February 2010

Brewers sign Schoeneweis

Coming off a year of tragedy, veteran left-hander Scott Schoeneweis has a fresh start with the Brewers.
The team on Tuesday inked Schoeneweis to a Minor League contract that includes an invitation to big league camp, where he will compete to be a second lefty out of Milwaukee’s bullpen. Schoeneweis, 36, made 45 appearances for the Arizona Diamondbacks in a 2009 season marked by the sudden death of his wife, Gabrielle, on May 20. 
If he makes Milwaukee’s roster, Schoeneweis’ salary would be $800,000.
“You go through a year like he went through, maybe getting back to baseball is the best thing,” Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said. 
The Brewers signed Schoeneweis partly on the recommendation of new pitching coach Rick Peterson, who coached Schoeneweis in New York in 2007 and 2008. Peterson recent spoke with his former pupil to gauge his interest in a comeback. 
Understandably, Schoeneweis’ performance suffered as last season wore on. He finished with a 7.12 ERA. 
The Brewers’ primary left-handed reliever is Mitch Stetter, who appeared in a career-high 71 games last season with a 3.60 ERA and held left-handed batters to a .178 average. In parts of 11 seasons with six Major League teams, Schoeneweis has limited lefties to a .229 average. 
“He’s been pretty good left-on-left and we always talk about trying to squeeze two lefties on our staff,” Melvin said. “That can be tough to do on a National League pitching staff. Mitch Stetter has done a nice job for us, but you never know when somebody is going to be hit by a line drive or turn an ankle. It’s nice to have some experienced depth.”
Asked whether Schoeneweis expressed a willingness to begin the season in the Minor Leagues, Melvin said, “That’s not the focus right now. I don’t know if he will or not. I told Scott we would be fair with him.”
Melvin also confirmed that the Brewers had re-signed left-hander Chase Wright to a Minor League contract, but Wright’s dead does not include an invitation to big league camp. Wright’s agent contacted the Brewers looking for a job, Melvin said.
With Schoeneweis, the Brewers have 57 players on their Spring Training roster including 32 pitchers. Melvin, who was scheduled to travel to Phoenix on Wednesday for a few days off before the start of Spring Training, might be just about finished adding pieces. 
“You never know, but you get to the point where you’ve got too many people,” he said. “You don’t want to be where nobody can get innings and nobody can get at-bats. We’re probably getting close to that point. We’re pretty deep right now.” 
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Promos, individual ticket sales set

miller park.jpgGet your bobblehead dolls! And your tickets, for that matter. 

The Brewers on Tuesday unveiled their 2010 promotional schedule, including six all-fan bobblehead giveaways, and also announced that individual game ticket sales will begin on Saturday, Feb. 27 with the annual “Arctic Tailgate” at Miller Park. If you don’t want to brave the cold that morning, you can begin snapping up single-game tickets at Brewers.com at 9 a.m. CT. 
“The Arctic Tailgate has been our most active day for ticket sales in recent years, and we encourage fans interested in single game tickets to prepare in advance,” Brewers executive vice president of business operations Rick Schlesinger said in a club statement. 
Only a very limited number of Opening Day tickets will be available at the event and are only for sale at the box office. The fourth annual Arctic Tailgate will feature free hot dogs and soda to the first 2,000 fans in line, compliments of Klement’s, Pepsi and Sportservice, and those fans will also get a t-shirt. FOX Sports Wisconsin and Newsradio 620 WTMJ are also sponsoring the event.
  
Each fan at the Tailgate will be limited to a maximum of four tickets for Opening Day, based on availability.  Meanwhile, through Tuesday, Feb. 16, fans can register online for the opportunity to be selected in a lottery to purchase up to four tickets to Opening Day and other Marquee games.
Beginning Feb. 27, fans ill also be able to purchase parking passes in advance for all home dates at Miller Park including Opening Day. Advance general parking passes for Opening Day and other Marquee Games are priced at $8 with preferred parking at $13 per pass.  Bus passes can also be obtained in advance for $35.  For Opening Day, there is a purchase limit of two advance parking passes per ticket order.  
The promotional schedule is highlighted by all-fan bobblehead giveaways on April 11 against the Cardinals (Bernie Brewer), May 16 against the Phillies (Hank Aaron), June 27 against the Mariners (Cecil Cooper), July 25 against the Nationals (Robin Yount), Aug. 8 against the Astros (Italian Sausage) and Aug. 29 against the Pirates (CC Sabathia). 
Other promotional highlights: 
- The Brewers will host “Spring Madness” from April 26-28 with all seats priced at $28 and less available at a savings of 50 percent (excluding the Uecker seats and all-inclusive areas).  For these three games, small Pepsi products and Klement’s hot dogs will be just $1 each. 
- During the homestand from May 10-16, the “€œ5-County, 5-Day Celebration”€ will provide great bargains for fans.  All residents of Ozaukee, Washington, Waukesha, Racine and Milwaukee Counties can purchase tickets at a 50 percent savings at the Box Office on all reserved seats (excluding the Miller Lite Beerpen, all-inclusive areas, and the $1 Uecker Seats).  
- Two annual tribute events are once again scheduled for Miller Park in 2010. On Saturday, May 29, the Brewers will host Negro Leagues Tribute Night against the New York Mets, while July 10 against the Pirates will mark the always-popular Cerveceros Day. 
- Youth players will want to be in attendance for Chevrolet Little League Night on June 22 as the Brewers open a series against the Twins.  All little leaguers in uniform (registered in advance through local youth leagues) will have the opportunity to parade around the warning track in a pre-game ceremony.  
- On Saturday, July 24, the 12th Annual 5K Sausage Run/Walk will begin at 9 a.m. CT at the Klement’€™s Sausage Haus at Miller Park, with all proceeds supporting the youth recreation and education programs of Brewers Charities.  Participants will receive a t-shirt, Klement’s hot dog, a bottle of Aquafina and a ticket voucher redeemable for one of eight specified regular season games in 2010.
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Report: Hart hearing is Thursday

The Brewers remain in a contractual standoff with right-fielder Corey Hart and appear almost certain to go all the way to an arbitration hearing in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Thursday afternoon.  
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel was first to report the top-secret date of Hart’s hearing, and two Brewers officials confirmed it. Hart’s hearing comes on the first date of trials between teams and their still-unsigned arbitration-eligible players, and he may be the first hearing of the year, though Brewers officials cannot be sure.  
Hart, who earned $3.25 million last season in his first year of eligibility, filed for $4.8 million this time and is represented by agent Jeff Berry. The Brewers countered with a $4.15 million offer and have not spoken with Berry since Jan. 29, when a team-imposed deadline passed without a compromise.  
Either way, Hart will be a Brewer in 2010 and will get at least a $900,000 raise. But for now, the sides remain in disagreement over his value.  
“There has been no movement,” Brewers negotiator Teddy Werner said. “I haven’t spoken to Jeff since two Fridays ago when we made that hard deadline. We’re certainly open to getting a deal done before hand because nobody really wants to go to a hearing. But the way the discussions have evolved, it appears we are headed that way.” 
Berry was not immediately available to comment.  
Werner and assistant general manager Gord Ash were scheduled to take a Tuesday afternoon flight from snowy Milwaukee to Tampa-St. Petersburg ahead of Thursday’s hearing. If it goes that far, it would be the Brewers’ first arbitration hearing since they lost a case to pitcher Jose Mercedes in 1998.  
Only three players have gone all the way to a hearing with the Brewers. Mercedes won in ’98, but the Brewers successfully argued against pitcher Mike Fetters in 1995 and infielder Jim Gantner in 1992.  
The process has evolved over the years, but today, each side presents a 60-minute oral argument to a three-member panel of judges along with a binder of statistics and graphs supporting its case. After a very brief recess, each side then has 30 minutes of rebuttal.  
After that, it’s up to the arbitrators. They have 24 hours to render a decision and must pick one figure or the other. There’s no more room for compromise.  
While the Brewers are waiting for the decision on Hart on Friday, they will be paying close attention to the Giants’ scheduled case with ace right-hander Tim Lincecum, who is seeking a record $13 million in arbitration. If Lincecum wins, it could affect the Brewers’ negotiations next year with right-hander Yovani Gallardo and left-hander Manny Parra, who are both eligible for arbitration for the first time. 
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Anderson on Escobar

escobar.jpgBrewers TV play-by-play man Brian Anderson and I must run with like-minded friends, because he’s been getting the same question this winter. No, not, “What do you do in the offseason?” But, “What do you expect from Alcides Escobar.”

I think Anderson comes up with the correct answer in this great post on his MLBlog, and I wholeheartedly agree that Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun have set an impossibly high bar that hopefully won’t get in the way of Escobar’s rookie progression. BA also gets into the pressure Escobar faces to follow in the footsteps of some legendary Venezuelan forefathers, a topic that requires much more examination in Spring Training.

So I’ll stop writing and let you head over to Brian Anderson’s House of Blogs for a great read.

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Brewers ink Dominican trio

The Brewers agreed to terms with a trio of right-handed pitchers last week after they auditioned for general manager Doug Melvin at the team’s new facility in the Dominican Republic, amateur scouting director Bruce Seid said.  
The Brewers have agreements in place with Eduard Reyes, 19, Carlos Sosa, 18, and Elvis Mora, 17, though all three contracts are pending a Major League Baseball investigation into the player’s ages. Such investigations are now standard practice in International signings, and can take 4-6 weeks to complete. 
Seid’s policy is not to reveal signing bonuses, but he did say that all three players came at a “reasonable” cost. Melvin was at the academy last week and saw all three pitchers in person. 
“We felt like we maximized our dollars with these three guys,” Seid said. “They’re all 90-plus [mph] velocity guys at 17-19 years old.” 
The Brewers had been tracking all three players at their new academy north of the Dominican capital of Santo Domingo. Milwaukee had ceased operating a Dominican academy in 2003, soon after Melvin and and assistant GM Gord Ash were hired, and instead put the money they had been spending on the facility toward higher-profile signings. 
The experiment yielded only modest results, so last summer the Brewers resumed a Dominican presence in a co-venture with the Orioles. The Brewers subsequently moved into a complex previously owned by the Phillies, complete with two baseball fields, batting cages, housing and mess facilities and classroom space where players are instructed in English, among other topics. The idea is to prepare young players — most are 16-19 — to eventually move to affiliates in the U.S. 
Whether Reyes, the oldest of last week’s signees at 19, makes that jump immediately remains to be seen, Seid said. While MLB’s age investigation is ongoing, Reyes will continue to participate at the academy. 
“He threw 90-91 [mph] for us and had a good feel to pitch,” Seid said. “He wanted to sign, and we were on board with that.” 
Reyes was a participant in the Dominican Prospect League, an organization that is trying to bring some order to a scouting process that in the past has been scattered. The DPL first trumpeted Reyes’ deal with the Brewers on its website last week. 
Sosa is the big man of the trio at 6-foot-6. Mora touched 93 mph for Brewers scouts and Seid compared him to former Brewers pitcher Salomon Torres, a fellow Dominican. 
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Final thoughts from McClung

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Former Brewer Seth McClung did a Super Bowl Sunday interview with the excellent fan site Right Field Bleachers, and while I’m sure many of you who follow some of the other blogs already have seen it, I wanted to pass along some highlights for those who did not. 
McClung had a pretty special relationship with the blogs via his how-defunct Twitter account, and he talked about that. He also talked about his relationship with his bullpen mates (great), manager Ken Macha (not so great) and outfielder Ryan Braun (somewhere in the middle), and shared some great stuff about the bullpen bathroom. You’ll have to click through to see and hear about that. 
Here are some highlights:
On signing a Minor League deal with the Marlins:
The way the Marlins deal came about is when I became a free agent, pretty much every team in the National League showed interest and a few teams in the American League. We waited around and it boiled down to where the best opportunity for me to get back in the Major Leagues and stay in the Major Leagues seemed to be in Florida. I think we might have waited a little bit too long on a couple of things, but we’re here in Florida and it’s a good opportunity. I turned down more money in a couple of other places because of the opportunity. It’s closer to home for my family. We have a five-month old and it’s going to be an opportunity where Stephanie, my better half, doesn’t have to really quit school. She can still drive now back and forth between the Tampa Bay area, Jupiter is in the Tampa Bay area, and Miami. So, a lot of family decisions came into it.
Obviously, I would’ve loved to come back to Milwaukee. That was my first choice. But that’s not something they really wanted to do.
On his relationship with Macha:
I don’t think I ever really had a relationship with Mr. Macha. I tried in the first half to really build a relationship. I don’t think he really got me. You could take what I could say and say, “Oh, he’s just disgruntled” and what not. I am disgruntled, but it’s because our relationship really wasn’t that great and I didn’t agree with a lot of the things he did. People gave Ned Yost a hard time for taking up for his players, but there’s a lot to be said about that. And people give Lou Piniella a hard time for arguing with the umpires, but there’s a lot to be said for that.
Ken Macha, if I had my choice, I wouldn’t play for him again. And I’m not here to throw stones. Good luck for the rest of the year. It’s over. And this is probably the last time I’ll really comment on Ken Macha. But I just really didn’t agree with his philosophy, his coaching style. Let’s just keep it that simple. Some things in house need to stay in house and let’s just say I didn’t agree with it and I really didn’t feel like he treated me fairly or gave me a fair shake at anything.
On launching, and then deleting, his Twitter account:
I deleted the account because I think it was getting on [wife] Stephanie’s nerves. I enjoyed it a lot. The Twitter account was great.
Over the years, maybe the year I did it, I don’t even know if I did it a year, I got all positive responses except for two. The two responses were from toolbags and I just blocked them and it was whatever. But all positive responses. And I enjoyed interacting with the fans. I’m from West Virginia, man, and I’m as blue collar as they come. I’m just like you and just like everybody else. I just happen to play baseball. And I thought it was a pretty cool way to connect with the fans to just kind of show everybody that, “Hey, I’m just a guy that’s very fortunate to play baseball and thank you guys for being supportive.”
And, to tell you the truth, I had decided that, after Milwaukee, that I wasn’t really going to do it anymore because it was a special situation in Milwaukee. That’s no slight to any other fans, but I had such a special bond with a lot of fans in Milwaukee. I felt that it was something that I couldn’t continue because I kind of knew I wasn’t going to come back. And I wanted everybody to know how grateful and honored I was to be a Milwaukee Brewer and play on their favorite team and how supportive they were. It was awesome. And had I not had the Twitter account, I wouldn’t have been able to send my good bye. I mean, they don’t typically give long relievers middle pages in the paper to do the kind of things like that. So, to be able to do that and to say my good byes to the fans and to the organization, it was huge. And I really enjoyed it.
On Braun’s comments in July critical of Brewers pitching:
It was a direct shot at Burnsy [Mike Burns] and myself, and Ryan spoke with me actually. I wasn’t going to go to him. He spoke with me and he apologized.
You could look at it as a turning point in the season. It kind of really hurt us. It kind of really hurt our pitching staff. One thing that Ryan has to understand is that, I know he understands he’s a superstar, but he has to understand that you can’t, and I think he has, I mean, he’s really kind of tapered off, but you’ve always got to remember you’ve got to put your team first. And I think I read a comment he said he’s not the GM and he doesn’t get into that anymore. And he’s not and I think he’s realizing that.
And another thing people don’t realize is reporters talk to him constantly so he’s got to be on his A-game not to say something stupid. I didn’t like what he said, but I’m sure he learned from it. I have no hard feelings, none at all. To tell you the truth, Ryan is a pretty decent guy. So, I don’t have any hard feelings. It sucked getting thrown under the bus, but I understand where he was coming from. I understand he wanted to win and I wanted to win. So, I think he learned from it.
You know, I’ve made mistakes too. You can go back and look at some of my quotes when I was in Tampa and they’re pretty bad. So, everybody makes mistakes. So, it sucked, but I understood and I forgave him. Ryan and I were pretty decent friends when we were on the team so I didn’t like it, but no hard feelings. And I think he’s learned from it and I think he’s going to be a better teammate from it, I think, in the end. And it’s a good thing that he was able to learn from it and we’re all able to move on.

On saying good-bye:

Hopefully one day I can come back and be a Brewer, but I just really wan
t the fanbase to know that I loved it. And I just really want the organization to know that aside from a singular individual, this was the single most greatest time in my athletic career from amateur to professional. And I’m really grateful and blessed. I thank God every day for the ability to play in the Major Leagues and for the life I have. And playing for you guys has been one of the best times of my life and I’m really grateful.
To see and hear the full interview, visit RightFieldBleachers.com. You don’t want to miss the bathroom stuff.
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Players out of options

Tim Dierkes from the terrific site mlbtraderumors.com e-mailed this morning asking for a list of out-of-options Brewers for a project they are working on. I, in turn, went to the equally-terrific Brewerfan.net because the guys there spent a lot of time this winter coming up with an accurate list. 
With Spring Training about to begin, it’s a good time to start thinking about that list and how it could play into the decisions ahead. So, courtesy of Brewerfan’s Mass Haas, here are the 40-man roster members who are out of options:
Todd Coffey
Craig Counsell
Doug Davis
Jody Gerut
Corey Hart
LaTroy Hawkins
Joe Inglett
Hernan Iribarren
George Kottaras
Chris Narveson
Manny Parra
Jeff Suppan
Claudio Vargas
Rickie Weeks
I’d say the key guys there are Inglett and Iribarren, who will be vying for backup infield spots, Kottaras, who is among a field of potential backups to catcher Gregg Zaun, and Narveson and Parra, lefties who will try to win rotation spots. Narveson is probably a long shot given the team’s other options. The fact that Parra is out of options make it very likely, if you ask me, that he will make the team.
Additionally, these are the guys who have options but also have five-plus years of Major League service and could refuse the assignment:
Dave Bush
Trevor Hoffman
David Riske
Randy Wolf
Gregg Zaun
Bush is notable there, given that the Brewers have six or seven starters (depending on whether you count Narveson) for five spots at the moment. 
So there you have it. We can refer back to this list as the decisions come more into focus in Spring Training. 
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Selig statue to join Aaron, Yount

Hall of Famers Hank Aaron and Robin Yount will get some company this summer outside Miller Park.  
The Brewers on Monday announced plans to honor former club owner and current Major League Baseball Commissioner Allan H. “Bud” Selig with a bronze statue on the home plate plaza at Miller Park, near similar monuments to Aaron and Yount.  
The Selig statue will be unveiled in an afternoon ceremony on August 24.  
“We are proud to honor Commissioner Selig for all of his efforts on behalf of the Milwaukee Brewers and Major League Baseball,” Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio said. “The Brewers and Miller Park are in this city because of the Commissioner’s vision and dedicated efforts. Just as importantly, he has remained a prominent and highly philanthropic member of our community while effectively leading Major League Baseball during his tenure as baseball’s top executive.”   
The statues of Aaron and Yount were unveiled on April 5, 2001, the first year of Miller Park’s existence. The first two statues were donated by Selig’s charitable foundation. 
The new statue will be cast in bronze and will measure over seven feet in height not including the base. It is being designed and produced by Brian Maughan, who, along with Douglas Kwart, also created the Yount and Aaron statues.  
Selig was born and raised in Milwaukee and headed the group in 1970 that bought the Seattle Pilots out of bankruptcy court and moved the fledgling franchise to Milwaukee just before Opening Day. Under his watch along with then-general manager Harry Dalton, Selig helped build the Brewers into an American League power in the late 1970s, a path that culminated with an AL pennant in 1982.  
The Brewers won seven “organization of the year” awards under Selig’s watch and he is credited with pushing through efforts to build Miller Park during the 1990s. The stadium opened its doors in April 2001.   
By then, Selig was the ninth Commissioner of Major League Baseball. He assumed the role of acting Commissioner in 1992 and took over permanent status in 1998, and gets credit for a number of landmark changes in baseball including the implementation of the Wild Card, the three-division format and Interleague Play. He also championed a new drug testing program, revenue sharing among the clubs as well as ventures like MLB Advanced Media, the parent company of MLB.com, plus MLB Network, and the World Baseball Classic. 
The Brewers plan to announce further details about the Aug. 24 unveiling ceremony at a later date.
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Dillard clears waivers, sticks with Brewers

The Brewers announced Friday that right-hander Tim Dillard had cleared waivers and been sent outright to Triple-A Nashville. The team removed him from the 40-man roster on Wednesday to clear a spot for waiver pick-up Marco Estrada

Dillard, 26, appeared briefly for the Brewers in both 2008 and 2009 but walked 11 versus six strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings. He has struggled to translate his raw “stuff” — including a heavy, sinking fastball — into sustained big league success. 
“That may be because we’ve switched roles on him. He’s started, he’s relieved, we’ve even thought about him closing out games, which didn’t seem to work out,” Brewers assistant GM Gord Ash said. “There are players that just don’t make that transition as easily as others, and he has not made it.” 
Dillard was 11-7 with a 4.51 ERA in 24 starts at Nashville last season. He was the Brewers’ 34th round Draft pick in 2002.
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Favre fan Hawkins pulling for Colts

brees-manning.jpg

With the Super Bowl only hours away, I scanned the roster to see who might be pulling for whom when the Colts and Saints meet Sunday. Ben Sheets is the biggest Saints fan I’ve ever known, but he has moved on. Rickie Weeks attended Southern University in Louisiana, but he lives in Orlando and I’ve never heard him mention the Saints. Craig Counsell was born in Indiana and attended Notre Dame, but he grew up in Wisconsin. 
So I tried newcomer LaTroy Hawkins, who grew up in Gary, Ind. as a Bears fan. He said he’s adopting the Colts this weekend. 
“My mom, my mother-in-law and my father-in-law are all big Colts fans,” Hawkins said. “So is my daughter. She’s got a Colts flag painted on her wall in her room, and a Shrek doll wearing a Colts jersey. Her grandma got her into that. But I’m rooting for them anyway because I like Peyton [Manning]. I’m a big fan. I know it’s going to be a shootout, but I think defense is going to have to win this game. It’s going to come down to which defense can stop the other offense. If they don’t play defense, this might be the highest-scoring Super Bowl in history.”
Hawkins is planning to watch the game at home with his family. He’s a big Brett Favre fan, and was at the Superdome in New Orleans for the Jan. 24 NFC Championship game. The Saints beat Favre and the Vikings in overtime to advance to the Super Bowl, giving Hawkins even more reason to pull for the Colts on Sunday.
“I don’t have any Saints fans around me right now so I can say this,” Hawkins said, launching into song. “‘Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints? Colts do! Dat’s who.’”
The Brewers’ resident football fanatic is video coordinator Joe Crawford, who has played in the team’s clubhouse fantasy football league for the past six years. Manning was his starting quarterback in 2009 and the Saints’ Marques Colston was part of Crawford’s receiving corps. 
“For me, it’s one of those weird Super Bowls where I like both teams,” Crawford said. “I’m a Peyton Manning fan and I like everything about the guy. But I’m a big Bengals fan, and we’ve had to put up with the same years of negativity and nicknames that the Saints have. They were the ‘Aint’s’ and everything. So, it would be awesome for New Orleans to have the Saints win.
“Either way, it’s a stress-free Super Bowl for me. Usually I’m rooting hard against the Steelers or something like that. This time I get to sit back, enjoy the game and watch the commercials.”
I hope it’s a stress-free weekend for everybody else, too. Enjoy the game on Sunday, and think of it as a sort of ceremonial hand-off to the baseball season. Brewers pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 20 and have their first formal workout two days later. 
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