January 2011

Kilar family in final hours of fundraising bid

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The Kilar Family, whose story I featured on Brewers.com about 10 days ago, is in the final hours of its bid for a grant from the Pepsi Refresh Project and needs some help. Only the top two proposals will win $250,000, and the Kilar’s project slipped into third today. Voting ends tomorrow. 
The family is trying to raise the money for the Treyton Kilar Field of Dreams in Whitewater, Wis., in honor of their young son who was killed in an auto accident last year. 
I hope Brewers fans will take a moment to vote today and tomorrow for this good cause. You can vote three times per day — once apiece via e-mail, text message and Facebook.
Go to www.refresheverything/treytonkilar to vote.
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Weeks sets deadline for contract talks

Brewers officials say they aren’t worried about second baseman Rickie Weeks self-imposed start of Spring Training deadline for talks between his agent and the club about a contract extension.
Weeks is in his final winter of arbitration eligibility and could reach free agency following the 2011 season if the sides cannot reach an agreement on an extension. He doesn’t want to be distracted by those discussions after reporting to Maryvale Baseball Park later this month.
“After Spring Training [begins], I want to focus on the year and the team,” Weeks said.
But that deadline didn’t bother Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash, who has been handling discussions with agent Greg Genske regarding Weeks. 
Ash and Genske were believed to have tabled multi-year talks to focus on a one-year deal on Jan. 18, when Weeks filed for $7.2 million in arbitration and the Brewers offered $4.85 million. But Ash said Sunday at “Brewers On Deck” that the multi-year talks were never totally abandoned, and that the sides have had “parallel” discussions all along in hopes of avoiding an arbitration hearing that is scheduled for Feb. 17. 
“I think the process creates a deadline, to some degree,” Ash said. “We continue to talk about all kinds of different things, ever since the first of December. I don’t see [Weeks’ deadline] as an issue at all. …
“In fact, I’m glad he said that, because that’s the way it should be. Once you get on the field, that’s where your focus needs to be.”
The gap in Weeks’ filing figure and the Brewers’ is $2.345 million. The midpoint of figures is $6.025 million.
Ash said that if the talks swing toward a multi-year agreement, a deal could be struck very quickly. 
“We’re still talking,” Ash said. “That’s good news when you’re still talking. … There have been multi-year deals of significance done in a half-hour. You know what the market is and you have willingness on both sides, they’re actually pretty easy to do if there’s an understandoing of that the ‘deal zone’ is.”
The trouble with Weeks has been finding that zone. On one hand he’s coming off his best season,having led the Majors in home runs (28), RBIs (81) and runs scored (110) from the leadoff spot. On the other hand, it was Weeks’ first injury-free season in years.
Weeks said he’d spoken to Ash and general manager Doug Melvin and expressed his interest in an extension. The more difficult part is reaching an agreement.
“I can’t say if I’m disappointed or not,” Weeks said. “It is what it is. Of course, I’m a Brewer this year and that’s all that matters. I’m happy for the team. They made some great moves this year to help us get to that next level and go deep into the playoffs. It sounds good on paper, but we have to work it out.”
Weeks is one of two arbitration-eligible Brewers still unsigned. The other is pitcher Shaun Marcum, who is seeking $5 million in 2011. The Brewers countered at $3 million. Marcum’s hearing is scheduled for the week of Feb. 7.
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Brewers On Deck live blog

Here’s the latest from Brewers On Deck:
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The attendance figure is in and it’s a record: A total of 11,299 fans passed through Brewers On Deck today, besting last year’s crowd of 10,638. In 2009, the first year the event was held at Milwaukee’s convention center, 10,411 fans attended.
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Nobody is more excited about the club’s 2011 prospects than principal owner Mark Attanasio, though he’ll be signing some big paychecks again this season. By acquiring Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, among others, and paying a record arbitration salary to first baseman Prince Fielder, the payroll will push $90 million again next season.
“Once again, I’ve managed to put us in a position where we could lose money this year, even with three million fans, which we project coming out,” Attanasio said. “But there’s nothing better than winning.”
The trick, Attanasio says, is balancing the desire to win now with the need to compete consistency. To that end, club officials have already assembled payroll projections through 2015. That work will help Attanasio & Co. decide who can be locked-up beyond their current contracts. 
Attanasio, by the way, has been added to a committee of owners working on the next collective bargaining agreement. The current CBA expires in December.
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Second baseman Rickie Weeks says he wants to focus on baseball once he reports to Spring Training. That means if the Brewers and Weeks’ agent, Greg Genske, are going to work out a multi-year extension, the calendar is running short. 
“After Spring Training [begins], I want to focus on the year and the team,” Weeks said. 
Brewers assistant GM Gord Ash said he isn’t overly concerned about Weeks’ deadline. For the reasons why, check out my blog item on the matter
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Ryan Braun considered going to Dallas to watch his buddy Aaron Rodgers play in the Super Bowl, but he’s leaning against it because he doesn’t want to miss any of his workouts. Braun has been working hard this winter with one of baseball’s fitness freaks — former Brewer Gabe Kapler. 
They’ve been using the facilities at Peperdine University, which is near Braun’s home.
“That guy is an animal,” Braun said. “He’s made me a much better athlete and helped me get bigger and stronger this offseason. I’ve known Gabe since I was 12, 13 years old, but this is the first offseason we’ve worked out. Trying to compete with him has made me better. His intensity is amazing.”
So Braun will probably cheer Rodgers and the Packers from home next Sunday.
“I’m too paranoid about missing workouts,” he said. 
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New manager Ron Roenicke and his coaches broke in the event’s main stage with a question and answer session led by TV man Brian Anderson. Roenicke told fans he does not like talking about himself, but he did reveal this piece of inside information: One of his hobbies is woodworking.
“I’ve got a lot going on off the field,” Roenicke said. “This winter, I haven’t had the opportunity to do the things I normally would do. That’s a good thing.”
That’s, of course, because he has been busy preparing for his first season as a Major League manager. The first question of Roenicke was a familiar one: How will he do a better job than his predecessors of meshing with players like Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder?
“Communication in this game is very important,” Roenicke said. “I realize that today, that’s something you have to go out of your way to do. … I think it’s important for [players] to know you’re behind them all the time.”
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Other tidbits from that coaches’ session:
– Pitching coach Rick Kranitz will gather his pitchers for a voluntary minicamp at Maryvale Baseball Park on Feb. 12. He’s already been getting to know members of the staff but said that camp would give him a better idea of what he’ll be working with in 2011. 
– Bench coach Jerry Narron, the former Reds manager, downplayed the fact he’s been out of baseball for the past two years. He said he was thrilled to spend that time with a son who’s in high school, and watched more games on MLB Network that he would have been able to see had he been working.
– Roenicke said he’s glad to have three holdovers from last year’s Major League coaching staff — hitting coach Dave Sveum, bullpen coach Stan Kyles and third base coach Ed Sedar (who moved from first base). Sveum sounded impressed so far.
“Ron is an aggressive manager and we have some really aggressive players,” Sveum said. “They’re champing at the bit to play for this guy.”
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Almonte invited to camp

The Brewers invited infielder Erick Almonte to Major League Spring Training today, bringing to 13 the number of non-roster invitees to camp.

Almonte, who turns 33 on Monday, spent each of the past two years with the Brewers’ Triple-A affiliate in Nashville and is coming off one of his best seasons. He batted a career-best .320 in 2010 with 21 doubles and 38 RBIs. 
Almonte has a bit of Major League experience, appearing in 39 games with the Yankees in 2001 and 2003.
Following is the camp roster as of Thursday. Players with asterisks are the non-roster invitees:
Pitchers (27)
59 John Axford……………………………………..RHP
21 Zach Braddock …………………………………LHP
45 Mark DiFelice* …………………………………RHP
48 Tim Dillard* ……………………………………..RHP
52 Pat Egan…………………………………………RHP
49 Yovani Gallardo ……………………………….RHP
54 Sean Green …………………………………….RHP
13 Zack Greinke …………………………………..RHP
32 LaTroy Hawkins ……………………………….RHP
64 Robert Hinton* …………………………………RHP
46 Justin James……………………………………RHP
61 Brandon Kintzler ………………………………RHP
50 Kameron Loe …………………………………..RHP
18 Shaun Marcum ………………………………..RHP
58 Mike McClendon………………………………RHP
66 Roque Mercedes ……………………………..RHP
65 Dan Merklinger …………………………………LHP
38 Chris Narveson…………………………………LHP
26 Manny Parra…………………………………….LHP
73 Wily Peralta……………………………………..RHP
47 Amaury Rivas ………………………………….RHP
37 Mark Rogers ……………………………………RHP
40 Takashi Saito …………………………………..RHP
72 Cody Scarpetta ………………………………..RHP
71 Zack Segovia*………………………………….RHP
57 Mitch Stetter …………………………………….LHP
43 Randy Wolf………………………………………LHP
Catchers (7)
76 Anderson De La Rosa*………………………….C
16 George Kottaras …………………………………..C
20 Jonathan Lucroy …………………………………..C
60 Martin Maldonado…………………………………C
33 Wil Nieves……………………………………………C
67 Shawn Riggans* …………………………………..C
11 Mike Rivera* ………………………………………..C
Infielders (11)
74 Erick Almonte* …………………………………..INF
3 Yuniesky Betancourt……………………………SS
30 Craig Counsell …………………………………..INF
9 Luis Cruz ………………………………………….INF
63 Eric Farris …………………………………………INF
28 Prince Fielder……………………………………..1B
24 Mat Gamel …………………………………………3B
68 Edwin Maysonet*……………………………….INF
14 Casey McGehee …………………………………3B
23 Rickie Weeks ……………………………………..2B
75 Zelous Wheeler* ………………………………..INF
Outfielders (8)
12 Brandon Boggs…………………………………..OF
8 Ryan Braun ……………………………………….OF
7 Chris Dickerson ………………………………….OF
77 Caleb Gindl* ………………………………………OF
27 Carlos Gomez ……………………………………OF
1 Corey Hart …………………………………………OF
62 Jeremy Reed*…………………………………….OF
70 Logan Schafer*…………………………………..OF
Major League Staff
10 Ron Roenicke…………………………….Manager
35 Garth Iorg ………………………………..1B Coach
39 Rick Kranitz………………………Pitching Coach
53 Stan Kyles…………………………Bullpen Coach
36 Jerry Narron………………………..Bench Coach
6 Ed Sedar …………………………………3B Coach
29 Dale Sveum ………………………..Hitting Coach
56 Joe Crawford ………………Coaching Assistant
55 Marcus Hanel ………………….Bullpen Catcher
31 John Shelby ………………….Outfield Instructor
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Quiet on Weeks, Marcum fronts

Brewers officials say they are making steady but slow progress with their two remaining arbitration-eligible players, and will get a chance to chat in person with second baseman Rickie Weeks and right-hander Shaun Marcum at Sunday’s “Brewers On Deck” event. 
Neither assistant general manager Gord Ash, who is handling talks with Weeks agent Greg Genske, nor senior director of business operations Teddy Werner, who is engaged with agent Rex Gary on Marcum, could report any breakthroughs this week. 
“We continue to have dialogue but nothing new to report,” Ash wrote in an e-mail Thursday morning, when club officials were meeting with manager Ron Roenicke and the Brewers’ new coaching staff at Miller Park. 
 
Weeks and Genske filed for $7.2 million in arbitration and the Brewers countered at $4.85 million, a gap of $2.345 million. The midpoint of figures is $6.025 million. 
Weeks earned $2.75 million in 2010 and had a breakthrough year, leading the Majors in home runs (28), RBIs (81) and runs scored (110) from the leadoff spot. But his case is complicated because many of Weeks’ previous seasons had been marred by injuries, especially to his hands and wrists. 
Marcum earned $850,000 from the Blue Jays in 2010 and also enjoyed a career year, returning from a year lost to Tommy John elbow surgery to go 13-8 with a 3.64 ERA in 31 starts. The Brewers acquired him in early December for top prospect Brett Lawrie. 
Marcum and Gary filed for $5 million in arbitration and the Brewers offered $3 million. 
“I would say [talks] have been productive, and I have a very good history with Rex Gary, who also represents Dave Bush,” said Werner, referring to the former Brewers right-hander who settled with the team last winter well ahead of an arbitration hearing. “We’ve been through this process before.” 
In both cases, the Brewers’ talks could hinge on other players in Weeks’ and Marcum’s service class. 
In Weeks’ case a very close comparable is Kelly Johnson of the D-backs, a fellow second baseman with five-plus years of Major League service coming off the most productive season of his career. Johnson made $2.35 million in ’10 (to Weeks’ $2.75 million) while hitting .274 with a .370 on-base percentage, 26 homers, 71 RBIs and 13 stolen bases (to Weeks’ .269/.366/29/83/11). Johnson’s filing figures were also similar — he’s seeking $6.5 million in arbitration and Arizona offered $4.7 million. 
A settlement by either Weeks or Johnson could certainly impact the other player. 
In Marcum’s case, the sides likely have a close eye on talks between the Twins and left-hander Francisco Liriano and the Angels and right-hander Jered Weaver. Like Marcum, those pitchers have between four and five years of Major League service and are seeking raises of at least $3 million. 
Liriano earned $1.6 million in 2010 and filed last week for $5 million in arbitration, while the Twins offered $3.6 million. Compare that to Marcum seeking $5 million and the Brewers’ offer of $3 million. 
Weaver has had more sustained Major League success than either Liriano or Marcum, and thus his figures are higher. He earned $4.265 million last season from the Angels and filed for $8.8 million, with the team offering $7.365 million. The Angels have begun talks with Weaver about a multi-year extension, owner Arte Moreno told reporters on Wednesday. 
A one-year settlement in Weaver’s case above or below the midpoint of filings could impact Liriano or Marcum because they’re all in the same service class. 
Werner declined to talk about other teams and their arbitration-eligible players. But based on his own talks about Marcum and his understanding of the club’s negotiations with Weeks, he characterized the progress as positive. 
“There’s been a lot of back and forth, which is good,” Werner said. 
A hearing is already scheduled for both Weeks and Marcum sometime in February, though Major League Baseball bars club officials from revealing the dates. 
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Miller Park scoreboard progress

Photos courtesy of Darren Hauck/Brewers

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The most significant capital improvement in Miller Park’s history received a finishing touch of sorts Tuesday, when crews lifted a sign bearing the ballpark’s name over the huge new video board.

Just after noon, the 18,900 lb. sign was hoisted into position atop a 5,940 sq. ft. scoreboard already in place that will deliver high definition video to fans beginning April 2, when the Brewers host a prospect showcase at Miller Park. All told, the project will cost the Brewers and the stadium district $9-$11 million.

“It’s an expensive project, but we’re on time, we’re on budget and I think they experience we’re going to deliver to the fans will be worth it,” Brewers executive vice president Rick Schlesinger said.

The new sign is back-lit and features the familiar Miller Park script over a banner that says, “Home of the Milwaukee Brewers.” An extra component will be added on top at a later date to commemorate the ballpark’s opening in 2001.

The new scoreboard was designed by Daktronics, Inc. and will be the fourth-largest in Major League Baseball behind similar screens in Kansas City (the league leader at 8,900 sq. ft.), Houston and Phoenix. It’s an enormous upgrade over the 1,296 sq. ft. original video board at Miller Park, which hung over a 2,432 sq. ft. matrix board.

The Brewers expanded and remodeled their scoreboard control room to accommodate the hardware for the new video board, and will increase their gameday video and audio staff from about a dozen to 20-25, Schlesinger said. The team will work with three production companies on in-game graphics and features over the next month, but successfully tested the board on Tuesday morning.

Tuesday’s test run went off “flawlessly,” Schlesinger said.

“I know my heart was beating fast,” he said. “It’s quite stunning. It’s really amazing technology.”

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Road game times set

For you road warriors out there, the Brewers today released all of their away game times for the 2011 season. You can check them out over at Brewers.com.

The club also announced a couple of home game changes. The Saturday, May 14 game against the Pirates and the Saturday, May 28 game against the reigning World Champion Giants were both moved to 3:10 p.m. CT. 
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Details of Loe deal

The Associated Press today reported the fine print of the $1.25 million, one-year deal that was sealed last week by the Brewers and reliever Kameron Loe. The player will earn an extra $25,000 for 50 games, $30,000 for 55 games, $35,000 for 60 games, $10,000 for 76 games and $15,000 for 78 games. That’s a total of $115,000 in bonuses, as we reported last week.

Considering that Loe didn’t debut with the Brewers until June 1 of last season but still racked up 53 appearances, those incentives are makable if he settles into the right role. 
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Opening Day ticket lottery starts Tuesday

News from the Brewers:

The Milwaukee Brewers today announced specifics of a lottery that will allow fans the opportunity to purchase tickets to Opening Day at Miller Park and other Marquee games prior to the sale of individual tickets.
Beginning tomorrow, January 25 at 10 a.m. and continuing through Tuesday, February 15, fans can go to brewers.com and register for the opportunity to purchase up to four tickets to Opening Day on Monday, April 4 against the Atlanta Braves. In addition, fans can register for a maximum of eight tickets to each of the other 15 Marquee games at Miller Park. Following registration, a pool of randomly selected winners will be chosen and provided access to an online pre-sale opportunity, based on available inventory. Winners will be notified no later than Monday, February 21.
The ticket opportunity will include single seats and obstructed view seating. There is no charge to register for this opportunity. This will be the only opportunity for fans to purchase single game tickets for Opening Day, other than a very small number set aside for fans lining up at the Box Office on the first day of individual game sales at Miller Park.  
Single game ticket sales will begin in late February (exact date TBD). Meanwhile, there are still options available for fans to guarantee their place at Miller Park for Opening Day and Marquee Games all season long with plans starting as low as the 9-Pack. Each 9-Pack includes nine Brewers home games, plus a bonus of Opening Day – the most anticipated game of the season – absolutely FREE.
This year’s Marquee Game schedule includes Opening Day – April 4 vs. the Braves, April 8-10 vs. the Cubs, June 10-12 vs. the Cardinals, June 24-26 vs. the Twins, July 26-28 vs. the Cubs and August 26-28 vs. the Cubs.   
Fans interested in purchasing 9-Packs are encouraged to call 414-902-HITS (4487) or visit brewers.com for more information.  
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Brewers, Loe have a deal

Update at 7:30 p.m. CT: Assistant GM Gord Ash confirms the sides have settled. Loe would need to make 78 appearances to max out his incentives.
The Brewers and reliever Kameron Loe avoided a potential arbitration hearing by agreeing Friday to a one-year deal that will pay Loe $1.25 million in 2011, according to a baseball source. 
Loe, 29 and coming off a very productive debut season with Milwaukee, can earn an additional $115,000 in performance bonuses. His settlement fell just below the midpoint of figures filed by the sides earlier this week — Loe and agent Page Odle were seeking $1.65 million in arbitration and the Brewers offered $1.055 million. 
The Brewers were somewhat surprised by Loe’s figure, and assistant general manager Gord Ash said there was “a very good chance” the sides would go all the way to a hearing. Friday’s settlement avoided that potentially messy procedure. 
Loe signed a Minor League deal with Milwaukee last winter, was called up to the Majors starting June 1 and posted a 2.78 ERA in 58 games while earning a prorated portion of $650,000. He figures to slide into a middle to late-inning role with the team in 2011, working with right-handers LaTroy Hawkins and Takashi Saito and left-hander Zach Braddock as set-up men for closer John Axford. Loe also has Major League history as a starting pitcher and has been mentioned as one potential emergency option moving forward. 
With Loe’s deal done, the Brewers have only two arbitration-eligible players still in talks about 2011 contracts — second baseman Rickie Weeks and starter Shaun Marcum. 
Weeks filed for for $7.2 million and the Brewers countered at $4.85 million, a gap of $2.345 million. The midpoint of figures is $6.025 million. 
Marcum is seeking $5 million in arbitration and the Brewers offered $3 million. The midpoint is $4 million. 
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