July 2012

Bianchi will be bench bat

Infielder Jeff Bianchi will indeed be promoted from Triple-A Nashville for the start of the Brewers’ second half and will play off the bench, manager Ron Roenicke said after Tuesday’s All-Star Game.

Bianchi, 25, struggled in Spring Training but had a strong first half in the Minor Leagues, batting .319 in 70 games between Double-A Huntsville and Triple-A Nashville. He’s poised to be the sixth different player to appear for the Brewers at shortstop this season.

“He’s a right-handed bat,” Roenicke said. “He’s versatile, he can play anywhere on the infield. They like him down there [in the Minors], they say he’s a very heads-up player. He can do a lot of things; he can bunt, he can hit and run.”

Bianchi will be making his Major League debut.

The Brewers already cleared a spot on the roster by optioning infielder Taylor Green to Nashville. He had been struggling with inconsistent playing time, and the Brewers hope that consistent at-bats help Green rediscover his swing.

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TLR, RR to continue discussion of their differences

Tony La Russa and Ron Roenicke made for strange National League teammates at the All-Star Game on Tuesday, two managers who battled to the end in 2011 and two men who most definitely did not exchange holiday cards. I’ve written before that Roenicke initiated a series of discussions with La Russa about their 2011 differences, and I asked both men today where those talks stood.

The answer: All-Star festivities prevented a serious talk, but it’s coming.

“Well, those would be personal conversations, but I knew exactly where he was coming from, and it’s a good conversation to have,” La Russa said of their discussions so far. “I mean, he’s a man that earned a lot of respect when he was in the American League, and conducted himself great last year.”

Roenicke was a member of Angels manager Mike Scioscia’s coaching staff through 2010. The Brewers hired him to manage for 2011 and Roenicke led the Brewers all the way to a Game 6 of the NL Championship Series against La Russa’s Cardinals.

That series was devoid of sideshows, but the regular season series was different. There were dueling plunkings of Albert Pujols and Ryan Braun, La Russa’s assertion that the Brewers were manipulating the lighting at Miller Park to favor home hitters, and confrontations between the Cardinals’ Chris Carpenter and the Brewers’ Nyjer Morgan. In September, Morgan reffered to Pujols as, “Alberta.” In October, Zack Greinke called Carpenter, “phony.”

Those were only the public instances of the teams’ mutual dislike. More simmered under the surface.

“I think there were some things that weren’t real clear on both sides,” Roenicke said. “I would just like to know a little bit more. … Little things happen from time to time. I have a ton of respect for Tony and what he does as a manager, and because of that, when things come up, I want to know what he’s thinking, for my satisfaction. It may help me as a manager.”

La Russa was not upset when Roenicke raised his issues.

“That’s what you’re supposed to do when you have a question; talk about it,” La Russa said.

Roenicke had hoped for more discussion during All-Star festivities, but La Russa’s lengthy list of obligations prevented it.

There will be other opportunities. La Russa is working as a liaison for Major League Baseball, traveling to ballparks around the league in a still-evolving role. He already has been at Miller Park this year, but arrived to close to game time. When he visits next, the men plan to make time to meet.

“I’m sure he’ll understand where I’m coming from,” La Russa said.

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Haniger out six weeks with knee injury

Mitch Haniger, the promising outfielder selected 38th overall by the Brewers in this year’s First-Year Player Draft, told his Twitter followers that he would miss about six weeks with a partially torn ligament in his right knee. Haniger tweeted a photo of his knee in a brace and said the injury was to his PCL.

That’s a tough break for Haniger, who batted .286 with a home run and eight RBIs in his first 14 games at Class A Wisconsin. The Timber Rattlers’ regular season only runs through Sept. 3, so the Brewers may have to come up with some additional at-bats for Haniger in instructional ball or the Arizona Fall League.

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Odorizzi on cusp of big leagues with Royals

Jake Odorizzi dressed at a prime locker in the Royals’ clubhouse at Kauffman Stadium on Sunday. He could get used to this.

“I’ll take a locker in the bathroom, if that’s where they want to put me,” Odorizzi said. “For right now, I’m just happy to be here.”

The 22-year-old right-handed Royals prospect pitched for a U.S. squad that also included Brewers farmhand Scooter Gennett in the All-Star Futures Game, an annual showcase of Minor League talent that kicks-off All-Star festivities.

Odorizzi still has some Minor League seasoning to do before moving to Kauffman Stadium for good, but he’s close. Between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha, he is 9-2 with a 3.05 ERA in 15 starts and one relief appearance. He’s 5-0 with a 2.83 ERA since a promotion to Omaha.

He was once bidding to make it to Miller Park, one of the Brewers’ top pitching prospects before the team shipped him to the Royals in a blockbuster trade for Zack Greinke. That was in December 2010, when the Brewers parted with four prime prospects — pitchers Odorizzi and Jeremy Jeffress, shortstop Alcides Escobar and center fielder Lorenzo Gain — to land Greinke and shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt.

“It’s something that’s in the back of my mind,” Odorizzi said of that swap. “I can’t really think about it. I’m not going to be [Greinke] — he’s his own guy, and I don’t really want to be in his shadow. I’m just taking it as it comes to me, trying to make my own mark in the time I come up here.”

The Greinke comparisons started early; in stature and stuff, the two pitchers are similar.

“I didn’t focus too much on who they compared me to,” Odorizzi said. “I’m my own guy.”

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Braun added to NL’s starting outfield

Note: Major League Baseball just confirmed to the Brewers that Braun will start. I’ve updated my earlier blog post.

Ryan Braun is an All-Star Game starter, after all.

After falling just short in fan balloting, Braun was added to the NL’s starting outfield on Tuesday when the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp pulled out of the event because of a hamstring injury. Colleague Mark Bowman reported first that the Braves’ Chipper Jones had taken Kemp’s spot on the roster, meaning Braun would take Kemp’s spot in the starting lineup.

Braun got the nod by rule, as the top vote-getter on the player ballot who was not voted to the starting lineup by fans.

Major League Baseball confirmed Braun’s “promotion” only minutes after Braun belted a three-run home run in Tuesday’s game against the Marlins at Miller Park

Braun was voted to the starting lineup in each of the previous four seasons, but missed the 2011 game because of a leg injury. He already is the only player in Brewers history to start three All-Star Games; now he is poised for a fourth.

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Roenicke: Decisions loom on Greinke, direction of franchise

Brewers officials met briefly with right-hander Zack Greinke on Sunday to address the trade rumors that have already begun to swirl around the free agent to be. A day later, manager Ron Roenicke made one thing clear: The Brewers are not resigned to dealing Greinke for prospects ahead of the July 31 nonwaiver Trade Deadline.

“We are hopeful that we will bring him back,” Roenicke said, “whether it’s right now, whether it’s after the season. There’s a lot of possibilities with him coming back.

“He likes it here, he does. Now, there’s going to be a lot of interest in him, obviously. He’s a good pitcher. And I think he would like to know, kind of, what’s out there for him. You can’t blame a guy for that. The nice thing for us is we know that he does like it here.”

Roenicke is convinced that Greinke won’t be bothered by trade rumors.

“He’s really focused on what he has to do, and unlike a lot of players, he is really in tune with what a club is thinking,” Roenicke said. “He understands things. You guys know he was interested in the Draft and what goes on there. He’s also interested in what goes on before the Trade Deadline, and why players are traded. He understands both ends of it. He understands why clubs need to make moves to make sure they’re OK the year after and the year after that. Because of that, whatever happens, I think he’ll be fine.”

It was quite a morning of meetings.

Before sitting down with Greinke, Roenicke had an early morning “state of the franchise” discussion with principal owner Mark Attanasio, general manager Doug Melvin and assistant GM Gord Ash.

They discussed ways to potentially improve the team in addition to the alternative, which Roenicke described as, “looking at what’s going to happen if things don’t go well.”

Call it hoping for the best but planning for everything else.

“We’re still hopeful that this thing is going to happen,” Roenicke said. “We’re seven games out, and in the division we’re in, we still feel that if we put together a good run that we’ll have a chance to get back in this. You guys know — I don’t like to look at our schedule and what’s coming up. But when you have a conversation with Doug, he’s got it figured out where we need to make a run. And he’s right.”

That time comes immediately after the All-Star break, when the Brewers play consecutive series against each of the three teams they trail in the National League Central — the Pirates, Cardinals and Reds. The first two series are at Miller Park.

“Somewhere in that time period, we need to do something,” Roenicke said.

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Brewers mourn member of grounds crew

Sad news from the Brewers:

Jeff Adcock, a member of the Milwaukee Brewers organization for the past 33 years, passed away after collapsing yesterday at Miller Park.

Adcock was Grounds Crew Lead for the Brewers and was in the home bullpen yesterday during the Brewers versus Diamondbacks game. After collapsing early in the game, he was transported to Froedtert Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

“We are all saddened by the news of Jeff’s passing,” said Bob Quinn, Brewers Executive Vice President – Finance and Administration. “He was a part of our organization for many years, and was a fixture during games in our bullpen area. Jeff developed many friendships with our uniformed staff, and he will be missed by all of us. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

Memorial service arrangements for Adcock are pending.

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La Russa explains Greinke snub

The Brewers had one notable player left out of the All-Star mix in Greinke, the right-hander who has made 12 quality starts this season with a 2.82 ERA. He is tied with Detroit’s Justin Verlander for the top spot in the Major Leagues with 3.6 wins above replacement.

Greinke was an All-Star in 2009, the year he won the American League Cy Young Award with the Royals. Making the cut this year would have meant another return to Kansas City.

National League manager Tony La Russa chose five pitchers to supplement the eight who made it via the player ballot. Three of those five were starters — Cole Hamels of the Phillies, Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers and Wade Miley of the D-backs.

La Russa attributed the absence of Greinke and Reds starter Johnny Cueto to the abundance of quality arms in the NL.

“That’s exactly right, those are the two guys [who were close], and there are others that you could point out,” LaRussa said. “There was something to consider: both Greinke and Cueto are pitching Sunday. When you’re splitting some pretty fine hairs, that worked against them.”

That’s true for Cueto, but La Russa was mistaken about Greinke. His final Brewers start of the first half is scheduled for Saturday against the Astros.

For those conspiracy theorists out there, I personally doubt very much that Greinke’s absence has anything to do with him calling the Cardinals’ Chris Carpenter “phony” before last year’s National League Championship Series. La Russa, who of course managed those Cardinals, had to weigh a number of factors in setting his roster, including the fact that all 16 clubs must be represented. Miley and Padres reliever Huston Street, another La Russa pick, were their clubs’ lone All-Stars.

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Braun edged in fan vote, still an All-Star

Ryan Braun is a National League All-Star for the fifth straight season, voted to the squad via the player ballot.

He had been voted to the starting lineup by fans in each of the past four season, but this year came up short. Matt Kemp, Carlos Beltran and Melky Cabrera won the outfield starting spots.  Braun still has a good chance to start because Kemp is out with a hamstring injury.

In what I consider a stunner, Zack Greinke appears to have missed the cut. That’s a shame, considering his stellar first half and the fact the game is being held at Kauffman Stadium, where Greinke began his career with the Royals and won his American League Cy Young Award.

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