April 2010

Send your 'Get Well Ueck' messages


AP Photo

he well-wishes for Brewers broadcaster Bob Uecker have been pouring in from Miller Park and points elsewhere, and here’s your chance. Post your “get well soon” message or a favorite memory in the comments box below and we’ll make sure they get to Mr. Baseball during what everyone hopes is a speedy recovery from heart surgery. 
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Macha: Hoffman will have Thursday off

After watching Trevor Hoffman throw 23 more pitches Wednesday and suffer his second blown save in as many days, manager Ken Macha suggested that his struggling closer was due at least a one-day break.
“That’s two days in a row for him,” Macha said. “[On Thursday], if we have a chance to win it, perhaps it will be somebody else at the end of the game.”
The leading candidate would be LaTroy Hawkins, who saved 11 games for the Astros last season as a fill-in for injured Jose Valverde. But Macha gave no indication that Hoffman would get anything other than a one-day break to re-charge his 42-year-old arm, even though Hoffman has blown as many saves — four — in seven opportunities as he had in all of 2009, when Hoffman converted 37-of-41 chances and made the All-Star team. 
“He’s aware of what he’s doing and we’ll try to get it ironed out,” Macha said following the Brewers’ 6-5 loss in 14 innings. 
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Edmonds banged up in loss

Brewers outfielder Jim Edmonds injured his back in Wednesday’s 14-inning loss to the Pirates and will be evaluated again Thursday before the start of a three-city road trip. 
The Brewers almost won the game in the bottom of the 13th inning, when Edmonds walked and stole a base for the first time since 2008. But Edmonds tweaked his back sliding into second, manager Ken Macha would learn later, and was slow rounding third on Alcides Escobar’s single to left field.
Pirates outfielder Lastings Milledge did not make a good throw, but it three-hopped home where catcher Ryan Doumit had the plate blocked. Edmonds opted to slide instead of lowering his shoulder, and he was out. 
“When he came back in, he told Roger [Caplinger, the team’s head athletic trainer] that he was hurt,” Macha said. “I didn’t think the ball beat him. Maybe a little ‘jar’ of the catcher, and he doesn’t catch it.”
Macha figures that Edmonds’ sore back slowed him in right field during the next half-inning, when Pittsburgh’s Garrett Jonez hit a go-ahead double into the corner. Edmonds was slow pursuing the baseball and made a poor throw back to the infield. Had the Brewers forced a 15th inning, Macha would have sent his backup catcher — George Kottaras — out to right field. 
Edmonds was receiving treatment after the game in an area of the clubhouse off-limits to reporters. 
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McGehee to miss opener in SD

The Brewers just announced that third baseman Casey McGehee would not be traveling with the team tonight to San Diego, where a four-game series begins Thursday. McGehee will instead remain in Milwaukee, where his wife, Sarah, is expecting the couple’s second child. He could then re-join the team on Friday. 

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Macha compares '10 Hoffman to Big Hurt in '06

Brewers manager Ken Macha is in something of a tough spot with closer Trevor Hoffman, the all-time saves leader who has had particular trouble running up his total this season. But Macha pointed out Wednesday morning that he’s been here before. 
In 2006, Macha’s final season managing the A’s, veteran slugger Frank Thomas was batting in the .170s into the second week of May, and with a trip looming to Chicago, where Thomas had compiled most of his Hall of Fame-worthy credentials, Oakland officials were considering a change. 
“My boss said, ‘You’d better sit down and talk to this guy because it looks like we might have to start platooning him,” Macha said. “So we had an off-day and were going from west to east, so I had a couple of days to think about it. 
“I brought him in and asked him how he was feeling, [said] that I didn’t want him to put too much pressure on himself because we were going to Chicago and playing the White Sox. That [first night in Chicago], he hit two homers in that game.” 
That was May 22, 2006, and Thomas batted .302 the rest of the season to finish with 39 home runs and 114 RBIs, finishing fourth in American League MVP balloting. 
“He helped us win the division,” Macha said. “Then, his bat basically won out playoff series [against the Twins]. When you have a guy like that, when does the switch go back on and [they] perform at that level? I never had to tell Frank, ‘Hey we’re going to platoon you.’ I didn’t want to do that because of the respect I had for the player that he is and the accomplishments that he did have.” 
 The same goes for Hoffman, who suffered his third blown save in six tries Tuesday night and has surrendered five home runs in eight innings this season. Compare that to last year, when he allowed only two homers in 54 innings on the way to 37 saves. 
Macha has no plans to depose Hoffman as the closer, though the closer conundrum did occupy Macha on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. After Tuesday’s loss, Macha he had chats with pitching coach Rick Peterson and general manager Doug Melvin about the struggling closer. On Wednesday morning, Macha spoke with assistant GM Gord Ash, who thinks the problem is mostly location, and head athletic trainer Roger Caplinger, who assured that Hoffman is in top physical shape, as usual. 
Then Macha met with Hoffman himself, behind a closed door in the manager’s office about an hour before the Brewers-Pirates series finale. 
“Just like I said [Tuesday night], he’s done this a lot and he hasn’t survived this long without making the adjustments,” Macha said. “You have to, as a manager, respect the accomplishments that he’s had. Here again, it’s, how much rope does the guy get?” 
Does Macha have that answer? 
“I don’t know the answer to that,” Macha said.
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Standard lineup for finale vs. Bucs

Chris Narveson joins the starting rotation today for what manager Ken Macha promises will be the first of multiple starts. Other than that, I don’t think this needs much explanation:

Rickie Weeks  2B
Carlos Gomez  CF
Ryan Braun  LF
Prince Fielder  1B
Casey McGehee  3B
Gregg Zaun  C
Corey Hart  RF
Alcides Escobar  SS
Chris Narveson  LHP
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Hoffman keeps closer role, but where's the changeup?

Trevor Hoffman suffered another blown save on Tuesday, but the Brewers have no plans to hand the baseball to anybody but Hoffman for the ninth inning. 
“He’s the all-time saves leader,” Brewers manager Ken Macha said after Hoffman surrendered five runs in a 7-3 loss to the Pirates. “I mean, I think he’s got a pretty good feel for what he’s doing out there.” 
Hoffman, 42, has a Major League record 594 saves but couldn’t get No. 595 on Tuesday, when he entered with a one-run lead and surrendered a tying home run to Pirates shortstop Ronny Cedeno on his second pitch. Five batters later, catcher Ryan Doumit hit a grand slam for a 7-3 Pirates win, snapping Milwaukee’s 22-game home winning streak against Pittsburgh. It was Hoffman’s third blown save this season, and they’ve all come in his last four chances. 
The Brewers do have potential backup options in LaTroy Hawkins, who has 87 career saves including 11 last season as a fill-in for injured Astros closer Jose Valverde. Todd Coffey also has closer’s experience in Cincinnati’s Minor League system to go with 11 saves in the big leagues. 
But Hoffman’s long track record of success affords him a very long leash, though Macha did concede that his early-season struggles qualify as “a concern.” 
Equally confounding is why a man who built his Hall of Fame career on a devastating change-up throwing so many fastballs this season. Macha was asked that question on Tuesday and so was Hoffman, who said the issue is not necessarily pitch selection but fastball location. 
Take the at-bat against Cedeno, who looked at a first-pitch strike from Hoffman to start the ninth inning. 
“I felt like in that situation, getting ahead, 0-and-1, we could continue to expand with the fastball,” Hoffman said, “and the ball was not down and away.” 
Instead, it was down Wisconsin Ave., as radio broadcaster Bob Uecker likes to say. All four of the hits off Hoffman were on fastballs, including Doumit’s second career grand slam on a 1-and-1 pitch. 
Hoffman has surrendered five home runs in eight innings this season, versus two home runs in 54 innings in 2009, when Hoffman logged 37 saves with a 1.83 ERA. Four of the home runs against him this year have come off fastballs. 
Not counting his four intentional balls on Tuesday, Hoffman threw 20 pitches against the Pirates and only three were changeups. Twelve were fastballs. 
It followed a trend this season. According to the Web site fangraphs.com, Hoffman had thrown 69.1 percent fastballs entering his outing on Tuesday versus. 17.8 percent changeups. Compare that to last year, when he threw 56.1 percent fastballs (with the exact save average velocity — 85.5 mph — as this year) and 29.9 percent change-ups. For his career, Hoffman has thrown 62.8 percent fastballs and 29 percent changeups. 
The trouble, according to Hoffman, is that he has not been able to get into the kind of two-strike situations this season in which the change-up is such an effective pitch. Thus, more fastballs. 
“I’ve pigeonholed myself into situations where the hitter can be a little more patient and doesn’t have to offer at [the change-up],” Hoffman said. “That’s pitching behind in the count. You can’t do that in the big leagues, and the numbers will indicate that. [The change-up] is more of an ‘out’ pitch, not a ‘get back in the count’ pitch.” 
It’s something that Macha and pitching coach Rick Peterson will look into. 
“We’re going to have to talk to him, make sure he uses his pitches,” Macha said. 
Hoffman insisted that his confidence remains high. 
“And physically, I feel good, too,” he said. 
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Baseball to Ueck: Get well soon

Uecker01 copy.jpgScott Paulus/Brewers
Some of Bob Uecker’s closest friends have known for months that he’s been battling heart trouble. But when it became public on Tuesday that Uecker would undergo surgery and miss as much as three months of baseball, the well-wishes started really pouring in. 
“From around the world, really,” an appreciative Uecker said. “It’s really something.” 
Uecker will have surgery Friday morning to replace his aortic valve and remove a portion of his enlarged aorta. His doctor described the procedures as “a commonly done operation,” but it could sideline the 75-year-old Uecker for up to three months. 
He will have plenty of people around baseball pulling for a speedy recovery. 
“I’ve been talking with Bob regularly and knew this was coming but I’m just as worried as everybody else is,” said Braves broadcaster Jim Powell, Uecker’s on-air partner from 1996-2008. “I know this: ‘Ueck’ has overcome big hurdles his whole life and I fully expect this to be just another one he clears.  My guess is that he will use the experience as a source of a lot more trademark laughs after he’s recovered. 
“All the swimming he’s done over the years will come in handy in getting his body through this ordeal. Froedtert is a great hospital and he could not be in better hands. I’ll be among the legions who are praying for him before, during, and after the surgery. I expect my friend to be back in the booth calling games sooner than you think! I’ll be looking forward to going to see him in a couple of weeks when the Braves come to Milwaukee.”
Here are some more well-wishes from around the game to right here in Milwaukee:
Rangers president Nolan Ryan, who notched his 300th win in Milwaukee: “I just think he’s one of the true characters of the game. If I’m driving somewhere and the Rangers aren’t on, I’ll turn on his broadcasts and listen to him because I enjoy him. He looks at the game a little different than other people.” 

Former Brewer CC Sabathia: “My thoughts and prayers go out to him. I was only there for a couple of months, but every time he was around, he was real talkative — just a funny guy. I can remember he was always talking about fishing and how he loved to do it on his days off. He’s cool. He’s a good dude.”
Former Brewer J.J. Hardy: “He’s kind of like a grandpa to me. He’s treated me that way and I guess you could kind of say we’re friends more than co-workers. But we have a pretty good relationship. It’s tough [hearing about his health issue]. He’s got that personality that everybody loves. He’s always telling stories, always telling jokes. Whenever he’s around you’re always laughing. He’s just a great guy. … He just has an impact on people any time they meet him, they remember it. It’s sad to hear about this. But the way he is, I’m sure he’ll be fine. Just like he says, he wants to be back out there the day after it happens.”
Pirates reliever Jack Taschner, a Racine native: “Games here weren’t on TV as much as they are now, so everybody listened to Uecker. I’d ride my bike to my grandfather’s house in Milwaukee and cut his lawn and he’d sit out on the deck listening to Bob Uecker. My other grandfather, I’d go to his house, and the game is on and we’re listening to Uecker. You have a lot of people in different parts of the country that talk about someone being a voice. But Uecker has been here from the beginning. He is the Brewers. Bernie Brewers’ thing — “Get up. Get up. Get outta here. Gone” — is Uecker’s home run call. Obviously, I hope the best for him. He is everything to baseball in Milwaukee. Bud Selig saved the team, but Bob Uecker is the voice.”
Pirates catcher Jason Jaramillo, also of Racine: “I always listened to him a lot when driving home from games. He is just such a distinct voice. When you think of summers and baseball here, you hear that voice.”
Brewers hitting coach Dale Sveum: “I’ve known Ueck since I was 19 years old. He’s a friend, a member of my family. It goes to show you that time flies and things like this happen. My prayers are with him, and hopefully things work out great.”
Brewers infielder Craig Counsell, who grew up in the Milwaukee area: “We’re concerned. He’s just one of the guys, so every time you take someone out of that, you miss him. He swims every morning and I’m kind of an early riser, so from time to time on the road we’ll meet and have breakfast together. Just sitting with him and listening to him tell stories, that’s something everyone should experience.”
Counsell used to listen to Uecker on the radio, just like the rest of Wisconsin. Counsell was born in Indiana but grew up in the Milwaukee suburb of Whitefish Bay.
“My memories were listening to him, like a lot of people, on a summer night outside the house while we played baseball until it got dark,” Counsell said. “I remember listening to him in my front yard for sure.” 
“It’s unfortunate, but he’s had a good spirit about it,” Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder said. “No matter what, he’s always a happy person. He has a good aura about him. Whenever he’s around, it’s a good time.” 
Counsell and every other Brewer said the same thing about Uecker on Tuesday: “He’s part of the team.” 
“That’s the way they treat me,” Uecker said. “They’re concerned, I know they are. So am I.”
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Capuano's season debut a success

Chris Capuano pitched five scoreless innings in his season debut and notched the win in Class A Brevard County’s 3-0 shutout of Clearwater on Tuesday night. He allowed three hits and struck out five without walking a batter. 

Capuano is trying a comeback from the second Tommy John surgery of his career.
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Five left-handers vs. Bucs' Karstens

With the news this afternoon that Bob Uecker will undergo heart surgery on Friday, it’s one of those days on which the game seems secondary. But the Brewers and Pirates will play anyway, and Uecker will have his usual seat in the broadcast booth for the second of three games between the teams. 

Perhaps you have seen this stat before: The Brewers have won 22 consecutive home games against the Pirates, including Monday’s 17-3 final.
Here are the lineups:


Andrew McCutchen  CF
Andy LaRoche  3B
Lastings Milledge  LF
Garrett Jones RF
Ryan Doumit  C
Jeff Clement  1B
Akinori Iwamura  2B
Jeff Karstens  RHP
Ronny Cedeno  SS
Rickie Weeks  2B
Craig Counsell  SS
Ryan Braun  LF
Prince Fielder  1B
Casey McGehee  3B
Jim Edmonds  CF
Corey Hart  RF
George Kottaras  C
Randy Wolf  LHP
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