May 2011

Promotion surprised Dillard

Tim Dillard was back in the big leagues Saturday after nearly two years away. He didn’t see his promotion coming.

“Not a chance,” said the side-arming right-hander, whose contract was purchased from Triple-A Nashville. “We had a 7 o’clock game, then a rain delay at 8 for three hours. We were strapping it back on and I was walking out to the field and [Nashville pitching coach] Rich Gale comes up holding a baseball.”

Gale asked whether Dillard could quickly prepare to pitch. Dillard set down his cup of coffee and, of course, said yes.

“He was like, ‘No, I can’t let you do that,’” Dillard said. “I said, why not? He goes, ‘Because you’re going to be in Milwaukee tomorrow.’”

Dillard thought it was a joke, but it wasn’t. The Brewers promoted him to replace right-hander Brandon Kintzler, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list with triceps tendonitis.

A lot has changed since Dillard last threw a pitch for the Brewers on July 31, 2009. For starters, the Miller Park clubhouses have been redone, so Dillard arrived Saturday to not-so-familiar surroundings.

The more dramatic change is his own delivery, from a standard overhand to a new, sidearm sling that Dillard adopted at the Brewers’ urging in 2010 Spring Training. He posted a 4.12 ERA in 2010 but sometimes found himself relapsing.

“After a day off I’d come back and throw over the top and you’re like, ‘Wait a second, that’s not me anymore,’” Dillard said.

Now, the sidearm delivery feels natural.

“I was very excited [to get called up],” Dillard said. “The sidearm thing has come pretty natural, and they’ve given me a lot of time to bring it together. For them to bring me up was just amazing. I want them to see that, ‘Hey, you made the right move with the sidearm thing.’ I’ve enjoyed it.”

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Weeks, Cedeno talk about dust-up

Some choice words between Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks and Pirates shortstop Ronny Cedeno prompted both teams’ benches to clear in the third inning at Miller Park on Friday.

Weeks had just been tagged out in a rundown between second and third base by Cedeno, who said something that struck a nerve with the mild-mannered Weeks. Weeks yelled back and was restrained.

Chalk it up as another bit of drama in a Brewers-Pirates series that, over the years, has had plenty.

“I don’t know what it is,” Weeks said. “We play good, hard baseball and sometimes emotions get some people.”

Both managers — Ron Roenicke of the Brewers and Clint Hurdle of the Pirates — termed the dust-up, “no big deal.” It started with a hard tag, but Weeks said the issue was what Cedeno said afterward.

“He hit me with an elbow and I said what’s going on, and that’s it,” Cedeno said. “I’ve known Weeks for a long time because we grew up in the Minor Leagues [together]. I’m surprised he gave me attitude. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t try to fight or do anything bad in the field. When you cross those lines right there, even though we’re friends … he’s trying to play hard. They do play hard. We’ll be friends, talking before the game, you know how with players it is. I’m surprised.”

After a few moments of yelling and finger-pointing, other players filed from the dugout onto the infield. The bullpens emptied, too, but it was a wasted sprint. Tempers had cooled before the relievers even reached second base.

Cedeno came to bat in the fourth inning with a man on base and hit a home run to left field, plating two runs.

Pirates right-hander James McDonald threw a fastball high and tight on Weeks in the second baseman’s next plate appearance, in the bottom of the fourth. But that was the only hint of further tension between the teams.

There’s no love lost between the Brewers and Pirates, who have had a series of skirmishes over the past few seasons including one feud in 2009 that began when Pirates pitcher Jeff Karstens hit Ryan Braun with a pitch. Three months later, the Brewers took some retaliation in a game at PNC Park, and the benches cleared. Fans of both teams will remember that night for then-Brewers catcher Jason Kendall repeatedly — and intentionally — referring to Pirates pitching coach Joe Kerrigan as “Dave Kerwin.”

Karstens, whose wayward pitch started that drama, is scheduled to start for the Pirates on Saturday.

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Braun starts, Hart moves up to sixth

Sort of buried the lede in this first post. Yes, Ryan Braun is back in the lineup after exiting early on Wednesday with a bruised left ankle. 

The Brewers begin a series against the Pirates tonight with a new six-hole hitter in right-fielder Corey Hart, who went 4-for-11 in the Padres series and might be inching up the lineup. Eventually, the Brewers will have to decide whether to use Hart somewhere below the Ryan Braun/Prince Fielder tandem, or up in the two-hole.

Here’s the rest of the lineup:

Rickie Weeks 2B
Carlos Gomez CF
Ryan Braun LF
Prince Fielder 1B
Casey McGehee 3B
Corey Hart RF
Yuniesky Betancourt SS
Jonathan Lucroy C
Yovani Gallardo RHP

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Braun left after hurting ankle

Brewers All-Star outfielder Ryan Braun left Wednesday’s loss after six innings with a bruised left ankle, but club officials do not consider the injury serious.

Braun was hurt when he crashed into the out-of-town scoreboard along the left-field fence, trying to catch Padres shortstop Jason Bartlett’s double. The Brewers scored for a 6-5 lead in the bottom of the same inning and had a chance to add-on after loading the bases, but Braun flew out on the first pitch.

“Brauny was hurting, and I think he saw the at-bat that we needed from him and tried to get through that,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “If he had to go back out there then we would have, but he wasn’t right.”

The Brewers are off Thursday before resuming play Friday night against the Pirates. Braun has been the team’s starting left fielder and three-hole hitter for all 37 games this season.

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Kintzler out for MRI

Right-hander Brandon Kintzler is the latest Brewers reliever to find his way onto the injury report.

Kintzler departed Miller Park on Tuesday afternoon to undergo an MRI scan of his right triceps. He’s had discomfort at the base of that muscle, near his elbow, since his last outing in Atlanta on May 4.

Depending on the result of Kintzler’s MRI, the Brewers may once again need to raid the struggling Triple-A Nashville Sounds for a reliever. But general manager Doug Melvin said the team would probably be able to get through Wednesday’s series finale against the Padres without making any moves.

“Here goes another guy,” manager Ron Roenicke said. “It’s hard. Every time you think you have a guy to fit into a slot, all of a sudden he disappears on you, and then we’re scrambling trying to fill-in that piece.”

The season is only six weeks old but the Brewers have already seen four relievers hit the disabled list: LaTroy Hawkins (shoulder), Manny Parra (back and elbow), Takashi Saito (back and rib-cage) and Zach Braddock (sleep disorder) on the disabled list. Sergio Mitre avoided the DL, but did miss a series of games after being struck in the right triceps by a line drive.

Hawkins returned from a season-opening stint on the DL on April 21, and was used as the Brewers’ seventh-inning man on Monday night. Roenicke would feel much better if he could pin-down that role, with Kameron Loe set for the eighth and closer John Axford for the ninth.

“Before we got [Hawkins] back, we were trying to scramble to see who would do that job,” Roenicke said. “It’s a point in the game where the starter gets to the pitch count and gets in some trouble, and for that [seventh-inning] guy to get out of some innings … the good teams, they all have that spot really solidified.”

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Same lineup for Game 2 (plus Kintzler news)

The Brewers will try to make it two wins in a row behind a starting rotation newcomer, as Shaun Marcum takes the mound Tuesday night against the Padres. He’ll have the same eight position players who helped Zack Greinke log his first Brewers win on Monday.

We could have some bullpen news tonight. Right-hander Brandon Kintzler has left Miller Park, and word is that he’s undergoing an MRI scan. I don’t know of any injury for Kintzler, who has not pitched since Game 2 of the Brewers’ May 4 doubleheader in Atlanta. I’ll look into it.

In the meantime, here are the lineups:

PADRES
Wil Venable RF
Jason Bartlett SS
Ryan Ludwick LF
Chase Headley 3B
Brad Hawpe 1B
Cameron Maybin CF
Kyle Phillips C
Alberto Gonzalez 2B
Clayton Richard LHP
BREWERS
Rickie Weeks 2B
Carlos Gomez  CF
Ryan Braun LF
Prince Fielder 1B
Casey McGehee 3B
Yuniesky Betancourt SS
Corey Hart RF
Jonathan Lucroy C
Shaun Marcum RHP

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Happy Greinkefest!

You might have heard that Zack Greinke is making his long-awaited Miller Park debut tonight, a 7:10 p.m. CT tilt against slumping Mat Latos and the Padres to open a six-game Brewers homestand. The Brewers are expecting a bump of about 10,000 fans just for Greinke’s start, and will try to create a festival atmosphere by distributing white rally towels to the first 30,000 fans through the turnstiles.

The usual suspects will be playing behind Greinke tonight as Brewers hitters try to leave their hitting woes on the road. Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder had three hits apiece in the first eight games of May, and combined for one RBI on the road trip.

Here’s the lineup:

Rickie Weeks 2B
Carlos Gomez CF
Ryan Braun LF
Prince Fielder 1B
Casey McGehee 3B
Yuniesky Betancourt SS
Corey Hart RF
Jonathan Lucroy C
Zack Greinke RHP

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Kotsay goes again

Corey Hart is out of the Brewers’ lineup once again Sunday in favor of Mark Kotsay, who makes his second straight start in right field. He’s not as fleet as he used to be, but Kotsay did make a game-saving catch in Saturday’s win.

Here’s the full lineup:

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

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Kotsay could play some CF

Mark Kotsay spelled slumping Brewers right fielder Corey Hart on Saturday, and, in something of a reversal, he might begin seeing time in center field, too.

“Kotsay, he’s doing well, so we’ll probably try to get him out there a little bit more,” manager Ron Roenicke said. “Maybe he’ll end up in center field one of these days.”

The day before, Roenicke said he didn’t want to use the 35-year-old Kotsay in center field.

“I don’t,” Roenicke said Saturday with a smile. “He talked to me a couple of days ago about it. Physically, he’s doing really well. I would do it too much, but to spell [Carlos Gomez] every once in a while, I may do it.”

With Nyjer Morgan back on the disabled list, center field is again Gomez’s to lose. He went 3-for-20 on the first eight games of the Brewers’ road trip and was called into Roenicke’s office on Saturday morning for a brief chat about his at-bats Friday night.

Gomez remains a mystery. He put together outstanding at-bats in Spring Training that convinced the Brewers he’d turned a corner. But he’s regressed since the start of the regular season and entered Saturday with a .266 on-base percentage.

Hitting coach Dale Sveum was encouraged by Gomez’s progress beginning on a trip to Philadelphia last month. From the end of that trip through the following homestand, Sveum counted 23 consecutive quality at-bats. But now Gomez has again fallen into some bad habits.

How does that happen?

“You don’t know the answer to those questions because you can’t stand in the batter’s box,” hitting coach Dale Sveum said. “You’re not in somebody’s mind [to see if] he is able to slow the game down. Spring Training is a lot slower than when the third deck is out there. …

“This is a production-driven business and you’ve got to find a way to get it done in game situations. That goes for everybody. But through [Gomez’s] career, it has to start getting done more consistently.”

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Hart sits as Brewers try to break streak

Corey Hart is 1-for-12 lifetime against the Cardinals’ Saturday starter, Kyle Lohse, so he’s out of the lineup as the Brewers try to snap a seven-game losing streak. Unfortunately, Mark Kotsay has not been much better (1-for-10), but he gets the start in right field instead.

We’ll see if the stagnant offense and/or struggling right-hander Yovani Gallardo can get going this afternoon.

Rickie Weeks 2B
Craig Counsell SS (11-for-24 with a homer vs. Lohse)
Ryan Braun LF
Prince Fielder 1B
Casey McGehee 3B
Mark Kotsay RF
Jonathan Lucroy C
Carlos Gomez CF
Yovani Gallardo RHP

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