April 2011

Greinke ready for rehab starts

After passing his latest test, Zack Greinke is ready to go pitch.

Greinke, whose Brewers debut has been delayed by a cracked left rib, threw a second simulated game on Friday afternoon at Nationals Park and was deemed fit to begin a Minor League rehabilitation assignment next week. He’s tentatively scheduled to make a 30-35 pitch start on Tuesday for Class A Brevard County.

“It might not be the sharpest or the best,” Greinke said, “but we’ll be ready. I feel like I can execute stuff and get the endurance, and hopefully get ready.”

Assuming Tuesday’s start goes well, the Brewers could evaluate whether to boost Greinke to a more advanced affiliate for a subsequent start of about 50 pitches. Manager Ron Roenicke said he expects Grienke to make “at least three” starts in the Minor Leagues before joining the Brewers.

On Friday, Greinke took the mound just before 3 p.m. local time and pitched to teammates Mark Kotsay, George Kottraras and Erick Almonte. Greinke threw a pair of 15-pitch simulated innings and used his full arsenal.

“I threw a lot of strikes,” Greinke said. “I threw strikes with the off-speed, located in and out pretty good. It was pretty good, all-around.”

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Hart nearing rehab stint

Brewers outfielder Corey Hart just told us he’s tentatively scheduled to begin a Minor League rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Nashville on Tuesday in New Orleans. He’ll probably remain with the Sounds until the end of the following week before re-joining the Brewers for their series in Houston.

I’ll have more details after we chat with Ron Roenicke this afternoon, but it looks like there is light at the end of the long tunnel for Hart.

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Greinke throws again

Greetings from the atmospheric press box at Nationals Park, where somewhere way down below, Zack Greinke is throwing his second simulated game as he continues a comeback from his cracked rib.  Among the hitters taking their hacks against Greinke is Erick Almonte, who is in the lineup again tonight against Nationals left-hander Tom Gorzelanny.

It’s been a tough go for Almonte, who was the Brewers’ most impressive hitter in Spring Training. He’s 1-for-13 in the regular season, the lone hit a solo homer against the Reds on April 2.

Here’s the lineup:

Rickie Weeks 2B
Carlos Gomez CF
Ryan Braun LF
Prince Fielder 1B
Casey McGehee 3B
Yuniesky Betancourt SS
Erick Almonte RF
Wil Nieves C
Chris Narveson LHP

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Saito move now retroactive to April 6

The Brewers just announced they had changed the retroactive date of  Takashi Saito’s DL stint from April 5 to April 6. That actually gives him one extra day of inactivity, since the Brewers are off April 21, the first day he would be eligible to return. Before the switch, Saito would have been eligible beginning April 20, the final game of the team’s current road trip.

In Saito’s case, every day on the active roster is significant because of the structure of his contract. His deal includes $1.5 million worth of incentives for appearances and days he avoids the disabled list. In addition to his appearance bonuses, Saito would get $100,000 each for 30, 60, 90, 120 and 150 days on the active roster.

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Saito to DL

The Brewers made a late-night roster move on Monday, placing reliever Takashi Saito on the 15-day disabled list with the right left hamstring strain he suffered during a tough outing in Milwaukee’s home opener on April 4. The team recalled right-hander Brandon Kintzler from Triple-A Nashville to fill Saito’s spot.

The Brewers were hopeful over the weekend that Saito could avoid the DL, but that outlook obviously changed. His DL assignment was retroactive to April 5, so Saito will be eligible to return beginning April 20 for the finale of a series in Philadelphia.

Saito also dealt with some hamstring tightness in Spring Training that pushed-back his unofficial Brewers debut, and last season with the Braves before he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in September. He was hurt during the eighth inning of last week’s home opener, in which Saito took the loss and surrendered two home runs in an outing for the first time in his career.

Kintzler was on Milwaukee’s Opening Day roster and was just optioned to Nashville on April 6. Players usually must spend 10 days in the Minors before they are eligible to return, except if he replaces a player placed on the DL.

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Excited Lucroy feels ‘really, really good’

I just caught Jonathan Lucroy on his cell phone as he was about to board a flight bound for Pittsburgh and the big leagues.

The Brewers activated Lucroy from the 15-day disabled list this morning, and he’ll be back in uniform for the start of a three-game series against the Pirates on Tuesday night. It’s his personal Opening Day after missing all of big league Spring Training with a fractured right pinkie finger.

He’s ready to resume a full schedule. We’ll see if the Brewers have a different plan.

“You know what I’m going to say — I’m ready to go,” Lucroy said. “I’m going to do whatever they want me to do. I’m excited. I don’t want to get too worked up where I’m nervous or anything, but I’m excited to see all of the guys and help this team win games.”

Lucroy played in four games for Double-A Huntsville and went 3-for-11 with four RBIs and six walks. He was throwing and catching bullpens even before he was cleared to hit in games, so his Minor League assignment was all about getting back some timing at the plate. Lucroy feels the assignment was a success.

“I feel good, really good,” he said. “I threw the ball well, I thought, I received the ball and blocked the ball, I had good at-bats. I took some walks. I thought, ‘Man, I feel pretty good here.’ I feel like I was competitive both offensively and defensively.”

Does he feel he beat the schedule?

“No, I think this is about the time I thought,” he said. “I had originally estimated that I would be back at some point from the 11th to the 15th. I was eligible to come off the DL on [April 6] but they wanted me to play the five games in Jacksonville with the Double-A team, and Day 5 of that series is today. So I figured something was about to happen.”

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‘Outside chance’ Greinke debuts by end of April

With Jonathan Lucroy off the disabled list, who’s next to get healthy for the Brewers?

It could be left-hander Manny Parra, who has been out with a back injury but pitched at Class A Wisconsin on Saturday and is scheduled for the first of several appearances for Triple-A Nashville on Tuesday night. Right-hander LaTroy Hawkins is pitching at Class A Brevard County, regaining arm strength after right shoulder surgery last August.

Corey Hart and Zack Greinke are working toward their own Minor League rehabilitation assignments. Hart (left oblique) will take batting practice with the Brewers on Tuesday in Pittsburgh and the Brewers hope to get him to Nashville by the end of the week.

Greinke might not be far behind. He felt so good in a pair of bullpen sessions during the Brewers’ just-completed homestand that the team is accelerating his comeback from a cracked left rib. Greinke is to throw live batting practice on Tuesday and again later in the week, either Thursday in Pittsburgh or during the Brewers’ next series in Washington, D.C. After that, Greinke could be ready to pitch for a Minor League affiliate.

There is an “outside chance,” if all goes well in his next steps, that Greinke makes his Brewers debut before the end of April, assistant general manager Gord Ash said.

“Every day, these things change,” Ash said. “Right now, I would say he’s a tick or two ahead of schedule, but when it comes to injuries, there really is no schedule.”

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Lucroy back with Brewers

The Brewers got a bit healthier Monday when catcher Jonathan Lucroy was reinstated from the 15-day disabled list. He’ll be with the team Tuesday in Pittsburgh for the start of a three-city road trip.

Outfielder Jeremy Reed was designated for assignment to make way for Lucroy. Reed was 0-for-7 as a Brewers pinch-hitter, and the Brewers have coverage in the outfield with Nyjer Morgan, Mark Kotsay and Erick Almonte alongside starting left fielder Ryan Braun and center fielder Carlos Gomez, plus Corey Hart inching back to a return from the DL. The Brewers have 10 days to trade Reed, release him or ask him to report to the Minors.

“With the versatility Morgan has given us and [the fact they have] five outfielders and with Corey due back in the next 10 days to two weeks, this was the more logical decision at this point,” assistant general manager Gord Ash said.

Lucroy gives the Brewers three active catchers and delays what was expected to be a tough decision between George Kottaras and Wil Nieves.

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Another pinch-hit winner for McGehee

Third baseman Casey McGehee shook-off a slow start to his season and put the Brewers over the top Sunday with the second pinch-hit home run of his career. Both have been big.

His other one came on July 29, 2009 at Miller Park against Washington, another two-run blast that gave the Brewers a 6-5 lead (just like Sunday’s) in an eventual 7-5 win. That ’09 game was special because McGehee’s young son, Mack, who has cerebral palsy, threw the ceremonial first pitch.

(Don’t remember? Here’s my story from that night including video of Mack’s pitch, and another piece from later that year about the bond shared by father and son.)

“That’s always going to be my No. 1 moment that I have,” McGehee said, “but I guess whenever you’re sitting on the bench you think, ‘It would be cool to get up there and drive a ball out of the ballpark.’ But pinch-hitting, you can’t go up with that idea or it’s not going to work out.”

It did work out on Sunday, and McGehee’s Brewers teammates celebrated by delivering a shaving cream pie to McGehee’s bearded face.

“That’s the first shaving cream this face has seen for a while,” McGehee said. “That stuff stings a little, I’ll tell you.”

For more on McGehee’s big day and Yovani Gallardo’s forgettable one, check out the game story on Brewers.com.

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Parra advances to Nashville

Left-hander Manny Parra knocked off some rust in his Class A outing on Saturday night. Now he’s ready for the next step in his rehabilitation from a back injury.

“I’m definitely not dialed-in,” said Parra, who sure looked it in a two-inning, 22-pitch, four-strikeout performance for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. “But I do feel good, I feel healthy. Now the next step is to polish.”

Parra said he expects to pitch Tuesday night for Triple-A Nashville. He will likely make a series of appearances there before the Brewers add him to the active roster.

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