May 2010

Braun, Fielder flipped in lineup

Adam Stern is making his first start tonight as the Brewers try to snap their nine-game hitting streak, but that’s far from the most interesting development. It appears that manager Ken Macha has flipped Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder in the batting order, moving Fielder up to third and dropping Braun to the cleanup spot. We’ve got some ideas here in the press box, but let’s wait to get the explanation from Macha. 

Fielder, by the way, is 3-for-37 lifetime against Pirates starter Paul Maholm with 11 strikeouts. Braun is 17-for-38. Here’s the full lineup:
Rickie Weeks  2B
Alcides Escobar  SS
Prince Fielder  1B
Ryan Braun  LF
Casey McGehee  3B
Corey Hart  RF
Gregg Zaun  C
Adam Stern  CF
Chris Narveson  LHP
Here’s a trip down memory lane to the last time Fielder hit third and Braun fourth. It was April 2008, and when both players got off to a slow start they asked then-hitting coach Jim Skaalen to flip back to the way they batted the previous season. Manager Ned Yost agreed, and made the change for a Sunday series finale at Shea Stadium.
Braun said at the time that he was excited about the move and called it, “Mentally, a fresh start for both of us.”
“I don’t think it had anything to do with us being uncomfortable where we were at,” Braun said then. “I think it was more of us being more comfortable with me being three and him being four. We understood the logic behind [the other configuration], but it gets to the point where neither one of us is having too much success, and it feels like it is in our best interests and the best interests of the team to at least try it.
“We’re certainly not swinging the bats the way we were last year. So why not? We’re both definitely excited about the change.”
Added Fielder: “Whatever works. This game is all mental, anyway. It’s never physical.”
ONE MORE NOTE… Since that flip-flop, Fielder has started 350 of the Brewers’ 353 games and batted fourth in every one of them. Until tonight. 

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Melvin backs Macha

Brewers general manager Doug Melvin spoke up Thursday in support of field manager Ken Macha, whose job security has been called into question during a losing streak that reached nine games with Wednesday’s loss to the Pirates.
“I don’t see any reason” to dismiss Macha at this time, Melvin told the team’s flagship radio station, 620-AM WTMJ, on Thursday morning. “I see reasons to work together and try to get some wins.” 
The Brewers will try again Thursday night to snap their longest losing streak since they dropped 10 in a row late in the 2006 season. After the game the team will travel to Minnesota, where Melvin and principal owner Mark Attanasio will join the traveling party as part of a previously-planned community initiative. The Brewers are teaming with several local partners to bring Milwaukee-area fathers and their kids to Target Field for a ballgame. 
With an off-day looming Monday ahead of a homestand, some have wondered whether a shake-up was imminent. Melvin’s comments, to WTMJ’s “Wisconsin Morning News” program, could quiet that speculation. 
“Everybody wants to fire everybody, but I talk to Mark everyday and Ken every day,” Melvin said. “You go about and do your business, and all you’ve got to do is continue to work hard.” 
Melvin also addressed his own security, saying, “I feel fine.” He understands that the fans may feel differently while watching the team struggle to a 15-25 record. 
“I know we’ve got a lot of people that are disappointed because your expectations are so high,” Melvin said. “It gets to be a tough game and you don’t go out to win in nine straight games.  Everybody works extremely hard at it.  If they weren’t working extremely hard at it, it would be hard to defend them and hard to support them, but people have success in the past, and they work hard at it. 
“There are a lot of people involved, including the general manager and the owner, the manager, the coaches and those 25 players on the field.  Everybody’s got to pull together.  Everybody’s got to do their job and put this thing in the right direction.”
Brewers pitcher Randy Wolf made similar comments after he couldn’t hold a 4-3 lead on Wednesday night in an eventual 6-4 loss to the Pirates. He was asked whether he worried someone might have to take the fall for the Brewers’ poor play. 
“We’re not playing well, and it’s not one person’s fault,” Wolf said. “All of us have a place where we have to take the blame. Last time against the Phillies [on May 14], I didn’t do my job. [Wednesday], I had a 4-3 lead and I have to hold it in the seventh inning. I didn’t do that. I’ll take the blame.
“When things get out of control, you have to look in the mirror and realize that what you’re doing is not good enough. You either have to fix something, adjust something or do something better. It’s not always over night, but if you believe it, it will turn around.”
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Hoffman 'frustrated' but still wants to close

Trevor Hoffman has asked himself the same questions that filled Internet message boards and talk radio airwaves since he suffered his fifth blown save on Tuesday. 
Have his 42 years finally caught up to him? Is the all-time saves leader at the end of the line? 
“I always said the hitters would let me know, and they’re talking awfully loud,” Hoffman said. “It’s not like I’m putting together a lot of 1-2-3 innings. Balls have been up, and I’ve been getting hurt by it.” 
But when faced head-on with a question like, “Is this the end?” Hoffman’s answer is a resounding no. He said Wednesday afternoon that he still wants the ball in the ninth inning. 
“If it was something other than the fact I was getting my head beat in, I would worry,” Hoffman said. “But there isn’t a whole lot that has changed. My mechanics are the same. Stuff-wise, it’s been a little inconsistent as far as pitches are concerned. But it’s not as if I was throwing 90 [mph] last year and I’m throwing 80 this year. I’m a mid-80s guy. The change-up has been mid- to low-70s. Not much is off in those numbers. 
“I’m worried, don’t get me wrong. Or, frustrated, that’s the better word. ‘Worried’ makes it sound like you’re just hoping to get people out. No, you have to prepare, and I’m doing that. There’s frustration because something is not going right. 
“Am I tipping my pitches? Has it finally caught up that I’m 42? I don’t know. It’s something that’s out of my control.” 
Hoffman inherited a 4-2 lead in Cincinnati on Tuesday and retired none of the five batters he faced. Scott Rolen hit a tying-two-run home run, and three batters later Joey Votto lined a game-winning hit off the wall that went in the books as a long single. 
It was Hoffman’s fifth blown save in 10 chances this season, one more blown save than he had in 41 chances during his fabulous 2009 debut season in Milwaukee. Hoffman’s ERA entering Wednesday’s game in Pittsburgh was 13.15 and opponents were hitting him at a .356 clip with seven home runs. In 2009, he only allowed two home runs all year. 
“I don’t have the answers to the questions being posed,” Hoffman said. “If it was as easy as, start throwing a two-seamer [fastball] and it’s the fix, we would do it. It’s not as easy as that. You almost have to forget about what’s gone on so far and focus on the only thing you can control. That’s the next outing.” 
Asked whether he felt physically well, Hoffman said, “I don’t feel any different than I have in the past. There’s nothing glaring, let’s put it that way.” 
Would he consider doing something he’s never done before in his career — stepping aside to let someone else close games for a bit? 
“I don’t have the answer to that,” Hoffman said. “We’ll see.” 
He understands that manager Ken Macha is in a difficult position. 
“He has to win ballgames, and I’m putting him in a tough spot,” Hoffman said. “It takes the wins out the club’s sail, and I’m sure there’s been a hangover effect after some of the [blown saves]. … Everybody has been grinding for the last week in a half. Hitters have been grinding at-bats. Pitchers have been working their tails off in the rotation and trying to pass that through the bullpen. You finally put it together as a game [on Tuesday] and to let it get away, that’s pretty frustrating.” 
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Brewers begin series at Bucs

Standard stuff from manager Ken Macha as the Brewers begin another two-game series, this one at Pittsburgh. Rickie Weeks is starting his 40th game but he’s been slumping of late, with four hits in his last 33 at-bats. 
Here’s the lineup:

Rickie Weeks  2B

Alcides Escobar  SS
Ryan Braun  LF
Prince Fielder  1B
Casey McGehee  3B
Corey Hart  RF
Gregg Zaun  C
Jody Gerut  CF
Randy Wolf  LHP
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In the Minors: Butler debuts, Jones promoted

Brewers pitching prospect Josh Butler allowed one hit and one walk in two scoreless innings for Class A Brevard County on Monday night in his season debut. Butler, who spent time in the Majors last September with the Brewers, began this year on the disabled list with a right elbow injury. Look for him to move up as his pitch count increases. 

In other Minor League news, the Brewers bumped-up former first-round Draft pick Mike Jones from Double-A Huntsville to Triple-A Nashville to replace Marco Estrada, who was promoted to the Majors. Brevard County’s Nick Green was moved to Huntsville to replace Jones. 
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Fly ball (and glove): Brewers plane takes off

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AirTran this week unveiled a custom plane painted with throwback Milwaukee Brewers logos and colors to honor the club’s 40th anniversary and the airline’s partnership with the team.
Brewers One is the fifth in a series of custom-painted AirTran aircraft and the first affiliated with a Major League Baseball team. In 2009, AirTran Airways unveiled Falcons One in Atlanta, Ravens One in Baltimore, Colts One in Indianapolis and Magic One in Orlando to honor the airline’s partnerships with those teams. AirTran is very visible at Miller Park, with it’s “Landing Zone” in right field, a party area that sits on what used to be the outfield warning track. 
“We’re proud to debut Brewers One in Milwaukee today,” Bob Fornaro, AirTran Airways’ chairman, president and chief executive officer said in a statement on Monday. “AirTran Airways greatly values our partnership with the Brewers and we can think of no better way of displaying that pride than on the side of one of our planes.”
Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers, Brewers executives and club mascots were all on hand as the aircraft made it’s official debut at General Mitchell International Airport on Monday morning. Kids from the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee pulled the 120,000 lb. aircraft 20 feet at the premiere event to earn $50,000 for their summer sports program.
“AirTran Airways has been a tremendous partner and we are thrilled to have our logos flying side-by-side on this terrific airplane,” said Rick Schlesinger, Milwaukee Brewers’ executive vice president, business operations. “We are looking forward to Brewers One representing our organization as it takes off into action.”
Here are some more photos from the event, courtesy of AirTran:
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Macha gets postgame grilling

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The Brewers left Miller Park late Sunday with nothing to show for their weeklong homestand but a six-pack of losses. Not before manager Ken Macha was grilled on the postgame hot seat. 
“When it’s all said and done, I know I’ve done the best job I can do,” Macha told reporters after the Brewers’ 4-2 loss to the Phillies. “I know I have put everything I could into this job, and that’s all I can do.” 
Macha & Co. will look for better success in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Minnesota in their third three-city road trip this season. The schedule might be cause for grumbling if the Brewers weren’t so much better on the road than they are on what’s supposed to be friendly turf. 
The Phillies’ sweep capped Milwaukee’s winless, six-game homestand that began with three losses to the previously-struggling Braves. The Brewers have dropped eight straight home games for the first time in 14 years, and their 4-14 record at Miller Park this season marks the poorest 18-game home start in 42 seasons as a franchise.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel remarked that, “Things are not going their way right now.” 
He didn’t have to remind Macha, who faces the press twice a day and already had answered a series of questions about job security two weeks ago in Los Angeles when the Brewers were coming off three losses in four games at San Diego. He answered another wave on Sunday night. 
“I think all of our coaches are going about the job in the right way. I’ll put our preparation up to anyone’s,” Macha said. “We’ve got guys out hitting extra every day. Our bullpen guys are out at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, working hard. The pitching coach is in there preparing as hard as he can every day. 
“All you can do as a coach or a manager is examine yourself all the time, make sure you’re putting forth what you should be putting forth. If you have had success doing that, then you continue to do it. To all of a sudden change the way you do stuff, you’re not looking to do that. All of the guys we have in that room coaching have had success doing things and we have to fight our way through this. At the end of the day, you have to sit there and say, ‘I did things the right way.’ Really, sometimes it’s not in your hands.” 
General manager Doug Melvin came to Macha’s defense in Los Angeles and third baseman Casey McGehee did the same for Macha on Sunday. 
“He ain’t thrown a pitch, he ain’t hit a ball, he ain’t made an error. None of that,” McGehee said. “I think sometimes managers get too much credit and too much blame sometimes. When it ain’t going right, it ain’t going right. There’s nothing you can say or do. He’s trying to keep us all together and we’re all fighting. I think the manager’s biggest job is to make sure he’s getting effort out of his guys, and I’d be hard-pressed to find anybody that questions the effort that’s taking place out there. It might not always look pretty, it might not always go our way, but I think the way we battle says enough about the coaching staff and our manager.” 
Does first baseman Prince Fielder worry that a shake-up could be coming? 
“That happens at times if things aren’t going right, but that’s not something you can dwell on,” Fielder said. “That’s the business side. When you come to the field, you’re paid to play baseball. Those aren’t even my decisions anyway, so I try to stay out of that.” 
Maybe getting out on the road will help. The Brewers are 11-8 away from home, tied for the most road wins in the National League.
“It’s puzzling. It doesn’t add up,” McGehee said. “There’s pressure every time you walk out on a big league field. There’s pressure to perform. There’s pressure to pick up the other 24 guys in this clubhouse. Plus the coaches. So, no, I don’t think it’s more pressure at home.
“We’ve got such great fans, it’d be great to give them something to come and yell and scream about every night. We’ve got I don’t know how many more home games, but I promise you we’re going to there eventually. It might be September, but damnit, we’re going to get there.”
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Davis has swelling around heart

Brewers pitcher Doug Davis was scratched from his Sunday start and placed on the 15-day disabled list with a heart condition called pericarditis, an acute inflammation of the lining around the heart. He is being treated with anti-inflammatory medication and the situation is not life-threatening. 

Davis woke up in the wee hours of Saturday morning with discomfort in his chest and, after heartburn medication had no effect, went to the emergency room at Milwaukee’s Frodtert Hospital. He underwent an EKG scan and was seen by Dr. Jim Kleczka, the same specialist who has been working with Brewers broadcaster Bob Uecker in recent weeks.
Of Davis’ condition, Kleczka said, “It can cause pretty intense pain. Fortunately, it’s easily treatable with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, something as simple as ibuprofen can take care of it. Typically, you have to treat for at least 15 days, regardless of symptoms.”
Adam Stern, optioned back to Triple-A Nashville on Saturday, was quickly recalled to take Davis’ spot on the active roster. 
Davis spent Saturday night at home and reported feeling much better on Sunday. He will not travel with the Brewers on their weeklong road trip that begins Monday night in Cincinnati. 
At first, Davis worried he was having a heart attack. Instead, he has a condition that is caused by a virus like the common cold. 
“Bad luck,” Kleczka said. “A lot of people have colds and don’t end up with this. It’s very intense when you get it. It makes you want to sit up and you can’t breathe. Fortunately, it is very easily treated.” 
Asked whether pericarditis can be life-threatening, Kleczka said, “It can be. There are different degrees of it. Fortunately, this thus far appears to be a mild case. We’ve done testing and his heart looks great. He’s in great shape here, so we don’t see signs that this could be something bad.” 
Davis, 1-4 on the season with a 7.56 ERA, was set to make his eighth start of the season in pursuit of his second win of the year, as the Brewers look to snap a seven-game home losing streak. 
The 34-year-old has been through a public health issue before. In March 2008, he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer but was determined to be cancer-free six weeks later and returned to pitch for the Arizona Diamondbacks soon thereafter. 
“They seem to have found what it was so we’ll just take our time,” Davis said of his current setback. “It’s nothing to rush through. The worst thing that could happen is me try to go out there to pitch and end up going on one knee and calling Roger [Caplinger, the team's head athletic trainer] out. We don’t want that to happen, so I’m going to take it day by day.” 
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Davis out; Escobar in two-hole

Dave Bush will toe the rubber for the Brewers tonight in place of Doug Davis, whose unspecified medical issue should be clarified this afternoon. When that information is available, we will of course pass it along. 

Jim Edmonds is also out because of his strained left oblique, leading manager Ken Macha to post yet another new lineup. Here it is:
Rickie Weeks  2B
Alcides Escobar  SS
Ryan Braun  LF
Prince Fielder  1B
Casey McGehee  3B
Corey Hart  RF
Gregg Zaun  C
Jody Gerut  CF
Dave Bush  RHP
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Forearm stiffness likely to delay Jeffress' return

Suspended Brewers pitching prospect Jeremy Jeffress is eligible for reinstatement on Friday but his return to the mound will probably be delayed by a minor arm injury, assistant general manager Gord Ash said. 
Barring any rainouts at Class A Brevard County in the coming days, Jeffress’ 100-game ban expires on May 21. He might have been able to hit the ground running at Brevard County if not for a bout of tightness in his right forearm that developed last week at extended Spring Training camp in Phoenix. 
Jeffress, Milwaukee’s first-round pick in the 2006 Draft, was suspended last June under the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, his third failed test for a “drug of abuse.” One more violation would result in a lifetime ban. 
Unlike the Major League program, which strictly adheres to performance-enhancing drugs and amphetamines, Minor League players also can be suspended for using drugs like marijuana, cocaine and others. Jeffress has admitted in the last that he had a problem with marijuana, but he has been through a series of treatment programs during his suspension and has fulfilled all of his obligations, according to Ash. 
“He has been very, very good about it,” Ash said. 
Jeffress will resume his career at Brevard County when he’s ready, and the Brewers would like to promote him to Double-A Huntsville at some point soon thereafter. Club officials will face a decision after the season, when Jeffress must be placed on the 40-man roster or be exposed to the Rule 5 Draft. 
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