwaukee's general manager] and Gord [Ash], the assistant GM, this guy is a pretty established Major League pitcher. … I think he’s got a particular passion for the game and he’s going to play it all out. Good for him.”
Capuano is not considered a candidate for the Opening Day roster because he has only pitched six games since re-injuring his left elbow in March 2008. He finished last season at the Brewers’ Class A affiliate and will probably need some extensive time in the Minors this season to prove he’s healthy. 
But he is not limited in camp, and the Brewers are holding out some hope that he could help the big league club in the future. 
“It would be nice to strike some gold from somebody,” Macha said. 
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The first full-squad workout won’t be until Saturday, but the hitters are scheduled to see some live batting practice from pitchers on Friday morning. That should be an interesting day for someone like Edmonds, who hasn’t faced live pitching since the 2008 postseason with the Cubs. 
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Weeks stopped by camp over the weekend, but he’s been away since taking his physical to deal with what Macha called a, “dental issue.” Counsell and Iribarren reported on Tuesday morning, leaving only Braun, Escobar, Fielder and Minor Leaguers Luis Cruz and Logan Schafer yet to make an appearance.
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Former Brewer Darryl Hamilton stopped by Tuesday as a representative of the Major League Players Association to discuss some rules issues with the players. Among the topics was baseball’s continuing efforts to speed the pace of games and some tweaks to the rules about pitchers licking their fingers on the mound (but not on the pitching rubber). Deep stuff. 
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Strength and conditioning coordinator Chris Joyner introduced a new drill Tuesday that forced some smiles. Pitchers balanced on one foot on a foam square and underhanded a baseball back and forth. Then it was on to everyone’s favorite Spring Training exercise: pitchers fielding practice.
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Spring Training begins

pitchers.jpgMother Nature provided just enough of a window on Monday morning for the Brewers to get down to business at Maryvale Baseball Park. 

The team’s pitchers, catchers and early-reporting position players took to the rain-soaked fields in Phoenix for the first official workout of the team’s 40th-anniversary season in Milwaukee. The rest of the position players will formally join the fold on Saturday, and Spring Training will be officially under way.

“You always feel like it’s going to be a long time, but then all of a sudden the offseason is over and it’s time for Spring Training,” said righty Yovani Gallardo, who threw a 40-pitch session along with about a dozen other pitchers on a covered bullpen mound. “It’s always fun to have an opportunity to come back, step on that mound and throw to your catcher. I’m feeling really excited about this upcoming year.” 

Manager Ken Macha gathered his coaches and players for the first time at 10:15 a.m. CT sharp for some opening remarks. Fifteen minutes later, everybody was out on the field to stretch in a routine that will repeat itself daily in the six weeks leading to the team’s April 5 season opener.

The wet conditions did force Macha to alter slightly his Day 1 agenda, but a number of pitchers including starters Gallardo, Doug Davis, Dave Bush and Manny Parra were able to throw bullpen sessions under the watchful gaze of new pitching coach Rick Peterson, and hitting coach Dale Sveum led the hitters to covered batting cages for some work. 

“I’m excited about our pitching staff because we’ve really made some upgrades,” Macha said. “But, that said, if you look at it we’ve still got a pretty young ballclub, so there’s still a lot of work to do. The only guy with some grey hairs is the catcher. 

“On the other hand, we’ve got great talent. I’ve got a lot of confidence that we’re going to be able to get it done.” 

All of the team’s pitchers and catchers were present and accounted for on Monday including closer Trevor Hoffman, who was reserving his enthusiasm for Saturday’s full-squad debut. 

“It’s exciting, but until you get the whole team together, it doesn’t feel quite right,” Hoffman said. “In these first few days you find coaches saying, ‘When everybody is here we’ll address this or that.’ So I’m going to wait until everybody is here before I get too excited.” 

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Peterson has big plans for Brewers

Rick Peterson laughs out loud when asked whether he believes in fate.
“Oh, my God, are you kidding me?” he asks. “That’s all I believe in.”
So, chalk it up to fate that Peterson battled injuries throughout his collegiate career and a four-year stint in the Pirates’ Minor League chain. Fate led him to delay pursuing a job in either of his undergraduate degrees — psychology and art — in favor of coaching. It led him in 1989 to Birmingham, Ala. — home of the Double-A club of the White Sox but also of Dr. James Andrews, who opened the American Sports Medicine Institute and began studying the root causes of pitching injuries. Peterson was among the first baseball men to walk through ASMI’s doors and over the ensuing two decades he studied biomechanics as something of a religion, becoming an expert at using Andrews’ readings to develop a program to help pitchers reduce the likelihood of injury and improve velocity and command of their pitches.
Fate then took Peterson to the A’s and the Mets and made him one of the game’s most famous pitching coaches. Now, at 55, fate has led him to Milwaukee, home of the National League’s worst starting rotation in 2009 and two of his former managers. Brewers skipper Ken Macha was with Peterson in Oakland and bench coach Willie Randolph was his boss in New York. Most important, the Brewers are at the front of the biomechanics movement and are the only Major League club, as far as Peterson is aware, with an in-house lab. In a sense, the Brewers needed Peterson as much as he needed a job.
As Peterson settled into Maryvale Baseball Park, where Brewers pitchers and catchers will have their first official workout on Monday, he considered how fate had done it again.
“What a perfect match,” Peterson said via telephone earlier this week. “That’s why I’m so excited.”
You can read more about Peterson’s philosophy and the Brewers’ plans to run pitchers from throughout the organization through a biomechanics scan in my story on Brewers.com. I know I’m not the only one wondering if we’ll look back at the end of this year and say Peterson was GM Doug Melvin’s most important free agent pick-up.
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Club creates Brewers Community Foundation

The Brewers announced Friday afternoon that Brewers Charities has a new name and a new focus. Here’s the club news release:

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee Brewers Chairman and Principal Owner Mark Attanasio and his wife Debbie today announced plans to enhance the organization’s philanthropic efforts through the creation of the Brewers Community Foundation.  The Brewers Community Foundation replaces Brewers Charities, Inc., which has served as the Milwaukee Brewers charitable arm for the past decade.  As part of the enhancement, BCF will operate with a new mission, vision, focused areas of interest and fundraising activities. 
Since being named Chairman and Principal Owner of the Milwaukee Brewers more than five years ago, Mark Attanasio has worked with Brewer executives and staff to deliver on the four cornerstone pledges he made to the region’s fans.  One of them was for the Brewers to be a leader in the community, and today’s announcement is motivated by their commitment to this pledge.  Mark and Debbie have played an integral role in developing and launching this new umbrella organization to coordinate all Brewer philanthropic activities in order to help meet the growing needs of the Greater Milwaukee and Wisconsin community.
“In appreciation for the tremendous support the community has offered the Brewers, we are excited to expand our programs as part of BCF’s new mission,” said Mark Attanasio.  We are continually striving to improve how we operate as an organization, and giving back has always been a top priority as we work toward improving the quality of life in Wisconsin.” 
 
“Being a leader on the field is more obvious to see during our games, but what many people don’t really have the opportunity to witness is the profound commitment that everyone connected to the Brewers has to giving back to our community,” said Debbie Attanasio. “This is an exciting day for our family, the Brewers, and everyone associated with the organization.”
Cecelia Gore, who joined the former Brewers Charities, Inc., last year, will lead the Foundation as executive director.
Key elements of the Brewers Community Foundation include the following:
MISSION
The Brewers Community Foundation harnesses the pride, passion and commitment of Brewers fans, players, and other supporters to positively impact the lives of children and their families in Greater Milwaukee and Wisconsin.
VISION
Our vision is to be thoughtful, dependable, philanthropic leaders actively engaged in providing needed financial support and leadership consistent with our mission.
SUPPORT
Funding efforts will be focused, and we will strategically extend financial support to nonprofits that provide quality programming in the areas of health, education, recreation and basic needs, with a particular focus on low income and disadvantaged youth.
Two new programs accompany the establishment of the Foundation. 
First, at every home game this season, the Brewers Community Foundation will stage a 50-50 Raffle. Raffle tickets will be sold by Foundation team members to fans throughout Miller Park for $2. Fifty percent of the net revenue will be awarded to a lucky fan each game, with remaining proceeds going to the Foundation. Similar efforts have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in other Major League Baseball pilot programs.
Second, the Foundation is implementing a Change for Children program at Miller Park. More than 100 canisters will be placed at concession and retail points of sale, and the Brewers encourage fans to donate their spare change to benefit the Foundation’s charitable causes. 

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Photos of new "Milwaukee" jersey

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Reliever Mitch Stetter (left) and first base coach Ed Sedar today helped the Brewers unveil alternate road jersey tops featuring the word “Milwaukee” across the front that the team will begin wearing “occasionally” during the 2010 season. The club will also continue to use its primary grey road jerseys, which say, “Brewers.”
That fact that “Milwaukee” was missing has long been a point of contention for some fans, who have been vocal about their desire to see the Brewers trumpet the city they call home. Club officials have explained in the past that “Brewers” was chosen to represent the team’s statewide fan base. 
The new uniform top will be available exclusively at the team stores at Miller Park and at Maryvale Baseball Park beginning Friday Throughout the month of February, shoppers will receive two free Brewers tickets to an upcoming game with the purchase of the new jersey.  
If the jersey is purchased at the Brewers Team Store by Majestic at Miller Park, the tickets will be for one of three select games in April.  If the jersey is purchased at the FanZone at Maryvale, the two tickets will be for a 2010 Spring Training game at Maryvale Baseball Park.  
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Macha might hit pitcher eighth

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We’re planning to roll out story tomorrow morning about Ken Macha readying for his second season at the helm of the Brewers, in which he admits that he may have gotten off on the wrong foot with some of his hitters last spring. While that story is in the works, I thought I would pass along a couple of tidbits this afternoon. 
If he put together a lineup today, Macha said it would look like this: 
1. Rickie Weeks, 2B 
2. Casey McGehee, 3B
3. Ryan Braun, LF 
4. Prince Fielder, 1B 
5. Corey Hart, RF 
6. Gregg Zaun, C 
7. Carlos Gomez, CF 
8. Pitcher 
9. Alcides Escobar, SS  
That’s all subject to change over the next six weeks, of course, especially the idea of batting the pitcher in the eight-hole. The Brewers have tried that alignment a number of times over the past two seasons with varying results, and Macha remains intrigued by either Gomez or Escobar in the nine-spot. The idea is to get another man on base in front of the Brewers’ fabulous three-four hitters. 
“We’ll have to see,” Macha said. “I tried Escobar there last year, and the key is you’ve got to get on base. If you get somebody who gets on at a .360 [on-base percentage] rate, then it has some advantages. It may be something to look at a bit further.”  
As for the starting rotation, Macha said that all six primary competitors for the rotation – Dave Bush, Doug Davis, Yovani Gallardo, Manny Parra, Jeff Suppan and Randy Wolf — would be on an even playing field. Barring injury, though, it seems extremely likely that Gallardo, Wolf and Davis will lead the group into the season.  
Macha wasn’t ready to officially name Gallardo his Opening Day starter, but it comes as no surprise that he’s the leading competitor.  
“It would be nice to put it out there for him this year,” Macha said.  
Macha also ticked off some of his priorities for camp. Look for those in my story tomorrow. 
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Online-only 4-Packs on sale Thursday

Beginning Thursday on Brewers.com and continuing through Feb. 25, the Brewers will sell their popular “4-Packs” of season tickets, including a new package aimed at families. 
There are six different plans available, all of which include an all-fan giveaway date and give fans the opportunity to guarantee seat locations before the team starts selling individual tickets on Feb. 27. The 4-Packs are available online only, beginning at 10 a.m. CT on Thursday. 
The family plan is a new addition, and it’s the only 4-Pack that includes a coupon for one free soda and one free hot dog for each game. Other plans feature different geography — as in the West Coast Plan, East Coast Plus Plan and Central Plus Plan — or timing — as in the Weekend Plus Plan and the Matinee Plan.  
The 4-Packs range in price from $60-$160 and are available in the Field Outfield Box, Loge Infield Box, Club Outfield Box, Terrace Box, Loge Bleachers and Terrace Reserved seat locations.  All tickets are subject to availability, while supplies last.  Pricing is as follows and includes one ticket to four games:
Field Outfield Box $160
Loge Infield Box $152
Club Outfield Box $144
Terrace Box $84
Loge Bleachers $80
Terrace Reserved $60
NEW Family 4-Pack:
Sunday,* May 16 at 7:05 - Philadelphia
Monday, June 28 at 7:10 - Houston
Friday, August 27 at 7:10 – Pittsburgh
Monday, September 6 at 1:10 - St. Louis 
East Coast Plus Plan:
Saturday, May 29 at 6:10 – New York-NL 
Sunday,* July 25 at 1:10 – Washington 
Wednesday, August 11 at 7:10 – Arizona 
Thursday, September 23 at 7:10 – Florida
 
 
Central Plus Plan:         
Saturday, May 15 at 3:10 - Philadelphia  
Friday, June 11 at 7:10 - Texas  
Sunday,* August 8 at 1:10 - Houston  
Monday, September 20 at 7:10 - Cincinnati
West Coast Plan:           
Tuesday, April 6 at 7:10 - Colorado  
Sunday,* June 27 at 1:10 - Seattle  
Monday, July 5 at 3:10 - San Francisco    
Sunday, August 22 at 1:10 - San Diego
Weekend Plus Plan:
Wednesday, May 26 at 7:10 - Houston
Saturday, June 26 at 3:10 - Seattle
Sunday,* August 29 at 1:10 - Pittsburgh
Saturday, September 25 at 6:10 - Florida

Matinee Plan:
Sunday,* April 11 at 7:05 - St. Louis
Thursday, May 27 at 12:10 - Houston
Thursday, June 24 at 1:10 - Minnesota
Thursday, August 26 at 1:10 - Los Angeles

*All Fan Giveaway
All-Fan Bobblehead Giveaways:
April 11 – Bernie Brewer
May 16 – Hank Aaron
June 27 – Cecil Cooper
July 25 – Robin Yount 
August 8 – Klement’s Italian Racing Sausage Bobble
August 29 – CC Sabathia
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Brewers scale back Autograph Friday

“Autograph Fridays” will be a kids-only affair in 2010, the Brewers announced today. 
The team scaled back its promotion from every Friday home game to one Friday per month for the coming season, and said that autographs would be limited to kids 14 and under only. The dates are April 9, May 14, June 25, July 23 and August 27. 
“With the popularity of these sessions, our priority is to ensure that children have opportunities to obtain autographs from the players and coaches,” Brewers Executive Vice President of Business Operations Rick Schlesinger said. “Other events, such as Brewers Block Parties and Brewers On Deck, will present opportunities for fans of all ages to obtain autographs.”
Approximately six to eight Brewers players, coaches and alumni will participate in the autograph sessions. 
Four of the Kids Autograph Fridays – May 14, June 25, July 23 and August 27 – will occur on 40th Anniversary weekends and will feature alumni participants.  Players will sign from 5:45-6:05 p.m. CT and kids and their parents can enter Miller Park through any gate and continue towards the Field Level concourse autograph stations located on the warning track from dugout to dugout.  Parents/guardians may line up with their child but will not receive an autograph.  
In another change from past seasons, the Brewers will not release the list of players and coaches for each Friday event in advance. A list of participants and their specific signing locations will be posted on the Miller Park video board when the gates open.
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