March 2010

Gallardo named Opening Day starter

It’s finally official: Yovani Gallardo is the Brewers’ choice to start on Opening Day. 
The 24-year-old right-hander has been lined up all spring to pitch against the Rockies at Miller Park on April 5, but Brewers manager Ken Macha waited until Monday — one week out — to make the assignment official. It will be the first such honor of Gallardo’s career. 
“I think he’s ready for it,” Macha said. 
As expected, left-handers Randy Wolf and Doug Davis will follow Gallardo in the season-opening series against the Rockies. The Brewers will wait until Tuesday morning to formally name Dave Bush, who pitched Monday against the Giants, the No. 4 starter. Because of off-days, the team won’t have to name a No. 5 starter until after Opening Day. 
Gallardo had dressed and departed Maryvale Baseball Park when Macha made his long-awaited announcement. He spoke briefly with reporters before heading home but didn’t want to jinx a potential Opening Day assignment.
“It would be great,” Gallardo said. “I would be very excited, honored, a little bit of everything. Getting a chance to start Opening Day, that’s a big deal.”
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Rotation will be set today

With a week to go before the Brewers’ April 5 season opener against the Rockies, Brewers manager Ken Macha is finally ready to name the first four pitchers his starting rotation. He intends to do so after Monday’s Brewers-Giants game at Maryvale Baseball Park.

Barring a big surprise, here’s how it will look:
Monday, April 5 vs. Rockies: Yovani Gallardo
Tuesday, April 6 vs. Rockies: Randy Wolf
Wednesday, April 7 vs. Rockies: Doug Davis
Thursday, April 8: OFF
Friday, April 9 vs. Cardinals: Dave Bush
The fifth starter won’t be named today, Macha said, and might not be named until well into the month of April. Macha and pitching coach Rick Peterson are considering using a fifth starter for the Saturday, April 10 game against the Cardinals to avoid that pitcher enduring a long layoff, but they could also come back with Gallardo that day. 
As for which pitcher will eventually claim the fifth slot, nobody knows. The three competitors are all scheduled to pitch on Tuesday. Chris Narveson will start against the Angels and Manny Parra will work in relief. Macha was very vague about the plan for Jeff Suppan, saying he might work a “camp” game at the Minor League complex. But Macha said he wouldn’t be sure of the plan until Tuesday morning. 
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In other morning news, left fielder Ryan Braun is out of the lineup again with tightness in his back. Brewers athletic trainers are trying to eliminate the problem before the start of the season. Catcher Gregg Zaun has a very minor quadriceps issue so George Kottaras is handling catching duties today against the Giants. Slumping right fielder Corey Hart is also out of the lineup and will spend the day in the batting cage. 
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Axford sent down

The Brewers optioned right-hander John Axford to Triple-A Nashville on Tuesday afternoon but manager Ken Macha expects the right-hander to return at some point before 2010 is over. 
“We need to get him pitching on a regular basis in case we do have a problem with one of our right-handed relievers,” Macha said. “This guy has had an extremely impressive spring.”
Axford surrendered a run on two hits in one inning of Tuesday’s 10-2 Brewers win over the Indians. It was the first run he had allowed since his Cactus League debut on March 4, when the Giants touched Axford for four runs on five hits. In five outings between that game and Tuesday’s, Axford surrendered only four hits and no earned runs. 
His mid-90s fastball makes Axford a potential closer candidate, but general manager Doug Melvin said Axford would report to Nashville without any specific instructions. 
“I’m not a big believer in one-inning closers in the Minor Leagues,” Melvin said. “His assignment is just go pitch. He needs to get his work in.”
Axford’s work in camp impressed Macha. 
“From where this guy has come — he was almost a release candidate at one point in time — to [now], he’s going to have a chance to get some people out in the big leagues,” Macha said. “He’s got an explosive fastball and a snapdragon curve. That’s a good combination. That’s Troy Percival kind of stuff.”
Percival saved 358 games in 14 Major League seasons. Axford probably won’t have an opportunity to rack up those kind of numbers; he’s a late-bloomer who will turn 27 on April 1 and only has three seasons of professional experience. The Brewers signed Axford in March 2008 after a tryout at Maryvale Baseball Park.
Axford was the third of three moves on Tuesday. Right-hander Tim Dillard was reassigned to Minor League camp and fellow nonroster invitee Scott Schoeneweis left camp after being informed he would not make the Opening Day roster. The Brewers intend to formally release Schoeneweis on Thursday, Melvin said. 
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A true off-day

On second thought, Manny Parra will enjoy a day off with the rest of his Brewers teammates on Wednesday. 

It’s the team’s only scheduled off-day all spring, and manager Ken Macha decided Tuesday morning that it would be just that for all players and staff. Originally, Parra was scheduled to throw a Minor League intrasquad game to stay on schedule for the season. Instead, he will follow starter Jeff Suppan in Thursday’s game against the Dodgers. 
Macha might have gotten the idea from the Dodgers. On Monday, Clayton Kershaw started and worked the first five innings before Russ Ortiz handled the final four frames. 
The relievers who were supposed to follow Suppan — LaTroy Hawkins, Todd Coffey and Mitch Stetter — will pitch in a simulated game that day instead. 
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Within the past few days, Brewers officials told a couple of pitchers recovering from Tommy John surgery that they would continue their rehabilitation from the Minor League complex. Left-hander Chris Capuano and right-hander David Riske will eventually be assigned to Class A Brevard County in the warm-weather Florida State League, Macha said. Capuano is ahead of Riske in his progression.
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The following players were released from the Brewers’ Minor League system on Tuesday:
LHP Donald Brandt
INF John Delaney
INF Jose Duran
RHP Joel Morales
INF Yohannis Perez
RHP Ryan Platt
LHP David Welch
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Schoeneweis: 'I wasted a month of my time'

An upset Scott Schoeneweis packed his bags and left Maryvale Baseball Park on Tuesday after team officials informed him he would not make the team. Schoeneweis figures he never had a shot in the first place. 
“The only regret I have is that I wasted a month of my time,” Schoeneweis said. “I didn’t have a chance to make the team. That’s what I learned today.” 
The Brewers did not officially release Schoeneweis from his Minor League contract but announced to the media that the player, “was advised today that he would not be part of the Major League roster and is free to pursue other opportunities.” General manager Doug Melvin said Schoeneweis would officially be released on Thursday, the date specified in his contract on which he could elect free agency if not added to the 40-man roster.
Schoeneweis was removed from the Brewers’ big league camp roster and so was right-hander Tim Dillard, who was returned to Minor League camp. The team might have one more move later in the day.
Schoeneweis, 36, ostensibly was bidding to be a second left-hander in the Brewers’ bullpen with Mitch Stetter, but the numbers game worked against him. The team is looking at four pitchers for the final two spots in the starting rotation, and to preserve depth at least one of those pitchers will likely begin the season in relief. 
Brewers general manager Doug Melvin told Schoeneweis on Tuesday morning that the team didn’t have a spot for him. Melvin and manager Ken Macha asked Schoeneweis to take an assignment to Triple-A Nashville but he declined. 
Schoeneweis is coming off a difficult year at home. His wife, Gabrielle, died suddenly last May while Schoeneweis was pitching for the D-backs. He bounced between home and the team the rest of the season and ended up with a 7.12 ERA, the highest of his career. 
“I’m a big league pitcher and I shouldn’t have to prove anything,” Schoeneweis said. “This will be my 12th year in the big leagues and I wasn’t injured [last season], I wasn’t out of the game because my skills diminished. I just had to prove to myself that I wanted to play and [be sure] it was OK with my family. I am OK with all of those things. 
“I appreciate the platform to come in and realize those things and to realize that I am a better version of myself than I have been for the last three or four years. It’s just ironic that I can’t get a job because my wife died. It doesn’t make much sense to me.” 
In seven Cactus League appearances, Schoeneweis had a 7.71 ERA, but that number can be particularly deceptive in Spring Training for left-handed specialists because they are not used in lefty-on-lefty situations like they would be in the regular season. 
Schoeneweis said he would ask his agent, Scott Boras, to see employment elsewhere, hopefully with a team near the west coast so he could remain close to his four children. The family lives in the Phoenix area. 
“The positive I take out of this is I realize I can have fun again,” Schoeneweis said. “I haven’t had fun for a long time. I know 100 percent that I am a big league pitcher, bottom line. It would be a shame if this was it for me because I feel like I did when I was 28. If there aren’t any big league jobs out there, then I’ll have to work something out that works for me and my family. I’m not going to toil around in the Minor Leagues.”
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Macha: No worries about Hoffman

Trevor Hoffman has been working hard in his first two Cactus League outings. He was touched for four more hits and two more runs by the Dodgers on Monday, three days after he allowed a run on two hits against the Angels. 
Manager Ken Macha isn’t worried. 
“He’s free and easy,” Macha said. “If he’s healthy, he’s going to pitch.”
Macha was curious to see the radar gun readings from Hoffman’s outing. Hoffman was not the only Brewers pitcher knocked around by the Dodgers’ starter Doug Davis surrendered three runs on six hits in 4 2/3 innings on Monday. 
All nine of the Dodgers starters had at least one hit in their 8-4 win over the Brewers, who were out-hit, 16-6.
“I thought the Dodgers had a tremendous approach,” Macha said. “That’s why they had eight runs. They hit the ball to the middle of the field, they hit the ball the other way and I thought their approach against Trevor and against Davis was tremendous. I hope some of our young guys were watching the game.”
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From the broadcast booth to the top turnbuckle

It’s finally official: Bob Uecker is about to add another hall of fame to his bio. 

World Wrestling Entertainment officially announced that Uecker will be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame on Saturday during a ceremony at the Dodge Theater in downtown Phoenix. The ceremony will air on USA Network at 10 p.m. CT that night.
Uecker participated in two WrestleManias. In 1987, he appeared as a ringside announcer at WrestleMania III at the Pontiac Silverdome in Detroit. The next year, Uecker was the backstage interviewer at WrestleMania IV at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City.
“Bob Uecker cemented his place in WWE history with his appearances at WrestleMania III and IV,” WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon said in a press release. “Seeing the huge hands of WWE Hall of Famer Andre the Giant around Uecker’s neck is a clip that became immortalized in pop culture history.”
Uecker will be introduced on Saturday by Dick Ebersol, the chairman of NBC Universal Sports & Olympics. A group of Brewers staffers led by media relations director and wrestling fanatic Mike Vassallo will attend Saturday’s ceremony. 
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Treanor traded to Texas

The Brewers traded catcher Matt Treanor to the Rangers on Monday for Minor League infielder Ray Olmedo, a move that put George Kottaras on the inside track to open the season as Milwaukee’s backup catcher. 

“I guess I shouldn’t be surprised,” Treanor said. “It’s a really good situation for me and hopefully it works out for the Brewers as well. … It’s a good feeling to know that you’re wanted.”
The Brewers made four other moves before Monday’s game against the Dodgers: Pitcher Josh Butler and infielder Adam Heether were optioned to Triple-A Nashville and outfielder Trent Oeltjen was returned to Minor League camp. The Brewers also added infielder Trent Green to big league camp as a nonroster player.
Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash cautioned against anointing Kottaras the backup to Brewers catcher Gregg Zaun just yet, but the only other catcher still on the camp roster is Jonathan Lucroy, who topped out at Double-A Huntsville last season. 
The Rangers are off on Tuesday so Treanor’s first opportunity to meet his new teammates will come Wednesday. The Minor League contract that Treanor signed with the Brewers includes a March 30 “out” clause that allows him to elect free agency if he is not added to the 40-man roster. 
Even if he does not make Texas’ big league club, the Rangers probably offer a better opportunity for Treanor than Milwaukee, where Lucroy and fellow prospect Angel Salome represent something of a Triple-A logjam.
“Basically I’m going to be in the same boat over there as I am here, competing for a job,” Treanor said. “From what it sounds like, I have a good opportunity [to begin the season in the Majors]. I just have to go over there and catch as many guys as I can and learn the staff and become a part of the Texas Rangers’ organization.”
The tough part is that Treanor was just getting comfortable in his Brewers jersey, a month into camp. Now he has two weeks to learn an entirely new slew of pitchers. 
“That’s the way the game is,” he said. “I’m not accustomed to this situation. I was with Florida for 11 years after my first trade [from the Royals to the Marlins in July 1997] and you get kind of used to the guys. … Any time you get sent out it’s a weird feeling. I think I’m definitely taking this better than I did when I was 21, 22 years old. It’s a part of the game and a lot of guys do it.”
Kottaras was the Brewers’ pick for a number of reasons, including the fact he is already on the 40-man roster and is out of Minor League options. Kottaras, 26, is also eight years younger than the veteran Treanor and offers more of an offensive element than the defense-first Treanor. 

“They had a stronger need for catching than we had, and considering how our situation was unfolding, we felt it was wise to make that maneuver now to give us more depth on the Triple-A infield,” Ash said. “[Treanor] is a good veteran guy. He knows how to handle a staff. But when you’re trying to blend the present to the future, it made more sense to go this way.”
“George is an outstanding talent,” Treanor said. “He likes to work, he’s very organized. Maybe that’s why the move was made; maybe I wasn’t going to make the team.” 
Olmedo can play second base, third base and shortstop. Olmedo, 28, has played professionally since 1999 with time in the Major Leagues with Cincinnati (2003-06) and Toronto (2007), hitting .228 in 198 games. 
Olmedo was in Texas’ big league camp as a nonroster invitee, but he will report to Milwaukee’s Minor League camp. 
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In-game adjustments key for Wolf

Randy Wolf didn’t fool any of the first three White Sox hitters he faced on Sunday at Maryvale Baseball Park. Then he did something he figures he wouldn’t have been able to do in springs past: He made an adjustment.
“Historically, my Spring Trainings were atrocious,” Wolf said. “It was a moral victory to get five innings in.”
He got his five innings in Sunday but was still left with only a moral victory. The White Sox rallied from a two-run deficit after Wolf departed and the teams settled for a 4-4 tie after 10 innings. 
Chicago’s two first-inning runs were the first this spring off Wolf, who has a 1.80 ERA and an eight-to-two strikeouts to walks ratio in 10 innings over three Cactus League starts. He also made one appearance in a Minor League intrasquad game. 
Wolf said he has been happy with his early progression, especially considering the way he used to struggle in Spring Training. The change happened in August 2008, when he figured out a way to simplify his delivery and turned around his career. 
Before that change, “it was always like, ‘I can’t find the right rhythm, but I know I’ll get there when I’m supposed to,’ as opposed to knowing what I need to do in the offseason and finding that rhythm in February. …
“When you have a consistent delivery, you don’t feel like you played in the NFL after your start. Your body is more efficient; you don’t use as much effort. To use less effort to do the same thing is very key.”
Like all pitchers, Wolf still finds himself out of whack on occasion. His bullpen session prior to Sunday’s start was “awful,” he said, and so was the start of the game. Three straight hits — including a two-run double by Mark Kotsay on a hanging curveball — gave Chicago a 2-0 lead before Wolf had recorded an out. 
But Wolf made the adjustments he needed to allow only four more hits and no more runs over five innings. 
“The first three hitters, they hit the ball hard. I mean, there were some loud sounds,” Brewers manager Ken Macha said. “After that, [Wolf] controlled their bat speeds and there weren’t too many balls hit hard. Soft fly balls, soft grounders. He did a nice job of mixing his pitches, coming inside, going outside soft, throwing some sinkers behind in the count. That’s really the first chance I’ve had to watch him because I’ve been at a ‘B’ game or a split-squad the other way, so he did a nice job.”
Where would Wolf be today had he not found that mechanical fix?
“That’s a great question,” he said. 
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'Out' dates coming up

Brewers officials are scheduled to meet Monday morning to discuss roster decisions, including a handful of players in camp who can elect free agency this week if they are not added to the 40-man roster.

The list of players with such “out” dates includes outfielder Jim Edmonds, catcher Matt Treanor and left-hander Scott Schoeneweis. Edmonds’ and Schoeneweis’ date is Thursday, when the Brewers return from their only Spring Training off-day to play the Dodgers in Glendale, Ariz. Treanor was not sure of his precise date and general manager Doug Melvin said he preferred not to disclose it.

The clauses mean that the Brewers could have some decisions to make. Edmonds is probably part of the team’s Opening Day plans, but Treanor is still vying with 40-man roster member George Kottaras for the backup catcher job, and Schoeneweis is part of the Brewers’ complicated “combinations and permutations” in the pitching department.

In the race to back up starting catcher Gregg Zaun, the Brewers essentially have to choose between offense and defense. Kottaras bats left-handed and has shown significant power while batting .321 and slugging .679 in the Cactus League. Six of his nine hits have gone for extra bases, including a pair of home runs. Treanor, meanwhile, is batting just .200 and slugging .250, but he is an advanced defensive catcher with much more Major League experience.

“He’s done a fine job receiving the ball,” manager Ken Macha said. “I think he’s been very receptive to all instruction and he’s very knowledgeable about what’s going on. On the defensive side of it, I think he’s solid.”

Even in the very unlikely case he would be open to an assignment, the Brewers probably don’t have room for Treanor in the Minor Leagues because prospects Angel Salome and Jonathan Lucroy are already fighting for playing time.

Treanor planned to place a call Sunday night to his agent, Joel Wolf, to discuss his out date. 

“Defensively, handling the pitchers, I feel like I’ve done what I wanted to do,” Treanor said. “Offensively, I’ve missed some chances. … It’s a tough decision on the club because Georgie has been great.”

Schoeneweis signed a Minor League contract with Milwaukee on Feb. 9 and has allowed four earned runs but only three hits in six Spring Training games. He said Sunday that he would not be willing to accept a Minor League assignment. The Brewers already have one left-hander ticketed for the Major League bullpen in Mitch Stetter.

At least two other non-roster invitees have “out” clauses in their contracts, but both come into play during the regular season. Left-hander A.J. Murray can become a free agent if he’s not with the Brewers on June 15, and outfielder Trent Oeltjen can walk away if he is not in the Majors within 48 hours of July 1.
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Edmonds was in the lineup today against the White Sox. Here’s what the full card looks like:

WHITE SOX

Alexei Ramirez  SS
Jordan Danks  LF
Mark Kotsay  1B
Andruw Jones  CF
Alex Rios  RF
Ramon Castro  C
Jayson Nix  3B
Brent Lillibridge  2B
Freddy Garcia  RHP
BREWERS
Rickie Weeks  2B
Carlos Gomez  CF
Ryan Braun  LF
Prince Fielder  1B
Gregg Zaun  C
Jim Edmonds  CF RF
Craig Counsell  3B
Alcides Escobar  SS
Randy Wolf  LHP
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Before Doug Davis pitches against the Angels in Monday’s “A” game, left-hander Chris Narveson will take the hill in a “B” game at Maryvale Baseball Park against the Rangers. One of the big league catchers will handle Narveson, and third baseman Casey McGehee and right fielder Corey Hart are scheduled to get some extra at-bats. 
McGehee, one of last year’s Spring Training All-Stars (.339 average, six homers), is hitting .206 this year. Hart is batting just .182. 
“I think those guys feel they could use some at-bats and Dale [Sveum, Milwaukee’s hitting coach] feels they could use some at-bats also,” Macha said. “There’s no specific formula on how to get somebody at their best shape for Opening Day. We’re trying to do our best.”
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The Brewers are finally splitting up Dave Bush and Manny Parra. Bush will pitch Tuesday against the Indians and Parra will have to come in on the off-day Wednesday to pitch a Minor League game. Until this week, Bush and Parra have been pitching on the same day.
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Lefty Chris Capuano expected to throw a bullpen session on Monday. He has not pitched since March 11, when he developed some discomfort in his surgically-repaired elbow.
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