March 2010

Wolf, Stetter get their work in

Lefty Randy Wolf and catcher Gregg Zaun headed over to the Minor League fields a few moments ago to take part in an intrasquad game designed to keep Wolf on track for the start of the season. The team opted to give the “A” game assignment to Chris Narveson, who is still bidding for his spot in the rotation. 

Wolf was not the only big league pitcher in action. The team also sent left-hander Mitch Stetter, who has not been sharp in his Cactus League appearances, to pitch two controlled innings in front of pitching coach Rick Peterson.
“I told Rick that I think the best route for Mitch, if you really want to get a look at him instead of putting him out there against a ton of right-handers and then I have to take him out of the game, is let’s let him throw 15 pitches, sit him down, and then throw 15 more pitches,” manager Ken Macha said. “I think that will perhaps help him get in the groove he needs to get in.”
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Setback for Capuano

Brewers left-hander Chris Capuano, attempting the difficult comeback from his second Tommy John reconstructive surgery, has been shut down with inflammation in his elbow, manager Ken Macha said Tuesday morning. 

Capuano last pitched on March 11 against the Reds, when he surrendered two runs on three hits including a Joey Votto home run. He has tried playing catch since then, but Brewers head athletic trainer Roger Caplinger decided the best course of action was to cease throwing until the inflammation subsides.
“It’s a setback for him,” Macha said. “He’s not going to quit. He’s going to keep going after it.”
Macha spoke with Capuano on Tuesday morning. He said Capuano had also spoken with some other players who have overcome injury and been offered encouragement.
“The outings he has had, he has thrown the ball well enough to get Major League hitters out,” Macha said. “I don’t want to get Biblical, but I kind of mentioned to him that in order to get to the promised land you have to get through the desert. He’s been in the desert a long time. 
“He can still get there. He certainly has the desire to do that. That’s one person I have a lot of admiration for, what he’s done.”
Capuano, 31, had his first elbow reconstruction in 2002 when he was a Diamondbacks prospect and made his Major League debut a year to the day after surgery. He was traded to Milwaukee in the December 2003 Richie Sexson trade and won 18 games for the Brewers in 2005 and made the National League All-Star team in 2006. On March 17, 2008, pitching a Spring Training game against the Mariners, Capuano re-injured his elbow and succumbed two months later to another surgery. 
The list of pitchers who have made it back to the Majors after multiple Tommy John surgeries is short, but it can be done. Reliever Chad Fox, a former Brewer, had three such procedures before calling it a career. 
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Halama released

The Brewers released left-hander John Halama on a busy Tuesday morning. Halama, who turned 38 last month, was bidding to return to the Majors for the first time since 2006. He allowed four runs on 10 hits in six Cactus League innings. 

You can read more about the Halama decision and how it was related to an earlier roster move on Tuesday by clicking over to the story on Brewers.com
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Brewers make a deal to keep Lofgren

The Brewers swung a trade with the Indians on Tuesday to keep Rule 5 pick Chuck Lofgren from returning to Cleveland. 

In return for Lofgren’s rights the Brewers gave the Indians right-hander Omar Aguilar, a 25-year-old reliever who slipped back a level during a poor 2009 season. Lofgren, meanwhile, was assigned to Milwaukee’s Triple-A Nashville affiliate and will report to Minor League camp beginning Wednesday. 
Lofgren, a left-hander was one of 17 players selected during the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft in December. The Brewers paid $50,000 for the claim, and per Draft rules they would have had to keep Lofgren on the 25-man roster all season or offer him back to Cleveland for half of the original price. 
The Brewers began the process of offering him back late last week by exposing Lofgren to waivers. Once he cleared, the Brewers and Indians had 72 hours, according to Milwaukee general manager Doug Melvin, to work out a trade. Had those efforts came up empty, Cleveland would have been forced to decide whether to take Lofgren back for $25,000 or simply let the Brewers keep him. 
Lofgren, 24, is only two years removed from being one of the Indians’ top pitching prospects. He went 9-11 with a 4.15 ERA in 25 starts between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus last season and Cleveland opted not to protect him on the 40-man roster. 
He has not allowed a run in four Cactus League appearances for the Brewers. 
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Gallardo eying Opening Day

Yovani Gallardo has not pitched on Opening Day since his high school days in Fort Worth, Tex. He would like to be that guy on April 5, when the Brewers kick-start their 2010 season at home against the Rockies.  
“Trust me, I think about it,” Gallardo said. “I would like to be. I think it would be a great experience.”  
Manager Ken Macha’s response?  
“I’ll just say that I’m glad to hear that,” he said.  
Macha has been coy about his pitching plans for the regular season and might remain so until the Brewers’ align their rotation following a March 24 off day. For now, Gallardo is lined up just right to remain on an every-five-day schedule with one extra day of rest before facing the Rockies in the opener. He would be followed by Randy Wolf and then Doug Davis in the series.  
Gallardo is the obvious choice for the Brewers after going 13-12 last season with a 3.73 ERA and a team-best 204 strikeouts. He was a candidate for Opening Day last season but Macha instead chose Jeff Suppan for the assignment, figuring Suppan might be better suited to the hubbub associated with an opener.  
So Gallardo pitched Game 2 instead, and hit a home run off the Giants’ Randy Johnson to win the game. He wasn’t mad about being passed over for Opening Day.  
“Honestly, not really,” Gallardo said. “If I would have got it, I would have obviously been very excited. But I didn’t expect it because I was hurt the year before and didn’t pitch. I wasn’t upset.”  
Gallardo missed most of the 2008 season with a knee injury.  
He got through 2009 without any setbacks and has been cruising through his Cactus League assignments this spring. On Monday against the Indians at Maryvale Baseball Park, he retired the first nine hitters he faced before a pair of former Brewers prospects touched him for a run in the fourth inning. Michael Brantley singled leading off the inning and eventually scored on Matt LaPorta’s sacrifice fly.  
Gallardo escaped without further damage and struck out five batters without a walk in his four-inning stint.  
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Four more camp cuts

A former first-round Draft pick and the Brewers’ reigning Minor League pitcher of the year were among the latest round of camp cuts Monday. 
Right-handers Mark Rogers and Amaury Rivas were optioned to Double-A Huntsville, and left-hander A.J. Murray and catcher Martin Maldonado were returned to Minor League camp. The moves left 48 players on the Brewers’ spring roster. 
Rogers, Milwaukee’s first-round pick in 2004, and Rivas, who won top pitcher honors last season, each appeared twice in Cactus League games. For Rogers, it marked another step on a long road back from shoulder injuries that so far have derailed his professional career. 
“He’s worked very hard,” Brewers manager Ken Macha said. “His delivery is such that he’s a little more on-line — a lot more online. When you start cutting loose on pitches like he did this year, he should feel very good.”
Rogers did not allow a run in a pair of two-inning appearances. It was his second Major League Spring Training camp, but he was unable to pitch last year because he was still recovering from a 2008 season lost entirely to shoulder surgery. 
Last year at Class A Brevard County, Rogers had a 1.67 ERA in 22 starts and one relief appearance. He also pitched in the prospect-rich Arizona Fall League. 
They key, he agreed, it simply staying healthy.
“I’m OK with that statement,” Rogers said. That’s been our goal, to get 100 percent healthy and compete at the highest level. I’ve done that. I’ve been able to prove to [Macha] and everybody else that I’m healthy, and now I have to go do it consistently. There’s more work I can do, but it is already getting more and more comfortable.”
Rogers, 24, was pleased that his parents, Craig and Staphanie, were in the stands for both of his Cactus League outings. They were in town from Maine. 
Rivas is also 24 and was Rogers’ teammate last season at Brevard County, where he went 13-7 with a 2.98 ERA and was honored along with Minor League Player of the Year Logan Schafer. Macha was impressed with Rivas’ change-up, which the manager referred to as a, “plus, plus pitch.” 
Murray and Maldonado were both in camp as nonroster invitees. Murray, who has big league experience with the Rangers, will likely end up at Triple-A Nashville. 
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Hoffman takes step toward Friday debut

hoffman.jpg

The all-time saves leader moved a step closer to his Cactus League debut on Monday, when Trevor Hoffman threw 35 pitches in a live batting practice session at Maryvale Baseball Park. The next time he’ll take the mound it will be in a game, on Friday against the Angels.  
“It felt good to get a hitter in there,” Hoffman said. “The next progression will have the umpire back there and no screen.”  
Hoffman has been taking it easy this spring, partly because he only needs a handful of appearances to be ready for the regular season and partly because he has been working through some soreness in his upper back, behind his shoulder.  
Last year, Hoffman pitched much earlier in camp and strained a muscle on his rib-cage. He began the season on the disabled list and did not make his Brewers debut until April 27.  
The Brewers would like to avoid a similar setback this spring, so the team’s medical staff has had Hoffman on a more conservative Spring Training program. Before Monday, he had only thrown from the bullpen mounds at the team’s complex but Monday’s session was on a field with a few dozen fans watching. Six Minor League hitters stepped into the box against Hoffman including outfielder Jose Garcia, who was born in 1991, the year Hoffman converted to pitching.  
Hoffman was not sure how many Cactus League appearances he would need to feel ready for the season. Monday was at least a step in that direction.  
“It’s better than going straight from a bullpen to a ballgame,” Hoffman said. “Live BP, it felt just like it was supposed to.” 
Hoffman enters his 18th Major League season with a record 591 saves, nine shy of becoming the first man to reach 600. He was a National League All-Star in his first season with Milwaukee, posting a 1.83 ERA in 2009 while converting 37 of 41 save chances. 
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In the “A” game today against the Indians, Yovani Gallardo will start for the Brewers. I incorrectly reported yesterday that Chris Narveson would pitch, but he’s slated to go on Tuesday against the Royals. 
Here are the lineups today. Matt LaPorta and Michael Brantley, of course, were part of the CC Sabathia trade in 2008:
INDIANS
Michael Brantley  CF
Luis Valbuena  2B
Matt LaPorta  1B
Austin Kearns  RF
Lonnie Chisenhall  3B
Mike Redmond  C
Luis Rodriguez  SS
Chris Gimenez  LF
David Huff  LHP
BREWERS
Rickie Weeks  2B
Alcides Escobar  SS
Ryan Braun  LF
Prince Fielder  1B
Jim Edmonds  CF
Gregg Zaun  C
Corey Hart  RF
Adam Heether  3B
Yovani Gallardo  RHP
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The Brewers will play a seven-inning “B” game against the Rangers at 2:30 p.m. local time in Surprise on Thursday. The regularly-scheduled “A” game is at 6 p.m. Dave Bush will start one game and Manny Parra the other, yet Macha was not ready to announce the plan as of Monday morning. 
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More cuts coming Monday

Expect the Brewers to announce another round of roster cuts on Monday that will focus on paring the pitching staff down to those with a legitimate chance to make the Opening Day roster.  It could mark the end of the line for prospects like Mark Rogers and Amaury Rivas, who have a bright future but still have some Minor League work to do first. 

Considering that the starters are making their third turn through the rotation and pushing toward the 70-pitch level, it makes sense for the team to make some more moves.  
They next key date is Wednesday, March 17, the last date to request unconditional release waivers on players in order to owe only 30 days’ termination pay, or one-sixth of the players’ salary. The actual deadline for such a move is 1 p.m. CT. 
That deadline does not affect players with multi-year contracts, because those salaries are already guaranteed.
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Counsell in the lineup

Infielder Craig Counsell, who was scratched from Saturday’s lineup with a stiff neck, is back in the mix for Sunday’s matinee in Scottsdale against the Giants. Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun are both off today.

Here’s the lineup, courtesy of Brewers PR man Mike Vassallo:
BREWERS
Carlos Gomez  CF
Craig Counsell  2B
Lorenzo Cain  RF
Casey McGehee  3B
Gregg Zaun  C
Adam Stern  LF
Steffan Wilson  1B
Joe Inglett  SS
Jeff Suppan  RHP
GIANTS
Aaron Rowand  CD
Edgar Renteria  SS
Pablo Sandoval  3B
Aubrey Huff  1B
Bengie Molina  C
Fred Lewis  LF
Juan Uribe  2B
Nate Schierholtz  RF
Jonathan Sanchez  LHP
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Stiff neck sidelines Counsell

Craig Counsell was a late scratch from the Brewers’ split-squad game against the Rockies at Maryvale Baseball Park and it appears the culprit was a stiff neck.

“I told Craig to let us know whether he could play or not,” said manager Ken Macha, who attended the team’s other split-squad game in Glendale, Ariz. but got a report from Maryvale. “I think he came in and took [batting practice] and it stiffened up on him.”

Counsell, 39, is a key member of a Brewers bench that took some shape on Saturday when the Rangers claimed another infielder, Hernan Iribarren, off waivers. With Iribarren out of the picture, it appears the leading candidate for the final infield spot after Counsell is Joe Inglett. Prospect Mat Gamel is also getting a look.

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