April 2011

Concussion policy worked perfectly

Brewers utility man Erick Almonte became the first Major Leaguer placed on the new seven-day disabled list for concussions after he was struck in the face by a thrown ball during batting practice on Tuesday.

The Brewers followed the league’s new concussion policy and in this case it worked flawlessly, assistant general manager Gord Ash said. Brewers physician Dr. Mark Niedfeldt was already en route to Miller Park when Almonte was hurt, and he ran the player through a standard concussion test and impact test and forwarded a report to MLB medical director Dr. Gary Green.

Green reviewed the information and authorized the Brewers to make the move. About 20 minutes before Tuesday’s first pitch, the team reinstated Corey Hart from the 15-day disabled list to take Almonte’s spot. Hart, who missed the start of the season with a rib-cage strain, just happened to be in town a day early, fresh off a rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Nashville.

“In this instance, the system worked exactly as it was supposed to,” Ash said.

The policy, instituted on Opening Day, was developed during the offseason by a committee of experts that included Brewers head athletic trainer Roger Caplinger. It oversees the manner in which concussions are diagnosed initially, and governs when players and umpires can return to the field following a concussion.

The biggest change is the creation of a seven-day disabled list for concussions, which is being used on a trial basis this season. If a player spends more than 14 days on the seven-day disabled list, the player will be retroactively transferred to the 15-day disabled list.

“It was developed in cooperation with the Player’s Association to address the issue of concussions,” Ash said. “A lot of times in the past, the issue was that there was reluctance on the part of the player to go on the 15-day disabled list with a concussion because it wouldn’t be that long.”

Most concussions last 5-10 days, Ash said.

The new policy also dictates mandatory baseline neuropsychological testing requirements for players and umpires during Spring Training, which allow teams to conduct comparative tests in the event of a head injury. When Almonte is deemed healthy, the Brewers will have to submit a “Return to Play” form to Dr. Green for review.

The Brewers are well-versed in concussions. In 2006, third baseman Corey Koskie suffered a head injury on a seemingly innocuous slide and it essentially ended his baseball career. That experience influenced their handling of outfielder Carlos Gomez last season, after Gomez was struck in the head by a pitch.

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Almonte on 7-day DL, Hart activated

The Brewers just placed Erick Almonte on the seven-day disabled list with a concussion he suffered during batting practice today and reinstated Corey Hart a day early. Major League Baseball just instituted the seven-day DL this spring as a way to address concerns about concussions.

The announcement came about 20 minutes before Marco Estrada was to throw his first pitch against the Reds. Almonte was hurt when he was struck in the face by a thrown ball during batting practice. He left the field with assistant athletic trainer Dan Wright and did not return.

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Almonte knocked out of BP

Brewers bench player Erick Almonte was struck in the face by a thrown ball during batting practice Tuesday and as of an hour before game time, manager Ron Roenicke was not sure of his availability. Almonte was distracted and then struck, apparently above his right eye, while standing  near first base. He left the field with assistant athletic trainer Dan Wright and did not return to batting practice.

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Hart to return Wednesday; Saito, Morgan to AAA

Brewers PR man Mike Vassallo just passed along word that the Brewers will wait until Wednesday to reinstate right fielder Corey Hart from the 15-day disabled list. Hart returned to the team today and just took some live batting practice.

The club also announced that right-hander Takashi Saito will report to Triple-A Nashville for a rehab appearance on Thursday. Saito, on the DL with a left hamstring strain, threw two simulated games at Miller Park but the  Brewers apparently want him to face some opposing hitters before he re-joins the bullpen.

Outfielder Nyjer Morgan is headed to Nashville, too. He is on the DL with a deep right thigh bruise, and will play for the Sounds beginning Friday. Morgan is eligible for reinstatement beginning May 3.

More details to come.

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No McGehee, Hart for Brewers

Third baseman Casey McGehee is out of the starting lineup tonight with the sprained left thumb he suffered making the final out Monday night, and the Brewers have not activated right fielder Corey Hart from the disabled list. I’ll pass along further information about both players later today, but for now here’s the lineup as the Brewers try to take a game from the Reds.

Rickie Weeks 2B
Craig Counselll 3B
Ryan Braun  LF
Prince Fielder 1B
Mark Kotsay RF
Yuniesky Betancourt SS
Jonathan Lucroy C
Carlos Gomez CF
Marco Estrada RHP

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Narveson was sick

Brewers starter Chris Narveson struggled with a head cold and his command on Monday, throwing 65 pitches to record only seven outs. He was charged with seven earned runs on eight hits, including Jay Bruce’s third-inning home run amid a flurry of Reds hits.

“He didn’t have it,” manager Ron Roenicke said of his left-hander. “Everything was elevated. I don’t want to make excuses, but he was sick [Sunday]. He was definitely better today, but still probably wasn’t 100 percent. Well, I know he wasn’t 100 percent. Hopefully, that was the reason he was up in the zone.”

Asked how he prepared in the hours before his outing, Narveson quipped, “I drank a lot of fluid and took some drugs. It didn’t work too well.”

The Reds didn’t miss many of his elevated pitches, as each of the first five Cincinnati batters in the third collected hits, none of which were seeing-eye singles. Drew Stubbs ripped a single to right field before Bruce’s homer to right field made it 3-0. Joey Votto doubled and scored on Brandon Phillips’ sharp single to left field. Phillips took second on the throw and scored one batter later on Jonny Gomes’ single.

Hanigan eventually scored on a single by Reds starting pitcher Bronson Arroyo, but Narveson (1-1) was out of the game by then, in favor of reliever Brandon Kintzler. It was the shortest of Narveson’s 38 career starts. <

“We really don’t like facing him but he made a lot of mistakes today,” Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips said. “We just took advantage of those and went up there swinging the bats and hitting them where they wasn’t.”

Narveson worked 14 scoreless innings to start the season, but since then he’s surrendered 13 earned runs in 13 innings.

“We haven’t had too many innings like [the third] this year,” said Brewers third baseman Casey McGehee, who was 2-for-5 but sprained his left thumb on a game-ending groundout when he collided with Reds first baseman Joey Votto.

“’Narvey’ has pitched so well leading up to this point that by no means is it, like, any huge red flag,” McGehee said. “It was just one inning that things didn’t go our way.”

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Sprained thumb for McGehee; Hart coming up

Casey McGehee couldn’t dodge Reds first baseman Joey Votto on the final play of Monday’s loss to the Reds, but the initial indication was that he did dodge a serious injury.

McGehee was diagnosed with a sprained left thumb after undergoing x-rays minutes after the Brewers’ 9-5 loss. He collided with Votto while trying to leg-out a game-ending groundout to third base.

“I don’t really know how it worked out to where we ended up running into each other, but I just got my thumb caught on him and pulled back pretty good,” McGehee said. “I think we’ll be all right.”

The Brewers’ medical staff will evaluate McGehee on Tuesday. The Brewers’ infield backups are Craig Counsell and Erick Almonte.

Manager Ron Roenicke also said after the game that right-fielder Corey Hart would be back in Milwaukee on Tuesday, though not necessarily activated from the 15-day disabled list. Club officials will discuss a plan for him during the day.

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Braun wins NL player of the week (plus lineup)

What a week for Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun, who earlier today was named National League Player of the Week for April 18-24 after batting .480 (12-for-25) with three home runs and nine RBIs. It’s the third such honor of his career. Braun was also player of the week from May 4-10, 2009 and Aug. 2-8, 2010.

Braun’s best day was was Thursday, the Brewers’ day off. He was at Miller Park that afternoon to announce a five-year contract extension that runs through 2020 and garnered Braun standing ovations from the fans all weekend.

He’s in the lineup, of course, for tonight’s opener of a key series against the Cincinnati Reds. The Brewers will be trying to avenge a season-opening Reds sweep in Cincinnati.

Here’s the full lineup:

Rickie Weeks 2B
Carlos Gomez CF
Ryan Braun LF
Prince Fielder 1B
Casey McGehee 3B
Mark Kotsay RF
Yuniesky Betancourt SS
Jonathan Lucroy C
Chris Narveson LHP

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Easter Sunday inspiration

Somebody is providing the Brewers with some clubhouse inspiration this morning, looping video of the team’s famous 1987 Easter Sunday win over the Rangers at old County Stadium. Rob Deer and (current Brewers hitting coach) Dale Sveum hit back-to-back home runs to win that game and extend the team’s season-opening winning streak to 12.

Prince Fielder and Craig Counsell were hooting and hollering while my friend Josh Vernier of WSSP was trying to record a radio interview earlier this morning, and Kameron Loe was enjoying Bob Uecker’s call when I stopped in the clubhouse a moment ago.

Fans voted Sveum’s walk-off homer the second-best moment in Brewers history last season, when the club celebrated its 40th anniversary in Milwaukee. Here’s a Brewers.com story on that game from 2007, written by blast-from-the-past Kelvin Ang.

The Brewers play again today, and second baseman Rickie Weeks is back in the lineup after missing Saturday’s game with a sprained left pinkie finger. Outfielder Brandon Boggs, called-up from Triple-A Nashville on Thursday, gets his first Brewers start.

ASTROS
Jason Bourgeois CF
Angel Sanclez SS
Hunter Pence RF
Carlos Lee 1B
Bill Hall 2B
Jason Michaels LF
Chris Johnson 3B
J.R. Towles C
Wandy Rodriguez LHP

BREWERS
Rickie Weeks 2B
Carlos Gomez CF
Ryan Braun LF
Prince Fielder 1B
Casey McGehee 3B
Yuniesky Betancourt SS
Brandon Boggs RF
Wil Nieves C
Randy Wolf LHP

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Weeks says he only needs a day

The Brewers expect to have second baseman Rickie Weeks back atop the starting lineup Sunday after he missed Saturday’s start with a sprained left pinkie finger.

Weeks was hurt sliding into second base in the sixth inning of the Brewers’ win over the Astros. He said he underwent a precautionary x-ray, which was negative.

“It’s feeling sore right now,” Weeks said. “They’re giving me the day off today and I’ll be back in there tomorrow.”

Manager Ron Roenicke said Weeks could have played Saturday, but with right-hander Brett Myers going for the Astros on Saturday night and left-hander Wandy Rodriguez pitching Sunday, it made sense to give Weeks the day.

“It takes some persuading, yes,” Roenicke said. “We went in the cage and swung some, and it’s still a little bit sore. He’s a tough guy, but I told him I don’t want him to alter the way he’s going to hold the bat on his hand and then all of a sudden take a chance on something.”

Weeks is indeed a tough guy. Roenicke’s predecessor, had a photo of Weeks being hit flush in the left cheek by a pitch enlarged so he could hang it behind his desk at Miller Park. Weeks didn’t miss a single at-bat after that incident.

He’s been a tough out for the Astros’ Rodriguez. Weeks is a career .333 hitter against the lefty (9-for-27) with a home run, three doubles and four RBIs.

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