November 2010

Hoffman talks 2011, interest in Arizona

Hoffman5.jpgOutgoing Brewers reliever Trevor Hoffman spoke to MLB.com’s Barry Bloom about an uncertain future on Tuesday and was candid about one team that could make sense — Arizona. 

Hoffman wants to close, but conceded his up-and-down 2010 season with the Brewers (or was it down-and-up?) will give many teams pause. But the D-backs might be one club willing to give him a shot because they have a need for relievers and because their new general manager is Kevin Towers, who has lots of history with Hoffman from San Diego. 
It’s clear that he’s not coming back to Milwaukee. Hoffman, who provided perhaps the highlight of the Brewers’ 2010 season when he logged career save No. 600, became a free agent when the club declined its half of his mutual option last week. The Brewers will continue into 2011 with John Axford as the closer. 
Hoffman, meanwhile, will “see what’s out there” before making any decisions. 
“It’s not a situation where I’m going to pursue it very hard,” he said. “If it’s something that makes sense, if it’s an opportunity for me to close, I’ll look at it. If it’s something that doesn’t make any sense, I’ll probably retire.”
For the rest of Barry’s story, click over to MLB.com. It includes some interesting comments from Hoffman’s agent, Rick Thurman, about the elbow injury that hampered him in the first half, and more about the possible fit with the D-backs.
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Spring schedule in calendar form

Those of you planning trips to Phoenix for Spring Training can get to work thanks to the schedule released by the Brewers on Tuesday. The team will play 31 exhibition games including 16 at Maryvale Baseball Park, starting Monday, Feb. 28 with split squad games vs. San Francisco and at Mesa against the Cubs. 

More details from the team:
The Brewers will play NL Central Division rivals Chicago (Wednesday, March 2) and Cincinnati (Sunday, March 20), who each make one visit to Maryvale this year.  The Brewers celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at Maryvale Baseball Park against Chicago-AL and will be wearing Green Caps to commemorate the day.  On Tuesday, March 22, when the Brewers play the Padres, they will host their annual “Cerveceros Day” at Maryvale Baseball Park and don their white Cerveceros uniforms.
The Annual Brewers – Oakland Charity game is scheduled for Thursday March 3rd at Maryvale this year.  All ticket, parking and concession net proceeds are donated to the City of Phoenix Kool Kids Program, providing free swimming to at-risk youth under age 17 within the City of Phoenix.  
The Brewers play four consecutive games at home from Thursday, March 10 through Sunday, March 13, marking the longest homestand of Spring Training.
The final home game at Maryvale Baseball Park for the Brewers is set for Sunday, March 27.  The Brewers will close out the Spring season on Tuesday, March 29 at San Diego in Peoria.
All games at Maryvale Baseball Park are scheduled for 1:05 pm Arizona Time.  All road Spring Training games are also scheduled for 1:05 pm Arizona Time, except for Wednesday, March 16 at Seattle in Peoria (7:05 p.m.)
Tickets for the Milwaukee Brewers home Spring Training games will go on sale at 10 am CT on Monday, Dec. 6 via the internet at brewers.com and by phone at 1-800-933-7890.  Normal business hours are from 9am – 5pm CST.  Sales at the Maryvale Baseball Park Box Office will begin on Monday, February 7, 2011.  Tickets are available in four seating areas: Field Box ($22), Infield Reserved ($16), Outfield Reserved ($13) and Lawn Seating ($8).  All Thursday home games will feature the Thirsty Thursday promotion sponsored by Miller Lite –  for $20.00 Brewers fans receive an outfield reserve ticket, T-shirt and beer voucher.   Information on Spring Training Season Tickets can be obtained by calling the Milwaukee Brewers Ticket Office at 414-902-4000.
For a look at the full Spring Training schedule in calendar form, click over to Brewers.com.
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Peterson still under consideration for pitching post

Rick Peterson is still under consideration to remain as Brewers pitching coach after a pair of meetings last week with new manager Ron Roenicke, but Roenicke plans to spend his first full week on the job sifting through other candidates before making final decisions. 
Peterson still has one season left on his two-year contract, but general manager Doug Melvin is giving Roenicke freedom to select his own staff. 
“The meeting with me and [Peterson] went well,” Roenicke said. “But bench coach, pitching coach, those two spots are so important to a new manager. I really have to make sure I have the right person, whether it’s Rick, whether it’s somebody else, I need to make sure.” 
Roenicke wants to make his decision soon, partly so Peterson knows where he stands heading into 2011. 
In addition to the pitching post, Roenicke is also in the market for a bench coach, first- and third-base coaches and a bullpen coach. The only spot spoken for belongs to hitting coach Dale Sveum, who signed a two-year contract extension last month. 
“We want to [set the staff] as quickly as we can,” Roenicke said. “We also know it’s important to get the right people, so we don’t want to rush into it. Doug and [Brewers assistant GM] Gord Ash have gotten together a bunch of names for me to look at, people they really like, and they’ve come up with some nice names.” 
The Brewers introduced Roenicke at Miller Park on Thursday as the 18th manager in franchise history. 
He returned home to California over the weekend but will travel to Phoenix later this week to meet with Melvin, Sveum and the Brewers’ development staff there. Roenicke will be back in Milwaukee several times over the coming months, including in late January for the team’s “Brewers On Deck” event. 
“Once we get the coaching staff together, I’ve got the numbers for all of the players and I want to start calling them,” Roenicke said. “It’s going to be pretty busy here for the next couple of weeks.” 
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Kintzler, Faris talk Fall League

John Steinmiller is still hard at work in Arizona, filing updates to the Brewers’ front office MLBlog John & Cait… Plus Nine. Follow the links for more, but here are some highlights from Thursday that you may have missed while the Brewers were introducing Ron Roenicke at Miller Park.

Reliever Brandon Kintzler is still riding high at the end of a dream season. The former Independent Leaguer made his big league debut in September and is continuing to log innings in the AFL.
“This year has been a dream,” Kintzler said. “I set goals for myself and after I had surgery in 2006, I set a goal to be in the Fall League in 2007.  I know it’s three years later that I am here, but it really has been a great year for me professionally.  The fact that I was in the Big Leagues this year and I’m on the 40-man is great.  I’m in a good position for next year and being here in the Fall League is really helping continue to develop.”
He credited pitching coach Rick Peterson for some mechanical adjustments that improved his velocity in September, and is working on another tweak this fall. Click over to John’s blog to read about it. 

farris.jpg

There’s also the story of infielder Eric Faris, one of the players using the Fall League to make up for time lost to injury. He missed three months of 2010 after a collision at home plate.
“Eric had a frustrating regular season,” said Mike Guerrero, the Surprise Rafters manager.  “For him to make that jump was great and then to have that injury was a blow to the work he put in to move up in the organization.  Luckily he is here, healthy and performing.”
Guerrero’s presence in the clubhouse has helped Farris adapt to the Fall League.
“Mike makes things comfortable for me,” Farris said.  “I played for him a couple of seasons ago.  He knows me and I know him which is great.  He really pushes us to make the most out of this experience here.  It has been a good thing having him here for me and the other Brewers guys on the team.”
Keep checking John’s and Cait’s blog for more updates from the AFL this week. It sounds like John is cooking up an interesting piece about Tony Diggs, one of the unheralded members of the Brewers’ player development operation. 
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Roenicke hiring official

It’s official: Ron Roenicke is the next Milwaukee Brewers field manager.  
The Brewers made the announcement Thursday morning and planned to introduce Roenicke, 54, at a 1:30 p.m. CT press conference at Miller Park. Club officials confirmed he was the choice two days earlier, but held off the formal announcement while some final administrative steps were completed and Roenicke traveled to Milwaukee. 
Roenicke got a two-year contract with a club option for 2013.
The former outfielder played 527 games over eight Major League seasons for six different teams, but has made his Major League mark mostly as a coach under Angels manager Mike Scioscia. Roenicke joined Scioscia’s staff in 2000 as the third base coach, and was promoted to bench coach for 2006 after the Rays hired away Joe Maddon. 
Roenicke is the third member of Scioscia’s original staff to be handed a team of his own. Maddon has managed the Rays since 2006, and former Angels pitching coach Bud Black has managed the Padres since 2007. 
Roenicke has not managed in the Major Leagues, but he did manage 643 games in the Minors before joining the Angels’ coaching staff.
He came highly recommended to Brewers officials by a number of current and former colleagues, including former Angels GM Bill Stoneman and Maddon, who lauded Roenicke’s ability to see things that others miss. 
When they were together on the Angels staff, “He was always looking for the advantage, and I was doing the same thing,” Maddon said. “Believe me, you’re getting a really bright baseball person, and one of the most honest people I’ve met in my life. That’s a real good thing when talking to Major League players. He’s going to talk to those guys straight-up.”
Brewers general manager Doug Melvin, assistant GM Gord Ash and special assistant Dan O’Brien all called around for input on the various candidates, and were impressed by Roenicke as a family man and a baseball man with a record of working well with diverse personalities.
Melvin entered the offseason leaning toward choosing a manager with previous managerial experience, and ended up with two such finalists in Bob Melvin and Bobby Valentine. But Roenicke and White Sox bench coach Joey Cora were especially impressive in their interviews. As the search continued, Roenicke rose to the top.
“The more people they talked to, the more he stepped up,” said a source with knowledge of the Brewers’ search. “You kept hearing from people, ‘This guy is ready and has been ready.'”
Roenicke is now getting a chance to prove it. He inherits a Brewers team that won the National League Wild Card in 2008 but posted consecutive sub-.500 seasons under manager Ken Macha, who was let go last month. 
Thursday’s announcement was not expected to include any news about Roenicke’s plans for his coaching staff. Hitting coach Dale Sveum is already in place after signing a two-year contract extension during the League Championship Series. Pitching coach Rick Peterson has one year left on his contract, but Roenicke may have some say in whether Peterson remains in that position. 
Roenicke is the 18th manager in Brewers history and, when he manages the club’s March 31, 2011 season-opener in Cincinnati, will be the club’s sixth skipper in the span of 10 seasons. That list also includes Davey Lopes, Jerry Royster (the interim manager for most of 2002), Ned Yost, Sveum (who managed the final 12 regular season games and four playoff games in ’08) and Macha. 
“Ron brings to the Brewers the skill set needed to maintain high standards of professional excellence and success,” Doug Melvin said in a statement.  “I am extremely confident that he will develop an organizational culture that fosters teamwork.  Ron projects self confidence, authority and enthusiasm, which will inspire performance.  He is a true professional with an extensive background as a player, manager, third-base coach and bench coach.  I was very impressed with the number of positive endorsements we received on his behalf.”
Roenicke resides in Chino Hills, Calif. with his wife, Karen.  The couple has a son named Lance, who is an outfielder at UC-Santa Barbara.  Born in Covina, Calif., Roenicke attended Mount San Antonio College in Walnut, Calif. from 1975-76 before transferring to UCLA in 1977.
His brother, Gary, also played in the Major Leagues and his nephew, Josh, pitches for the Blue Jays.
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New Brewer James talks about waiver claim

Brewers front office man and MLBlogger John Steinmiller landed in Phoenix yesterday for a week of Arizona Fall League baseball and caught up with right-hander Justin James, the pitcher claimed off waivers by Milwaukee from Oakland. James is pitching for the Phoenix Desert Dogs in the AFL, and, according to Steinmiller, will continue to do so, but in a Brewers uniform. The rest of the Brewers prospects are with the Surprise Rafters.
You can read all about John’s first day in the desert and check out photos on his blog, John and Cait Plus Nine. Here’s what James had to say:
“I found out about the claim just before today’s game,” James said. “When I found out, you know you don’t have control over that stuff, you just want to compete.  Being here in the Fall League really opens up a lot of other doors for you as a player and for many people to see you.  There are a large number of scouts at every game watching everyone.”  
James has bounced around throughout his career between the Reds, Blue Jays and A’s organizations as well as a stint in 2009 in the Independent Northern League with Kansas City.  He made his Major League debut this season with the A’s.
“If I’m not pitching for Oakland or another organization, I might as well be pitching for the Brewers.  I really am looking forward to being with Milwaukee and I think I can help the organization win.  I want to finish up strong here in Arizona with the Fall League, do what I did last year and come back ready to go in Spring Training.”
In the Fall League this season, James has made six relief appearances of one inning each and has a 4.50 ERA.
“It’s been going well here in Arizona,” James said.  “Numbers-wise it might not be the best, but I’m learning a lot and competing.  I’m throwing my change up a little bit more because that needs to be a little more polished.  I’m just trying to throw strikes more consistently.”
I’ll link to more of John’s stuff from Arizona over the coming days.
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Roenicke convinced Brewers to go with first-timer

Brewers general manager Doug Melvin might have entered the offseason leaning toward hiring a manager with previous Major League experience, and he had two such finalists in Bobby Valentine and Bob Melvin. But White Sox bench coach Joey Cora and Angels bench coach Ron Roenicke were so impressive in their interviews, they prompted an open-minded Melvin to rethink his stance.

In the end, Roenicke’s recommendations from former and current colleagues may have pushed him over the top. Among those who lauded his candidacy for the Brewers’ opening were Rays manager Joe Maddon, who preceded Roenicke as the Angels’ bench coach, former Angels GM Bill Stoneman and Brewers television broadcaster Brian Anderson, who worked alongside Roenicke at Double-A San Antonio in the late 1990s. 
“The more people they talked to, the more he stepped up,” said a source with knowledge of the Brewers’ hiring process. “You kept hearing from people, ‘This guy is ready and has been ready.'” 
Doug Melvin declined to comment until the Brewers make the hiring official. That’s not expected until Thursday evening at the earliest because of some administrative final steps.
Roenicke, a former outfielder, played 527 games over eight Major League seasons for six different teams, but has made his Major League mark mostly as coach for Angels manager Mike Scioscia. Roenicke has also managed six seasons and 643 games in the Minor Leagues. 
Maddon was particularly persuasive in his recommendation for Roenicke, lauding his ability to see things that others miss. The Brewers were told about Roenicke’s ability to communicate with players, his focus on baserunning and outfield defense and his commitment to the Angels’ aggressive style. Brewers officials want to see their own team return to that style of play after a more station-to-station approach under Macha for the past two seasons. 
Club officials were also impressed by Roenicke as a family man and a baseball man with a record of working well with diverse personalities. 
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Amid flurry of moves, Brewers cut ties with Hoffman

The Brewers on Tuesday declined 2011 contract options for pitchers Trevor Hoffman and Doug Davis and catcher Gregg Zaun, adding all three veterans to the pool of Major League free agents. 
All three moves were widely expected. 
The highest profile of those players belongs to 43-year-old Hoffman, who notched his 600th career save amid a trying 2010 but was replaced as closer by rookie right-hander John Axford. Hoffman’s contract included a $7 million mutual option for 2011, and the price of his buyout increased from $500,000 to $750,000 when Hoffman finished his 35th game of the season on Sept. 26. 
Davis’ deal included a $6.5 million mutual option with a $1 million buyout. His 2010 season was a bust because of health issues. 
Zaun’s contract included a $2.25 million club option for next season, but he is still recovering from shoulder surgery and will get a $250,000 buyout instead. Zaun said in August that he intends to play in 2011, but considering the Brewers have Jonathan Lucroy and George Kottaras on the 40-man roster and Mike Rivera signed to a Minor League contract, it’s difficult to envision Zaun returning. 
The team also made two additions on Tuesday, claiming 29-year-old right-handed pitcher Justin James off waivers from the Oakland A’s and selecting the contract of catcher Martin Maldonado from Triple-A Nashville. Both James and Maldonado took spots on the 40-man roster. 
James was pitching in the Arizona Fall Leagues for the Phoenix Desert Dogs, who happened to square-off on Tuesday against a Surprise Rafters team that includes the Brewers’ own slew of prospects. James finished the 2010 season in the Majors with five appearances in relief for the A’s but spent most of the year in the Minors, compiling a 1.83 ERA at the Double-A and Triple-A levels. 
Maldonado, 24, is a defensive-minded catcher who batted .239 at three stops in Milwaukee’s Minor League chain in 2010. He’s currently playing for Mayaguez in the Puerto Rican Winter League.  
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Jeffress, Gindl picked for AFL showcase

gindl-jeffress.jpgBrewers prospects Caleb Gindl (left) and Jeremy Jeffress have been selected to play in the Arizona Fall League’s Rising Stars Game on Saturday in Surprise, Ariz.

For the second straight year, the game will be streamed on MLB.com and shown on MLB Network. Anyone watching will see at least one Major League prospect and many former first-round picks — from all 30 big league organizations. The teams will be split into the two AFL divisions — East and West. 
The showcase has been a springboard to the Major Leagues. Of the 50 players on the 2009 Rising Stars rosters, more than half — 28 to be precise — played in the big leagues this past season. The National League Rookie of the Year vote should be dotted with Rising Stars ’09 alumni. Buster Posey, Starlin Castro, Jose Tabata, Ike Davis and Mike Leake all were Rising Stars last year. 
Jeffress, a right-handed pitcher, already made his Major League debut. He put up a 2.70 ERA in 10 late-season relief appearances for the Brewers and continued to find success pitching for the Surprise Rafters in the AFL. Through his first six appearances, he had allowed four earned runs for a 1.23 ERA, but did walk seven batters in his first 7 1/3 innings.
Gindl, an outfielder, batted .325 in his first 10 AFL games with two home runs. He spent the 2010 regular season at Double-A Huntsville and batted .272 with 33 doubles, nine homers, 60 RBIs and 10 stolen bases.
The Rafters are 11-6 and leading the AFL’s West Division after a win on Monday behind Brewers pitching prospect Michael Fiers. He’s working on a cut fastball this fall, and you can read about his outing here
For full Fall League coverage, check out the special section of MLB.com
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Three Brewers hit the market; three more coming

The celebration was still raging inside the Giants’ clubhouse in Arlington and outside in the streets of San Francisco on Monday night when baseball’s offseason business began. Before midnight, the Major League Baseball Players Association fired up the hot stove by releasing the names of 142 free agents, including three Brewers. 
Per new rules made public just last month, Milwaukee pitchers Dave Bush and Chris Capuano and infielder Craig Counsell were declared free agents immediately after the Giants clinched the World Series. Three more — pitchers Doug Davis and Trevor Hoffman and catcher Gregg Zaun — are expected to join the free agent pool when the Brewers decline their 2011 options. 
The new rules dictate that options must be resolved within three days of the end of the World Series, Milwaukee assistant general manager Gord Ash said. That would make Thursday at midnight ET the deadline. 
The rules also shorten the period of exclusive negotiation between teams and their own free agents from 15 days after the World Series to five. That window closes at midnight ET on Saturday. Beginning Sunday, free agents can negotiate with any team. 
Players typically exercise their right to test the open market, but the Brewers may show some interest in bringing back Capuano or Counsell. With Capuano, the question could be whether the team is willing to take on risk — the left-hander returned in 2010 from his second career Tommy John surgery but pitched well, posting a 3.95 ERA in 24 appearances including a 2.91 ERA in six September starts. With Counsell, the question could be whether he views the Brewers as a legitimate contender — he batted .250 as a useful bench option and could draw interest from teams looking for a versatile defender. 
The three players with options, meanwhile, will probably move on. 
The highest profile of those players belongs to 43-year-old Hoffman, who notched his 600th career save amid a trying 2010 but was replaced as closer by rookie right-hander John Axford. Hoffman’s contract includes a $7 million mutual option for 2011 that the club will decline. The price of his buyout increased from $500,000 to $750,000 when Hoffman finished his 35th game of the season on Sept. 26. 
Davis’ deal includes a $6.5 million option with a $1 million buyout. His 2010 season was a bust because of health issues. 
Zaun’s contract includes a $2.25 million club option for next season, but he is still recovering from shoulder surgery and will almost certainly get a $250,000 buyout instead. Zaun said in August that he intends to play in 2011, but considering the Brewers have Jonathan Lucroy and George Kottaras on the 40-man roster and Mike Rivera signed to a Minor League contract, it’s difficult to envision Zaun returning. 
Of the Brewers’ free agents, only Hoffman qualified for compensation in the Elias rankings. Hoffman made the cut as Type B, meaning the Brewers would reap an extra pick between the first and second round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, but only if they offer Hoffman arbitration and he declines and then signs elsewhere. 
It’s a moot point, because the Brewers would not risk Hoffman accepting an arbitration offer. That means the Brewers will not have any extra Draft picks for the second straight year. 
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