May 2010

Fielder, Braun swap spots vs. lefty Santana

MILWAUKEE — With a tough lefty in Johan Santana on the mound for Friday’s series opener with the Mets, Brewers manager Ken Macha opted to switch the order of his three and four hitters for the second time in two weeks.

 

First baseman Prince Fielder moved up a spot to the No. 3 hole while right fielder Ryan Braun dropped down from that spot to bat cleanup against the Mets. The only other time this season Fielder has hit anywhere but fourth was May 20 against the Pirates.

The Brewers won that game, 4-3, snapping a nine-game losing streak.

“I did it in Pittsburgh when their lefty pitched,” Macha said. “I kind of like it that way with a lefty. I think with Braun sitting on deck that they have to get the ball closer to the strike zone for Prince. Because if they end up walking him, then you’ve got somebody that has a reputation for hitting left-handers very well.”

– Jordan Schelling, Associate Reporter

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Braun, Fielder switch spots again

For the second time this season, left fielder Ryan Braun will bat cleanup Friday night behind first baseman Prince Fielder, who will hit in the No. 3 spot.
Braun and Fielder switched spots for one game on the Brewers’ last road trip, which they won,  4-3, at Pittsburgh.

No other major changes or surprises in tonight’s lineup posted by Brewers manager Ken Macha. The only additional difference from last night is who’s batting seventh and eighth.

After a 3-for-4 night batting eighth last night, shortstop Alcides Escobar gets the nod in the No. 7 hole, while catcher George Kottaras drops down to the No. 8 spot.
The rest of the lineup is as would be expected:
Weeks  2B
Gomez  CF
Fielder  1B
Braun  LF
McGehee  3B
Hart  RF
Escobar  SS
Kottaras  C
Gallardo  P
– Jordan Schelling, MLB.com

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Edmonds expected back Monday from DL

MILWAUKEE — After speaking with him before Thursday’s series finale, Brewers manager Ken Macha was optimistic about Jim Edmonds’ chances of returning on Monday, when he is eligible to come off the disabled list.

 

Edmonds, who has been on the DL since May 18 with a left oblique strain, did some soft toss and took some swings in the batting cage before Thursday’s game. Macha also noted Edmonds will be out for early batting practice on Friday.

Edmonds return will likely mean the departure of a member of the Brewers’ bullpen, but Macha was not ready to speculate about the move just yet.

“We’ll wait for that when it gets there,” Macha said.

The news of Edmonds’ progress was particularly good for the Brewers considering the uncertainty regarding his return just a few days ago.

When asked about Edmonds during the Minnesota series over the last weekend, Macha said he thought there may be a chance Edmonds would not be back when he was eligible to return on May 31.

“That’s encouraging,” said Macha, referring to Edmonds’ progress. “He’s feeling optimistic, so I trust Jimmy because he let me know at the beginning of the year. He said, ‘I’ll be ready.'”

– Jordan Schelling, Associate Reporter

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Inglett available Thursday, Gerut still out

MILWAUKEE — Brewers manager Ken Macha expected to have just two pinch hitters in Thursday’s series finale against the Astros: Joe Inglett and Craig Counsell.

 

Inglett, who had limited since Saturday with a sprained left ankle, was likely the Brewers’ top option off the bench Thursday in an injury or pinch-hit situation. Macha said he wanted to get Counsell in the starting lineup, but did not want to lose a valuable bat off the bench

“I talked to Inglett, he’s been getting a little bit better,” Macha said. “If we had a problem, [Inglett would] go out there and play.”

The other two members of his bench, outfielder Jody Gerut and catcher Jonathan Lucroy, were unavailable. Gerut for injury reasons and Lucroy in case of injury to starting catcher George Kottaras.

Gerut, like Inglett, has been limited since Saturday with a bruised right heel. Unlike Inglett, however, Gerut had not made enough progress to be available against the Astros.

“He’s still moving a little bit slow, it looks like,” Macha said of Gerut.

But Macha said he remained hesitant to move Gerut to the disabled list, in part due to Edmonds’ recent progress.

“I tried to explain [Wednesday] that, you [don’t] want to lose him for all those days,” Macha said. “Edmonds’ feeling was he probably could’ve been back by now, so now we’ve got to wait until a few more days.”

– Jordan Schelling, Associate Reporter

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Hart improving with more consistent playing time

MILWAUKEE — After batting .172 with a .221 on-base percentage and 18 strikeouts in Spring Training, right fielder Corey Hart did not start for the Brewers on Opening Day. Seven weeks later, Hart has quietly become one of the Brewers’ hottest hitters.

 

Over the last 11 games, Hart is batting .295 (13-for-44) with six home runs, 11 RBIs, eight runs scored, two doubles and a triple. With a week remaining in the month, Hart’s numbers in May have already eclipsed those of April in nearly every offensive category.

With six home runs this month, Hart has already doubled his April total of three homers.

“I’ve been trying to stay consistent, but for some reason lately the ball’s been getting in the air for me,” Hart said. “Sometimes I’ll find a swing that makes me hit the ball in the air a little farther than other times, but it kind of comes and goes. Right now the ones I hit good are going in the air, so I’ve been fortunate to have that streak go a bit longer than normal.”

For the season, Hart is batting .263 with nine home runs — which ties him with Casey McGehee for the team lead — and 23 RBIs, which puts him fourth on the team.

Over last weekend in Minneapolis, he hit home runs in each of the Brewers last two games against the Twins at Target Field, a ballpark that is near the bottom of the league in terms of home runs per game.

But with the way Hart was swinging the bat, his home runs would have been out of any park. His second homer, which came in the Brewers’ 4-3 win on Sunday, was the first to ever reach the third deck at Target Field.

At an estimated 440 feet, it was the longest home run hit in the short history of the ballpark.

Since sitting out the series opener against the Braves on May 10, Hart has started 13 straight games for the Brewers.

“Looking back at it, he didn’t start Opening Day,” manager Ken Macha said of Hart. “A big deal was made about that and that he didn’t have a very good Spring Training. He’s come out here and worked with Dale [Sveum] pretty hard and it’s nice to see the work paying off.”

To begin the season, Hart split time with veteran outfielder Jim Edmonds at right field in what, for the most part, amounted to a platoon. While Macha never wanted to call it such, Edmonds typically got the call against right-handed starters, while Hart mostly faced lefties.

The most surprising instance, though, was on Opening Day, when Edmonds got the start over Hart with righty Ubaldo Jimenez on the mound for the Rockies.

While Macha said Edmonds was starting because Jimenez fell into the category of “tough righty,” it was a surprising move with it being Opening Day and with Hart expected to be the club’s everyday right fielder.

Though he credits some of his success to the swing he’s had of late, Hart sees his more consistent playing time as the most important factor in his recent hot streak. Due to a handful of injuries to other outfielders, Hart has started far more of late than he had been early in the season.

“That was stupid, Spring Training doesn’t matter, but they decided it mattered this year for some reason,” Hart said of his preseason slump. “I’m just working to try to turn their minds around. Hopefully I can keep playing well so I can stay in the lineup.

“Coming into this season I think there was a question mark about how long I’d be in Milwaukee. But I want to be here, so hopefully they see me as an everyday guy again.”

– Jordan Schelling, Associate Reporter

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Hoffman could resume closer duties

Brewers manager Ken Macha stopped short of making a formal declaration, but it appears he is ready to restore all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman to the closer’s role. 

Hoffman allowed a hit and a walk in a scoreless seventh inning of Wednesday’s 5-0 loss to the Astros, his second appearance in three games in a non-save situation. According to baseball-reference.com, it was Hoffman’s first appearance earlier than the eighth inning since a seventh-inning stint on Sept. 2, 2003, Hoffman’s first game back from shoulder surgery. 
He also worked a 10-pitch, 1-2-3 inning in Sunday’s win at Minneapolis, and Macha was asked whether Hoffman, who has 596 career saves, was ready to resume his drive to 600.
“We kind of talked about that several times today,” Macha said. “We’ll see how some things go. That is two good outings in a row, so I’ll talk to him [Thursday] and see how he’s feeling about himself.”
Hoffman has not pitched in a save situation since May 18 in Cincinnati, where he surrendered three runs on four hits in his fifth blown save this season without recording an out. He spent the rest of last week working on mechanics with Brewers pitching coach Rick Peterson. 
Carlos Villanueva went 1-for-2 in save chances and John Axford converted his only opportunity in Hoffman’s absence. 
“We’ve been having an open conversation. I can’t say, ‘OK, Trevor is going to be the closer [on Thursday],'” Macha said. “We’ll have to work that out with him.”
In those conversations, Hoffman has indicated that he is much more comfortable with the routine associated with save situations, Macha said.
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Zaun has labrum injury, no surgery for now

Brewers catcher Gregg Zaun has a torn labrum in the front of his right shoulder and said he might retire if the injury lingers deep into the summer. 
Zaun put his chances of playing this season at “50-50.” The doctors have recommended conservative treatment for the next 2-4 weeks, at which time they will re-evaluate his strength and range of motion to decide of surgery is necessary. A surgical fix would sideline Zaun for 4-6 months. 
“I’m pretty disappointed,” Zaun said. “Things were just starting to roll offensively. … For this to happen now is just bad timing, as usual.” 
Zaun started the season 0-for-21 but batted .333 over his next 81 at-bats to boost his average to .265 before going on the disabled list. With the 39-year-old on the sidelines, the Brewers are left extremely inexperienced behind the plate. Primary duties figure to go to George Kottaras, who made his 42nd career start on Wednesday night against the Astros. The backup is 23-year-old Jonathan Lucroy, who made his first career start on Tuesday. 
Zaun’s injury dates back to mid-April in Washington, when Zaun hurt his shoulder in a plate collision with Nationals infielder Ian Desmond. Zaun played through shoulder pain until a second-inning at-bat in Pittsburgh on May 20, when his right hand slipped off the bat on a swinging strike. He felt his shoulder pop out of its socket and then slam back into place, but continued the at-bat and drove in a run with a groundout before exiting. 
Zaun was placed on the 15-day disabled list the following morning and subsequent tests revealed the torn labrum. He has some big decisions ahead. 
“I have a couple of questions I have to ask myself,” Zaun said. “Do I want to play next year? I can’t answer that question at this point right now. I love the game; I’m not sure if I want to continue going through this. 
“If I make a decision that I’m going to grind this out and do what it takes to play this season, I have to be able to come back as strong as I was before. I don’t want to just come back and be a guy who’s going to play twice a week with two or three days of rest in-between. If I don’t see myself coming back to a situation where I can play four or five days in a row and still function normally, I’m going to go ahead and get surgery and at least keep the options open for next year. 
“I owe it to the organization and my teammates to kind of run through the process and give it every chance to be back out there on the field this year. If the time comes where I feel like it’s not going to work for me … than I have to look toward next year and do the right thing.” 
Zaun knows that teams would not be lined up to sign a soon-to-be 40-year-old coming off shoulder surgery, especially as an everyday player. 
He will remain at Miller Park next week while the Brewers play a weeklong road trip. By the end of a June 8-13 homestand, Zaun figures he will have some answers. 
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Kottaras back in lineup

After getting a night off Tuesday in favor of Jonathan Lucroy — who made his first Major League start in the game — i catcher George Kottaras is back in the Brewers’ starting lineup for Wednesday’s game. 

Kottaras will bat seventh, behind Corey Hart and ahead of Alcides Escobar. Manager Ken Macha’s lineup remains the same otherwise as the Brewers face off against Astros ace Roy Oswalt tonight at Miller Park.
Here’s the rest of the lineup:
Weeks  2B
Gomez  CF
Braun  LF
Fielder  1B
McGehee  3B
Hart  RF
Kottaras  C
Escobar  SS
Narveson  P
– Jordan Schelling, Associate Reporter

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Report: Loe's 'out' date is June 5

Triple-A Nashville starter Kameron Loe has a June 5 opt-out clause that would allow him to elect free agency, FoxSports.com reported on Tuesday. When Loe signed with the Brewers in December, I was told that the date was June 1. 

Loe, who signed a Minor League contract with Milwaukee in December, is 4-2 with a 2.70 ERA entering his scheduled start Thursday at Sacramento. Another Nashville starter, lefty Chris Capuano, has a May 29 opt-out that comes the day after Capuano’s scheduled start at home against the Iowa Cubs.
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Macha tired of 'negativism'

Even-keeled Brewers manager Ken Macha has had enough of the questions about his job security. 
He made that very clear during his daily afternoon briefing with reporters on Tuesday when asked about the weekend vote of confidence he received from Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio. 
“I told you, I go about my job the same way, and that’s what I’m going to continue to do,” Macha said. “I’ve had a lot of success doing it this way. If you have a business, and you run your business successfully, and all of a sudden you get a little bit of a downtown, what do you do? Panic and change everything you’re doing, or continue the course? That’s what we’re going to do. We come out here every day to get these players ready to play. 
“Sunday was an exceptional day,” Macha said, referring to the Brewers’ win in Minnesota, “and to have any negative questions in this meeting today is poppycock. Because, we had a tough game on Friday, we a game where we battled back on Saturday against a team that is leading its division in the American League, at their ballpark, had a blown save, played extra innings and had everybody on the staff come in and volunteer to pitch innings, then come back and beat them Sunday. 
“That’s an incredible win. We should come home on a high and be positive and ready to turn this thing around. If we continue the negative thoughts and negativism, it’s not going to come around. All of the Brewers’ fans should be positive. I know my staff, myself, we’re positive. We have some things happening in our bullpen now. We’re going to try to correct the difficulties we’ve had. It should be a positive mood right now.
“That,” Macha told his questioner, “was your last question of the day.”
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