Paging Tony Plush: Brewers need to break the ice

Do the Brewers miss Prince Fielder in the clubhouse as much as they miss him on the field?

That was one of the questions manager Ron Roenicke faced on Saturday morning, a few hours after a blowout loss dropped the Brewers seven games under .500 for the first time in two seasons. The Brewers have yet to win more than three games in a row, and Roenicke suggested that their struggles cannot simply be explained by the rash of injuries that felled first baseman Mat Gamel, shortstop Alex Gonzalez and starter Chris Narveson.

“I think we’re just struggling in general,” Roenicke said. “We weren’t playing that well before we had the injuries. I think we haven’t figured out what kind of group this is going to be, and the confidence that you need [is missing].

“Guys are playing hard, they’re working hard. It’s not that. But as a team, we knew who we were last year. We had a lot of personalities on the team, and I thought we meshed really well. This year, we’ve got a quiet group. There are some personalities, but we’ve got a quiet group. Sometimes when things aren’t going real well, you need somebody to loosen it up a little bit.”

Fielder was one of those guys at times. So were veterans LaTroy Hawkins, Jerry Hairston Jr. and Mark Kotsay, who entertained his teammates during good times and bad last season by playing naked golf in the clubhouse. Yes, that is exactly what it sounds like.

This year’s club is different so far.

“Prince is a big personality that has an edge to it,” Roenicke said. “He was able to loosen up the clubhouse, but he was also, because of the edge, [able to say], ‘Let’s go! Enough is enough.’ That was good. I think with everybody else, I thought it really was good.”

Last year, Roenicke had some chats with outfielder Nyjer Morgan about toning down his alter ego, “Tony Plush.” This year, Roenicke would like to see more of Mr. Plush, but Morgan has been focused intensely on overcoming his slow start at the plate.

“Once you start playing well, it’s not necessary to have that [personality],” Roenicke said. “But when things aren’t going well, that’s when you really need the personalities to keep things loose and keep things positive. We’re trying to do it as a staff, but sometimes players get a little bit tired of hearing us. We’re trying to figure it out.”

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