April 2012

Kintzler begins rehab assignment

Good news for Brewers reliever Brandon Kintzler: He will begin a rehabilitation assignment with advanced Class A Brevard County on Tuesday. Kintzler missed all of Spring Training and the first month of the season with a nerve issue in his right elbow.

If he can get healthy, there’s opportunity in the Brewers’ bullpen. Kintzler has a good arm when he’s healthy, and has had some success in limited exposure in the Majors.

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Narveson to have season-ending surgery

Chris Narveson just told reporters that the second opinion on his left shoulder was the same as the first — he needs season-ending surgery to repair a partially torn rotator cuff. Dr. Lewis Yocum will perform the surgery, which will require a 6-9 month rehab, Narveson said.
“It’s all about your outlook,” Narveson said.

For more on his outlook, check Brewers.com tonight.

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Wife says Gamel underwent x-rays

Julianne Gamel wrote on the couple’s Twitter account Monday night that Brewers first baseman Mat Gamel underwent x-rays following a violent collision with Astros catcher Jason Castro to see if Mat had separated his shoulder. According to Julianne, he did not.

Gamel is out of the Brewers’ lineup for Game 2 of the series Tuesday night. I’ll look into his status once the clubhouse opens and pass along details.

Here’s the full lineup:

Rickie Weeks 2B
Nyjer Morgan CF
Ryan Braun LF
Aramis Ramirez 3B
Corey Hart RF
George Kottaras C
Alex Gonzalez SS
Travis Ishikawa 1B
Randy Wolf LHP

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Peralta back to Nashville

As expected, the Brewers optioned top prospect Wily Peralta back to Triple-A Nashville after Monday’s win against the Astros. The move cleared space for reliever Kameron Loe to return from the bereavement list in time for Game 2 of the series on Tuesday night.

I wrote about Peralta’s Major League debut earlier, a Sunday stint against the Rockies. He says he wasn’t nervous. Yeah, right.

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Morgan trying to shake ‘bad case of the coldness’

Nyjer Morgan was his usual smiling self on Monday, though he was admittedly frustrated on the inside.

The emotional sparkplug of last year’s National League Central champs was left out of the Brewers’ starting lineup Monday amid a season-opening slump. Morgan entered the night with five singles in 42 at-bats, for a .119 batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. He had one hit in his last 22 at-bats.

“I’ve got a bad case of the coldness,” Morgan said. “I’ve just got to battle out of it.”

This is uncharted territory for Morgan, at least since he joined the Brewers in a trade last March. He said he feels good in the batter’s box, and has studied video for reassurance that he has not been swinging at pitches outside the strike zone.

The hits just aren’t falling.

“It’s frustrating. It’s very frustrating,” Morgan said. “You just have to keep grinding. … It’s a weird spell, man. I guess last year the spell would have been my injuries at this time of year. Even though I came out on fire, I got injured and I was out a month. That was my funk.

“Knowing me, I always start off [lousy] in April and then always progress. But I ain’t never been through a spell like this. I have to hang in there. … You have to still show up, same attitude, even though you’re a little bit frustrated. You can’t let that frustration go off and pile onto the next man. You don’t want the next man to feel what you’re feeling. You want to be a great teammate and be supportive of these guys.”

Morgan said he understood manager Ron Roenicke’s decision to start Norichika Aoki in center field on Monday. Aoki entered the night 5-for-15 in two starts plus pinch-hit appearances.

“If the right pieces are clicking, you have to put the right pieces in. It’s a business, too,” Morgan said.

Roenicke characterized the Aoki start as a temporary move. Morgan could be back in the two-hole on Tuesday night against Astros right-hander Bud Norris. Astros left-hander J.A. Happ starts Wednesday so the Brewers will go with Carlos Gomez, and Roenicke suggested that, given Gomez’s hot start to the season, he could see more action against right-handed pitchers in the coming days.

“That’s the one position we can play with a little bit because I like all three guys,” Roenicke said. “We need to get Nyjer going, that’s what we need to do. And before the season’s out, he’s going to be important to what we do. … It’s two weeks into the season. I don’t want to give up on a guy that was really good for us last year. The reason we won was a lot because of him. I don’t want to forget that because of 2-3 weeks of not swinging the bat well.”

Roenicke said he’s seen better swings in Morgan’s last 7-10 at-bats, and offered some words of encouragement in a brief pregame meeting between the two on Monday.

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Braun, Ramirez talk Brewers funk

Ryan Braun isn’t hitting, but he’s not the only one. After Friday’s 4-3 loss to the Rockies, leadoff man Rickie Weeks is batting .185, regular two-hole hitter Nyjer Morgan .135, Braun .245 and Aramis Ramirez .160.

The guy with the best average in that group is causing the most consternation. That’s life these days for Braun, the reigning National League MVP trying to bounce back from a tumultuous winter. He was off to a solid start but had gone ice cold since the Brewers returned to Miller Park, hitless in 14 at-bats on the homestand with eight strikeouts.

Braun whiffed in each of his three official at-bats Friday. He was also hit by a pitch and scored the tying run.

“This stretch, he’s getting out of the zone with his swings,” manager Ron Roenicke said. “When he’s good, he doesn’t chase that much. He’s chasing, he’s jumping a little bit. We need to get him healthy, too.”

Braun is among a slew of Brewers regulars struck by a clubhouse virus in recent days. But he brushed aside the notion that a day off might do him some good.

The issue, Braun argued, is that everybody is trying to be the one to break the Brewers out of the early-season funk.

“The good news is that we’re all kind of struggling at the same time,” he said, “So, hopefully, we all start to swing the bats well at the same time, too. There’s no doubt, that when a team, collectively, isn’t swinging the bats well, everybody tries to pick each other up and it just furthers the issue. We know we’ll be all right. There’s long track records here.”

Of his illness, Braun said, “Whether you’re sick, hurt, none of that factors in. If you’re playing, you’re expected to contribute. We’re really not playing good baseball, and we’ve had a chance to win every game that we’ve lost recently. Hopefully that’s a good sign moving forward.”

Ramirez spoke with more urgency:

“From the top of the order down, including myself, we have to get better,” said new Brewers cleanup man. “I don’t have to mention any names. Everybody knows who they are. It’s time right now, we have to get better. It’s not early anymore.

“You don’t want to get behind. St. Louis is winning every single day. You don’t want to play a catch-up game with them.”

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Narveson will seek second opinion

Brewers left-hander Chris Narveson said he would seek a second opinion, but the likelihood is high that he needs surgery to repair a tear or tears to the rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder.

“It’s probably surgical, but he’ll get a second opinion and we’ll go from there,” assistant general manager Gord Ash said.

Surgery would probably shelve Narveson for the rest of the season, “but it’s hard to say before they do it, because as good as MRIs are, you don’t know the severity before you get in there,” Ash said.

Narveson spoke in very vague terms about his injury, citing “red flags on the MRI” he underwent this week, and said he’s keeping an open mind pending the second opinion. He will choose a physician to review films of his MRI.

“The prognosis was there were some issues going on with the rotator cuff,” he said. “We’ll get a second opinion to see what’s out there. We don’t know exactly the extent or what’s going to be on yet, but there might be some stuff going on with the rotator cuff. … Right now, we’re just trying to assess the situation and see where we go.”

Narveson said he felt sore the day after his last start, a loss in Atlanta. He could tell it was different from regular, post-start soreness.

“Knowing the difference, that’s big,” Narveson said. “I didn’t feel it before, and then after the start it was like, ‘Something’s not right. I’d better say something.’ We gave it a couple of days to see if it would feel better, and it just didn’t go that way.”

Asked whether he remained hopeful about avoiding a long-term stint on the DL, Narveson said, “You’re always hopeful. It all depends on the doctors. It’s all in their hands. Sometimes the outcome doesn’t look too good, but we’ll see.”

Narveson had right shoulder surgery in 2005 to fix what he called labrum “issues” in his shoulder. He also missed time in 2007, but that was for a strained muscle behind his left shoulder, not damage to the shoulder itself.

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Narveson to DL with torn rotator cuff

I just spoke briefly with Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash, who was unable at this time to provide much more information about left-hander Chris Narveson than the club has already released: Narveson has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with a torn left rotator cuff.

As Ash spoke, head team physician William Raasch was expected at Miller Park within the hour to review an MRI scan of Narveson’s shoulder and to meet with the left-hander. After that examination, the team will have a better idea of a timetable for Narveson and will be able to say whether or not he needs surgery, Ash said.

“It will be two weeks, probably longer, but until the doctor sees him it would be premature to say more,” Ash said.

Narveson also missed time with shoulder injuries in 2005 and 2007.

The Brewers promoted right-handed reliever Mike McClendon from Triple-A Nashville to take Narveson’s roster spot, and right-hander Marco Estrada will now start Saturday against the Rockies.

Another move is coming Saturday, when the Brewers expect to place reliever Kameron Loe on the bereavement list and call-up right-handed prospect Wily Peralta from Nashville. Peralta is Milwaukee’s top starting pitching prospect, but Ash said the plan calls for him to stay only temporarily, then return to the Minors when Loe returns Tuesday.

Estrada was effective in spot starts for Narveson and Zack Greinke last season, going 3-2 with a 3.70 ERA in seven starts.

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Morgan on his mad dash home

Nyjer Morgan said the stop sign he ran through Wednesday night on the way to scoring the winning run was not a stop sign at all. Morgan said it was really a “deke” for the Dodgers.

But, there’s a very good chance that Morgan was just trying to “deke” reporters. It’s a tangled web these Brewers weave.

“Never underestimate the sneakiness, guys,” Morgan said with a laugh.

Here are the facts: Morgan entered Wednesday’s game as a pinch-runner, with the teams tied at 2 in the 10th inning. He picked a perfect spot to steal second base when Dodgers reliever Matt Guerrier twirled a curveball to the plate, and Morgan took third when catcher A.J. Ellis’ throw sailed into center field.

A pair of walks loaded the bases before Ryan Braun hit a high pop-up to Matt Kemp in very shallow center field. Brewers third base coach Ed Sedar, positioned down the line by design, so he had more time to read Kemp’s catch, threw up the stop sign. Morgan went anyway.

Manager Ron Roenicke planned to talk it over with Morgan before Thursday’s series finale with the Dodgers. He was by no means upset with the player; Roenicke just wanted to hear the thought process for taking such a bold risk.

“Sometimes you want a player to instinctually do things that he sees,” Roenicke said. “And even when it doesn’t work out, we have to be OK with that. … If Nyjer took off and went because he says he saw Kemp catch that ball flat-footed, I’m fine with it.”

That is indeed what Morgan told reporters prompted his decision to go. Asked whether he saw Sedar’s stop sign, Morgan said, “I’m going to say the head was down. I had my head down and just figured, ‘Let’s go for it.’”

Morgan was back in the starting lineup Thursday, looking to build on his dash home. He carried a .125 batting average into the game.

“Gosh, it felt good,” he said. “It was just something, a little something to help me out a little bit.”

Of his slow start, he said, “I’ve got the funks. It’s just part of baseball. I guess my funk last year was my April, too, when I battled through all of those injuries. My character is getting tested right now but I’m still the same person, even though things stink. For sure, I know Dr. Freeze ain’t going to stay around too much longer.”

Here’s the full Brewers lineup:

Rickie Weeks 2B
Nyjer Morgan RF
Ryan Braun LF
Aramis Ramirez 3B
Corey Hart RF
George Kottaras C
Alex Gonzalez SS
Travis Ishikawa 1B
Randy Wolf LHP

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Mattingly says Braun will be pitched differently

The Brewers have been trying to downplay the idea that Ryan Braun will be pitched differently in 2012, now that Aramis Ramirez is hitting behind him and Prince Fielder is hitting for Detroit. Here’s a dissenting opinion from Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, who started with some high praise of Braun:

“He’s flat-out dangerous,” Mattingly said. “He hits like Matt [Kemp]. He gets on base, he steals bags. It seems like he gets you at big moments. Last year, we tried to say those guys [Braun and Fielder] aren’t beating us.

“I think he’s going to get pitched differently this year. He had two intentional walks last year. That’s going to change. The guy behind him is an RBI guy, but not Prince.”

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