September 2010

Cruz, Kintzler coming to Milwaukee

The Brewers will recall infielder Luis Cruz from Triple-A Nashville and will purchase right-hander Brandon Kintzler’s contract from Nashville in time for Tuesday’s game against the Cardinals, the club announced Monday evening. 

Cruz was already on the 40-man roster and is coming off a solid year in Triple-A, where he batted .281 with 10 home runs and 68 RBIs. The Brewers claimed him off waivers from the Pirates last December. 
Kintzler is an intriguing 26-year-old who was plucked out of the independent leagues last summer and posted a 1.47 ERA in 42 relief outings this season between Double-A Huntsville and Nashville. He’s ticketed for the Arizona Fall League after his stint with the Brewers. 
With Kintzler’s addition, the Brewers have 39 players on the 40-man roster. 
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Regular lineup on soggy Labor Day

The morning thunderstorm that rolled over Milwaukee surprised Miller Park stadium officials, who rushed in this morning to close the ballpark’s convertible dome. The field is soggy and the warning track was a bit muddy, but the grounds crew is just now putting the finishing touches on the field and it’s ready for baseball. 

Here’s the Brewers lineup for the opener of a three-game series against St. Louis:

Rickie Weeks  2B

Corey Hart  RF
Ryan Braun  LF
Prince Fielder  1B
Casey McGehee  3B
Lorenzo Cain  CF
Alcides Escobar  SS
Jonathan Lucroy  C
Yovani Gallardo  RHP
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Rookies making impact

It seems to me that the silver lining of an otherwise lost Brewers season is the slew of rookies who have proven they fit at the Major League level. With that in mind, here’s a preview of a feature set to hit Brewers.com later today:

escobar-lucroy.jpg
The Brewers broke camp with one rookie on the Opening Day roster — shortstop Alcides Escobar. Now, they’re everywhere. 
“It feels like half the team!” Escobar said. 
Not quite, but the Brewers have certainly skewed younger since the start of the season. On a given day in August the Brewers could start Escobar at shortstop, Jonathan Lucroy behind the plate and Lorenzo Cain in center field, with Zach Braddock ready in relief to face the opponent’s toughest left-handed hitter and John Axford on hand for a save opportunity.
When rosters expanded on Wednesday, right-hander Jeremy Jeffress joined the group. He’s only 22, and when he trotted in for the bottom of the eighth inning against the Reds, he threw his first pitch above Double-A. 
This is not necessarily the way general manager Doug Melvin drew it up in Spring Training. Cain and Lucroy, in particular, probably could have used more Minor League seasoning considering they both began the year in Double-A. But as needs arose, Melvin reacted. 
And the kids responded. 
“When we came up, we knew we had a job to do,” Braddock said. “There was going to be a learning period, but we also needed to do the job that was asked of us.”
Braddock and Axford — along with non-rookie Kameron Loe — were crucial in the Brewers’ midseason makeover of a bullpen that cost them dearly in April. Braddock has a 2.76 ERA in 36 games and, while he allowed a couple of inherited runners to score on Wednesday, is unscored upon in all but four of his outings. Axford claimed the closer’s role brilliantly from Trevor Hoffman, going 19-for-21 in save chances including seven saves of four or more outs. 
Lucroy was summoned in May after the Brewers lost starting catcher Gregg Zaun to a season-ending shoulder and top catching prospect Angel Salome to personal issues. Lucroy has proven serviceable, hitting .265 with four home runs and showing improvement in his game-calling and defense. 
The Brewers promoted Cain briefly in July and then recalled him for good in early August when center fielder Carlos Gomez went on the disabled list with a concussion. Cain has taken hold of the position, flashing some surprisingly spectacular defense while hitting .300 with a .351 on-base percentage in 70 at-bats.
Escobar has had the ups and downs the Brewers expected during his rookie season. He’s hitting .251. 
It will take some time for them to really settle in. 
“They’re coming along,” manager Ken Macha said. “But my experience is that normally it takes about three years for guys really to settle into the Major Leagues. You know who’s pitching, how they pitched you, you start to learn the hitters, what they do, all that kind of stuff. 
“You’re comfortable with your surroundings. You know what to expect when you come to the ballpark. It takes some time for guys to make that leap forward to being a Major League player.” 
Which Brewers rookie do you think will end up being the best Major Leaguer?
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Jeffress vows to make most of call-up

A day after Aroldis Chapman thrilled Reds fans at Great American Ball Park, the Brewers promoted their own flamethrowing pitching prospect. Just don’t expect Jeremy Jeffress to touch 103 mph on the radar gun. 
“I saw 103 and was like, ‘no chance,’” Jeffress said with a laugh. “I’ve touched [100 mph] so I know how he’s feeling right there. I know how his arm is feeling. You have to work hard to keep that up.” 
He’ll settle for sitting in the 95-97 mph range and occasionally touching 99 mph while coming out of the Brewers’ bullpen this month, and then it’s off to the prospect-rich Arizona Fall League. The Brewers are trying to help Jeffress make up for the two months he lost early this season to a drug suspension. 
It’s been quite a calendar year for the 22-year-old. 
“Big steps,” he said. “It’s been a great learning experience. I’ve been to the bottom and I worked my way up to the top. Everyone that’s helped me, the Brewers, my family, everybody, I give tremendous thanks.” 
 Jeffress began the season in the middle of a 100-game suspension handed down last year, when he tested positive for a “drug of abuse” for the third time. Jeffress later admitted he had a problem with marijuana. One more positive test under the Minor League testing program, and he would have been banned for life. 
The Brewers ordered him to undergo rehabilitation in Milwaukee and were satisfied enough to Jeffress’ progress that they added him to the 40-man roster in June. They would have had to make that move after the season, anyway, or risk losing Jeffress in December’s Rule 5 Draft. 
Adding him to the roster early also protected the team’s investment in Jeffress, who garnered a $1.55 million signing bonus after the Brewers made him the xx pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft. Players on the 40-man roster are subject to a different set of rules, and Major Leaguers are not tested for marijuana. 
“The temptation was there, but I just knew that nothing could be greater than playing baseball,” Jeffress said. “I knew the rules changed once I was on the 40-man and that it was going to be a big obstacle to get through, but I overcame it.”
He added: “I’ve been doing great with staying clean. I’m feeling good.” 
Now that he’s in the Major Leagues, the Brewers will have to decide what to do next. They converted Jeffress to a relief role earlier this year to “keep him more focused and engaged,” assistant general manager Gord Ash explained in early June. 
It’s been a positive move. Jeffress posted a 2.23 ERA in 23 relief appearances at three Minor League stops. He was at Double-A Huntsville before his September call-up, and had a 1.23 ERA and 15 strikeouts versus only two walks in 11 outings. 
The Brewers have not ruled out moving Jeffress back to a starting role next season. If he stays in relief, he could compete for a spot in the Major League bullpen. 
“I actually love it,” Jeffress said. “I would love to stay in the ‘pen, but any role they have me do, I’m going to do it. I know I can succeed. … [In relief], I come to the field every day ready, knowing I could throw. I love baseball, so when I come to the field knowing I could throw, it’s so exciting.” 
When Brewers manager Ken Macha was asked how he might use Jeffress, he gave one of his stock answers: “Bullpen pitcher.” He said he would have no problem using Jeffress work multiple innings. 
“I told him, ‘You never know. You could get put right in there,’” Macha said. 
What will Macha be looking for?
“Everybody feels that his ‘stuff’ is Major League-quality,” Macha said. “So, how that all plays out for that last month, I think that if he settles in and throws the ball well and is in the strike zone, he’ll be a prime candidate for making the ballclub next year.”
If the Brewers decide to turn Jeffress back into a starter, he would almost certainly have to be sent to a Minor League affiliate to get back into that routine. Remember, this is a kid who as of Wednesday afternoon had yet to throw a pitch above Double-A.
Those issues can wait. On Wednesday, Jeffress was trying to enjoy his first day as a Major Leaguer. 
“I’m so excited. I’m on cloud nine right now,” said Jeffress, who learned about his promotion on Tuesday afternoon and immediately called his parents. “My mom, she started screaming. My daddy was at work and he was going crazy.”
He wasn’t sure if he’d be among the Brewers’ first wave of call-ups. 
“It was a hope and it was a prayer, and I kept hearing people saying that I might be close, just keep working hard,” Jeffress said. “I did exactly that, and there it was. What a great opportunity. I couldn’t even stand up when I heard about it.” 
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Brewers try to avoid sweep

Lorenzo Cain is back in the lineup but otherwise it’s business as usual for the Brewers, who need a win tonight to avoid being swept out of Cincinnati by the first place Reds. 

Rickie Weeks  2B
Corey Hart  RF
Ryan Braun  LF
Prince Fielder  1B
Casey McGehee  3B
Lorenzo Cain  CF
Alcides Escobar  SS
Jonathan Lucroy  C
Chris Narveson  LHP
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