December 2010

Some spring schedule tweaks

Fans planning a trip to Phoenix for Spring Training games in March will want to note a trio of changes to the Brewers’ schedule:

  • The Brewers added a split-squad game to their schedule on Sunday, March 6, and will play both at Texas in Surprise and at Oakland in Phoenix at 1:05 p.m. local time that day. 
  • In place of the road game originally scheduled at Oakland on March 28, the Brewers will add a home game vs. San Diego at 1:05 p.m.  
  • The team’s final game in Arizona on March 29 was moved to a 12:05 p.m. local start.  

The Brewers will now play 32 exhibition games this season, including 17 games at Maryvale Baseball Park. 

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.) and Tuesday, March 29 (12:05 p.m.).
Tickets for the Milwaukee Brewers home Spring Training games are on sale now in four seating areas: Field Box ($22), Infield Reserved ($16), Outfield Reserved ($13) and Lawn Seating ($8).  Information on Spring Training Season Tickets can be obtained by calling the  Brewers Ticket Office at 414-902-4000.  
The Brewers’ spring schedule is available in calendar form at Brewers.com.
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Nieves to undergo physical Friday

The Brewers have a deal in place for catcher Wil Nieves but it won’t be finalized until Friday, when he is scheduled to undergo a morning physical exam in Milwaukee. If he passes, Nieves will sign a one-year, non-guaranteed contract and will compete with George Kottaras and perhaps Martin Maldonado to back-up regular catcher Jonathan Lucroy. 

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Brewers have met with Pavano

The Brewers were one of the teams to meet in person Tuesday with free agent right-hander Carl Pavano, general manager Doug Melvin said.
The Twins are pushing to sign the 34-year-old, according to multiple reports, and the Nationals have also been linked. Pavano attended the Winter Meetings in person to join agent Tom O’Connell for meetings with clubs.
The Brewers are looking at the free agent market with a cautious eye and it remains to be seen whether the club gets deeper into talks with Pavano. But Milwaukee’s interest makes sense if you follow a line of thinking like this: 
– Melvin already made a splash by acquiring Shaun Marcum from the Blue Jays but has been clear he wants at least one more starter. 
– Melvin is aiming higher than the list of pitchers coming off injuries, like Brandon Webb and Jeff Francis and Chris Young. That means he’s either pursuing pitchers via trades, or has softened his stance about trying to stay away from big-ticket free agents. 
– The Marcum deal aside, trade talks have been tough. Melvin knew going into the Winter Meetings that teams were placing a very high value on their young pitching, and this week has only reinforced that. 
– If the trade market isn’t there, and your own pitching prospects (Mark Rogers, Wily Peralta, Amaury Rivas) aren’t quite ready yet, you start looking at free agency. 
– If you’re a general manager looking at free agency and you don’t have nine figures to throw at Cliff Lee, you start looking at Pavano. 
Outside of Lee, Pavano is near the top of the list of free agent pitchers still available after going 17-11 with a 3.75 ERA and seven complete games last season for the Twins. After a couple of injury-shortened years with the Yankees, he’s stayed healthy for two straight seasons with at least 199 innings. He turns 35 next month. 
The Twins are pushing hard to re-sign Pavano this week, according to multiple reports. The Nationals also have been linked to him. 
When Melvin was asked Monday about the Brewers’ potential interest, he declined to say. 
“I’d rather not get into that,” Melvin said. “I’ll leave that up to the rumors. When you get down to the end, you’re talking about certain people, and you don’t want to tip your hand about who you’re talking to.” 
What would it cost to sign Pavano? Consider three recent re-signings: Left-hander Jorge De La Rosa with the Rockies for two years and $21.5 million with a third-year option that could boost the value to $32.5 million. Ted Lilly (who, like Pavano, is 34) with the Dodgers for three years and $33 million. Bronson Arroyo with the Reds for three years and $35 million. 
Last year at the Winter Meetings, Melvin signed left-hander Randy Wolf for three years and $29.75 million.
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Thinking out loud about Pavano

The deeper we get into these Winter Meetings, the more it makes sense that the Brewers could be one of the teams showing interest in free agent right-hander Carl Pavano. I don’t know whether the Brewers were one of the four teams to meet in person with Pavano yesterday, but it would not surprise me. 
Here’s why:
– GM Doug Melvin already made a splash by acquiring Shaun Marcum from the Blue Jays but has been clear he wants at least one more starter. 
– Melvin is aiming higher than the list of pitchers coming off injuries, like Brandon Webb and Jeff Francis and Chris Young. That means he’s either pursuing pitchers via trades, or has softened his stance about trying to stay away from big-ticket free agents.
– The Marcum deal aside, trade talks have been tough. Melvin knew going into the Winter Meetings that teams were placing a very high value on their young pitching, and this week has only reinforced that.
– If the trade market isn’t there, and your own pitching prospects (Mark Rogers, Wily Peralta, Amaury Rivas) aren’t quite ready yet, you start looking at free agency.
– If you’re a general manager looking at free agency and you don’t have nine figures to throw at Cliff Lee, you start looking at Pavano. 
Outside of Lee, Pavano is near the top of the list of free agent pitchers still available after going 17-11 with a 3.75 ERA and seven complete games last season for the Twins. After a couple of injury-shortened years with the Yankees, he’s stayed healthy for two straight seasons with at least 199 innings. He turns 35 next month. 
The Twins are pushing hard to re-sign Pavano this week, according to multiple reports. The Nationals also have been linked to him.
When Melvin was asked Monday about the Brewers’ potential interest, he said this: 
“I’d rather not get into that,” Melvin said. “I’ll leave that up to the rumors. When you get down to the end, you’re talking about certain people, and you don’t want to tip your hand about who you’re talking to.”
What would it cost to sign Pavano? Consider three recent re-signings: Left-hander Jorge De La Rosa with the Rockies for two years and $21.5 million with a third-year option that could boost the value to $32.5 million. Ted Lilly (who, like Pavano, is 34) with the Dodgers for three years and $33 million. Bronson Arroyo with the Reds for three years and $35 million. 
Last year at the Winter Meetings, Melvin signed left-hander Randy Wolf for three years and $29.75 million.
Again, I don’t know whether the Brewers have met with O’Connell about Pavano. Just something to think about this afternoon…
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Lawrie knew trade was coming

Lawrie.jpg

Shaun Marcum said he was surprised to be traded to the Brewers Brett Lawrie had the opposite reaction when he was shipped to the Blue Jays this week to balance the deal.
“It was something that I knew was going to happen,” Lawrie told reporters on Tuesday, a day after Milwaukee ad Toronto finalized their trade. “The Brewers obviously needed pitching, and knowing that I’m one of the top prospects, getting traded was obviously in the cards. I knew it was going to happen. I just didn’t know when.”
Lawrie is one of the top-ranked offensive prospects in the game. He entered the 2010 campaign listed at No.26 on MLB.com’s Top 50 prospects and likely will improve on that standing prior to the start of next season.
The trade is a homecoming of sorts for the native of Langley, British Columbia, who was a member of Team Canada at the 2009 World Baseball Classic and the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
“It’s something special,” Lawrie said of joining the only team that plays north of the border. “The opportunity for me to get to play Major League Baseball in any city is an honor, but this is a bonus because of the fact that it’s in Canada.
“I’m happy that I’m coming home, but there’s still a lot of work to be done, and now my path is to play Major League baseball and do it sooner than later.”
And later in the story:
All of the talk surrounding the former star of the Canadian Junior program hasn’t been positive. There have been whispers around baseball that Milwaukee had issues with his attitude, which, according to some, borders on cockiness.
The Blue Jays have never shied away from players who sometimes fall into that category, though. Jose Bautista had been similarly stereotyped earlier in his career and nobody has questioned catching prospect J.P. Arencibia’s belief in his own abilities.
What is considered cocky to one person can be taken by another as having the confidence required to succeed at the highest level.
“I had somebody who has been around the game for 30 years tell me he has never seen somebody play harder and you’ll never have an issue with him between the lines,” Anthopoulos said.
“Is he intense? Is he competitive? Yes. He’s somebody that plays the game to win. You’re not going to get 25 players that are cut from the same cloth. But I know one thing — his work ethic and the way he plays the game won’t be matched.”
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Brewers reportedly add catcher Nieves

The Brewers were on the verge of a Major League deal with free agent catcher Wil Nieves late Tuesday, according to FoxSports.com. 
Nieves, 33, spent the past three seasons with the Washington Nationals and was non-tendered last week. He batted .203 in 158 at-bats in 2010 and threw out 10 of 41 base-stealers. 
He’s played parts of seven seasons in the Major Leagues with the Padres, Yankees and Nationals and it was not immediately clear whether Nieves was the type of player that new Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said Tuesday he would like to pair with 24-year-old starting catcher Jonathan Lucroy. 
Lucroy broke into the Majors in 2010 and Roenicke said he sees Lucroy playing 100-120 games next season. 
“The other guy, whoever his backup is going to be, is going to get some playing time,” Roenicke said in an afternoon meeting with reporters. 
Having a veteran behind Lucroy “will just help that young guy understand what it takes to be that total package catcher,” Roenicke said. “It’s not just blocking balls. It’s not just throwing out runners, but it is about game calling, and it is the communication that you have with a pitcher, and when he’s struggling and in between innings you walk over to talk to him about what’s going on and try to get him back on the right track.
“That takes a lot of experience. But when you have an experienced guy out there helping you with it, it makes it a lot easier.”
If the Nieves signing becomes official, the Brewers would have four catchers on the roster with Lucroy, Nieves, George Kottaras and Minor Leaguer Martin Maldonado. Kottaras is out of options and batted .203 with 10 home runs last season in 212 at-bats. He threw out four of 48 would-be basestealers, or 8.3 percent. 
In October, the Brewers also signed Mike Rivera to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Major League camp. Rivera was the Brewers’ backup catcher from 2006-09.
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Brewers looking at backup catchers

The Brewers are focused mostly on pitching at these Winter Meetings, but they’re also dabbling in other areas. 
Catcher appears to be one of them. Manager Ron Roenicke hinted that the Brewers were looking for a backup to 24-year-old catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who made strides as a rookie in 2010. 
“I think Doug is looking at a lot of different things, and I think any time you have a veteran catcher with a young guy, especially if it’s the right veteran, it’s really going to bring that young guy along,” Roenicke said. 
He offered Bengie Molina as an example of the type of player he likes. Molina happens to be a free agent and he was in Anaheim with Roenicke from 2000-05, but Roenicke didn’t specifically say that the Brewers were making any overtures. 
The Rockies are reportedly interested in Molina, who played for the Giants and Rangers last season.
Roenicke said he sees Lucroy catching 100-120 games next season.  
“The other guy, whoever his backup is going to be, is going to get some playing time,” Roenicke said. 
Having a veteran “will just help that young guy understand what it takes to be that total package catcher,” Roenicke said. “It’s not just blocking balls.  It’s not just throwing out runners, but it is about game calling and it is the communication that you have with a pitcher and when he’s struggling and in between innings you walk over to talk to him about what’s going on and try to get him back on the right track. 
“That takes a lot of experience. But when you have an experienced guy out there helping you with it, it makes it a lot easier.”
At the moment, Milwaukee has three catchers on the roster in Lucroy, George Kottaras and Minor Leaguer Martin Maldonado. Kottaras is out of options and batted .203 with 10 home runs last season in 212 at-bats. He threw out four of 48 would-be base stealers, or 8.3 percent.
The Brewers also are looking at utility men. General manager Doug Melvin said the club at some point had reached out the agent for Delwyn Young, who became a free agent Nov. 29 after he was designated for assignment by the Pirates. Assistant GM Gord Ash said the Brewers have not heard back from agent Matt Colleran. 
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel was first to report the Brewers’ connection to Young. It’s an interesting one; In July 2009, Young called Ryan Braun a coward after a series of plunkings in a Brewers-Pirates game at PNC Park, prompting Fielder to respond, “Who the [heck] is Delwyn Young?” 
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Melvin still on hunt for pitching

The Brewers’ talks with the agent for second baseman Rickie Weeks might have been the big news on Day 2 of the Winter Meetings, but Milwaukee officials also continued the search for another starter. It could lead in any number of different directions, but general manager Doug Melvin indicated Tuesday that he was not ready to dip into the pool of players looking to bounce back from injury.
That list includes some known names like Jeff Francis, Brandon Webb, Chris Young, Rich Harden and Brad Penny.
The Brewers have been linked to Francis this winter, but on Tuesday Melvin said, “I haven’t even called his guy.” Ditto for Webb, though the Brewers scouted Webb in the instructional league. 
“I think some of those guys have a chance of bouncing back, but how many of them have?” Melvin asked. “There may be a point where we get involved later on. … I’m not saying we won’t go back that path, but we’re not focusing on it now.” 
Melvin would prefer a pitcher without the immediate injury past, and didn’t rule out looking at his unproven, in-house options. He’d like prospects Mark Rogers, Wily Peralta and Amaury Rivas to report to Spring Training aiming for a spot in the Opening Day rotation. Jeremy Jeffress is more likely ticketed for relief. 
The Brewers plan to meet Wednesday or Thursday with Michael Moye, the agent for left-hander Chris Capuano. The Brewers have already extended Capuano an offer to return in 2011. 
But Melvin is also looking at trades. The Brewers have had contact this week with two teams in a position to trade young pitchers — Atlanta and Baltimore — but Melvin downplayed those talks. The Orioles have already traded away two pitching prospects to get third baseman Mark Reynolds from Arizona, lessening the chances of a deal with Milwaukee. Talks between the Brewers and Braves have not gone very far. 
“We’ve had talks with them, but it doesn’t seem to be a fit for us,” Melvin said. “I’m not sure they have guys that they’re really pushing to move, other than the Japanese guy [Kenshin Kawakami].” 
The Braves are willing to assume a large part of the $6.67 million owed Kawakami next season in the final year of his contract. Melvin said he “couldn’t say” whether he was interested in the right-hander. 
“We don’t have anything ongoing with” the Braves, Melvin said. 
The Chicago Tribune cited sources in reporting the Brewers had asked the Rays about right-hander Matt Garza, who earned $3.35 million during a 2010 season that included 15 wins, a 3.91 ERA and a July 26 no-hitter against the Tigers. He’s arbitration-eligible for three more seasons. 
Garza would fetch a high price, but that’s nothing new for Melvin this winter. He’s not surprised that other teams are hanging tightly to their pitching. 
“Teams aren’t motivated to move the pitchers,” Melvin said. “For them to move them, I have to overwhelm them with something. Teams don’t have excess pitching.” 
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Brewers begin talks on Weeks extension

The Brewers had a productive meeting with Greg Genske, the agent for second baseman Rickie Weeks, on Day 2 of the Winter Meetings and club officials remain cautiously optimistic about reaching a contract extension. 
“We had a productive meeting and we have agreed to continue to talk,” assistant general manager Gord Ash said. 
Asked whether contract proposals had been exchanged, Ash said, “I think we’re going to leave it at, we have reason to continue to talk.”
Weeks is arbitration-eligible this winter after earning $2.75 million last year. He will be a free agent after the 2011 season. 
So the Brewers and Genske have two options. Either come to an agreement on a multi-year extension that would buy out one or some of Weeks’ free agent seasons, something the club has already done with left fielder Ryan Braun, right-fielder Corey Hart and No. 1 starter Yovani Gallardo, or settle for a one-year contract to avoid arbitration. 
The Brewers prefer the long-term option, but talks with Genske are complicated by the difficulty in valuing Weeks, the second overall pick in the 2003 Draft. On one hand, he’s coming off the finest season of his career, having set career-highs in runs (112), hits (175), doubles (32), home runs (29), RBIs (83) and hit by pitches (25). Weeks was healthy all year and broke Paul Molitor’s 19-year old franchise record for plate appearances.
But before that, Weeks’ career had been marred by injuries.
Weeks was promoted to the Majors for good midway through the 2005 season and immediately ran into trouble with injuries. He had surgery to repair a ligament in his left thumb at the end of the season, and had another procedure in 2006 to repair a tendon in his right wrist. He spent a bit less than three weeks on the disabled list in 2007 with tendonitis in that wrist as scar tissue broke up. He injured his left knee during the 2008 National League Division Series and needed surgery to repair his meniscus. And in 2009, he was lost for the season on May 17 to a left wrist injury that needed yet another surgery, the same procedure Weeks underwent nearly three years earlier on the other hand. 
In 2010, Weeks finally stayed healthy for a Major League-best 754 plate appearances and proved one of baseball’s best offensive second basemen. 
It makes finding a “comp” for Weeks — a comparable player for valuation purposes — somewhat complicated. 
“He is [tough] because of his capabilities, what he did last year, he hasn’t been able to do on a consistent basis because of injury,” Ash said. “It’s an interesting situation. … 
“It’s a different discussion if it’s a one-year discussion as an arbitration player versus a multi-year discussion. Arbitration is clearly, ‘What have you done to date?’ Free agency obviously is, ‘What do you think the guy is worth going forward?'”
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Trade blindsided Marcum

The Brewers and Blue Jays on Monday finalized a trade that came out of nowhere for right-hander Shaun Marcum, who said his agent, Rex Gary, had just begin conversations with the Jays about a contract extension. Marcum, who earned $950,000 last season, is arbitration-eligible and two seasons removed from free agency. 
Marcum said his representatives, Rex Gary and Jim Turner, had just begin conversations with the Blue Jays about a contract extension. Marcum, who earned $850,000 last season, is arbitration-eligible and two seasons removed from free agency. 
“It kind of caught me off-guard,” he said. “It was more of a phone call than a formal offer, just to see if we were interested, and two days later, the trade happened.”  
Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos wouldn’t talk about his own efforts to sign Marcum to an extension, and Brewers GM Doug Melvin said the prospect of similar talks between the Brewers and Marcum did “not necessarily” come into play during talks. 
“I’d like to meet him first,” Melvin said. “We’re always open to extensions. Sometimes they don’t happen. It’s obvious that we’ve got some players now that it hasn’t happened with. We’ll wait and see.” 
Marcum said he is open to the idea of an extension with Milwaukee. 
“My agent is down there right not and he asked me [on Sunday] if I would be open to it, and I told him yes,” Marcum said. “I’ve been to Milwaukee’s stadium and seen the guys they have and know the direction they’re going. I know the kind of fan support they get. It’s something I’m definitely interested in.” 
But there’s time to talk about the contract later, Marcum said. He could be introduced to the local media at Miller Park early next week. 
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