December 2011

Brewers name new partner for Uecker

Brewers have found their new radio voice. From the club:

The Milwaukee Brewers and NewsRadio 620 WTMJ today announced that Joe Block has been named as play-by-play announcer on the Brewers Radio Network. Block will join Hall of Fame lead announcer Bob Uecker in the booth, replacing Cory Provus who joined the Minnesota Twins broadcast team last month.

Block, 33, comes to the Brewers with more than 10 years of broadcasting experience. He has called the action for more than 900 professional baseball games, including the Jacksonville Suns (2003-2006), Great Falls White Sox (2007) and Billings Mustangs (2010), among others. He also handled play-by-play for select games during the Expos final two seasons in Montreal (2003-04).

“We had a tremendous number of qualified candidates interested in this position, and the process for finding the right person for this role was very comprehensive,” said Brewers Chief Operating Officer Rick Schlesinger. “Joe is someone who brought a unique skill set and background to the table. His play-by-play work is terrific, he has a quick wit and as a Midwestern native he has a genuine love for the area. We think the fans will enjoy his work alongside Bob very much.”

Block will team with Uecker, who this season will be marking the 50th Anniversary of his first Major League Baseball game as a player.

“Joe and I spent some time together and I think he’ll be a great addition,” said Uecker. “Joe sounds good on the air, he’s a Midwest guy and he wants to be in Milwaukee as a part of the Brewers. Bottom line, all of those are important qualities that will make him successful here.”

Recently, Block served as Postgame Show host on radio for the Los Angeles Dodgers on KABC-AM (2011) and was Radio Studio host for the NBA’s New Orleans Hornets (2007-2011). He also has handled play-by-play for major college basketball and football on Comcast Sports Southeast for the past 10 years.

“We’re thrilled to welcome Joe to Newsradio 620 WTMJ and the Brewers Radio Network,” said Steve Wexler, Executive Vice President of Journal Broadcast Group. “It was apparent very quickly that he’d be a great fit in our community and on our station.”

“I’m excited to start working with Joe very soon to begin to develop a strong relationship with our Brewers’ radio listeners and sponsors,” said Carl Moll, Director of Network Operations for Journal Broadcast Group.

A native of Roseville, Mich. and a 1999 graduate of Michigan State University, Block and his wife, Bethany, currently reside in Los Angeles but will be relocating to the Milwaukee area prior to Spring Training.

“I’m ecstatic to have the opportunity to work with one of the all-time greats in Bob Uecker and help bring everyone in Wisconsin their Brewers on the radio for years to come,” Block said. “Bob and I have talked about how much fun we’ll have in the booth all summer and I can’t wait to get started.

“I’m newly married, and Bethany and I are eager to become active and proud Milwaukeeans.”

Block will make his official Brewers debut at the annual “Brewers On Deck” Fanfest, scheduled for the Frontier Airlines Center on Sunday, January 29.

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Brewers top one million mark in ’12 ticket sales

Old news because the Brewers already fed this to the local newspaper, but here you go:

The Milwaukee Brewers today announced that the Club has reached one million tickets sold for the 2012 season, the earliest date in franchise history that the milestone has been reached. The previous record for the fastest to one million came nearly one full month later, occurring on January 19 of 2009 and 2011.

“With the Brewers coming off of the Division championship, fans have responded in record numbers as we head into the New Year,” said Rick Schlesinger, Brewers Chief Operating Officer. “With more than three million in attendance in three of the last four years, the fan support has been off the charts. We appreciate their enthusiasm as they help create what we all believe is the best home-field advantage in all of baseball.”

The club will announce single-game ticketing info at a later date. Those tickets usually go on sale in February.

For season ticket information, check out the ticketing section of Brewers.com.

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Brewers ink Izturis

The Brewers just announced they had signed infielder Cesar Izturis and  left-hander Juan Perez to Minor League contracts with invitations to Spring Training. Izturis is particularly intriguing, considering the Brewers need a backup to shortstop Alex Gonzalez.

More to come.

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Yuni goes back to KC

Yuniesky Betancourt, the Brewers’ regular shortstop last season, has re-signed with the Royals to serve as a utility infielder, that team announced in a statement. He’ll be a backup for Alcides Escobar, one of the key players in the December 2010 deal that brought Betancourt and Zack Greinke to Milwaukee for a quartet of premium prospects.

“We have been looking for a utility infielder who could play short, third and second base and we feel Yuni is a great fit,” Royals GM Dayton Moore said in a press release. “He brings a right-handed bat with some power and is a guy we know fits in well in the clubhouse.”

The Brewers won’t get any Draft compensation for Betancourt because they declined to offer him arbitration after declining his $6 million club option for 2012. He got a $2 million buyout instead, cash that came from the Royals as part of the trade.

The Brewers have already replaced Betancourt with free agent Alex Gonzalez, a similar free-swinger who is considered a better defensive player.

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Holiday 4-Pack sale ends soon

News from the Brewers:

As the holiday shopping season draws to a close, the sale for Brewers Holiday 4-Packs ends on Thursday; however, only the orders made by the end of day tomorrow, Tuesday, December 20, will be delivered in time for Christmas in special holiday carriers, ready for giving.

Please note – sales for the Holiday 4-Packs at the Brewers Box Office and via brewers.com/4packs will conclude at the end of day tomorrow. The sale will continue through Thursday for phone orders only by calling (414) 902-HITS (4487).

Fans can choose from five attractive 4-Packs. Three of the five Holiday 4-Pack Plans—the Coast to Coast Plan, the Matinee Plan and the Weekend Plus Plan—include at least one All-Fan Giveaway Date while the new Double Bobble Plan includes two All-Fan Giveaway Dates. The Marquee Plus Plan includes two games against the Chicago Cubs at non-Marquee pricing. All five plans include at least one Gold or Marquee priced game at retail price, adding additional value to each 4-Pack.

In addition, the Brewers are offering a free Klement’s Famous Racing Sausage TM Hot Dog ornament gift-with-purchase to fans with every pair of 4-Packs they buy.

Holiday 4-Packs range in price from $64 – $168 and are available in the Field Outfield Box, Loge Infield Box, Club Outfield Box, Terrace Box, Loge Bleachers and Terrace Reserved seat locations. All tickets are subject to availability while supplies last. Pricing is as follows and includes one ticket to four games:

4-Pack Prices:
Field Outfield Box $168
Loge Infield Box $160
Club Outfield Box $152
Terrace Box $92
Loge Bleachers $88
Terrace Reserved $64

Standard shipping and handling fees apply. Advance parking packages are also available for purchase.

For more information and a schedule of available games, check out the ticketing section of MLB.com.

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Brewers officially win Aoki bid; now what?

The Brewers want a first-hand look at Japanese outfielder Norichika Aoki before deciding whether to pursue a deal with the three-time batting champion.

Major League Baseball confirmed Monday that the Tokyo Yakult Swallows had accepted the Brewers’ winning bid for Aoki, opening a 30-day window for the sides to negotiate an MLB contract. Aoki is being represented in the U.S. by Nez Balelo of CAA Sports, the same agency that represents Brewers outfielders Ryan Braun and Corey Hart.

Since the Brewers do not have a scout stationed in Japan, they plan to invite Aoki for a workout at Maryvale Baseball Park in Phoenix, Ariz., at some point after the holidays. The details have yet to be set, general manager Doug Melvin said, but he would like manager Ron Roenicke and at least one member of Roenicke’s coaching staff to attend with other club officials for what would probably be a two-day event.

Multiple reports over the weekend said the Brewers paid a $2.5 million posting fee for the right to negotiate with Aoki. His Japanese team would keep that fee whether or not the Brewers and Aoki reach a deal. If the Brewers and Aoki do not reach a deal, then the Brewers would not have to pay the fee.

Melvin said the deadline for the Brewers and Aoki to agree is Jan. 17.

“The bid allows you the opportunity to negotiate, that’s all. We’ll make a decision after the workout,” Melvin said.

Aoki was posted by the Swallows early last week, after the news that Braun, the reigning National League MVP, was appealing a 50-game suspension under MLB’s Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. But the Brewers’ decision to bid was “totally separate,” assistant GM Gord Ash said.

Both Ash and Melvin said the Brewers have been given no information about the timing of Braun’s appeal. There is a chance that Aoki’s signing deadline would pass before resolution of the Braun matter.

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Aoki story ongoing

As of Monday morning there were still more questions than answers about the Brewers and Japanese outfielder Norichika Aoki, who were linked in news reports over the weekend.

According to the Associated Press, the Yakult Swallows announced they had accepted a winning bid from the Brewers for Aoki after posting the player last week. Multiple reports said the Brewers paid $2.5 million for the right to a 30-day negotiating window with Aoki. But as of this writing, Major League Baseball and the Brewers have made no announcements. On Sunday, Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash said the club could not yet confirm a winning bid.

FoxSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal reported on Twitter this morning that the Brewers will run Aoki through workouts at Maryvale Baseball Park before deciding whether to pursue signing him. It makes sense that club officials would want a first-hand look; the Brewers do not scout at all in Japan, so their knowledge of Aoki would be through video and second-hand reports.

If the Brewers indeed won the bid and want to sign Aoki, would be be interested in Milwaukee, a Midwestern city with a small Asian population? Would he be interested in the Brewers, a team facing uncertainty in left field while Ryan Braun appeals a suspension but otherwise deep in the outfield, with Carlos Gomez and Nyjer Morgan expected to share center field duties? Would it open the Brewers to trade one of those players?

The Brewers have never employed a Japanese position player, and have imported only one Japanese player directly — reliever Takahito Nomura, who walked 18 batters and allowed 11 hits in 13 2/3 innings in 2002. The four other Japanese pitchers to appear in a Milwaukee uniform — Hideo Nomo, Mac Suzuki, Tomo Ohka and Takashi Saito — all established themselves as U.S. Major Leaguers before coming to the Brewers.

Lots of questions still to be answered this week.

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Rivera back in fold

The Brewers have re-signed catcher Mike Rivera to a Minor League contract that includes an invitation to big league Spring Training camp. He would earn $500,000 in the Majors.

Rivera has lots of history in the organization and is a nice insurance option. The Brewers are set at catcher with Jonathan Lucroy, but they have a decision to make Monday with the backup spot. Might they contender George Kottaras, a first-time arbitration eligible player, to clear way for Martin Maldonado to be the backup? In that event, Rivera could be the lead catcher at Triple-A.

Or, the Brewers could keep Kottaras, whose deal would be nonguaranteed, and let players sort it out in Spring Training.

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Brewers pick Gonzalez over Yuni for shortstop

The Brewers filled the most glaring hole on their roster before boarding a flight home from the Winter Meetings on Thursday when they agreed to terms with shortstop Alex Gonzalez on a one-year contract that reportedly includes a vesting option for 2013.

General manager Doug Melvin was with his baseball operations team at the airport when the news broke, and could not confirm an agreement first reported by FoxSports.com because Gonzalez first must pass physical exam.

Since Gonzalez will travel from Venezuela to the U.S. for that check-up, the Brewers do not expect to announce the deal until next week.

Gonzalez has played at least 110 games in eight of the last nine seasons — he sat-out 2008 because of a family issue — and is considered a plus defensive player. He was with the Braves in 2011, hitting .241 with 15 home runs and 56 RBIs. Offensively, he is similar to his Brewers predecessor, Yuniesky Betancourt, who remained in play with the Brewers even after they paid $2 million to buy-out a club option that would have paid Betancourt $6 million in 2012.

Betancourt was weighing several options, including some, agent Jaime Torres said this week, to play second base. The Brewers also were in contact with Rafael Furcal, but he wants a two-year deal. So they opted to make an offer to Gonzalez, and he accepted.

Milwaukee’s system is thin at shortstop, and Melvin will probably also have to acquire a capable backup this winter.

Gonzalez (.270 on-base percentage) and Betancourt (.271) had the lowest on-base percentage of qualifying National League hitters. In the end, the Brewers valued his defense for an infield that at the moment includes average to below average defenders at second base (Rickie Weeks) and third base (Casey McGehee) and a first baseman in Mat Gamel who only converted to that position last year. Gamel is the most likely replacement should free agent Prince Fielder sign elsewhere.

Gonzalez will be 35 by Opening Day. He will be the Brewers’ fourth different starting shortstop in as many seasons.

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Brewers could move fast at shortstop

Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said the Brewers still have the payroll flexibility to fill their various needs, even with Francisco Rodriguez locked into a big salary after he accepted arbitration Wednesday night. The first order of business: Sign a shortstop.

“We hope early next week there’s a chance we may be able to zero in,” Melvin said.

The Brewers have been looking at three regular shortstops: Yuniesky Betancourt, Alex Gonzalez and Rafael Furcal. Betancourt, who played 154 games for the Brewers in 2011, and Gonzalez could be had for one-year deals. Furcal wants two years and would cost more.

Melvin also would not completely rule out remaining in contact with free agent third baseman Aramis Ramirez, who wants three years and could command a salary in the neighborhood of $15 million a year. If Rodriguez remains — and that remains a question, because the Brewers could always trade him to a team looking for a one-year closer — then signing Ramirez would force the team to go beyond it’s original budget plan.

Anybody who remains a free agent is a possibility, Melvin insisted.

“We’re OK,” Melvin said. “I talked to Mark [Attanasio, Milwaukee's principal owner].”

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