April 2012

Gonzalez away another day; Brewers a man down

The Brewers played one man short on Tuesday, when shortstop Alex Gonzalez was reinstated from the paternity list but remained at home to care for his wife and newborn son.

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said doctors decided to keep Johanna Gonzalez and her son in the hospital for one extra night, but that the matter was “nothing serious.” Johanna gave birth several days earlier than expected on Sunday, to a son named Alex David. He is the couple’s third child.

Infielder Eric Farris had filled-in for the Brewers on Saturday and Sunday, but Major League Baseball’s rules only allow a player to remain on the paternity list for a maximum of three days, so Farris was optioned back to Triple-A Nashville on Monday and Gonzalez was reinstated to the Brewers’ active roster.

That combination of moves left the Brewers with no backup infielders for Tuesday’s game against the Dodgers. Cesar Izturis made a third straight start at shortstop, and his emergency backup was center fielder Carlos Gomez, who grew up playing shortstop in the Dominican Republic and still takes grounders there before every game.

“That is my passion,” Gomez told MLB.com in 2010. “Some day, I am going to play one game in the big leagues at shortstop.”

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Farris back to Nashville

Shortstop Alex Gonzalez will return to action for the Brewers on Tuesday, so the team has optioned infielder Eric Farris back to Triple-A Nashville. Farris filled-in the past two games while Gonzalez was on paternity leave. Johanna Gonzalez gave birth to the couple’s third child, a son named Axel David, on Sunday.

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Rogers reinstated, will go to Nashville

The Brewers have reinstated pitching prospect Mark Rogers from the restricted list, the right-hander having served his 25-game suspension after testing positive last season for a banned stimulant. Rogers attributed the test to a tainted supplement.

He is currently in extended Spring Training and will report to Triple-A Nashville “in the near future,” according to information released by the Brewers.

Rogers, a former first-round Draft pick who made it to the Majors in 2010, is hoping for a bounce-back season. After his suspension was levied last August, he underwent carpal tunnel surgery on both wrists to correct an issue that had been giving him trouble.

“I feel great, now it’s just a matter of building up pitch counts in games,” Rogers said in Spring Training. “This is the best my arm has felt in a really, really long time.”

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke was particularly encouraged by Rogers, who consistently hit 94 mph on the radar gun his final Cactus League outing against the Angels.

“He looks like he’s on his way to returning to where he was two years ago,” Roenicke said.

With Rogers’ reinstatement, Milwaukee’s 40-man roster is full.

The team also said that left-handed reliever Juan Perez had been reinstated from the disabled list at Nashville after dealing with a back issue. He will be active tonight in the Sounds’ home opener.

Another left-hander, Dan Merklinger, was placed on the Double-A Huntsville DL with an undisclosed injury.

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Greinke: Extension ‘would have been nice’

Zack Greinke had a bad week. First, his agent and the Brewers tabled talks about a contract extension. Then he endured a nightmare of an outing against the Cubs.

Chicago blooped and bounced its way to a six-run third inning on Thursday, and added two more in a fourth inning that included one of the strangest miscues you’ll ever see in the Major Leagues. The result for Milwaukee was an 8-0 loss at Wrigley Field that denied the Brewers’ first-ever four-game sweep of the Cubs.

In the short term, it was a stinging defeat. In the longer term, the news that negotiations had fizzled earlier in the week was the big story. Greinke is heading toward free agency in October.

“It would have been nice, but I thought it might have been a long shot from the beginning,” said Greinke, who will leave future talks to agent Casey Close and Brewers general manager Doug Melvin. “It’s up to them now.”

With that, the contract portion of the conversation was over. Greinke apologized for not saying more.

He faced a very tall task Thursday against the Cubs’ Matt Garza, who nearly went the distance. For more on the Brewers’ loss to the Cubs, check the full game story on Brewers.com this evening.

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Brewers to host half marathon in September

Click for a larger course map.

The inaugural “Brewers Mini-Marathon” is set for Saturday, Sept. 22 at Miller Park, a 13.1 mile race along a scenic Milwaukee route that will raise money for the MACC Fund, benefitting childhood cancer research in Wisconsin.

The course will take runners past Milwaukee landmarks including the Miller Valley, the Harley-Davidson Museum, the Mitchell Park Conservatory — better known to locals as The Domes — and through Miller Park.  Participants and volunteers will receive a free Brewers ticket voucher good for select 2012 or 2013 Brewers home games, a participant medal, a “tech” shirt and a post-race tailgate party outside Miller Park with live music.

“Brewers Enterprises is always looking to develop new events to add to the entertainment offerings in Milwaukee, and we think the Mini-Marathon will be a terrific afternoon of fun that will benefit a worthy cause,” Brewers COO Rick Schlesinger said in a statement.

Fundraising proceeds from the event will benefit the MACC Fund.  Participants can organize their own fundraising page online at www.brewersmini.com and donors can make donations online.  Fundraising prizes include tickets to 2013 Opening Day, a private dinner for two at home plate at Miller Park, a ceremonial first pitch, a Miller Park roof tour and two tickets to the MACC Fund’s “An Evening with Aaron Rodgers.”

The race entry fee is $65 for those registering by April 30, $75 for those registering between May 1-July 31 and $85 for those registering between Aug. 1-Sept. 19.  For those registering on packet pick-up day, Sept. 21, the cost is $100.

Complete race details, a course map and other information can all be found at www.brewersmini.com.

Too bad the Brewers are in Washington that day, because I’d win this thing.

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Rodriguez wants 300 saves, but staying patient

Francisco Rodriguez trotted from the bullpen Tuesday for career save No. 292, one that was nearly nine months in the making. He’d been promised the occasional save opportunity after the Brewers traded for him last July, but until this week, it just didn’t happen.

Rodriguez, a career closer, said he remains content in a setup role with the Brewers.

“Definitely,” Rodriguez said. “If it wasn’t like that, trust me, I would not be here. It’s nice when you’ve got the feeling that you can help a team win ballgames, and that’s the mentality that I have.”

He helped the Brewers beat the Cubs on Tuesday, when closer John Axford was off-limits after throwing 53 pitches the previous two days. The Cubs had just cut their deficit to 7-4 and had a runner at first base with one out in the ninth inning when Rodriguez entered and retired both Chicago hitters he faced, with a strikeout and a groundout.

It was his first true save opportunity since July 8 of last season, four days before the Mets shipped Rodriguez’s salary to Milwaukee on the night of the All-Star Game.

“It had been a while,” Rodriguez said after logging the save.

But it was just business as usual.

“I’ve been really, in the eighth inning when I’m setting up for ‘Ax,’ trying to have the same mentality,” Rodriguez said. “Attack the hitter and try to put him away as quickly as possible. In that situation [Tuesday] night, that’s what I did. Try to not give them any chance to get back into the game.”

Rodriguez was well aware that it was save No. 292 in his career. He never figured the march to 300 would be so long.

“Eight more to go,” he said. “Hopefully, I get that out of the way. That’s a big milestone for me, but I’m not [going] to worry about that right now. Let’s get some holds, get the ball to ‘Ax’ and keep winning.”

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Win chill: Frosty cold Brewers beat the Cubs

(AP Photo/Jim Prisching)

Some of you must have been sitting on your couches, laughing at the Brewers’ silly headgear Tuesday night. But seriously — it was really cold for a baseball game at Wrigley Field.

With most of Milwaukee’s hitters clad in head warmers, appearing equally suited for a snowmobile ride, a bank robbery or a baseball game, the Brewers scored five runs before Cubs starter Paul Maholm recorded his third out and held on for a 7-4 win at frigid Wrigley Field on Tuesday night.

It got interesting in the ninth inning for the second straight night, but Francisco Rodriguez entered for his first Brewers save — his first ninth-inning save opportunity since last July 8, before a trade from the Mets — and Milwaukee’s masked men pushed above .500 for the first time this season.

“It was so cold, man,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve never experienced anything like this in 10 years of being in the big leagues. I don’t think I can remember anything colder than this.”

The chill in the air didn’t seem to affect K-Rod’s Venezuelan countryman, shortstop Alex Gonzalez, who belted his first Brewers home run amid the five-run first inning. He played in three-quarter sleeves, without any extra headgear.

“Maybe he likes cold weather and I don’t know about it,” Rodriguez said.

Gonzalez was not immediately available to answer. He was in the hot tub after the game.

The Brewers hustled for the warmth of the clubhouse after the final out. This was one night they didn’t mind the cramped quarters at Wrigley Field.

“I don’t know why some guys just handle the cold better than others,” manager Ron Roenicke said. “I was looking at [Gonzalez], and he’s out there with sleeves to [mid-forearm] and he’s like, ‘It’s not cold.’ Then you’ve got the other guys with their face masks.

“I know one thing: I was really cold sitting on the bench.”

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Brewers, Greinke suspend talks

The Brewers and Zack Greinke’s agent have mutually agreed to suspend talks about a contract extension, Milwaukee general manager Doug Melvin said Tuesday. Greinke, entering the final year of his contract, hired agent Casey Close before the end of Spring Training.

Melvin said the decision does not mean the sides could not re-start talks at a later date, but nothing is scheduled.

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Brewers clubbies reminded Sveum of iconic homer

Colleague Carrie Muskat shared this item from Wrigley Field:

CHICAGO — On Sunday, some of the Cubs players’ children were looking for Easter eggs in the outfield grass. For Cubs manager Dale Sveum, Easter Sunday has a special meaning.

Twenty-five years ago on Easter Sunday, Sveum hit a walkoff homer at County Stadium to give the Brewers a 6-4 win over Rangers for their 12th straight win to start the season. That was on April 19, 1987, so technically the official anniversary will be in 11 days.

“I actually forgot all about it until I got a few texts from the clubbies in Milwaukee reminding me,” Sveum said Sunday.

In past years, the Brewers have included Sveum’s homer, which he hit off Greg Harris, as part of Easter Sunday video highlights shown pregame at Miller Park. By the way, Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio pitched 1 1/3 innings in relief in that game, played at County Stadium in front of 29,357.

The Brewers trailed 4-1 going into the ninth inning 25 years ago. Milwaukee had two on and one out when Rob Deer hit a three run homer to tie the game. One out later, Jim Gantner walked and Sveum then connected on the walkoff blast.

Sveum has fond memories of old County Stadium.

“There were a lot of good times,” he said. “That’s where you grow up as a player. That’s the one thing you remember is the good times. That’s the one place I got to play every day, too. Wherever you come up in the big leagues, that will always be a special place even though there were some pretty cold days, like we know here [at Wrigley Field]. It was the same thing at County Stadium with the wind blowing off the lake.”

– Carrie Muskat

 

Braun, Ramirez could get rude Wrigley welcome

Photo courtesy of Scott Paulus/Brewers

The Brewers’ middle-of-the-order hitters will probably get a rude reception when the team plays its first 2012 road game at Wrigley Field on Monday night.

Three-hole hitter Ryan Braun is playing his first regular season away game since appealing a suspension over the winter. Cleanup man Aramis Ramirez is returning as an enemy after parts of nine seasons with the Cubs.

Ramirez said he isn’t sure what kind of reception he’ll get. But he has a hunch about Braun.

“I think it’s going to be ugly for Braun everywhere we go,” Ramirez said. “On the road, it’s going to be tough for him. He knows it. That’s no secret. Plus, he got a taste of it in Spring Training. Everywhere we go, he was getting booed.

“But that’s a good player, and he’s tough. He’s tough mentally, and I think he’s going to be OK. He’s a good enough player to separate that from his game.”

As for how Cubs fans will greet Ramirez’s return?

“I don’t know. That’s a good question,” he said. “I had a great career there. I played for some good teams and also played for some bad teams. I guess you have to ask the fans.”

He had a similar experience in September 2003, when Ramirez returned to Pittsburgh for the first time since a midseason trade from the Pirates to the Cubs. Ramirez went 5-for-13 in that four-game series, with three home runs and six RBIs. He homered twice in that series finale, a 4-1 Cubs win.

“They booed me,” Ramirez said of Pirates fans. “I don’t know why. I didn’t ask to be traded.”

Likewise, Ramirez said, he did not ask to leave Chicago. He was a free agent, and the Cubs’ new president of baseball operations, Theo Epstein, told agent Paul Kinzer that Ramirez did not fit the franchise’s plan.

“Theo was honest,” Ramirez said. “He told my agent they were going young, so there was no place for me there. I’m 33.”

If Cubs fans do boo him, Ramirez said, “I want to know the reason why. What did I do? But [Cubs] fans, they go to the park and they do whatever they want.”

Ramirez still has a home in downtown Chicago, but it’s for sale so he will stay with the Brewers at the team hotel.

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