August 2010

Two Minor League affiliations left to settle

The Brewers signed a player development contract extension with rookie-level Helena on Tuesday that runs through 2012. In May, they signed a similar deal with advanced Class A Brevard County that covers the same years. The Brewers are already under contract with “low” Class A Wisconsin through 2012.

But the team’s deals with its top two affiliates expire after this season, and both Double-A Huntsville and Triple-A Nashville were in the news today. 
– In this piece from the Huntsville Times’ Mark McCarter, he reports “indications are that the parent club is interested in exploring options elsewhere because of dissatisfaction with Joe W. Davis Stadium.” If Milwaukee doesn’t return, McCarter speculated, the most likely potential major league affiliates for Huntsville are the Angels, Reds, Tigers, Padres, Giants or Mariners.
More from McCarter:
Currently 22 of the 30 Class AA working agreements have been renewed or are in the process of renewal. (They are done so on even-numbered years, for either two- or four-year terms.) Four Southern League teams have announced renewals in the past two weeks, leaving Huntsville, Carolina (Cincinnati Reds) and West Tenn (Seattle Mariners) unsigned. Major league teams can shift their affiliations among the three Double-A leagues.
Teams must notify their respective league offices by Sept. 11 if they do not plan to renew their player development contracts, then there is a period from Sept. 16-30 where potential new deals may be negotiated; there are stiff fines for negotiating with new teams outside that two-week window.
It is clearly a situation where Huntsville’s ownership will be wooing the Brewers once Prentice can begin discussions with Milwaukee Executive Vice President/General Manager Doug Melvin and his chief aide, Gord Ash.
“We’d certainly love to have the Brewers back,” Rogers said. “They’re one of the classiest organizations around.”
Brewers’ officials have grown weary of the lack of response by Huntsville and Stars ownership for improvements to the 26-year-old stadium since the Brewers began their relationship with the Stars in 1999.
“Obviously there are certain areas that need to be addressed with the facility at Joe Davis,” said Scott Martins, business manager for the Brewers’ minor league operation. “It’s a stadium that has had relatively little maintenance. There are few stadiums that old that haven’t undergone some major renovation. I think anybody who has been to any other park and then to Joe Davis knows there are issues that need to be addressed.”
– I’ve heard that the Brewers are pretty happy with some of the improvements made at Triple-A Nashville, though “historic” Greer Stadium is also in need of more work.http://newsok.com/nashvilles-loss-could-be-redhawks-gain/article/3486212?custom_click=headlines_widget This story from The Oklahoman newspaper says the Brewers could leave Nashville and move to Oklahoma City, which expects to lose the Rangers. 
(Editorial comment: The key word in that story is, “could.” The way I read it is this: City losing its affiliate, needs another, reporter looks around for outdated stadiums, connects dots. Perhaps I am reading that wrong, but it looks like speculation to me. Doesn’t mean there’s not fire behind the smoke, but I’d hold off on fitting Brett Lawrie for an Oklahoma City jersey for now.)
Anyway, both situations are worth watching after the season comes to a close. 
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Wolf vs. Wainwright

It’s a beautiful day in St. Louis, but the Brewers won’t be able to enjoy the weather. They’ll be staring down Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright, who is 11-0 in his 12 home starts this season and is riding a Major League-record 27 consecutive quality starts in home games. He’s already pitched a pair of complete games against Milwaukee this year. 

Here’s how the Brewers will try to reverse the trend:
Rickie Weeks  2B
Corey Hart  RF
Ryan Braun  LF
Prince Fielder  1B
Casey McGehee  3B
Lorenzo Cain  CF
Alcides Escobar  SS
George Kottaras  C
Randy Wolf  LHP
Very interesting that Cain is in the lineup. Manager Ken Macha apparently isn’t afraid to expose the rookie outfielder to one of the league’s nastiest starting pitchers. 
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Hawkins weighing shoulder surgery

Brewers reliever LaTroy Hawkins is considering exploratory surgery to provide some answers on the lingering stiffness in his right shoulder. He’ll make a decision by Friday. 

Hawkins visited Dr. Lewis Yocum in Los Angeles on Monday and underwent an MRI scan which provided no new clues since his last scan in May. Yocum discovered “wear and tear,” Hawkins said, but no serious damage. 
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Bush pitches series opener at Busch

Here’s the lineup for the opener of a two-game series at Busch Stadium. This one-night road trip is killing my Marriott point balance. 
Rickie Weeks  2B
Corey Hart  RF
Ryan Braun  LF
Prince Fielder  1B
Casey McGehee  3B
Lorenzo Cain  CF
Alcides Escobar  SS
Jonathan Lucroy  C
Dave Bush  RHP
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Brewers extend PDC with rookie-level Helena

The Brewers just announced a new, two-year player development contract extension with the Helena Brewers of the Rookie Pioneer League that runs through the 2012 season.
“We are very pleased to extend our player development contract with the Helena Brewers,” general manager Doug Melvin said in a statement.  “The Pioneer League provides a competitive experience for our younger players.  Many of the players in our organization began their professional careers at Helena including Ryan Braun, Alcides Escobar and Jonathan Lucroy.”
The Helena Brewers are owned and operated by the Helena Baseball Club, LLC.  DG Elmore serves as the principal owner.
“We are excited to renew our affiliation with the Milwaukee Brewers,” Elmore said.  “The Brewers are a first class operation and they have consistently provided Helena with exciting competitive teams.”  
Helena has been home to the Brewers’ rookie affiliate since the 2003 season.  The baby Brewers play their home games at Kindrick Legion Field.
“The Helena Brewers look forward to continuing its working relationship with our parent club in Milwaukee. We have had a great history with the affiliation between our two organizations and look forward to welcoming more Milwaukee farmhands and staff members into our wonderful community,” Helena Brewers General Manager Paul Fetz said.

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No deal for Covey, Brewers

For the first time in nearly two decades, the Brewers and their first-round Draft pick didn’t strike a deal. 
Right-hander Dylan Covey, the 14th overall selection in June’s First-Year Player Draft, declined the Brewers’ offer ahead of Monday’s 11:01 p.m. CT signing deadline and will instead attend the University of San Diego this fall. The Brewers, meanwhile, will get an extra pick in next year’s Draft, likely No. 15 overall, as compensation. 
The Brewers missed on Covey but did sign 34 of their 50 Draft picks, including all 11 players selected from Rounds 2-12, six of whom are pitchers. They also signed six undrafted free agents. 
“Obviously, we’re disappointed,” Brewers amateur scouting director Bruce Seid said. “He would have been the cherry on top of what looks like a very nice Draft class. There’s no hard feelings.”
Seid said the problem wasn’t the size of the Brewers’ offer. He deflected further comment to the Covey family. 
“We made a serious effort,” Seid said. “Generous, based on the set of circumstances.”
Covey made it clear on Draft day that he wanted at least $2 million to sign, slightly more than the $1.7 million recommended by Major League Baseball for his slot. Amateur scouting director Bruce Seid handled final negotiations at the family’s Pasadena, Calif. home with West Coast crosschecker Corey Rodriguez.
Before Covey, Milwaukee had signed all of its first-round Draft picks since Kenny Henderson was the fifth overall selection in 1991. He went to the University of Miami instead and was drafted in the fourth round by Montreal three years later, but again declined to sign. When the Padres took Henderson in the fifth round in 1995, he finally signed and topped-out at advanced Class A Rancho Cucamonga in 1997. After a stint in independent baseball, Henderson’s career was over. 
Covey, a graduate of Pasadena Calif.’s Maranatha High school, turned 19 on Saturday and had a scholarship offer from the University of San Diego to use as leverage in negotiations with the team. Rodriguez stayed in communication with Covey and his family throughout the summer, but the Brewers didn’t make a formal offer until Monday, according to Dylan’s father, Darrell, who officially handled talks to preserve his son’s amateur status. 
That lull was not unusual. Most teams waited until the end to submit figures, a strategy to hold down the rising tide of amateur signing bonuses. 
Covey drew pre-draft comparisons to the Giants’ Matt Cain and the Dodgers’ Chad Billingsley, the latter of whom plays his home games just down the 110 freeway from the Covey residence. In his senior season at Maranatha, Covey went 7-1 with a 0.40 ERA and three saves. He struck out 138 batters versus 20 walks in 70 2/3 innings and was named Gatorade’s California Baseball Player of the Year. 
Seid stressed the pitchers who have signed with the Brewers, a list headed by second-round pick Jimmy Nelson. The right-hander from the University of Alabama has not pitched for rookie-level Helena since Aug. 5, but he has 19 strikeouts in 14 2/3 innings and has allowed only two earned runs in his last 10 2/3 innings of work after a tough start. 
“He had a couple rough innings off the bat, but he’s settled in,” Seid said. “He’s got many more strikeouts than innings, and he’s been clocked up to 96 [mph].”
Third-rounder Tyler Thornburg from Florida Southern University struck out 20 batters in his first 9 1/3 professional innings at Helena and has touched 98 mph. Fifth-rounder Matthew Miller from the University of Michigan is throwing 91-94 mph and leads the Pioneer League with six wins while ranking second with a 1.11 WHIP and fourth with a 2.62 ERA. 
That group is at the back end of a pitching pipeline that club officials have made a point to prop up in recent weeks. Seid highlighted the prospect-rich staff at Double-A Huntsville, where right-handers Wily Peralta, Mark Rogers, Jeremy Jeffress and Andre Lamontagne all possess size and power fastballs. The Brewers might be highest of all on right-hander Jake Odorizzi, a 20-year-old pitching at Class A Wisconsin.
“There’s a tremendous amount to be excited about,” Seid said. “There are some darn good arms in this system that have a chance to flourish. We’re pretty excited about what the next few years are going to bring from a pitching standpoint.”
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Report says Counsell cleared waivers

Brewers infielder Craig Counsell cleared waivers this week, according to ESPN.com’s Buster Olney, meaning the team is free to trade him to a contender this month if the right deal comes along. 

The news does not mean that Counsell will be traded or even that the Brewers are talking to any other teams about him. August waivers are revocable, so teams often expose their entire roster to the waiver wire. If a player is claimed, his club can either pull him back, or use a 48-hour window after the claim to work out a trade. Players have to be on a team’s roster by Aug. 31 to be eligible for that team’s postseason roster. 
Counsell could make some sense to a team looking for versatile infield help in the same way the Reds were interested in Milwaukee outfielder Jim Edmonds. The Brewers traded Edmonds for outfielder Chris Dickerson last week. Counsell is earning $2.1 million this year on a one-year contract with the Brewers that pays an additional $50,000 each for 50, 75, 90 and 110 games, and $100,000 each for 125 games and 75 and 100 starts. 
So far, he’s played in 83 games and made 29 starts. 
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Hawkins will get second opinion

Frustrated Brewers reliever LaTroy Hawkins has a Monday morning appointment at the Los Angeles offices of Dr. Lewis Yocum, a renowned orthopedist who will offer a fresh opinion on Hawkins’ balky right shoulder. Hawkins will undergo an MRI scan. A similar scan back in May revealed inflammation but no serious damage. 

Hawkins was placed back on the 15-day DL on Thursday with what the Brewers continue to call “right shoulder weakness.” Hawkins, who spent nearly three months on the DL with the same ailment earlier this season, said there is indeed weakness in the joint but also tightness, a sensation that prevents him from getting full extension on his pitches. He was feeling fine until one fastball in Monday’s outing against Arizona. 
“I want to be able to carry my own weight,” Hawkins said. “Shoot, I can’t carry my own weight right now. It’s miserable being out there in the bullpen and you can’t carry your own weight.”
The Brewers did get better news on the Ryan Braun health front. As expected, the left fielder is back in the lineup after missing four starts with a strained left wrist. 
Here’s the full lineup:

Rickie Weeks  2B
Corey Hart  RF

Ryan Braun  LF
Prince Fielder  1B
Casey McGehee  3B
Craig Counsell SS
Lorenzo Cain  CF
George Kottaras  C
Randy Wolf  LHP
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Hawkins back to DL, McClendon up

LaTroy Hawkins’ return from nearly three months on the disabled list lasted all of five outings. 

The Brewers placed Hawkins back on the 15-day DL on Thursday morning with the same right shoulder weakness that landed him there in the first place in early May. Hawkins was replaced by right-hander Mike McClendon, a 25-year-old right-hander who was an All-Star for Triple-A Nashville this season. 
To make room for McClendon on the full 40-man roster, the Brewers shifted catcher Gregg Zaun to the 60-day DL. Zaun is out for the season after shoulder surgery. 
His own shoulder injury has prevented Hawkins from contributing to the Brewers in the first season of the two-year $7.5 million contract he signed during December’s Winter Meetings and exasperated the Brewers’ lousy luck with free agent pitchers. They also signed Randy Wolf to a three-year, $29.75 million contract, and he entered Thursday’s start against the D-backs with a 4.81 ERA and a 5.29 fielding independent ERA (FIP), up from 3.96 last year with the Dodgers. The Brewers’ other big signing was left-hander Doug Davis, who missed two months with swelling around his heart and is currently sidelined indefinitely by elbow tendonitis. 
McClendon will wear No. 58 for the Brewers. He posted a 2.44 ERA in 25 appearances at Nashville after a promotion from Double-A Huntsville, and surrendered only one home run in 55 1/3 innings. The Brewers made McClendon their 10th round Draft pick in 2006. 
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Braun expected back Thursday

After missing three starts with a strained left wrist, Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun is expected back in the lineup Thursday, when the Brewers try to avoid a four-game D-backs sweep at Miller Park.
Braun was back in the batting practice rotation on Wednesday afternoon, a good sign he was making progress from an injury suffered Sunday against the Astros.  An even better indication of his improving health came in the eighth inning, when Braun was sent up to pinch-hit with the bases loaded, though he struck out
“He’s going to play [Thursday],” Macha said. “After he took batting practice, he came up to me and said, ‘I’ll be ready to go tomorrow.’”
Braun was hurt on Sunday when he legged out an infield hit and his left arm clipped Astros rookie first baseman Brett Wallace. He sat out Monday, pinch-ran Tuesday and then made his seventh career pinch-hit appearance on Wednesday. 
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