September 2011

Only one more call-up: Dillard

Here’s what manager Ron Roenicke had to say about promoting only one more player:

“More is not always necessarily good,” Roenicke explained. “It disrupts a lot of things. All of a sudden you’ve got too many groups in [batting practice], you shorten the groups. When you’re bringing guys up to play them, to get a look at them, it’s different.” 

“There’s a couple of other guys you could look at and say they probably deserve to come up; [Mat] Gamel and [Caleb] Gindl both had great years. Somewhere in there, we thought about what we needed on the bench, [but] they’re left-handed and we’re really versatile left-handed.” 

Roenicke said the team could make more pitching promotions if needed, but feel covered for now with Dillard. 

The Brewers made right-handed reliever Tim Dillard their only additional call-up after Triple-A Nashville won its season finale on Monday.

Dillard’s return had been forecast since he was optioned back to the Minors on Aug. 26 to make room for third base prospect Taylor Green, a bat the Brewers wanted in the Majors to balance the roster, and to make Green postseason-eligible. By rule, Dillard had to spend 10 days with Nashville before he was eligible to return.

In 21 relief appearances with Milwaukee earlier this year, the side-arming Dillard has a 4.81 ERA and has held right-handers to a .196 average.

For now, the Brewers opted not to promote any additional position players from a pool of candidates that included left-handed hitter Mat Gamel and middle infielder Eric Farris. They also passed on a promotion for one of their Triple-A pitching prospects, Wily Peralta and Mike Fiers, who finished the season very strong after promotions from Double-A Huntsville.

Peralta has probably moved into No. 1 prospect status for Milwaukee, but Fiers was particularly impressive of late. He worked five innings in Monday’s finale without allowing an earned run, running to 19 innings his season-ending scoreless streak. In his 10 Nashville starts, Fiers was 8-0 with a 1.11 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 62 2/3 innings. He also made two relief appearances for the Sounds.

Dillard will be in uniform beginning Tuesday night, when the Brewers and Cardinals continue a three-game series.

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Next stop for Crew cavalry: St. Louis

The Cavalry (courtesy @TheRealTPlush)

After one last game against the Astros on Sunday, the Brewers’ cavalry was headed for St. Louis.

Forget the traditional suits and ties. The Brewers planned to travel Sunday night wearing cowboy boots, hats and belt buckles the size of dinner plates, a bit of fun before some serious business.

Beginning Monday afternoon, the Brewers engage the Cardinals for three final games between the National League Central’s top two teams. Milwaukee will enter with at least a 7 1/2 game lead, but St. Louis swept the last meeting at Miller Park just last week.

So, there is still regular-season work to do.

Who says the Brewers can’t have a little fun along the way?

Players said it was manager Ron Roenicke’s idea to go cowboy for the flight to St. Louis, and they traveled in groups to Houston outfitters to gear-up. Rather, most of them did. Jonathan Lucroy had everything he needed already in his closet, and just bought a new belt buckle for fun. Milwaukee’s Craig Counsell opted for a thrift store, figuring his cowboy getup had very little chance of seeing the light of day after Sunday.

For the particularly cynical Brewers fans conjure the memory of the team’s 2001 “Sweep Suits,” the garish get-up players wore after a June sweep of the Cubs that was followed by a precipitous plunge in the standings, Ryan Braun advised everybody to remain calm. That’s what the Brewers are trying to do.

“It’s not about staying loose for the Cardinals,” Braun said. “It’s just staying loose in general. By this time in the season everything has been the same for months. Same routine, same travel, same collared shirt. It’s a good time to mix things up a little.”

Nyjer Morgan posted two photos of himself, one in front of Minute Maid Park complete with boots, head-to-toe denim, a bolo tie and hat. Instead of Tony Plush, he was Tony Tombstone.

He loved that Roenicke proposed the idea.

“The skipper understands these guys,” Morgan said. “He’s great for us.”

Here’s a few more:

Loe, Hawkins and Axford

Narveson and Gallardo (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

Ed Sedar (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

 

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Kottaras hits for cycle

Brewers backup catcher George Kottaras became the first big leaguer to hit for the cycle in 2011, completing the trick Saturday with a ninth-inning double in Milwaukee’s blowout win over the Astros at Minute Maid Park.

He’s the seventh player in Brewers history to hit for the cycle, and the third straight bench player. Outfielder Jody Gerut had all of 71 at-bats with the Brewers last season, but hit for the cycle on May 8 in Arizona. Catcher Chad Moeller split time behind the plate in 2004 with Gary Bennett and Mark Johnson, but hit for the cycle on April 27 of that season.

The other Brewers to do it are Paul Molitor (1991), Robin Yount (1988), Charlie Moore (1980) and Mike Hegan (1976).

Moore, Moeller and now Kottaras all did it as a catcher.

The cycle has been unusually rare this season, considering that four players did it in 2010 and eight in 2009. There have been multiple cycles in the Majors in every year since 1992, when the Astros’ Andujar Cedeno was the only one to accomplish the feat.

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Lefty-heavy lineup means start for Green

The Brewers have stacked their lineup with left-handed hitters against Astros starter Bud Norris, whose nasty slider makes him extremely tough on righties. The evidence is in the statistical splits, which show Norris holding righty hitters to a .203 batting average, a .282 on-base percentage and a .338 slugging percentages. Lefties are .288/.358/.468 against him.

So, Taylor Green gets his first career start, which I’m sure has sparked dancing in the streets of Milwaukee, Mark Kotsay will play right field in place of Corey Hart (who is sitting on a 15-game hitting streak), George Kottaras will catch and Craig Counsell will play shortstop.

Here’s the full lineup:

Nyjer Morgan RF
Jerry Hairston 2B
Ryan Braun LF
Prince Fielder 1B
Mark Kotsay RF
Taylor Green 3B
George Kottaras C
Craig Counsell SS
Chris Narveson LHP

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Big break turns into big Brewers win

For six long innings Friday night, the only place the Brewers found success was Minute Maid Park’s out-of-town scoreboard, where the Reds kept pushing ahead of the Cardinals in a slugfest.

That changed beginning with two outs in the top of the seventh, when the Brewers broke through for their first three runs and turned a shutout loss into a blowout win, 8-2 over the Astros. Ryan Braun’s go-ahead single was the difference in a win that, with the Cardinals’ loss, gave the Brewers an 8 1/2-game lead in the National League Central. Math is ever more on Milwaukee’s side.

The Brewers’ magic number to clinch the division is 16. They have 23 regular-season games remaining and the Cardinals have 24.

“You’re looking at the game, wondering if we’re going to score any runs or not,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “And all of a sudden, you start busting out. I wish we did it a little earlier sometimes.”

It took a while, but the Brewers scored as many runs in the final three innings Friday as they had in all three losses to the Cardinals the previous three days. The St. Louis sweep at Miller Park had shaved three games off Milwaukee’s lead.

So as the Cardinals traded runs with the Reds on the out-of-town scoreboard, the Brewers were watching.

“Anybody who tells you we’re not paying attention, they’re lying,” Braun said. “Of course we’re paying attention. We saw [the Reds] jump out, 5-0, then [the Cardinals] came back and tied it. We were losing 2-0. Of course we’re paying attention.”

The Brewers caught a big break during their decisive rally in the seventh inning. With two outs, Corey Hart hit a pop-up along the third base line that would have been caught had it not struck the roof and been ruled dead. Later in the at-bat, Hart singled to keep the line moving.

“They had two guys camped right there,” said Brewers third base coach Ed Sedar. “They would have had it.”

“That’s when you know you’re going good,” Brewers hitting coach Dale Sveum said of Hart, who needed the hit that followed to extend his hitting streak to 15 games.

“The way it worked out, it could have been huge,” Astros shortstop Clint Barmes said. “We make that play and get out of the inning. That’s baseball.”

The Brewers scored three runs in that inning, two in the eighth and three more in the ninth to win.

Some more tidbits from Friday:

– Brewers shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt said he was OK late Friday after being struck in the underside of his right elbow and exiting a win over the Astros in the eighth inning. The Brewers said Betancourt was day-to-day, and he did not require x-rays.

– Pitching coach Rick Kranitz took a temporary leave from the team Friday morning and traveled to Las Vegas to be with his ailing mother. Stan Kyles, the Brewers’ bullpen coach, will fill-in for Kranitz, who is not expected back during the Brewers’ series against the Astros.

– The Brewers boosted their record to 82-57 on Friday, sealing their 13th winning season in 43 as a franchise.

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Weeks could be closer than we thought

Brewers officials have had very preliminary discussions about the merits of activating injured second baseman Rickie Weeks to serve as a bench bat before he’s ready to resume play in the field.

Weeks has been sidelined since he severely sprained his left ankle on July 27 and is not expected to be ready for full duty until the middle of the month. He has been taking jaw-dropping batting practice for two weeks, but remains limited to straight-ahead running drills.

With expanded September rosters, the Brewers could activate Weeks from the disabled list to pinch-hit, then replace him with a pinch-runner if he reaches base.

“It’s real tempting,” manager Ron Roenicke said.

But there are issues that give the Brewers pause. For example, would Weeks, who is known for his all-out style of play, have the presence of mind to take it easy when he lines a hit to an outfield gap? And is the benefit of his bat worth the risk of a setback?

“If we’re setting him back from being a full-time guy, then I don’t think it’s smart to do it,” Roenicke said. “If that isn’t setting him back at all, then that’s a possibility. It doesn’t hurt us to activate him at any time. We’re not really at that point where I’m thinking about it yet. I watch him when he’s out there running, and he has to get better at what he’s doing before I would think about that.”

Until Weeks’ ankle allows him to run the bases and make cuts in the field, he will not be cleared for regular duty.

“That has to get better before there are too many things that he can do,” Roenicke said. “He’s still getting a little better with that, but when he takes off, he still has that feel that he can’t explode like he wants to. How long that takes, I have no idea.”

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Regular lineup for Friday opener

No, Taylor Green will not get his first Major League start tonight in Houston. After losing three games in a row at home against the Cardinals, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke is sticking with his regulars.

That means the lineup looks like this:

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

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Braun laughs off basepath belly-flop

By Thursday morning, Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun was able to laugh about his belly flop on the basepaths. If you missed it, check out my story and the video over at Brewers.com.

His teammates were laughing, too. That photo above is the scene on the field at Miller Park after some pranksters used athletic tape to recreate Braun’s tumble.

“I think in the moment, it was frustrating. The further I get away from it, the funnier it becomes,” Braun said. “There’s nothing you can do about it at that point. There’s no reason not to laugh about it because you can’t go back and change it. …

“Once I saw Eddie [Sedar, Milwaukee’s third base coach] sending me, I think I got excited,” Braun said, “and I tried to run faster than I needed to and lost my form. I felt it coming. There’s not much you can do at that point.”

Braun admitted he took too long watching the line drive off his bat, and did not start sprinting until he reached first base. But he figures that if he had been able to recover from his first fall around third, he still would have been able to score.

Instead, he stumbled again and was an easy out.

“I’ve gotten a lot of trash talk today from every one of my friends who plays another sport,” Braun said. “All of my basketball and football friends are texting me about my lack of athleticism. I take a pride in my athleticism so I’ve been taking a lot of trash talk.”

Braun declined to name-drop, but one of his friends was right there in the stands. Former NBA star Reggie Miller lives in Braun’s Malibu, Calif. neighborhood and was clad in Brewers gear Wednesday night. They went to dinner after the game.

“He was laughing about it,” Braun said.

Braun saw the silver lining: “I think I’m fortunate I didn’t get hurt.”

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Brewers had sights on lefty Gonzalez

The Brewers were in talks with the Orioles about lefty-handed reliever Mike Gonzalez before he was traded to Texas on Wednesday, the deadline for teams to acquire players and have them eligible for postseason rosters.

It became clear Wednesday evening that the Rangers could make a better offer, Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said. The Orioles got Major League-ready reliever Pedro Strop, a hard-throwing right-hander who had appeared in 11 games with Texas this season.

“We had the irons in the fire,” Melvin said.

Gonzalez would have given the Brewers something they do not currently have: A left-handed reliever. He posted a 4.29 ERA in 47 games with Baltimore, but had only been scored upon twice in his last 25 appearances.

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Mets pick Rosario, Herrera to complete K-Rod deal

The Mets on Thursday selected right-handed relief prospect Adrian Rosario and diminutive left-hander Daniel Ray Herrera from the Brewers to complete the teams’ mid-July trade for reliever Francisco Rodriguez. Herrera was on Milwaukee’s 40-man roster, so he technically was claimed off waivers from the Mets. Rosario was formally traded.

Rosario is a mid-level prospect who throws hard and was selected by Baltimore in the last Rule 5 Draft, but ultimately returned to Milwaukee. He struggled at the Advanced Class A level and was sent back down to Class A Wisconsin. He turns 22 on Sept. 30.

Herrera is a veteran of 115 Major League appearances with the Reds and Brewers, but did not distinguish himself in a very brief stint with Milwaukee earlier this season. He turns 27 next month.

“Rosasio has a good arm,” Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said. “And Herrera has pitched very well [at Triple-A Nashville]. We had a short look with Herrera, but he was in a tough situation.”

The Brewers promoted Herrera to the Majors for road series in Chicago and Boston, and he surrendered six hits and four earned runs in 1 2/3 innings.

Both Herrera and Rosario were on a list of five Minor Leaguers from which the Mets could select two as compensation in the July 12 deal for Rodriguez, who was 3-0 with a 3.12 ERA and 14 holds in his first 19 games with Milwaukee.

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