September 2011

Roenicke: K-Rod the closer for Wednesday

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke used closer John Axford for two innings of Tuesday’s extra-inning win over the Rockies at Miller Park, and made the point afterward that he’ll need Francisco Rodriguez to step in as closer on Wednesday.

Talk about timing.

During the late innings of the game, CBS Sportsline published a story in which Rodriguez expressed his strongest disappointment yet about pitching exclusively as a set-up man to Axford. When the Brewers traded for Rodriguez in July, they said he would get occasional save opportunities when Axford needed a break. Axford has converted all 19 of his save chances since then, and Rodriguez is still waiting for his first.

“I’m not fine,” Rodriguez told the website. “They told me I’d have the opportunity to close some games, and we’ve had 20-some save opportunities since then and I haven’t even had one.”

He said he was “disappointed” that he’s only pitched one ninth inning.

Rodriguez could get a chance on Wednesday. Axford is off-limits, Roenicke said, after pitching the ninth and 10th innings of a 2-1 win over Colorado decided on Ryan Braun’s walk-off home run.

It marked the first time this season that Roenicke let Axford pitch more than one inning. Last year, Axford had nine saves of four or more outs.

Why did Roenicke feel comfortable this time?

“Eight pitches,” he said, referring to Axford’s workload in the ninth. “That’s why. Tomorrow, he’s off, and then [Thursday] is an offday. We knew if he went two [innings] today, he’d have two days off. I certainly don’t like to do that much late in the season, but we have Frankie as our closer tomorrow. We went for it.”

Roenicke saw no discernable difference between Axford’s first inning and his second.

“He maintained his stuff,” Roenicke said. “We’ve talked about doing that with him before, and all the times before he’s had 12-15 pitches and he says he’s fine to go another inning and I haven’t felt comfortable doing it. I did today.”


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Weeks starts again as Brewers host Rox

As expected, second baseman Rickie Weeks will make his second straight start tonight as the Brewers begin a quick, two-game series against the Rockies at Miller Park. Weeks has appeared in two games since being reinstated from the disabled list, but has yet to get an official at-bat. He’s walked twice and been hit by a pitch.

Here’s the full lineup:

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


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Family seeks help with ‘field of dreams’

The Wisconsin family first featured on in November is making a second bid for funding to help build a youth baseball facility to honor Treyton Kilar, a 6-year-old Brewers fan killed in a car accident caused by a drunk driver.

Mary Kilar reported that the family is aiming for a $50,000 grant from the Pepsi Refresh Project, and they are seeking help from fellow fans. For information about the project and the three ways to vote, visit The top 10 projects in the $50,000 category will receive funding.

The $474,000 facility would be one of the best of its kind in the state, complete with dugouts, a concession stand, seats built into a hillside and lights.

Just the kind of place Treyton would have loved to play ball.

“We always said to Treyton, ‘You need to dream big,’” Mark Kilar told late last year. “We really hope that when kids step on this field, they’ll think about the dreams that they have and work hard to reach them.”

So far, the Kilars have raised $155,000 toward the cause. Voting in the Pepsi Refresh Project continues through the end of the month.


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Roenicke: Players know the importance of postseason seeding

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke was asked again today to look beyond his “one day at a time” approach. The Brewers, after all, need to get hot again if they are to hold off the surging D-backs and finish with the National League’s second-best record. at stake is the chance to open a National League Division Series at home, where both the Brewers and D-backs are tough to beat, and to play that series against a team without “Philadelphia” stitched across its jerseys.

So the Brewers had better take some games from the Phillies this weekend if they want to avoid seeing them again in the first round of the postseason.

Would Roenicke actually say that to his players? No way.

“You just can’t say those things to players and have it work,” he said. “Everybody knows it. They all know. I don’t need to say anything about it. I know where we’d rather be, but all the teams are very good that make the playoffs. Once you get in the playoffs, it’s just who gets hot.

“I don’t think, last year, anybody figured that San Francisco and Texas was going to be in the World Series. Nobody figured anybody could get by Philly. So, you can’t tell. You just have to do whatever you can to get there, and then once you get there, they fall [how they] fall. We’re in good shape. i just want us to play good ball. I think we have been; we’re just facing good pitchers.”


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Happy anniversary, Robin

Robin Yount gets his 3,000th career hit against the Indians in Milwaukee County Stadium in this Sept. 9, 1992 photo. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Nineteenth anniversaries are not usually cause for celebration. In Robin Yount’s case, it just feels fitting.

Yount, whose No. 19 hangs in retirement high above Miller Park, cemented his place in the Hall of Fame on this date 19 years ago, when he dumped a seventh-inning single into right field against the Indians’ Jose Mesa at County Stadium. Yount became the 17th player in Major League history to reach 3,000 hits.

Yount was the third-youngest member at the time of that exclusive club, behind Ty Cobb and Hank Aaron. He collected his final 10 hits in a seven-game hitting streak that culminated with No. 3,000 on Sept. 9, 1992.

“It almost feels like you’re out there alone. It’s kind of a weird feeling,” Yount told earlier this summer. “At least it was for me. I remember that we were in a pennant race the year I got mine and it was late in the year. I felt very uncomfortable because it seemed like the focus was on me, and I felt that it should have been on the team because we had a legitimate chance to win that division last year.

“I found myself getting caught up in it because everyone else was caught up in it. I’ll be honest — for me, it was a bit of a distraction. I can remember when I got within one or two hits, I got real angry at myself because I was distracted. I had a long talk with myself after one of those games, I don’t remember which one.”

When he got his milestone hit, longtime teammates Paul Molitor and Jim Gantner were the first to embrace Yount at first base.

“Robin, he was my closest friend on the Brewers. He was the most unselfish player that I ever played with,” said Molitor, who would join the club 13 years later. “So, to watch him be humbled by the attention of reaching that milestone, and to do it in Milwaukee, where he’s the most popular Brewer in history, it was emotional for me to see that.”

Molitor remembered Yount’s chase when he engaged in his own during the ’96 season.

“To see how he handled it helped me in understanding that it’s a moment to be enjoyed and not fought,” Molitor said.

“You get 3,000 hits because of longevity,” Yount said, “and I guess what I’m most proud of,”

My colleague Todd Zolecki, a fellow New Berliner, told me last night that he was at Yount’s milestone game. I would love to hear your own memories of that night in the comments.


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Why Weeks wasn’t used

Many Brewers fans were wondering tonight why the team passed on a chance to use reinstated Rickie Weeks in the seventh inning of their 7-2 loss to the Phillies, when the pitcher’s spot in the order came up with two runners on base, two outs and Milwaukee trailing by four. Instead, manager Ron Roenicke sent utility man Josh Wilson to the plate and Wilson grounded out.

“[Weeks] hasn’t seen any live pitching,” Roenicke explained. “He hasn’t seen anyone throw hard. I told him I didn’t want to put him in a situation where it’s really crucial.”

Roenicke didn’t want Weeks’ first live pitch to come from Cole Hamels in a tight situation. Hamels worked a complete-game four-hitter.

Roenicke said he would have considered using Weeks to lead off an inning, then use a pitcher to pinch-run if Weeks reaches base. The Brewers would like to get Weeks in the batter’s box against a pitcher on Friday afternoon, but the leading candidate to throw that session is Frankie De La Cruz, who pitched an inning Thursday night.

The Brewers have admitted all along that Weeks still needs time to recover from his sprained left ankle. They reinstated him Thursday partly because there is no penalty for doing so. Expanded rosters in September give teams lots of flexibility.


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Melvin: Weeks could return to lineup next week

Brewers manager Doug Melvin told WTMJ-AM in his weekly radio spot Thursday that second baseman Rickie Weeks was likely to be active as a pinch-hitter for tonight’s series opener against the Phillies, and could be back in the lineup as early as next week’s two-game series against the Rockies at Miller Park.

As of 3 p.m. CT, we were still waiting for official word from the club that Weeks had been activated from the disabled list. He’s been sidelined since severely spraining his left ankle in a July 20 27 game against the Cubs.

“We’ll try to break him in gradually this weekend here, and try to get him back to full-time status,” Melvin told the radio station. “For the weekend at least, he’ll be a bat off the bench for us. It will be good to get Rickie back. The plan is to have him back playing full time probably by mid next week.”

Was Melvin worried about Weeks trying to stretch a double into a triple and having a setback?

“No, he’s been told [to use caution],” Melvin said. “He’s running real well right now. That’s the way Rickie plays the game, and eventually he’s going to have to do it. You’re always worried when Rickie plays. When Rickie is healthy, you get worried because he plays the game so hard. A lot of times, that’s why he is injured as much as he is. He has to get out there sometimes. He feels good about it, our doctors feel OK and so we’ll try to gradually break him in.”


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Morgan talks about ninth-inning scuffle

We spoke to Nyjer Morgan about his ninth-inning confrontation with Chris Carpenter in tonight’s 2-0 Brewers loss:

“There’s nothing really to explain, man. Just hard ball,” Morgan said. “The competitiveness came out in both teams.”

Morgan said he reacted only after Carpenter cursed at him a moment after finishing a 10-pitch strikeout. Morgan had doubled off Carpenter earlier in the game, the only extra-base hit off the right-hander.

The phrase Morgan attributed to Carpenter was only two words long and ended with, “you.”

“They’re not going to see that,” Morgan said, either referring to the umpiring crew or Carpenter’s teammates, “they’re going to see what I said.”

Morgan did send some words back at Carpenter, then threw his chewing tobacco out on the field. Carpenter and Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols advanced, and both benches and bullpens cleared.

Carpenter and Morgan also had words earlier this season.

“He was battling there, I was battling, too. He felt like he had to say something,” Morgan said. “If he feels like he has to say something, let him say it, but then as soon as he said it, he turns his back and walks away. It’s whatever. We’re still in first place. Believe it.”

It was the first of three times during a three and a half minute chat with reporters that Morgan reminded his listeners about the Brewers’ place in the standings. After Wednesday’s loss, their lead in the National League Central is 8 1/2 games.

Earlier in the at-bat, Morgan had hit a long fly ball off Carpenter. His 10 pitch at-bat came after Carpenter carved through the Brewers’ lineup through eight innings on only 83 pitches.

“He’s lucky I didn’t put the ball in them seats, the one that went foul,” Morgan said.

He said the incident was “over with,” and so is the season series. The Brewers and Cardinals will not meet again until 2012.


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Weeks could be active vs. Phillies

The Brewers are closer to activating second baseman Rickie Weeks from the disabled list after the injured All-Star had a good day of running the Busch Stadium outfield on Monday, manager Ron Roenicke said.

Manager Ron Roenicke indicated that Weeks could be active to pinch-hit as early as this weekend, when the Brewers host the Phillies in a four-game series at Miller Park. Weeks has been on the DL since July 28, after he severely sprained his left ankle legging out and infield hit against the Cubs.

“If we activate him, it’s not activating him so he can play second base,” Roenicke said. “It’s activating him so he can bat, and if we get in a game where we’re up a lot or down a lot, maybe we can put him at second base for a couple innings. Something to ease him in.”

Weeks is not bothered by the ankle in the batter’s box, but has yet to run the bases. He ran patterns in the outfield on Monday, Roenicke said, and appeared to have back the “burst” that had been missing in previous workouts.

“It was a really good day for him,” Roenicke said. “Visually, I could see that he had improved on some different things. … He didn’t have that little pause, that little hesitation, that he has had.”

It will be some time before Weeks is ready to play the field — a week to 10 days at least. The hope remains that Weeks will be back in the Brewers’ starting lineup before a potential postseason series.

There’s no downside to activating Weeks before he’s at full strength because rosters have expanded to 40 players. The Brewers have been patient so far because they do not want Weeks to risk a setback.

“He’s been good,” Roenicke said. “He’s not coming to me and saying, ‘Hey, when am I going to be active?’ He’s not there yet, and he knows that.”


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Brewers aim for single-digit magic

The Brewers can reduce their magic number to clinch the National League Central to nine tonight, as they continue a three-game series against the Cardinals with Yovani Gallardo on the mound.

No Jerry Hairston for Milwaukee. He exited yesterday’s game with a stiff neck, but could be sitting simply because he’s 2-for-15 lifetime against Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse. Craig Counsell gets the nod at second base instead. He’s 14-for-29 against Lohse.

At third, it’s not the upstart Taylor Green but Casey McGehee, who’s 5-for-16 against Lohse.

Here’s the lineup:

Corey Hart RF
Nyjer Morgan CF
Ryan Braun LF
Prince Fielder 1B
Casey McGehee 3B
Yuniesky Betancourt SS
Craig Counsell 2B
Jonathan Lucroy C
Yovani Gallardo RHP


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