March 2013

Rogers may be headed to DL

The Brewers were formulating a plan Monday to place right-hander Mark Rogers on the 15-day disabled list to begin the season, giving him time to build arm strength and re-discover the velocity that escape him this spring.

As of Monday, no roster move was official.

“Wednesday, we’ll have a better plan for what we’re going to do,” manager Ron Roenicke said. “We know what we want to do, we talked to Mark this morning with Doug [Melvin, the team’s GM] and Gord [Ash, assistant GM] and I …

“Mark agrees. There’s no issues, which is a good thing. There’s not shoulder or elbow issues, it’s just building up arm strength. For some reason, some guys take longer. I don’t know why that is.”

Teams are not allowed to place healthy players on the DL, but the Brewers could cite fatigue or weakness for a move with Rogers.

“Whatever doesn’t allow your arm to perform at an obvious high level — there’s something there,” Roenicke said. “He hasn’t got to the place where he needs to be to make an evaluation on him. … There’s something we need to do to build that arm strength, whether it’s more long toss, whether it’s the trainers being in there with him to build up the shoulder.

“But the nice thing is he threw great for us last year and he hasn’t had any injuries that would get you to question whether this thing is going to comeback. I think he’s going to get his velocity back. I feel very confident about that.”

In other news:

Carlos Gomez will take one more day to strengthen his stiff back Monday before taking 5-6 at-bats in a Minor League game Tuesday. He said he was feeling much better on Monday morning.

– Infielders Taylor Green and Jeff Bianchi  (each sidelined by hip injuries) played catch and did a basic workout on Monday, Roenicke said. There remains no firm target date for either player’s return.

Bianchi may be the more troubling injury. He’s played only one game since March 2 because of groin and hip ailments.

“It’s hard to figure,” Roenicke said, “because he’s not coming along real fast. Wednesday, I would hope we have a lot better answer on this.”

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Brewers to sign Lohse

News that the Brewers were on the verge of adding a free agent from a fierce division rival was met with glee in Milwaukee’s Spring Training clubhouse on Monday, when word spread that former Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse had agreed to a multi-year contract. Lohse was expected at Maryvale Baseball Park after 10 a.m. Arizona time for a physical exam.

The Cardinals, who would get Draft compensation for losing Lohse, did not confirm the deal. Neither did the Brewers, who will surrender the 17th overall selection in the Draft when the deal is official. Top Milwaukee officials were in the middle of a staff-wide meeting when MLB Network’s Jon Heyman broke the news. After that meeting, general manager Doug Melvin indicated he expected to have news to share after lunch.

“I think everybody was trying to find a high note leaving spring,” said Brewers first baseman Corey Hart. “You’re looking for a spark. This is definitely a spark. I think everybody in here was hoping they would get an established pitcher like that.”

Lohse, 34 years old, went 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA for the Cardinals last season, numbers that added up to a seventh-place standing in the National League’s Cy Young balloting. Lohse pitched to a 55-35 record and a 3.90 ERA in 137 games for St. Louis over the last five seasons.

He has been throwing simulated games in nearby Scottsdale, Ariz., so Lohse should not need much more time to be ready for the regular season. His arrival would give the Brewers some much-needed experience behind Opening Day starter Yovani Gallardo, pushing Marco Estrada, Wily Peralta, Chris Narveson and Mike Fiers down the depth chart.

Lohse, a former 28th-round draftee, has gone 6-8 with a 4.44 ERA in 22 career appearances against the Brewers, and he spent some time in the NL Central with Cincinnati (in 2006 and 2007). Lohse, for his career, has racked up a 118-109 record with a 4.45 ERA in 118 games.

The Brewers will give up their first 2013 Draft pick — No. 17 overall, which, in 2012, was worth $2 million — to sign Lohse. Their first pick will be No. 54.

The Cardinals will receive a comp pick — No. 28 overall, which, in 2012, was worth $1.65 million. They’ll have the No. 19 and 28 picks.

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Olmsted out of bullpen race

The Brewers’ bullpen race was pared to four pitchers for two spots Saturday, when the team optioned hard-throwing right-hander Michael Olmsted to Triple-A Nashville.

With Olmsted out of the mix, it left four right-handers vying for two jobs: Donovan Hand, Alfredo Figaro, Brandon Kintzler and Mark Rogers.

“We’re trying to figure who that last spot’s going to be, and there’s a couple other guys that we feel right now are ahead of [Olmsted],” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said.

The Brewers plan to begin the season with a standard, seven-man bullpen, and five spots are spoken for by closer John Axford, left-handers Michael Gonzalez and Tom Gorzelanny and right-handers Burke Badenhop and Jim Henderson.

The picture for the remaining jobs could become clearer when Rogers starts a split-squad game on Sunday against the Rockies at Maryvale Baseball Park. Roenicke will attend that game, and is looking for Rogers to display the sort of mid-90 mph velocity he showed the Brewers last July and August, when Rogers was 3-1 with a 3.92 ERA in seven starts.

The zip on his fastball has been missing this spring, costing Rogers a chance for a spot in the starting rotation. He is out of Minor League options, so Rogers will either have to make the team, be placed on the Opening Day disabled list or be exposed to the waiver wire if the Brewers try to slip him through to the Minors.

“I think it’s important to see exactly where he is [and how that impacts] our next decisions,” Roenicke said.

The Brewers have been puzzled by Rogers’ spring struggles, Roenicke said, and have been unable to find any medical explanation.

“I don’t want to say it’s health, but we need to get the velocity back,” Roenicke said. “Whether that’s health or whether that’s building up arm strength, I can’t answer that exactly. But we need to get the velocity back.”

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Brewers trade Byrd for Minor League third baseman

The Brewers traded Minor League reliever Darren Byrd to the A’s on Wednesday for third baseman Stephen Parker, a 25-year-old left-handed hitter who will head to Triple-A Nashville.

Parker was Oakland’s fifth-round Draft pick in 2009 out of BYU, and has batted .277 with 43 home runs and 262 RBIs in four professional seasons. His best year was 2010 in the hitter-friendly Class A California League, when Parker hit .296 with 21 home runs and 98 RBIs.

Last season, Parker batted .256 with seven home runs and 47 RBIs in 99 games with Triple-A Sacramento. The Brewers had an opening at Nashville after veteran infielder Bobby Crosby elected free agency on Monday.

Byrd, 26 is a right-hander who has pitched exclusively in relief at Double-A Huntsville in the past two seasons. He briefly pitched in Milwaukee’s big league camp before the team returned him to the Minors on March 7.

In another transaction on Wednesday, the Brewers moved first baseman Mat Gamel to the 60-day disabled list. He will miss a second straight season after re-tearing the ACL in his right knee and undergoing another surgery.

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Brewers release Crosby

The Brewers released Bobby Crosby from his Minor League contract on Monday, ending Crosby’s bid for a comeback after two years out of baseball.

Crosby, 33, got a late start because of a thigh injury and then struggled to knock off the rust. He appeared at first base, third base and shortstop but batted .188 with no home runs or RBIs in seven Cactus League games.

“We wanted to let him know ahead of time that his chances of making the club were slim at this point,” general manager Doug Melvin said. “Then he talked to his agent and we talked about Triple-A or whatever, but in the end he decided to take his release. He may try to pursue [a deal] with other clubs. …

“It’s hard to come back from two years [away], but he was OK. He could have still continued to play, but all this comes down to timing. We’ve got 11 games left, so our [regular] guys are going to be playing more.”

Crosby’s agent, Paul Cohen, said Crosby hoped to continue his comeback with another club, and appreciated the Brewers making their call on Crosby before the end of camp.

Neither of the Brewers’ comeback candidates worked out. They also extended a nonroster invitation to right-hander Kelvim Escobar, who has made only one Major League appearance since 2007. But the Brewers were troubled by Escobar’s shoulder and released him March 10.

Crosby was not the only Brewers’ bench contender enduring an unproductive spring. Fellow nonroster veteran Donnie Murphy entered Monday batting .219 with two extra-base hits in 32 at-bats. Taylor Green was hitting .121. Jeff Bianchi has been limited to one game since March 2 by groin and hip flexor injuries.

If Bianchi can get healthy and Green can start hitting, they would have excellent chances to make the Opening Day cut because both are on the 40-man roster. Green is a two-time Brewers Minor League player of the year.

“That’s hitting. Sometimes you struggle for a while and it’s hard to get out of it,” manager Ron Roenicke said of Green’s spring slump. “He was in a role with us that he just started to swing well before he went to the [World Baseball Classic], and I think in one game in the WBC he hit well but he came back here and wasn’t swinging like he did before he left. He’s pressing to make the team, like everybody is. Hopefully, he starts swinging it like we know he can, and he’ll be one of those guys at the end we have to make a decision on.”

The same goes for Bianchi, who had to withdraw from Italy’s World Baseball Classic entry because of a groin strain that sidelined him two weeks. He returned for two at-bats against the Reds on Saturday before Roenicke revealed a new injury to Bianchi’s hip.

“We’re hoping to get him back on the field and get him enough at-bats here to be able to make a decision on him before we start [the season],” Roenicke said. “Hopefully, he will be a guy we’re talking about those last couple of days.”

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Davis his hit his way into roster consideration

In his first spring on the Brewers’ 40-man roster, Khris Davis reported to Maryvale Baseball Park with little chance for a spot on the Opening Day roster.

That has changed, manager Ron Roenicke said Saturday, after Davis hit two more home runs and drove in five in a 9-9 tie with the Reds.

“He’s put us in a position where we’re talking about him and how he fits on the bench, what we can do with our last two [or] three spots,” Roenicke said. “If you need a right-handed hitter, right now he may be the best hitter we have.”

Davis has hit six spring home runs, including one in an exhibition against Team Canada’s World Baseball Classic club that did not count in the Cactus League statistics. Including Saturday, when Davis was 3-for-3 with three runs scored and five RBIs, he is batting .364 in official at-bats.

The chief knock of Davis is his defensive limitations. His throwing arm will probably limit him to left field when he’s a regular player. But the Brewers feel covered with Ryan Braun playing left field nearly every day in the regular season, and Logan Schafer (a left-handed hitter) available to man that position when Braun needs a day off. They would keep Davis for his bat.

“What we need is somebody who can go to the outfield, but we need a hitter,” Roenicke said. “If we have all left-handed pinch-hitters on the bench, it would be nice to have a right-handed hitter. It’s a real tough job [for an inexperienced] player, and that’s why you get him while he’s hot and then you see how he works into that job. If he can’t do it, then you make a switch.

“He’s worked himself into it, and it’s not just Spring Training. It’s the history. They’ve told me this guy has hit everywhere. I know there’s been some injuries with him, but he can hit.”

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Rogers upbeat after throwing live BP

The smile returned to Brewers right-hander Mark Rogers’ face Saturday after what he called a successful round of live batting practice against Minor Leaguers at Maryvale Baseball Park.

Rogers, who came to camp aiming for a spot in Milwaukee’s starting rotation, has been missing both velocity and command in recent Cactus League outings, so the Brewers are skipping his turn and brainstorming ways to rediscover the form that carried Rogers to a 3.92 ERA in seven starts late last season. Saturday’s 30-pitch session against hitters was the first step.

“They wanted me to be facing hitters instead of just throwing a ‘pen, and it went really good,” Rogers said. “I feel much better. I don’t know if we have one more of those and then back to a game, or right to game.”

Rogers said Brewers coaches had yet to broach the idea of trying a relief outing or two.

“They definitely have my best interest at heart, for sure,” he said. “I still have a little bit of time, and I feel better every day. I definitely had more life on the ball just now and threw harder. I’m going to continue to make progress. I’m not sure what the next step is, exactly.”

He had a knowledgeable scout on hand. Fellow right-hander Brandon Kintzler watched the session from behind the backstop.

“Moral support,” Kintzler said. “There’s nothing tougher than getting ‘up’ at 9 a.m. to face hitters.”

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Gomez, Melvin on today’s news

The Brewers have announced a three-year contract extension for center fielder Carlos Gomez, who will get $7 million in 2014, $8 million in 2015, $9 million in 2016 and a chance to prove that last year’s breakthrough was no fluke.

“Personally, I feel really good about the steps that I’ve taken, and I appreciate the opportunity they give me again, and I trust in my ability,” Gomez said. “I’ve been past a lot of stuff in my career … and now this is going to be my fourth year here [plus] a three-year extension. I’m going to spend seven years of my career on this team, and I feel like I’m going to be a big part for the Brewers for seven years. I feel really excited to continue my progress, continue to work.

“Some people ask me if I’m happy. Yes, I’m happy, but I’m not going to be completely happy until I [finish] my job and I’m sure I deserve that money.”

General manager Doug Melvin, who has locked up many of the team’s young players in recent years, pushed the notion of stability.

The thing I like about this also is we have two young catchers, a young shortstop, [second baseman] Rickie [Weeks] is under 30 years of age, and now we have a young center fielder. Sometimes the toughest parts to fill on a ballclub are up the middle.”

All of those players — catchers Jonathan Lucroy and Martin Maldonado, shortstop Jean Segura, Weeks and Gomez are under club control through 2015, when the Brewers hold an option on Weeks.

“It’s a good building foundation for us,” Melvin said.

Of Gomez, Melvin said, “He’s come into his own. He’s always had good physical skills, and I think he’s good for this ballclub with Ron [Roenicke’s] aggressive managing style. Carlos has always played that game, so it’s a good fit for us.”

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Lance Roenicke makes pop proud

An otherwise lousy afternoon for the Brewers did feature one highlight: Lance Roenicke, the 24-year-old son of the manager, singled sharply to center field in the eighth inning of a 12-3 loss to the Rangers.

“Pretty neat,” Ron Roenicke said. “And a pretty good at-bat. He saw live pitching for the first time yesterday in live [batting practice]. So it’s pretty good.”

Lance Roenicke batted again in the ninth inning and lined out to shortstop. An outfielder, he was the Brewers’ 25-round pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft and split last season between rookie Helena and Class A Wisconsin. Ron Roenicke was able to make the hour-long drive north to Appleton, Wis. for three of Lance’s games last summer and fall, when the Timber Rattlers won the Midwest League championship.

Lance just reported for the Brewers’ Minor League Spring Training last week. Instead of staying with dad, he’s living at the team hotel with the rest of the team’s farmhands.

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Ramirez to run the bases

Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez is pain-free and hoped to remain so Monday, when he ran his sprained right knee through its toughest test yet.

“Today, I’m going to move around a little bit more,” Ramirez said. “Take grounders to the sides and run the bases, so I’ll have a little bit better idea today where I am.”

Ramirez,who was injured sliding into second base on March 2, took batting practice and fielded grounders on Sunday with no ill effects. He planned to add lateral movement to his field work on Monday, and the biggest test will come when he runs the bases. Ramirez was to do his work on a back field at Maryvale Baseball Park.

“Everything is going good,” Ramirez said. “I don’t feel any pain right now, so I’m going to do some more stuff today and see how it feels.”

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