January 2013

Braun commits to World Baseball Classic

National League MVP Award runner-up Ryan Braun has committed to play for the U.S. squad in the World Baseball Classic, the Brewers outfielder told a radio audience on Monday.

Braun, who batted .381 in six games during the 2009 WBC, told Milwaukee’s 1250-AM WSSP that he’d already begun preparations for this year’s event. He will not have to travel far from the Brewers’ Spring Training base at Maryvale Baseball Park; Team USA will begin training in Phoenix on March 4 and then participate in first-round play at Arizona’s Chase Field from March 7-10.

“I’m feeling great,” Braun said. “I actually started my baseball activities a little bit earlier than I usually do because I’m going to play in the World Baseball Classic this year. So I have to get myself prepared a little sooner, a little quicker than I usually do.”

Braun will be in Milwaukee on Jan. 27 for the team’s annual “On Deck” event, a fanfest that features autograph and photo opportunities, interactive games, memorabilia sales and public forums. For more information, visit Brewers.com/OnDeck.


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Gonzalez deal is official

Remember last year, when the Brewers signed lefty reliever Mike Gonzalez?

On Monday, that deal finally became official.

The team formally announced it had inked Gonzalez, 34, to a one-year contract, sealing a deal that was struck Dec. 28 but was pending a physical exam and a corresponding roster move. Gonzalez passed his physical, and the Brewers designated right-hander Arcenio Leon for assignment to clear a spot on the 40-man roster.

The Brewers did not release terms, but Gonzalez will earn $2.25 million plus incentives, and becomes the team’s third notable bullpen addition in about a month, joining Burke Badenhop and Tom Gorzelanny.

Gonzalez will wear uniform No. 51, previously worn by right-handed reliever Jim Henderson, who has been switched to No. 29.


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Brewers have competing interests for BCS title game

John and Craig Counsell are both Notre Dame graduates.

John and Craig Counsell are both Notre Dame graduates.

They’ll be on the same team beginning next month at Maryvale Baseball Park, but a bunch of Brewers will have competing interests tonight when Notre Dame takes on Alabama on college football’s biggest stage — the BCS Championship Game.



Closer John Axford and infielder-turned-front office man Craig Counsell went to Notre Dame, and lefty Tom Gorzelanny is a diehard fan. Then there’s pitching prospect Jimmy Nelson, who attended the University of Alabama for three years before the Brewers made him a second-round Draft pick in 2010.

“I think SEC fans are just spoiled because we’re used to seeing our teams in the big bowl games,” Nelson said Monday from College Station, Tex., where he works out over the winter. “And I get to tell people I’m not a bandwagoner.”


His Crimson Tide is a staple of the National Championship Game, appearing for the third time in the last four years. Alabama won the title in 2009 over Texas and last year over LSU.

For the Irish, it’s been a while. Notre Dame’s last national championship was in 1988.

“I think that’s back when they invented sliced bread or something,” Nelson said.

So Gorzelanny wasn’t going to miss it. He traveled from his home in Iowa to Miami for Monday’s game and Tweeted a photo from outside Sun Life Stadium, site of this year’s game.

Axford will be watching at home, having already gotten his fix.

“I went to a game this fall, and it was the first game I’d been to since I was in college,” said Axford, who graduated from Notre Dame in 2005. “I’m definitely excited.”

Axford saw the Irish beat Ken Macha’s Pittsburgh Panthers, and actually ran into Counsell and his boys at the stadium that day. Counsell was drafted by the Rockies out of Notre Dame in 1992 and with his father, John, has been a big supporter of the school’s baseball program over the years.

Gorzelanny grew up on Chicago’s South Side and became a fan of Notre Dame football.

“It’s been an awesome year to watch football and watch the Irish,” Gorzelanny said. “Every year. Notre Dame fans have high hopes and high expectations, but they’ve far exceeded what everybody expected this year. It’s just exciting to see them in this game.”

202046Did Axford see this coming?

“I knew that they had a good team, and the way Brian Kelly has been working with the team over the last few years, you had a feeling they were going to get better,” Axford said. “Their defense has gotten better and better — and that’s something they’ve focused on.”

Can the Irish win the game?

“Absolutely,” Gorzelanny said. “I don’t think it’s one of those times where you face Alabama and they’re just going to dominate. I don’t think that’s this year for them. They’re obviously a great team, still, but I don’t think they’re as good as they were last year, and Notre Dame’s defense is one of the best in the country.”

Said Nelson: “I do think it will be a good game. It’s really cool seeing two teams with such rich history and tradition. That’s what I’m excited about — two programs that don’t wear fancy, flashy uniforms. It’s very cool.”


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Braun a finalist for video game cover


(illustration credit Playstation.Blogs)

The Brewers are hoping for fans’ help to make Ryan Braun a video game cover boy.

Braun is one of the finalists to appear on the cover of MLB ’13 The Show, and Sony is letting fans pick a winner via popular vote. You can see the six other candidates and some pretty funny campaign-style videos at MLB.com/CoverVote, including one from Braun in which he argues that, “it would be nice to be recognized for a change.”

“It would be cool to finally win an award that says, ‘Ryan, you’re a pretty good ballplayer,'” Braun cracked. “I think getting the cover of MLB ’13 The Show would finally be the recognition I’ve gone without for so long.”

As I write this, the Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen is running in first place, and Braun ranks sixth of the seven candidates. Voting is easy — just send a Tweet with the hashtag #MLB13Braun or follow the links from MLB.com/CoverVote to make your pick via Facebook.

Voting began Monday and runs through 7 p.m. CT on Friday. One vote per fan, per day is counted.

Check out Braun’s campaign video:


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Brewers sign OF Garner to Minors deal

The Brewers added to their Minor League outfield depth Friday by finalizing a deal with Cole Garner, a 28-year-old who played in four games with the Rockies in 2011.

Garner, a right-handed hitter and thrower who has mostly manned the outfield corners, batted .258 with six home runs and 25 RBIs in 64 games last season with the Yankees’ Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre club. He is a .283 hitter in eight Minor League seasons, with 82 home runs and 371 RBIs.

The Brewers invited Garner to their early Minor League minicamp but not to big league Spring Training.


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Maldonado giving back to his hometown

Maldonado and his wife, Janelise, distributed toys to more than 250 kids on Sunday.

Maldonado and his wife, Janelise, distributed toys to more than 250 kids on Sunday.

Update: You can check out my story and a photo gallery from this event here.

I wanted to pass along some great news I heard about Brewers catcher Martin Maldonado, who is proving that one does not have to be a grizzled Major League veteran to give back to the community.

The 26-year-old is planning to host a carnival for children on Sunday — Three Kings Day — in his hometown of Naguabo, Puerto Rico. Maldonado came up with the idea himself and pitched it to his agents at Praver Shapiro Sports Management and to the Brewers Community Foundation, who helped the player organize an event in a park, complete with games, gifts and clothing for the kids. I’m told that Three Kings Day, or Epiphany, is a big deal in Puerto Rico, bigger for some than Christmas itself.

Word is that Maldonado has done much of the organizational work, with financial help from other organizations including the MLB Players Trust and corporate interests like Burger King and Andis, a Wisconsin company that is one of the nation’s oldest producers of hair clippers. They got to know Maldonado after we wrote in Spring Training about his role as the Brewers’ resident barber.

Kudos to all parties involved for putting together what sounds like a great event. I’m hoping to receive some photos next week to post in this space.


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No Gonzalez announcement today

I’m told not to expect the Brewers to announce their one-year deal with left-hander Mike Gonzalez until early next week. Don’t worry; the holdup is merely a matter of logistics related to the New Year’s holiday and not a sign that the agreement has hit a snag.


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Tosoni signs with Brewers, plus payroll numbers

The Brewers signed former Twins outfielder Rene Tosoni and have re-signed former farmhand Ozzie Chavez, both to Minor League contracts.

The acquisitions were reported by Baseball America late Wednesday along with right-hander Jim Hoey, though the Brewers announced Hoey’s deal before Christmas. Hoey, who has pitched in 61 Major League games for the Orioles and Twins, was invited to the team’s early Minor League minicamp, but none of the three players were granted invitations to the Brewers’ Major League Spring Training camp.

The MLB.com transactions page says Tosoni’s deal was official on Dec. 28. The 26-year-old, Canadian-born left-handed hitter won All-Star Futures Game MVP honors in 2009 and made a 60-game Major League debut with Minnesota in 2011, batting .203 with five home runs and 22 RBIs, including a three-run homer off Zack Greinke that helped turn a 6-1 deficit into a 6-1 Twins win over the Brewers that July.

c9ecf2328d6a0b0e5006dc35a735b031(By the way, he’s on Twitter — @Tosoni08. That’s his profile picture at right.)

(And another thing, Tosoni’s most memorable at-bat against the Brewers might have been on July 3, 2011, when his three-run homer off Zack Greinke sparked a Twins comeback from a 6-1 deficit. I’ll never forget how frustrated Zack was that day — you can revisit the game coverage here. Except for one start in Pittsburgh, Greinke was essentially awesome the rest of that season.)

Chavez, 29, is an 11-year Minor League veteran who played shortstop in the Brewers’ system from 2001 through 2008, topping out at Triple-A Nashville. He played in the Phillies and White Sox systems from 2009-2011, but began last season on the Braves’ Double-A disabled list with a right groin strain and was eventually released and did not play affiliated ball in 2012. Chavez most recently appeared for the Toros del Este in the Dominican Winter League, batting .300 in 26 games.

A switch hitter, Chavez is a career .245 hitter in the U.S. Minor Leagues.

Hoey turned 30 on Monday and has a 7.02 ERA in his 59 Major League innings. In parts of nine Minor League seasons, he has a 3.38 ERA and 59 saves. He pitched for Toronto’s Triple-A team in 2012.

On a completely separate note, you may be interested in this post from Maury Brown’s excellent “Biz of Baseball” site that compiles end-of-season payroll data for all 30 teams encompassing the past 14 years. Remember that this is season-end data, encompassing the entire 40-man roster plus “other costs” that are not spelled out, making these numbers very different from the Opening Day estimates that are floated out there every year.

According to those numbers, the Brewers were 14th in MLB and seventh in the National League in payroll at the end of 2012. They would have been something like 10th overall and fifth in the NL had Zack Greinke not been traded in July.


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