May 2012

Narron heard from Rangers’ Hamilton

AP Photo

After swinging his way into the record books Tuesday night as the 16th Major Leaguer to hit four home runs in a game, Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton placed a Wednesday morning phone call to his mentor.

Johnny Narron didn’t get to say much.

“He just wanted to talk about it, so I listened to him,” Narron said.

The two men have been very close since 2007, Narron serving in Cincinnati and Texas as an around-the-clock asset for Hamilton, helping the talented but troubled outfielder avoid issues with drugs and alcohol. Now that Narron is in his first season as the Brewers’ hitting coach, they remain in regular contact.

Narron heard about Hamilton’s four-homer game after the Brewers beat the Reds at Miller Park on Tuesday. He raced him to see highlights.

“Knowing Josh the way I know him, I wanted to see on TV how they pitched him,” Narron said. “I saw they threw him in the middle of the zone, in his hot spot. … Shame on ‘em, because he isn’t going to miss it.”

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Roenicke thankful for extension

Not surprisingly, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke expressed thanks on Tuesday after the club announced it had extended his contract through at least 2014.

Technically, the Brewers exercised the 2013 club option in Roenicke’s original contract and added a one-year deal with another club option on top. So, he’s guaranteed through 2014 with an option for 2015.

“It’s good to get it done. I wish we would have been playing a little bit better when we did it, but that’s the way it is,” Roenicke said. “And it’s nice, because my focus needs to be on what we’re doing here, what we’re trying to accomplish, and getting through this time when we’re not playing well.”

Was his uncertain future a distraction?

“No, I don’t think it’s a distraction,” he said. “I’m very happy they have the confidence in me to let me come back next year and the year after, and then we’ll see what happens [for 2015]. But it’s not a distraction.”

As for general manager Doug Melvin getting his on contract extension through 2015, Roenicke said, “I’m happy about it because I really like who I work for. So many times, that may not be the case, but I liked him from the first day I interviewed with him, and I like him more that I’m around him, and now that I’ve gotten to know Mark [Attanasio, the Brewers' principal owner], I really like the people I work for. That makes a huge difference for me, especially in planning for the future.”

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Melvin, Roenicke get contract extensions

The Brewers made long-term commitments Tuesday to two faces of the franchise, extending general manager Doug Melvin’s contract through 2015 and manager Ron Roenicke’s through 2014.

Roenicke’s deal includes a club option for 2015. Both he and Melvin were in the final years of their contracts.

“In two of the past four years we reached significant milestones by advancing to the postseason, and we have reached a point where we expect to field a perennially competitive team,” Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio said in a statement. “This was one of my highest priorities when I first became involved with the Milwaukee Brewers, and we could not have accomplished it without the efforts of Doug Melvin and his baseball operations staff.”

Melvin also got a promotion. He’s now “president of baseball operations-general manager.” He was previously an executive vice president.

The talks with both Melvin and Roenicke began back in Spring Training, when the team was riding a wave of optimism after a club-record 96-win regular season and a trip to the National League Championship Series.

Discussions bore fruit Tuesday with the team in a funk, facing injury emergencies at first base and shortstop and tied with the Cubs for last place in the National League Central.

Melvin has orchestrated comebacks before. When the Brewers’ previous ownership hired him in September 2002, the team was on its way to a franchise-record 106 losses. Melvin slashed the payroll in subsequent seasons as part of a dramatic rebuilding project, which produced a .500 finish in 2005, the Brewers’ first winning season in 15 years in 2007 and its first postseason appearance in 26 years in 2008.

Melvin’s key trades have netted pitchers CC Sabathia, Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum and Francisco Rodriguez, and in recent years he has signed many of the club’s home-grown players to long-term contracts ahead of free agency, including outfielders Ryan Braun and Corey Hart, second baseman Rickie Weeks and right-hander Yovani Gallardo. All have been All-Stars.

Melvin won two executive of the year awards last winter, including one decided by a vote of fellow GMs.

“I want to thank Mark Attanasio and his ownership group for their confidence in me and my staff, and for their support year in and year out,” Melvin said in a statement.  “I believe we have built a winning culture here at the Brewers, and we embrace the higher expectations that naturally come along with that change.

“I also want to thank the fans of this team as they over-deliver in every way. Milwaukee is a very special city to me and my family, and we are proud to call it home.”

Roenicke was named the 18th manager in franchise history on November 4, 2010, inheriting a team with high expectations despite losing records in each of the previous two years. Roenicke led the Brewers to their first division title since 1982.

“Ron has been a tremendous addition to our staff and his leadership is instrumental in not only guiding a successful team, but also developing one of the best clubhouse environments in all of baseball,” Melvin said in his statement.

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Attanasio: ‘We’re trying to win this year’

Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio is with the team on this West Coast swing, meaning he has witnessed its terrible spate of injuries in person. The Brewers have lost a starting pitcher, a starting first baseman and a starting shortstop, either for the rest of the season or most of it.

Attanasio made clear on Sunday that he’s not giving up on 2012.

“You try not to be down,” Attanasio said. “Everybody has to keep their spirits up because we’re trying to win this year.”

They will have to win without left-hander Chris Narveson, out for the year after shoulder surgery. First baseman Mat Gamel needs surgery for a torn ACL in his right knee, and a teammate indicated Sunday that Gamel’s injury is much more complicated than one torn ligament. Shortstop Alex Gonzalez will undergo an MRI scan on Monday after suffering his own devastating right knee injury on Saturday.

On top of that, outfielder Carlos Gomez was placed on the DL Sunday with a left hamstring strain, and left fielder Ryan Braun is trying to play through a tight right Achilles.

Oh, and the Brewers entered Sunday at 12-15, four games behind first-place St. Louis in the National League Central. They ranked 15th of 16 NL teams in both team batting average and ERA.

“Look, plenty of other teams have injuries, too,” Attanasio said. “Not necessarily season-ending injuries, but we still have an enormously talented team that we all believe is going to start playing better. I’m still at the point where I’m looking at the lineups every day before the game, and I like our lineup better than the other team’s. We got off to a slow start last year, too.”

But last year, the Brewers were getting healthy at this time, with right fielder Corey Hart getting back to form after a rib-cage strain and Zack Greinke returning from a cracked rib. This year is a little different.

Attanasio left open the door to some major midseason acquisitions, going as far as referencing the Brewers’ July 2008 trade for starter CC Sabathia. He pointed to the Cardinals, who won the World Series last year partly on the strength of a bullpen bolstered by a big July trade.

“Everything” is on the table, Attanasio said.

“We’re only [27] games in,” he said. “It’s going to depend where were at, at that point in time. Look at where we were when we added CC. We were over .500 but we were several games back.”

Complicating things for Attanasio and general manager Doug Melvin is the fact that three key pitchers — Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum and Francisco Rodriguez — are due to reach free agency after the season. The team’s performance over the next month or two will determine whether the Brewers are in position to add talent ahead of the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline.

“There’s a lot of enormously talented guys in here,” Attanasio said, looking around the clubhouse.

The Brewers had an 11:35 a.m. PT team meeting on Sunday to discuss a travel issue. Manager Ron Roenicke planned to say a few words to players about keeping their spirits up.

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Gomez, Gonzalez to DL

Before their game against the Giants on Sunday, the Brewers will place outfielder Carlos Gomez (left hamstring) and shortstop Alex Gonzalez (right knee) on the 15-day disabled list. They’ll recall third baseman Taylor Green from Triple-A Nashville and will purchase shortstop Edwin Maysonet’s contract. To make room for Maysonet on the 40-man roster, the team will shift Mat Gamel to the 60-day DL.

Gonzalez’s injury is bad. He was using crutches in the clubhouse and will undergo an MRI scan on Monday back in Milwaukee. Check Brewers.com tonight for comments from all parties after a trying Saturday.

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Gonzalez latest to go down with injury

The Brewers’ very painful road trip continued Saturday when shortstop Alex Gonzalez appeared to seriously injure his right knee on a slide into second base.

Television replays showed Gonzalez’s right leg buckle when he reached the bag after a second-inning steal. He immediately slammed his helmet and called for head athletic trainer Dan Wright, who, with manager Ron Roenicke, helped Gonzalez off the field.

The Brewers announced only that Gonzalez had a knee injury. He was to undergo an MRI scan.

Gonzalez became the fourth Brewers player to exit with an injury in as many games. First baseman Mat Gamel suffered a serious knee injury on Tuesday, left fielder Ryan Braun left Wednesday with a stiff Achilles and outfielder Carlos Gomez exited Friday night with a strained hamstring.

Gamel is already on the disabled list and Gomez was expected to join him Saturday night. Braun was back in the lineup on Saturday.

The Brewers signed Gonzalez in December to be their starting shortstop, and he has been a bright spot so far. Before he was hurt, he’d just delivered an RBI single for a 1-0 lead, Gonzalez’s 15th RBI.

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Gomez expected to hit DL

It was Carlos Gomez Sr. who taught his boy to play at full speed or don’t play at all, good advice that sometimes comes with a price.

The Brewers were making plans Saturday to place Gomez on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring he suffered hustling to first base on a routine fly out Friday night. The team feels set in the outfield even without the speedy Gomez, so an infielder is expected to arrive from Triple-A Nashville in time for Sunday’s series finale at AT&T Park.

A dejected Gomez was feeling “much better” by Saturday morning, but said he’d need about a week of rest to avoid further hamstring damage. Gomez’s best asset is speed.

“It’s hard for a guy like me to take a chance if it is torn a little bit,” he said. “You don’t want to go to the field and tear it completely, because then you are going to lose a lot of time.”

If it were a different player, and a different situation, the Brewers might have resisted a DL move. But left fielder Ryan Braun has been dealing with a tight right Achilles (he was back in the lineup Saturday) and the Brewers did not want to risk playing a man short for a full week.

Then there’s Gomez’s all-out style, which has made him a valuable bench player and occasional Brewers starter but has also sent him to the DL every year since he was traded from Minnesota to Milwaukee. In May 2010, he hurt his left shoulder diving into second base. Last July, he fractured his left collarbone making a terrific diving catch at Arizona.

On Friday night, he was hustling to first base on a fly out to center field. When Gomez rounded first and put on the brakes, he felt his left hamstring “grab.”

“It’s really bad and frustrating that … you’re hurt when you play the game right and do exactly what you’re supposed to do,” Gomez said.

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Add Gomez to injury report

With Ryan Braun on the bench resting a sore Achilles, the injury bug bit another Brewers outfielder on Friday night.

Carlos Gomez left the Brewers’ 6-4 win over the Giants in the fourth inning after tweaking his left hamstring. He was hurt sprinting down the first base line on a fly out, and after the game manager Ron Roenicke characterized the injury as troubling.

“We’ll wait and see how he is [Saturday] and then make a decision on what we need to do,” Roenicke said. “It looks like it’s more than a day, but I don’t think it’s real bad.”

Asked whether he expected Gomez to need a stint on the 15-day disabled list, Roenicke said, “That’s what we’ll decide [Saturday].”

Braun is also questionable for Saturday. The Brewers and Giants play an afternoon game at 3:05 p.m. CT.

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Braun improved, but still sidelined

Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun had improved in the two days since exiting a game in San Diego with a tight right Achilles, but not enough to make it into the starting lineup Friday night against the Giants.

Braun did not take part in batting practice on the field but did some work in the batting cages, manager Ron Roenicke said. Braun was also expected to try some limited running drills to see if he could pinch-hit.

“It’s still just tight in the Achilles, and we’ll try to give it another day,” Roenicke said.

Roenicke could not say whether Braun would be available to start Saturday’s afternoon game.

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Gallardo feels for Yanks’ Rivera

Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo felt particular sympathy when he saw the now-viral video of Yankees closer Mariano Rivera tearing his ACL during batting practice. Gallardo suffered the same injury in May 2008.

“That’s tough for any ballplayer to go down the way he did,” Gallardo said. “It stinks.”

The Yankees expect Rivera to miss the rest of this season but he vowed Friday that he would pitch again. Gallardo actually pitched later the same year, making one start in the final week of the regular season and two appearances in the National League Championship Series against the Phillies, including a Game 1 start.

Here’s the difference: Gallardo was 22 when he was hurt. Rivera is 42. Will that make a big difference?

“Honestly, I don’t know,” Gallardo said. “Obviously, it depends on everybody’s body. There’s some guys that heal, no matter what age, a lot quicker. He’s a good overall athlete.”

What does Rivera face in the coming weeks?

“It’s tough. It’s a lot of hard work,” Gallardo said. “When I had to go through it, it was non-stop, everyday, rehabbing every day for 2-3 hours or whatever it might be. For myself, I had the opportunity to come back and pitch that same year, which was unbelievable. I never thought that [would happen]. Honestly, I didn’t. I thought I was going to be done for that whole year.

“To have the opportunity to come back and have a start before the year was over and then start in the postseason, that was pretty good.”

As for the way in which Rivera was hurt, during batting practice instead of a game, Gallardo said, “It’s one of those weird injuries, out of nowhere. It’s one of those awkward things. There’s a lot of guys out there, running after fly balls, passing time, having a good time. You see something like that happens, it’s just crazy, overall.”

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