May 2012

Gamel to DL, Braddock released

As expected, the Brewers placed first baseman Mat Gamel on the 15-day disabled list Friday with a torn ACL in his right knee and summoned utility man Brooks Conrad from Triple-A.

What wasn’t expected was the corresponding move to free a 40-man roster spot for Conrad. The Brewers released Zach Braddock, the 24-year-old, talented but troubled left-handed reliever once considered a key piece of the club’s bullpen puzzle, perhaps even a future closer.

Braddock has not pitched since Spring Training because of personal issues which Brewers officials say they cannot disclose. Last year, Braddock spent time on the disabled list to get treatment for a sleep disorder, then missed most of the second half with that and other undisclosed matters.

After missing the cut with the Brewers this spring, he had been on the inactive list at Triple-A Nashville but was not with the team.

“We needed the roster spot, and we felt with Zach that a change of scenery was the best situation. We had to make some decisions,” general manager Doug Melvin said. “This gives him an opportunity to hook on with somebody else.”

Melvin said the Brewers had discussions with Braddock’s agent, Jeff Berry, before putting Braddock on release waivers. Major League Baseball has rules regarding the release of injured players, and the Brewers wanted to be sure they took all the proper steps.

“He’s got a good arm,” Melvin said. “Someone might claim him. They might not. Sometimes it gets to a point where you decide, ‘Is he going to be a part of your ballclub?’ We didn’t think he would be a part of our ballclub for the present or the foreseeable future. We didn’t see that happening. When you make decisions on players, that’s what you look at.”

Conrad is a switch-hitter who will probably play mostly off the bench. For now, Travis Ishikawa stands to be the regular starter at first base in Gamel’s extended absence.

I asked assistant GM Gord Ash whether there was any significance to Gamel going first to the 15-day DL instead of straight to the 60, and he said no. Gamel will need surgery for his torn ACL, but for now the joint is too swollen to set a schedule. Gamel will visit Dr. William Raasch again on Wednesday, Ash said.

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Injuries testing Brewers’ depth, resolve

Here’s a sneak peak at a story that will appear on Brewers.com this afternoon. It’ll include Travis Ishikawa and Marco Estrada talking about stepping up, Corey Hart talking about the challenges ahead and a great Randy Wolf’s description of what it’s like for a player felled by an injury.

This has been the sort of very bad week the Brewers avoided last season on the way to the National League Championship Series. Left-hander Chris Narveson underwent surgery Tuesday morning for a torn rotator cuff, a formal end to his season. Hours later, first baseman Mat Gamel tore the ACL in his right knee chasing a foul pop-up. He’ll need surgery, too, and if Gamel does not miss the rest of the regular season, he will miss most of it.

“We don’t have the luxury of being disappointed,” said left fielder Ryan Braun, who left Wednesday’s loss to the Padres with his own medical issue — a sore right Achilles. “We feel for both of the guys, two guys we were excited about, but nobody is going to feel bad for us.”

Just like the Brewers didn’t feel bad for other teams last season when they encountered injuries. Think of the Cardinals, who won the World Series without ace right-hander Adam Wainwright throwing a single pitch.

Brewers starter Randy Wolf called injuries “part of life” in the Major Leagues, and he would know. He had Tommy John elbow surgery in July 2005 and was sidelined a year. Then he had shoulder surgery in July 2007 and missed the rest of that season.

“I know how it is,” Wolf said. “When you’re playing, you’re in this river, and you’re going along in your little floatie. When you get hurt, you’re stuck on the shore and the season rushes by you.

“That’s how the game is; it has to keep on going. Players have to keep their minds on winning. It’s not like we’re insensitive to something that happens, but we understand that [injuries] do happen, and we have to move on. From this point on, there’s nothing we can do but get over it.”

Leave the worrying to general manager Doug Melvin, who expressed alarm at the number of star Major League players already struck by devastating injuries this season.

Among them: Boston’s Carl Crawford is out indefinitely with a torn ligament in his elbow, the same injury that cost Reds closer Ryan Madson and Royals closer Joakim Soria their seasons. Rays All-Star third baseman Evan Longoria could miss two months with a hamstring injury. Phillies mainstays Ryan Howard (Achilles) and Chase Utley (knees) have yet to play this season.

“I’m worried about our game and the number of injuries in our industry,” Melvin said. “When you have top-quality players going down and missing the whole season, it’s scary.

“You’re talking about star talent missing time, and we have more injuries in baseball than we ever have. I think it’s scary. You can’t plan for it.”

That uncertainty is the stuff that drives GMs crazy.

“We always say, to win you have to have a lot of things go right,” Melvin said. “You have to get big years out of somebody you didn’t count on. You have to stay free of injuries. But, it gives other opportunities to other people too, and it keeps your scouting people working, keeps their minds going.”

A number of Brewers players insisted that the team’s aim — defend the division crown, return to the postseason — will not change.

The river will keep flowing.

“The goal for this team can’t change,” Wolf said. “Not on May 2.”

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Braun limps off, leaves game with sore Achilles

A bad day got worse for the Brewers when left fielder Ryan Braun exited Wednesday’s game after limping off the field following a sixth inning fly out.

He downplayed the problem — a sore right Achilles tendon — after a 5-0 loss to the Padres. It flared up when Braun logged his 100th career stolen base on Tuesday night, and there was some discussion before Wednesday’s game whether Braun would play or sit.

The Brewers were in a 3-0 hole when Braun led off the sixth inning with a fly out to left field. He trotted off slowly, and was limping around in the dugout while other outfielders began to stir. Nyjer Morgan wound up taking over in left field for the bottom of the sixth.

Braun entered the day as the Brewers’ leader in hits (26), total bases (56), home runs (seven) and RBIs (17).

The injury bug has been biting the Brewers of late. Chris Narveson underwent his season-ending left shoulder surgery on Tuesday morning, hours before first baseman Mat Gamel suffered a torn ACL in his right knee that will require its own surgical fix.

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Gamel has torn ACL

Brewers first baseman Mat Gamel needs a surgery for a torn ligament in his right knee and will miss a significant chunk of the regular season, general manager Doug Melvin confirmed on Wednesday.

Gamel was hurt chasing a foul pop-up in Tuesday’s loss to the Padres at Petco Park and underwent an MRI scan after the game. His right leg was completely immobilized and Gamel moved about the clubhouse on crutches Wednesday afternoon before traveling to Milwaukee to meet with the Brewers’ head physician. Dr. William Raasch will set a timetable for surgery.

Melvin and other Brewers officials stopped short of declaring Gamel lost for the season, with Melvin saying only that, “we’re anticipating long-term.” Right-hander Yovani Gallardo tore his ACL on the same date in 2008 and wound up returning to the mound in the final week of the regular season, then started Game 1 of that year’s National League Division Series against the Phillies.

“He’s waited for his chance and his opportunity, and now…” Melvin said, leaving that disappointing though unfinished. “That’s what’s tough about it. This year was a big year for him.”

It’s also tough for the Brewers, who were encouraged by Gamel’s first month following in Prince Fielder’s footsteps. Utility man Brooks Conrad started at first base for Triple-A Nashville on Wednesday and will be recalled in time for the  Brewers’ series opener Friday in San Francisco, and Travis Ishikawa will be the regular first baseman in the near term.

Options down the road include right fielder Corey Hart, who  said he would spend the next few days reacquainting the position during batting practice. The Brewers are deep in outfielders, so Hart could, in time, move to first base if Ishikawa does not work out.

Melvin also instructed his staff to compile a list of players available in free agency or potentially available in trades. Derrek Lee, Melvin said, is “one name out there.”

“At the end of the year, we’re still [not] going to know who’s our first baseman,” Melvin said.

Gamel spoke only briefly to reporters before leaving for his flight. Immediately after taking his tumble, he thought he was OK. Gamel finished the half-inning and briefly stepped on-deck in the top of the second, only to return to the dugout after one tentative swing.

“I knew that I couldn’t go,” he said. “It stinks.”

Gamel has dealt with bad breaks before. He was injured in three consecutive Spring Trainings before reporting to camp in 2012 in terrific shape, committed to taking over first base for Milwaukee. Melvin made clear that Monday’s injury fell into the category of accidental, and not preventative.

“I play the game hard, man,” Gamel said.  “Unfortunately, when you play the game hard, sometimes you’ve got to pay.”

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Gamel heads back to Milwaukee for tests

The Brewers have announced they’re sending first baseman Mat Gamel back to Milwaukee today to be examined by head physician William Raasch, who will make a more formal diagnosis on Gamel’s injured right knee. Gamel was hurt while trying to catch a pop-up in foul ground during the first inning Tuesday night. He finished that half inning, then was replaced in the top of the second after taking an awkward swing in the on-deck circle.

Asked after the game whether he feared the injury was significant, manager Ron Roenicke said, “Yeah, I think so. I felt pretty good when he stayed in the game. He seemed to be strong. Any time a guy walks off after trying to swing, you’re going to be concerned about him. With the knee, there’s so many things that you can tweak. Whether it’s a slight tear or whatever the case may be, there’s a lot going on.”

Hopefully, we’ll know more about Gamel’s status today. The Brewers play their series finale against the Padres at an odd time — 3:30 p.m. local, 5:30 p.m. CT. Travis Ishikawa now becomes an important part of the Brewers’ offense.

Yovani Gallardo starts for the Brewers today, and the Gamel situation is reminding me of May 1, 2008, when Gallardo injured his right knee while covering first base in a game against the Cubs. Gallardo was able to finish that inning, then pitched another before exiting the game. He was sent back to Milwaukee and wound up having surgery for a torn ACL.

Obviously, the Brewers hope Gamel’s outcome is different. Let’s hold off discussions of moving Corey Hart to first base until the Brewers offer a better idea of the situation.

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Concern for Gamel’s knee injury

A dangerous first inning for first basemen claimed the Brewers’ Mat Gamel, who exited Tuesday’s game at Petco Park with a worrisome right knee injury.

Gamel was hurt chasing a pop-up in foul ground and initially stayed in the game, but left after taking an awkward swing in the on-deck circle in the top of the second inning. Manager Ron Roenicke expressed concern after the Brewers 2-0 loss to the Padres, speaking to reporters at the same time Gamel was being further examined.

Asked whether he feared the injury was significant, Roenicke said, “Yeah, I think so. I felt pretty good when he stayed in the game. He seemed to be strong. Any time a guy walks off after trying to swing, you’re going to be concerned about him. With the knee, there’s so many things that you can tweak. Whether it’s a slight tear or whatever the case may be, there’s a lot going on.”

Gamel was chasing a Nick Hundley popup when he smacked into the low wall that separates fans from the playing field. Gamel finished the inning after receiving attention from head athletic trainer Dan Wright, and briefly stepped into the on-deck circle in the top of the second inning.

But Gamel took an awkward warm-up swing and returned to the dugout. Travis Ishikawa replaced him in the game.

The Padres’ first baseman, Yonder Alonso, had a run-in with the same portion of wall during the first inning. He chased a Rickie Weeks popup that made it to the seats, tumbled over the wall and stayed down for several moments. Alonso remained in the game.

It’s been a painful week for Gamel, who sat out three games last week and over the weekend with of a sore shoulder, the result of a home plate collision with Astros catcher Jason Castro on April 23.

If Gamel misses time, Ishikawa would probably step in as the regular first baseman. The Brewers have also considered using right fielder Corey Hart, who was drafted as a first baseman 12 years ago, at that position on occasion.

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Narveson’s surgery went as expected

Brewers left-hander Chris Narveson’s season-ending shoulder surgery went just as expected on Tuesday, assistant general manager Gord Ash said.

Dr. William Raasch repaired a tear in Narveson’s left rotator cuff and also repaired the labrum. The labrum issue had not been included in the Brewers’ previous reports about Narveson, but was an anticipated part of the procedure.

“The main component was the rotator cuff, but we knew from the imaging that there was some fraying of the labrum,” Ash said. “Dr. Raasch felt it best that, while we were in there, to take care of that. It is a common part of wear and tear for a pitcher.”

Narveson also had labrum surgery in 2005.

That added component of the surgery will not impact Narveson’s rehabilitation timetable, Ash said. The original estimate was 6-9 months, but Ash called the short end of that spectrum, “very optimistic.”

“The way we look at it is, ‘Ready for Spring Training,’” Ash said.

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