February 2011

Former first-rounder Jones retires


It was fitting that 17-month-old Mike Jones Jr. fussed in the background while dad, a former first round pick whose path to the Major Leagues was blocked by injuries, discussed a future away from the pitcher’s mound. 
“I’m retiring from the game of baseball,” Jones said via telephone from Boston, where his family has begun a new phase. “I gave it everything I had. There just wasn’t much need out there for a 27-year-old broke-down, struggling Minor League pitcher, former first-rounder or not.”
So he’ll transition to a new role as Mr. Mom. Jones’ wife is Comcast SportsNet New England reporter and anchor Nicole Zaloumis, who used to cover the Mariners as part of her duties with FSN Northwest. She gave birth to Mike Jr. in September 2009, the day after dad returned home from Triple-A Nashville.
Jones was back at Triple-A last June and topping out at 93-94 mph — though he stopped paying attention to the radar gun long ago — when the Brewers released him to clear a needed roster spot. He returned home to Huntsville, Ala. and stayed in baseball shape for about a month and a half. No one called. 
So Jones took a break and began throwing again in October, hopeful that an organization would show interest. There wasn’t any. 
Around New Year’s Day, Jones decided to call it quits. In parts of nine Minor League seasons punctuated by major shoulder and elbow injuries, Jones was 31-32 with a 3.75 ERA.
“There are a lot of reasons to go, but the main reason is we’ve got a growing family now,” said Jones, who will turn 28 in April. “My wife and I agreed that day care Monday through Friday is not the way we were raised, and it’s not the way we would like to go about things. 
“The way my career was going, I wasn’t happy. I got tired of getting ready for the season and having it end in disappointment and frustration, which is the way at least the last three or four years have been. Yes, I had bright moments, and things to be encouraged about, but at the end of the day I never bargained for three surgeries. I didn’t want to be on the long road I was on for the last seven or eight years. The odds were stacked against me, and it seemed like all signs pointed to retirement and moving on with my life.”
For more about Jones’ future plans, including some front office aspirations, check out Brewers.com later today.
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Gamel in running for utility role

Onetime top Brewers prospect Mat Gamel was among the first Spring Training arrivals this year, and that’s a good thing He’s going to be busy.
Manager Ron Roenicke said Gamel would see spring action at the corner outfield spots and first base in addition to his usual duties at third base. He’ll be among the players considered for an Opening Day spot on the Brewers’ bench. 
“The guy can hit,” Roenicke said. “So if he can make us believe he can play a lot of positions, it helps him in making teams.”
Is he open to embracing that role?
“I haven’t have enough conversations to really know that answer,” Roenicke said, “but you would think that if you’re in his shoes, you would be open to anything.”
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Schafer makes it to big league camp

A year later, Brewers outfielder Logan Schafer finally made it to big league Spring Training camp.
Schafer, 24, was supposed to have a spot last spring, but he tore his left groin during a Minor League minicamp the day before he was to report to the Major League complex. That bit of bad luck multiplied; he was diagnosed with a sports hernia in May, then fouled a baseball off his right foot in early June and broke a bone. 
“It feels great to finally come in here and have a locker and a name and number on my jersey,” said Schafer, who will wear No. 70 this spring. “It’s a relief to get here.”
Barring an emergency, he’ll begin the season in the Minors. The Brewers are hoping he avoids the type of ailments that began to strike last Feb. 25, when Schafer tore his groin breaking from first base in a drill.
“It was a rough year, you know?” he said. “But I feel like whatever is going to happen, is going to happen. Now I’m in the position that I’m healthy and I’m going to do everything I can to learn from the other guys in here.”
The silver lining of Schafer’s dismal 2010 is that he was able to finish the year on an active roster in the Arizona Fall League. After he broke his foot, he underwent a hernia surgery that was originally scheduled for the postseason, and he was back to full strength when AFL play began. 
Schafer got another boost in December, when the Brewers traded center fielder Lorenzo Cain to the Royals as part of the Zach Greinke deal. Cain was ahead of Schafer on the organizational depth chart and impressed during the second half of last season in the Majors. 
With Cain in Kansas City, Schafer’s path to Milwaukee is clearer.
“Absolutely,” he said. “But I say good for [Cain]. ‘Lo’ and I were good friends, and even though you can say we were competing, I never looked at it like that.
“It’s not like this is going to change things. I saw the trade as a good thing for me, and the organization has a lot of trust in me. It’s reassuring. It should be a good year.”
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AP: Weeks deal guanatees $38.5 million

According to the Associated Press’ Colin Fly, Rickie Weeks’ new deal with the Brewers guarantees $38.5 million over the next four years includes an option for 2015 that could increase the value to $50 million

A source told the AP that the option could vest under certain conditions. Earlier in the day, FoxSports.com reported that the Brewers could void the option if Weeks is not an everyday player in 2013 and 2014.
Weeks is up in the Brewers’ offices at Maryvale Baseball Park as of this writing finalizing paperwork. He’s already passed a physical exam. 
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Plate appearances could pay off for Weeks

Agent Greg Genske arrived at Maryvale Baseball Park this afternoon to sign his portion of Rickie Weeks’ contract extension, a deal that will keep Weeks in a Brewers uniform for at least the next four years and potentially five. 

The only trouble was figuring out what to call it. The Brewers, in their official announcement, termed it a four-year contract with a vesting option. Genske called it a five-year contract. 
That fifth year will only become guaranteed if Weeks makes at least 600 plate appearances in the fourth year — 2014 — or 1,200 plate appearances in 2013-14. He must also finish 2014 healthy, or, if he’s injured, get certification from a doctor that he will be ready for 2015. 
“I think it’s an ultimate compromise,” said Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash, who handled negotiations with Genske. “Greg had always talked to us about the need to do five guaranteed years, and we had always talked about the need to do four years plus a vesting option.”
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Tech bridging clubhouse language barrier

Members of the Brewers’ clubhouse crew have a new tool to communicate with Japanese pitcher Takashi Saito and some of the Spanish-speaking players in camp. They installed the Google Translate app on their iPhones and have been testing it this week. 
It works pretty well.
“It does, although it translates things into a very formal way of speaking,” said Kosuke Inaji, the translator for Japanese import Takashi Saito. “It’s as if you would be speaking to the President. But it’s correct — it gets the point across.”
Veteran club employees Phil Rozewicz and Jason Shawger demonstrated the program to a reporter. Rozewicz spoke into his phone: “Can I help you with anything today?” The app repeated the phrase in Japanese. 
For the more complex conversations, Brewers employees and reporters will turn to Inaji, 24, who also served as Saito’s translator last season in Atlanta. Inaji was born in Japan and crew up in Orange County, California, and has put grad school on hold to spend a few years in the big leagues. Saito’s contract calls for the Brewers to hire a translator, so Inaji is technically a club employee.
Saito has picked up some English during his five years in the Major Leagues and has been meeting his teammates over the past few days. He said he picked the Brewers over offers from other teams partly because of the earlier acquisitions of starters Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum. 
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Weeks mum on agreement

The Brewers have reached a tentative agreement with second baseman Rickie Weeks on a contract extension that guarantees four seasons and could extend to a fifth, but the player was mum on the topic Wednesday morning. 

The agreement was first reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The Brewers had not made any formal announcement as of 11 a.m. CT, but one was expected in the early afternoon after Weeks’ physical exam.
Weeks very briefly appeared at Maryvale Baseball Park on Wednesday morning, the date pitchers and catchers formally reported for Spring Training, but was back in street clothes about an hour later and preparing to leave for an off-site physical.
“We’re working, put it like that. I can’t go into detail,” Weeks said. 
The total value of the deal was not immediately known, but two national reports — one from FoxSports.com and another from SI.com — called it a five-year, $50 million contract. The details of the fifth year are expected to include some creativity, based on whether Weeks is a regular player during the four guaranteed years.
If finalized, his new contract would cover Weeks’ final arbitration season and at least three years of free agency. Wednesday’s agreement came on the eve of a scheduled arbitration hearing in Phoenix in which Weeks would have sought a raise to $7.2 million. The Brewers countered at $4.85 million. 
All winter, Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash and Weeks representative Greg Genske had worked to find common ground on his value. On one hand, Weeks was coming off a breakthrough 2010 season in which having led the Majors in home runs (28), RBIs (81) and runs scored (110) from the leadoff spot while earning $2.75 million. On the other hand, it was Weeks’ first injury-free season in years. He’s had surgery for hand, wrist and knee injuries in his career. 
So the Brewers balked when Genske compared Weeks to Braves second baseman Dan Uggla, who agreed to a five-year, $62 million extension last month. But slowly but surely, the sides came together. 
Weeks wasn’t interested in discussing the process.
“It’s business,” Weeks said. “No matter who you are, no matter how you play this game, you’re going to go through it. I never sat any expectations. I’m one of those guys who takes whatever happens because I know it happens for a reason.”
Weeks said he would have attended Thursday’s arbitration hearing in person had things progressed that far.
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Brewers, Weeks talking 3-5 years

The Brewers and a representative for second baseman Rickie Weeks have been kicking around ideas about a contract extension that would span 3-5 years, a source told FoxSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal on Tuesday. 
Weeks remains unsigned and faces an arbitration hearing on Thursday if the sides cannot reach terms on a new contract. They have bounced between discussions on a multi-year extension for Weeks, who is currently on track to reach free agency after the 2011 season, and a one-year deal to avoid arbitration. 
The Brewers’ preference, especially because first baseman Prince Fielder is also entering his final year of arbitration, is the multi-year extension. The trouble is finding a proper value for Weeks, who is coming off a breakthrough 2010 season but before that struggled with various injuries. 
Weeks, who earned $2.75 million last season, filed for a raise to $7.2 million in arbitration. The Brewers countered at $4.85 million. 
The Weeks camp, led by agent Greg Genske, has not returned reporters’ calls for comment. Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash has been the team’s point man on the Weeks talks, and told Rosenthal earlier Tuesday that the sides were, “making progress. We’re not done yet. We’re inching our way.” 
A three-year deal would buy out two of Weeks’ free agent seasons. The team struck a similar agreement last summer with right fielder Corey Hart, who inked a three-year, $26 million extension in early August. 
A five-year deal would no doubt prompt some comparisons to the Braves’ recent five-year, $62 million agreement with second baseman Dan Uggla. Both Weeks and Uggla ended last season with five-plus years of Major League service and were coming off comparable 2010 campaigns. But the difference, Brewers officials say, is that Uggla has been remarkably productive over all five of his seasons in the big leagues, while Weeks’ output has been hampered by hand and wrist injuries. 
If the Brewers and Genske are unable to agree, they would square-off in a hearing room on Thursday in Phoenix. Both sides would present a case to a three-member panel of judges, which would select one figure or the other in a ruling rendered Friday. 
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Attanasios express condolences to Lubar family

Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio expressed condolences Monday after the son of one of his investors died from injuries suffered in a skiing accident. 
The Summit County, Colorado coroner’s office told the Associated Press that Joe Lubar, 21, died Friday, two weeks after he injured his brain in a fall on an expert run at Copper Mountain Resort. His father is David Lubar, who serves on the Brewers’ advisory board and finance committee. 
“The Lubars are dear friends to many of us in the organization, and to Debbie and me in particular,” Mark Attanasio said in a statement issued by the Brewers. “We watched Joe grow up shagging fly balls in the outfield at Spring Training in Maryvale and enjoyed many games with him in Miller Park. A true baseball lover, he pitched at University School of Milwaukee and at University of Denver, which is retiring his No. 9. 
“Joe was a kind, polite, thoughtful young man who touched everyone he worked with during his recent summer internship with the Brewers. Words cannot express the sadness that we all feel, and we mourn with the Lubars during this difficult time.”
According to the AP, authorities said Joe Lubar was skiing above the tree line on a double-black-diamond run when he lost control and fell over some rocks. He was initially treated in Frisco, Colo. and then transferred St. Anthony Central Hospital in Denver. He died early Friday. 
David Lubar is president of Lubar & Co., a private investment firm founded by his father, prominent Milwaukee philanthropist Sheldon Lubar. 
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Brewers, Weeks still talking extension

With Shaun Marcum under wraps, the Brewers lone unsigned arbitration-eligible player is second baseman Rickie Weeks, and the sides are still working toward a multi-year extension that would buy out some of his free agent seasons. 

So said general manager Doug Melvin to former beat cohort Anthony Witrado, who recently moved from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel to The Sporting News. 
“We’ll get a better sense of where we are in the next couple of days,” Melvin told Witrado on Thursday. “We still have a little bit of time. We’re always optimistic we can get something done, and we’re still engaged in multiyear talks. If we don’t [get that done] then we have to focus on this year.”
Weeks’ arbitration hearing is scheduled for Thursday of next week. He filed for $7.2 million in 2011 and the Brewers countered at $4.85 million. Weeks earned $2.75 million during 2010, a breakout season thanks to a full year of good health.
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