July 2012

Brewers working on Kottaras deal

FoxSports.com is reporting a nifty pair of moves that allow the Brewers to give catcher George Kottaras a big-league job without losing all of their catching depth.

Kottaras, designated for assignment on Thursday, was close to being traded to the A’s, according to the website. And the Brewers signed another experienced catcher, Humberto Quintero, to a Minor League deal.

We just spoke briefly in the clubhouse with Kottaras, who said he was informed something was in the works but had not been finalized. A Brewers front official confirmed that the deal was not done yet.

So, stay tuned. Kottaras, a big-time fitness buff, was going to have one last workout at Miller Park while awaiting word on his destination. If he is indeed traded, it’s a nice move by Brewers general manager Doug Melvin took keep an established player in the big leagues.

Qunitero is 32 and a veteran of 10 Major League seasons with the Padres, Astros and Royals. He batted .232 in 43 games with Kansas City this season before that team released him before the All-Star break. He would provide some experienced catching depth in the wake of Kottaras’ departure.

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Melvin details Brewers’ final push to re-sign Greinke

The Brewers made their last effort to re-sign Zack Greinke in late June and were rebuffed, general manager Doug Melvin said Friday in clarifying one of the more confusing aspects of Greinke’s final days as a Brewer. A report last week said the Brewers offered a five-year extension in excess of $100 million. Melvin later said that wasn’t quite right.

So what did happen?

As Melvin told it, he contacted agent Casey Close to talk some “parameters.” If the Brewers were to offer ‘X’ — Melvin declined to offer specifics — would that be a starting point for new negotiations?

“To me, negotiations are when you exchange numbers on paper, fax them back and forth,” Melvin said. “We never really did that. The conversation that we had when I talked with Casey Close was, ‘We know Zack wants to be a free agent, we know where Matt Cain signed [with the Giants]. Is there anything to get us involved to forego [free agency]? If not, we understand that.’ I threw the parameters out there.”

Those parameters were somewhere in the neighborhood of but below the contract Cain signed with the Giants in early April that added five years and $112.5 million in new guaranteed money to his deal.

Close’s response?

“I think it’s just best to be a free agent,” Melvin said.

At that point, it became clear that the Brewers would either have to climb back into contention or consider trading Greinke. When they fell out of the race, a trade became inevitable.

On Friday, the Brewers traded Greinke to the Angels for shortstop prospect Jean Segura and two pitchers, ending a brief but colorful era in Milwaukee.

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Greinke expects Angels’ pitching to be ‘pretty incredible’

Here’s what Zack Greinke had to say before the Brewers cut short a brief question and answer session tonight:

Q: Are you happy that if this was going to happen, it happened quickly?

I didn’t think about it that way. I’m just going to miss my time here. It was a lot of fun. We had a great team, a great group of guys and everybody gets along. So, it was a fun clubhouse. It’s surprising that everyone could still get along as good when we’re not playing good. Most teams, if you’re playing good, you get along [and] if you’re not playing good, you usually don’t get along. Here, it’s a great group of guys.

Q: What’s your reaction to going to the Angels?

It should be fun. They’ve got a great team. I think after the first month [that] they struggled, they’re one of the best teams in baseball. They definitely have a lot of talent there. A lot of good players, great pitching. That pitching staff will be pretty incredible.”

[Greinke said he spoke briefly to Ange;s GM Jerry DiPoto. He was not sure about the schedule for his Angels debut.]

Q: The Brewers wanted to keep you here. What’s your version of why that didn’t work out?

It’s a business decision, I guess, is the best way to describe it. That’s just how baseball is. But I enjoyed it here, and they say they enjoyed having me. Hopefully, the guys they got for me end up helping out, because I know the guys they gave up to Kansas City for me, some of them turned out pretty good. Hopefully, it’s the same story here.”

Q: Is he open to returning to the Brewers if they pursue him in free agency?

Yeah. I mean, I haven’t talked about anything going on with free agency. But like I said, it would definitely be a possibility.”

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Brewers get Angels’ top prospect, two pitchers for Greinke

The Zack Greinke era is over at Miller Park.

The Brewers traded the right-handed ace to the Angels on Friday for a trio of prospects — shortstop Jean Segura and Double-A right-handers Ariel Pena and John Hellweg, two baseball sources confirmed to MLB.com.

It ended a Brewers tenure that lasted last than two seasons, a shorter stay than Milwaukee general manager Doug Melvin envisioned when he traded a quartet of top prospects to the Royals for Greinke and shortstop Yuniesky Betancort in December 2010. Greinke helped deliver the Brewers to the 2011 National League Championship Series, but was unable to find common ground with the team about a contract extension to extend his stay beyond 2012.

Once it was clear that Greinke intended to test free agency this fall, and that the Brewers would not defend their National League Central crown, Melvin began fielding offers.

The Rangers and Braves were among the other teams interested in Greinke that will now seek pitching elsewhere. The Rangers had serious interest, but balked at the Brewers’ demand for infielder Mike Olt, according to MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan.

In Segura, 22, the Brewers get the Angels’ top prospect, a 22-year-old from the Dominican Republic who has spent most of the season at Double-A Arkansas, batting .294 with seven home runs, 40 RBIs and 22 stolen bases in 94 games. He made his Major League debut on Tuesday.

Pena, 23, was 6-6 with a 2.99 ERA in 19 starts at Arkansas, with 111 strikeouts in 114 1/3 innings. Hellweg, 23, was 6-10 with a 3.38 ERA in 21 starts.

Hellweg was No. 7 on MLB.com’s preseason list of the Angels’ top prospects and Pena was No. 14. Segura was No. 44 on the list of the Top 100 preseason prospects in baseball and the seventh-best shortstop.

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Latest on Marcum

MILWAUKEE — After injured Brewers starter Shaun Marcum’s bullpen session on Tuesday brought back positive reviews, his second one on Friday wasn’t as successful, manager Ron Roenicke said.

“The other day, there were no issues at all,” Roenicke said. “Arm strength was good, ball came out good, shoulder [and] elbow both felt fine. Today, he didn’t feel as good.”

Marcum has been on the disabled list since June 23, retroactive to June 15, with right elbow tightness. He threw 15 pitches on Friday, but pitching coach Rick Kranitz said Marcum’s arm “wasn’t quite getting loose.” Kranitz indicated that Marcum’s shoulder was the issue, not his elbow.

Out of action since June 14, Marcum is 5-3 with a 3.39 ERA on the year. Originally, Roenicke expected Marcum to miss a start or two, but the process has taken much longer.

Was Friday’s bullpen session another setback?

“Maybe,” Roenicke said.

Kranitz anticipated Marcum would play catch on flat ground on Saturday, and then more decisions would be made from there. He had received no indication that Marcum would need to be shut down.

“That’s how I’m looking at it right now — no one’s hearing alarm bells or anything like that,” Kranitz said.

Roenicke said he would likely know more about Marcum’s status on Saturday after head athletic trainer Dan Wright had a chance to look at him. The good news, Kranitz said, was that Marcum’s workout was not cut short because of pain.

“So, it’s just like, ‘Well, do we push through it?’” Kranitz said. “No, there’s no need to push through it. … He’s a competitor; he wants to pitch. He wants to get out there as soon as possible. That’s all part of it.”

Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for MLB.com

Nationals don’t expect to face Greinke

Zack Greinke is scheduled to start again for the Brewers on Sunday, two days before the nonwaiver Trade Deadline. Nationals manager Davey Johnson expects to face somebody else.

“I’d be real surprised. I know in the past if the ballclub’s intent on making a move, they’re not going to pitch him two days before the deadline,” Johnson said on Thursday as the teams began their four-game series.

There were, Johnson said, “several reasons” for his suspicion, including the fact that the Brewers added an extra arm to their bullpen earlier Thursday. There were others.

“A club would probably like to put him right in their rotation,” Johnson said. “You wouldn’t want to do anything to hurt him. So yeah, I’d be surprised if he’s still here.”

If Greinke is dealt, the Brewers would probably reinstate 23-year-old Tyler Thornburg to the rotation. Right-hander Shaun Marcum is also making strides in his return from an elbow injury, with another bullpen session scheduled for Friday.

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Roenicke set to use closers by committee

MILWAUKEE — Before Thursday’s series opener with the Nationals at Miller Park, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke wasn’t sure which pitcher would handle the role of closer if it was needed. That’s a decision he said he’s going to start making on a day-by-day basis.

“We’re going to go with whatever we see in the game,” Roenicke said. “Unfortunately, it’s come to that. I would probably rather have a set bullpen, but we’re going to match it and see how we do that way.”

It’s not for lack of pitchers with closing experience that Roenicke has taken a new approach to the end of his bullpen, as John Axford and Francisco Rodriguez had 381 career saves between them entering Thursday. But after blowing his sixth save on July 16, Axford was removed from closing duties and Rodriguez took over. Rodriguez then blew two straight saves against the Phillies, opening up Roenicke to the idea of other pitchers closing.

Roenicke said that includes the possibility of using veteran Livan Hernandez. The 37-year-old right-hander has appeared in eight games for the Brewers this season before Thursday, notching a 4.76 ERA with 10 strikeouts in 11 innings. A Major League starter for 15 seasons, Hernandez moved to the bullpen this year with the Braves and earned the only save of his career on May 5.

Hernandez joined Milwaukee in June, and Roenicke said he likes the attitude he brings to the mound.

“I know one thing about him: he isn’t going to be bothered by what’s the circumstance,” Roenicke said of Hernandez. “He’s going to throw strikes. And that’s not to say he won’t go out there and walk somebody, but he’s going to attack the hitters. I’m OK with that.”

For Axford, who entered the season considered to be a legitimate closer after notching 46 saves last season, he hopes to earn his regular spot back. Since losing that role, Axford has appeared in five games, surrendering two hits and no runs in 5 1/3 innings. Both Roenicke and Axford said it’s helped the 29-year-old right-hander to pitch in situations earlier in the game without as much pressure.

Axford said he has returned to the same spot mentally as he was last year, and he believes he’s taking steps toward being the Brewers closer again soon.

“I feel fantastic, and I think we’ll see how it goes from there,” Axford said. “Obviously, if they want to have me keep throwing where I am right now to feel even more confident with a few good outings still before [returning to the closer role], I think that’s going to be fantastic, too.”
Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for MLB.com

 

Melvin says Greinke will be traded

It’s no longer a matter of whether Zack Greinke will be traded.

It’s a matter of when.

General manager Doug Melvin took the rare step Thursday of telling USA Today that Greinke would be dealt before Tuesday’s 4 p.m. CT nonwaiver Trade Deadline, a declaration that removed any lingering hope that the team might be able to extend Greinke’s contract beyond the end of his season.

Melvin told the newspaper that he hadn’t had any formal negotiations with Greinke or agent Casey Close since the end of Spring Training, and said the Brewers had been informed that Greinke intends to test the free agent market.

That means last week’s report that the Brewers had extended a five year offer in excess of $100 million — a report Greinke himself confirmed — was slightly inaccurate. More likely, Melvin and Close informally discussed parameters of a potential deal, and the Greinke camp decided the sides’ expectations were too far apart.

“I’m very fond of him,” Melvin told USA Today. “He’s one of my favorite players I ever had. Really, he’s been like a son to me. I enjoyed talking baseball with him. He’s very passionate. He follows the game. It’s been a great experience having him for a year and a half.

“There are so many good things about him, it’s going to be difficult when we trade him.”

Melvin’s comments come on the heels of the Brewers’ 0-6 road trip to Cincinnati and Philadelphia, a dismal stretch that left them nine games under .500 and 13 1/2 games behind the Reds in the National League Central.

Greinke, 28, is 9-3 with a 3.44 ERA in 21 Brewers starts this season and is coming off a seven-inning gem in Philadelphia. That game was attended by a slew of scouts. Among the clubs known to have interest in Greinke, the best available arm on the trade market now that the Phillies have locked-up left-hander Cole Hamels, are the Rangers, Braves, Dodgers, Orioles and White Sox.

The Rangers and Braves appear the most serious suitors, with top Rangers scouts attending Greinke’s starts for weeks and the Braves moving on after a tentative trade with the Cubs for right-hander Ryan Dempster fell apart.

“If you’re in a pennant race,” Melvin told the newspaper, “this guy is a difference maker.”

Greinke is scheduled to start again for the Brewers on Sunday, two days before the Trade Deadline. If he’s traded before then, the Brewers would probably reinstate 23-year-old Tyler Thornburg to the rotation.

The Brewers could also try to trade closer Francisco Rodriguez, who suffered two blown saves in the just-completed Phillies series, and catcher George Kottaras, who was designated for assignment on Thursday morning. Third baseman Aramis Ramirez and first baseman/outfielder Corey Hart have also appeared in trade rumors, but both are signed beyond this season.

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Brewers make catching, relief moves

A couple of new faces will be in uniform for tonight’s series opener against Washington after the Brewers made a series of roster moves.

They designated catcher George Kottaras for assignment to clear a 40-man roster spot for reliever Jim Henderson, called-up to help a beleaguered bullpen. It also made way for catcher Jonathan Lucroy’s return from a nearly two-month stay on the disabled list.

To clear the other 25-man roster spot, the Brewers optioned infielder Jeff Bianchi back to Triple-A.

Much more later on the moves.

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Cincy sweep is a crusher

The Brewers arrived at Great American Ball Park knowing this could be the weekend to decide their season. Would they make a break for the top of the National League Central? Or would they break the other way? 

By Sunday night, they had their answer. 

A 2-1 loss loss to the Reds capped a Cincinnati sweep and dealt a crushing blow to the Brewers’ faint hopes of repeating as division champs. 

“This was the time,” third baseman Aramis Ramirez lamented in the morning, even before the Reds swept the Brewers out of town with a trio of sensational starting pitching performances. 

Milwaukee right-hander Mike Fiers was a tough-luck loser for the second time in three starts and the Brewers fell to 10 1/2 games behind the first-place Reds, capping a 4-5 stretch against the three teams they trail in the division – Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Cincinnati. 

Remember how everybody called the first nine games out of the All-Star break a crucial stretch for the Brewers? Well, after a promising start, it turned into a bust.

“All three teams, I would imagine, are going to be in it until the end,” said left fielder Ryan Braun. “I don’t think one team is that much better than anybody else, where one of them is going to run away with it. Honestly, all three of those teams are playing good baseball, have good starting pitching, good bullpens and play good defense. Once you have those three things, you’re always going to be consistently in games.” 

And the Brewers? 

“We’re a distant fourth right now, and we should be,” Braun said. “All three of those teams have played better than us. They just have. The ability is there, we just haven’t executed.” 

Meanwhile, general manager Doug Melvin was back in Milwaukee pondering some big questions. Does his team have what it takes to make an improbable climb up the standings? Where does free-agent-to-be Zack Greinke fit into the club’s future? If Greinke’s time in Milwaukee appears short, is it time to press the reset button? 

The answer to those questions should become clear by the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. 

“It’s not a good time to lose three games to [the Reds],” manager Ron Roenicke said. “It’s a disappointing weekend, but I think the guys will still come out and get after it against Philly.” 

The Brewers begin a three-game series against the equally-disappointing Phillies on Monday, with Roy Halladay pitching the opener and a Cliff Lee vs. Zack Greinke matchup set for Tuesday. 

“We’ll see what happens, but this sure set us back,” Roenicke said of the Reds’ sweep.

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