June 2011

With Saito ready, difficult decision looms

With reliever Takashi Saito ready to return from the disabled list within the next 24-48 hours, the Brewers on Sunday Thursday were still mulling ways to get him back on the active roster.

The team wants to return to a standard, seven-man bullpen after working with only six relief pitchers in New York. That means a bench player would have to go, and if you assume the Brewers want to keep Mat Gamel to serve as the designated hitter this weekend in Minnesota, then outfielder Carlos Gomez is the only bench player who could be optioned to Triple-A Nashville.

“I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Roenicke said. “I’m not saying down the road that wouldn’t happen, but right now, [Gomez] had a nice day the other day against [the Twins’ Francisco] Liriano and I’m planning on playing him today and [Friday].”

The Brewers faced left-hander CC Sabathia on Thursday and will see Liriano again in Minneapolis on Friday night. Gomez had two hits off Liriano last weekend at Miller Park, including a home run.

“We’re looking at some things,” Roenicke said. “There have been a lot of discussions the last couple days. It is a difficult move.”

The Brewers’ other bench players are outfielder Mark Kotsay, infielders Craig Counsell and Josh Wilson, plus Gamel, a third baseman-turned-outfielder-turned-first baseman who was promoted this week to serve as the designated hitter for the Brewers’ weeklong stint of Interleague games in American League parks.

Wilson has been productive since the Brewers claimed him off waivers from Arizona, batting .261 in his first 19 games, and he’s regularly the only right-handed hitter on the bench. Counsell is hitting .200 but is the Brewers’ most valuable defensive substitute. The veteran Kotsay, who signed in February for $800,000 plus incentives, entered Thursday in an 0-for-17 slump that had lowered his average .231. He had no home runs and nine RBIs in 130 at-bats.

Someone may have to go for Saito, who has been sidelined this season by left hamstring, left rib-cage and right upper back strains, is expected to re-join the Brewers on Friday in Minneapolis. There is a good chance, Roenicke said, that Saito will be activated either Friday or Saturday.

Roenicke is planning to ease Saito back into a late-inning role.

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Mitre traded back to the Yanks

The Brewers announced after tonight’s 5-2 loss to the Yankees that they have traded reliever Sergio Mitre back to New York for cash. The club designated Mitre for assignment on Monday to clear one of two roster spots they needed for Zach Braddock and Mat Gamel.

The Brewers originally acquired Mitre from the Yankees on March 25 for outfielder Chris Dickerson.

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Brewers, Rattlers extend relationship

News from the Brewers:

The Milwaukee Brewers today announced a four-year player development contract extension with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers of the Midwest League through the 2016 season. The announcement was made jointly by Brewers Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Melvin and Timber Rattlers President and General Manager Rob Zerjav.

“We have always viewed our partnership with the Timber Rattlers as a long-term relationship and we are pleased to extend our affiliation with them,” said Melvin. “This is a natural fit for both organizations and the affiliation has allowed us to send players on rehab assignments just a short distance away along with additional opportunities such as hosting a minor league game at Miller Park tonight. It’s a win-win partnership that has also played an important role for our fan base throughout Wisconsin.”

The Brewers partnership with the Timber Rattlers officially began on October 1, 2008. The Timber Rattlers, who play their home games at Time Warner Cable Field at Fox Cities Stadium in Appleton, Wis., are currently in their third season of affiliation with the Brewers. The current contract will extend through September 30, 2016.

“This was an easy decision,” said Zerjav. “One of the goals when we first started this relationship was to build a long term partnership with the Brewers to allow baseball fans in Wisconsin to see the future stars as they moved up the ladder in the organization. This extension allows fans to continue to see Milwaukee’s prospects right here in Northeastern Wisconsin.”

Tonight, the Timber Rattlers will play at Miller Park in the “Border Battle” against the Peoria Chiefs (the Chicago Cubs’ Class-A affiliate). Game time is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.

This marks the fifth time in team history that the Timber Rattlers will play a game at Miller Park. On August 14, 2003, the Timber Rattlers and the Beloit Snappers met in a Midwest League battle, with the Snappers prevailing 4-2. At the time, the Snappers were the Brewers’ Class-A affiliate, and the game featured future Brewers players such as Prince Fielder, Tony Gwynn Jr., Manny Parra, and Rickie Weeks. The two teams met on August 12, 2004 at Miller Park in a game that the Snappers won by a 5-0 score. On April 24, 2009, the Timber Rattlers played at Miller Park as a Brewers affiliate for the first time and defeated the Chiefs, 5-3. Last year, the Timber Rattlers played the Cedar Rapids Kernels on May 7 and the Kernels defeated the Rattlers, 6-1.

The concessions will feature $1 Klement’s hot dogs and $1 small Pepsi products throughout the game. All tickets for the “Border Battle” at Miller Park are just $10 and all seats are reserved. Tickets may be purchased by visiting the Miller Park Box Office, online at brewers.com, or by calling the Brewers Ticket Office at (414) 902-4000 or 1-800-933-7890.

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McGehee slips in lineup as Crew tries again

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke has dropped third baseman Casey McGehee a couple of slots in the lineup for the second time this season, hitting Corey Hart in the five-hole instead as Milwaukee tries to bounce-back from Tuesday’s 12-2 loss at Yankee Stadium. McGehee has been something of a mystery this season, batting .227 with four home runs.

Here’s the full lineup:

Rickie Weeks 2B
Nyjer Morgan CF
Ryan Braun LF
Prince Fielder 1B
Corey Hart RF
Mat Gamel DH
Casey McGehee 3B
Yuniesky Betancourt SS
Jonathan Lucroy C

RHP Shaun Marcum

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Gamel approves of move to 1B

He might not get to prove it during the Brewers’ weeklong run in American League ballparks, but Mat Gamel said his transition to first base has been a success.

“Honestly, it’s a lot less stressful,” he said Tuesday, after joining the Brewers for the first time this season, “I’m sure it’s less stressful for everybody.”

The Brewers recalled Gamel from Triple-A Nashville on Monday afternoon because they wanted the extra bat for road series against the Yankees and Twins, and Gamel was the team’s designated hitter at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night. Whether Gamel sees any action in the field this week, manager Ron Roenicke said, depends on whether Prince Fielder decides he wants to do any designated hitting himself.

“I enjoy first base,” Gamel said. “I’m a lot more comfortable over there than I ever was at third.”

Gamel began his professional career as a third baseman, but has always been a prospect because of his bat. He’s a career .304 hitter over parts of seven seasons in the Minor Leagues while playing third base, the outfield corners and now first base, and has been especially consistent this season after the Brewers’ moved him to first.

Fielder is a free agent after the season, and Gamel is the Brewers’ insurance at that position. General manager Doug Melvin said Tuesday that the club has no plans to move Gamel back to third base, where the big-league incumbent, Casey McGehee, is struggling to get on track this season.

“I like [first base] a lot, being involved, being able to pick-up teammates by picking balls out of the dirt,” Gamel said.

He joined the Brewers with a hot bat. Gamel was on an eight-game hitting streak at Nashville, with home runs in each of his last three games.

Entering Tuesday, he’d already made 167 Major League plate appearances over three seasons but has yet to break through as a big-league regular. Gamel will turn 26 on July 26 and is a father of two daughters, the youngest of whom was at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night with Gamel’s wife, Julianne.

Gamel said he does not waste time pondering the future.

“I’m definitely ready to be here for good,” Gamel said. “It’s a tough lineup to crack, especially with the positions that I play. You’ve got a lot of good players that are playing those positions. You just have to wait until it’s your time. …

“Especially with prince, that’s a guy you don’t want to see leave the organization. If you’re a Major League player, you’ll be there with somebody. I’m not thinking about [2012], I’m thinking about this year.”

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Braddock, Gamel called-up

A day after optioning righty Mark Difelice to Triple-a Nashville, the Brewers stayed busy Monday:

RHP Sergio Mitre has been designated for assignment.  LHP Zach Braddock and INF Mat Gamel have been recalled from Nashville.

RHP Justin James has been assigned outright to Nashville.

With the removal of Mitre and James, the Brewers 40-man roster now stands at 36.

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DiFelice optioned out

The Brewers optioned right-hander Mark DiFelice back to Triple-A Nashville on Sunday afternoon, clearing the way either for left-hander Zack Braddock to return to the bullpen for this week’s Interleague Series at Yankee Stadium or for the arrival of an extra bat to help fill the designated hitter role. That corresponding move is expected late Monday, an off-day for the team.

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Fun and games at Miller Park

John Axford shows his table tennis skills (Scott Paulus/Brewers)

The Brewers had a little extra-curricular fun before beginning their work day on Saturday when a group of female athletes from China — each a champion in her sport — visited Miller Park as part of a partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Among them was Zhang Yining, one of the greatest female table tennis players in the sport’s history, a winner of four Olympic gold medals and 10 World Championships. She challenged some of the Brewers’ best ping-pongers including outfielder Corey Hart, who once kicked a certain MLB.com beat writers’ butt at a table off the visitors’ dugout in Cleveland.

John Axford and Zack Greinke also took their lumps against Zhang before the athletes traded gifts — signed Major League baseballs for the ladies and signed paddles for the men.

FS Wisconsin had a camera in the room for the event, which was otherwise closed to media. Thanks to Brewers team photographer Scott Paulus for passing along some shots.

Zack Greinke and Zhang Yining square off. (Scott Paulus/Brewers)

Corey Hart takes his cuts (Scott Paulus/Brewers)

Scott Paulus/Brewers

Scott Paulus/Brewers

Scott Paulus/Brewers

Scott Paulus/Brewers

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Thornburg named to Futures Game, promoted

UPDATE, at 1:48 p.m. CT: It’s been a good day for Thornburg, who was just named the only Brewers farmhand to the All-Star Futures Game rosters. We’ll have a story on Brewers.com shortly.

The Brewers on Thursday made official what right-handed pitching prospect Jimmy Nelson had Tweeted the night before — fellow prospects Tyler Thornburg and Austin Ross have earned midseason promotions to advanced Class A Brevard County.

Thornburg and Ross, both 22 and both Brewers picks in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, are coming off solid half-seasons at Class A Wisconsin. Thornburg, a third-round pick, was 7-0 with a 1.57 ERA in 12 starts, with 76 strikeouts and only 25 walks in 68 2/3 innings. Ross, drafted in the eighth round, was 6-3 with a 3.25 ERA in 12 starts and one relief appearance. He struck out 70 batters versus 23 walks in 69 1/3 innings.

To make room at Brevard County, the Brewers placed right-hander Hiram Burgos on the disabled list (the team typically does not disclose the nature of Minor League injuries) and moved right-hander Maverick Lasker down to Wisconsin.

Thornburg and Ross will face higher-quality hitters in the more advanced Florida State League, but they’ll also be working in mostly pitcher-friendly ballparks. Keep and eye on both as the season progresses.

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Marcum to make scheduled start

MILWAUKEE — Shaun Marcum’s strained left hip flexor will not keep him from making his scheduled start on Wednesday.

The Brewers’ right-handed pitcher went through an evaluation with Dr. Raasch before Tuesday’s game and manager Ron Roenicke said post game that Marcum will be watched carefully during his start. The Brewers will not let him go too deep into the game, Roenicke said.

“I don’t know if we’re going to go so much on pitch count, we’re going to kind of go on inning to inning,” Roenicke said. “After we get to the third we’re going to go inning to inning.”

Marcum (7-2, 2.85 ERA) worked on fielding ground balls off the mound before batting practice Tuesday and Roenicke said he is more concerned with the injury bothering Marcum when he’s in the field. The pitcher said since Monday that he wanted to maintain his spot in the rotation and said he felt pretty good after Monday’s bullpen session and Tuesday’s workout.

Roenicke said he is not nervous about putting Marcum on the field for Wednesday’s 1:10 p.m. game against the Rays.

“They didn’t pay me to sit here and watch games and any time it’s my day to pitch I want to pitch,” Marcum said. “I’ve done it in the past and I want to continue to try and take the ball on my day and go out there and compete.”

-Audrey Snyder

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