March 2013

Hart off crutches, eager to ramp-up rehab

Corey Hart was not exactly sure Saturday morning about the next step in his rehab from knee surgery, but he was thrilled about one positive side effect from his encouraging MRI scan the day before: He can drive again.

“I hate depending on people,” Hart said, looking around the clubhouse. “A lot of these people in here found out where I live. Especially the guys in Scottsdale, I would say, ‘If you just take me, I live real close.’”

Not exactly. Hart lives in a community west of Phoenix — on the opposite side of town from Scottsdale.

“[Bobby] Crosby took me one day and I was like, ‘Dude, I just live on the other side of [U.S. Hwy.] 101,'” Hart said. “Then we cross the 101 and I say, ‘See those mountains way out there? I live on the base of those mountains.’ But guys were definitely helpful.”

Now, Hart will be free to help himself. Friday’s MRI confirmed that the defect on the joint surface of his knee has “filled in” since his Jan. 25 surgery. He no longer has to walk around on crutches, and will slowly graduate to new exercises intended to build strength and increase range of motion.

The Brewers’ original estimate had Hart sidelined until late May. Hart remains optimistic about beating that prediction.

“It was good news, but I still don’t know exactly what the game plan is yet,” Hart said. “It was good enough news that I don’t have to wear crutches anymore and I can start driving, but I still don’t know if there is a timetable or a plan. I just know I’m about to do more.”

“I think [an April return] is more a possibility now than it was,” said Hart. “I think they were — not surprised, but they weren’t sure what it was going to show. All of a sudden it showed it was good enough to where I can move forward. I know I’ll do more than I’ve been doing. I know I can do more, I just don’t know how much more. I can’t jump to doing full body weight stuff.”

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Hart gets good news from MRI scan

Brewers first baseman Corey Hart was cleared to begin intensifying his rehabilitation from right knee surgery after an MRI scan on Friday showed sufficient healing in the joint.

Manager Ron Roenicke said the club would continue to operate under the original four-month timetable for Hart’s return, a path that would put him back in the Brewers’ lineup in late May.

“If he heals faster, great,” Roenicke said.

Hart had surgery on Jan. 25 to repair torn cartilage and debride an imperfection in the knee joint, a process in which the surgeon induces bleeding to promote the bone to heal. Friday’s MRI scan was intended to examine whether the depression in Hart’s knee had filled in.

Even with this bit of good news, Hart is still some weeks away from baseball activity.

“They liked what they saw. Corey is off crutches and can drive again, so he’s a happy camper,” Roenicke said.

Roenicke also received a positive report Friday from the team’s other injured first baseman, Mat Gamel, who underwent successful surgery earlier in the day for a torn ACL. Gamelhad a similar procedure last May and missed the final five months of the season, and will miss all of 2013.

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Morning brew: Gonzo, Escobar

Some morning notes from overcast Maryvale Baseball Park:

– Everyone seems to have an easy answer for the Brewers’ vacancy at first base. Move Logan Schafer there! Khris Davis!

Well, Alex Gonzalez has a response:

“It’s not easy,” he said.

Gonzalez is one of baseball’s great defenders, a career shortstop who is trying his hand at first base this spring while Hart works back from right knee surgery. At the moment, Gonzalez is far and away the Brewers’ most likely internal solution, perhaps in a right-left platoon with Taylor Green.

Gonzalez says the key to learning a new position is to relax and have fun. So, is he having fun?

“After as many years playing shortstop, going to first, it’s kind of…” he said, tailing off into a long pause.

He thought about it.

“I don’t know what I want to say,” he said. “It’s not real fun to play first for me. I’ve tried to make adjustments, be relaxed at first and let the thing happen.”

It makes sense for Gonzalez to accept the move, however hesitantly, because it is his best way into the lineup. The Brewers remain committed to 22-year-old Jean Segura at shortstop, the only position Gonzalez has played in 1,559 regular season Major League games.

“The time comes where I will feel comfortable there,” Gonzalez said. “But right now, I’m leaning how to play, all the kind of stuff [you need to know] to play first. … I go out there everyday and try to ‘get it.'”

– Kelvin Escobar said he threw a bullpen session Thursday with no recurrence of the hand weakness that cut short his last outing against the Cubs. He’ll progress back to game action and said he feels he has plenty of time to impress Brewers coaches and bid for a bullpen job. More from him to come.

Time to go meet with the manager.

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Milestone day tomorrow for Hart

Brewers first baseman Corey Hart is expecting good news from a follow-up MRI scan of his right knee on Friday. If the scan shows sufficient healing of the surgically-repaired joint, he will be cleared to ramp-up rehab.

“I’m eager because I’m bored of the same stuff,” Hart said.

Hart used the word “microfracture” again in describing his injury. He had a procedure on Jan. 25 in which the knee joint surface was debrided — a process in which the surgeon induces bleeding around an imperfection to induce the body to fill in the gap. Hart also had a small meniscus tear repaired.

“Tomorrow, if it shows it’s good, then I’ll have no crutch and I’ll be able to slowly get into strengthening it,” Hart said. “It will be 3-4 weeks before I’m into baseball stuff.”

Hart said the knee feels “great,” though he’ll have to work to improve its range of motion. Assuming the MRI brings good news, he will be able to drive a car again — a nice perk considering his driver in recent weeks, fellow first baseman Mat Gamel, will undergo a knee surgery of his own on Friday for a torn ACL. Gamel will stay in Hart’s guest house during the early stages of his rehab.

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Melvin OK after scorpion sting

At this rate, general managers will need their own disabled list.

Brewers GM Doug Melvin was back in the office by 8 a.m. Thursday after being stung by a scorpion Wednesday night. Just three days earlier, Yankees GM Brian Cashman broke his right fibula and dislocated his right ankle parachute jumping with the U.S. Army in support of the Wounded Warrior Project.

Cashman needed surgery. Melvin had it a little easier, though he spent three hours in the emergency room after his scare, and his left arm was still zinging on Thursday.

Melvin was at his Spring Training condo after dinner when his wife, Ellen, noticed a bug scuttling across the floor. So Doug Melvin grabbed a tissue and attempted to eliminate what he believed was a harmless problem, only to be stung on the middle finger by what he learned was an Arizona bark scorpion — the only one of the 80 scorpion species in the United States considered lethal, according to Slate.

“I didn’t know anything about the damn things — I do now,” Melvin said.

He described the sensation as an “intense bee sting” and his left hand began to swell immediately. After a quick Google search, Melvin decided to go to the emergency room. He was monitored there for several hours.

“I got nervous when all of the numbness started getting up in the shoulder area,” Melvin said. “You think, ‘Can this thing go to your heart?’ They said you can lose your breathing, your vision can be a problem. None of that happened to me.”

Tthis wasn’t the first time that a member of Brewers camp has tangled with a scorpion.

Zach Braddock, a left-handed pitcher who’s with the Orioles now, was stung on the left ankle by a scorpion in March 2011. He felt discomfort but suffered no serious symptoms.

Scorpions average 2 1/2 inches in length, according to National Geographic. The one that stung both Melvin and Braddock was less than an inch long. Braddock was sitting on a couch chatting at the time he was stung.

“It felt like someone was pulling your hair out, and then it progressively got worse,” he said. “It was out of nowhere. I’m glad it’s over now.”

In 2009, the wife of Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta, Molly, was also bitten by a scorpion in Arizona and was also OK.

What will Doug Melvin do the next time Ellen spots a bug crawling across the floor?

“I’m going to have her kill it with her shoe,” he said.

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Morning brew: Gallardo, Gamel, Webb, KhDavis

Some morning notes from Maryvale:

– Brewers pitching coach Rick Kranitz was in the stands for Yovani Gallardo’s inning for Team Mexico against the D-backs on Tuesday night and feels comfortable with Gallardo moving on in the World Baseball Classic. Gallardo is scheduled to pitch Friday against Team USA in front of as many as 40,000 fans at Chase Field.

Gallardo’s status for the tournament was briefly in question when he suffered a minor right groin strain last week.

“We already had a plan ahead of time,” Kranitz said. “If he cleared one hurdle, he was going to the next one. We talked to ‘Yo.’ Everybody’s talked. If there was something there, he would have felt it last night after the game, and he said everything was good.”

Kranitz will be one of those fans in the stands on Friday.

“Better get there early,” he said.

– After getting a second opinion, Brewers first baseman Mat Gamel will undergo surgery on Friday to repair a torn right ACL for the second time in less than a year. Gamel had the same procedure last May and missed the rest of the season, re-tore the same ligament on Feb. 16 and will miss all of 2013.

Dr. Gary Waslewski, a team physician for the Arizona Cardinals football team and Phoenix Coyotes hockey team, will perform Gamel’s surgery in Scottsdale, Ariz., with Brewers head physician William Raasch assisting.

– Left-hander Travis Webb threw live batting practice to hitters for the first time on Tuesday and was to discuss with Brewers  coaches on Wednesday the next step. It could be pitching in a game. Webb, a nonroster invitee who is new to the organization, has been brought along very slowly because of a muscle strain behind his left shoulder.

“I feel great,” he said. “I’m going to go out and throw and just see where I’m at. I really want to be out there. I feel like this is an important time for me. But again, I want to make sure that I’m ready to go.”

Webb said he no longer feels any discomfort in that muscle.

– I checked with Rickie Weeks, the Brewers’ best batting practice slugger, to make sure that Khris Davis’ booming home run in Tuesday’s exhibition against Team Canada was as impressive as it looked from the press box. Weeks’ eyes widened.

“You don’t see many up there,” he said.

Davis’ go-ahead blast bounced at the base of two flagpoles in left-center field and nearly cleared a brick wall that separates Maryvale Baseball Park from an adjoining strip mall. Last year, when Davis was rehabbing a calf injury in Arizona, he hit one further down the left field like that actually cleared that back wall on a fly, at least according to Tony Diggs, who helped run the Maryvale operation for the Brewers.

On Tuesday, he hit a curveball.

“I don’t know if I could hit it much farther,” Davis said.

Does he consider power a big part of his game?

“I just think it’s a secret weapon, really,” Davis said. “Me being kind of small, no one looks at me and is like, ‘He’s got power.’ I do, but it’s kind of a secret.”

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Escobar has nerve issue

Brewers right-hander Kelvim Escobar was eager to meet with the team’s head physician on Tuesday morning for an explanation of the mysterious hand weakness that cut short his first Spring Training outing in four years.

Dr. William Raasch diagnosed the problem as a nerve impingement, Escobar said. He will meet on Tuesday morning with manager Ron Roenicke and pitching coach Rick Kranitz to determine the next step.

Escobar said he would spend the next few days “doing exercises, keep throwing, pitch in a game again to see how my hand responds and go on from there. It could have been worse. He checked my shoulder, my elbow, my neck, and everything was fine. He thinks it’s a nerve that’s not firing.”

Escobar worked to six batters against the Cubs on Sunday and said he struggled to grip the baseball from the start. He exited with two outs and the bases loaded after two walks and a hit batsman.

The 36-year-old is a non-roster invitee in Brewers camp who has been limited to one Major League appearance since 2007 because of shoulder injuries. He is trying to win a job in Milwaukee’s bullpen.

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Brewers to attend Gallardo’s start tonight

Brewers officials planned to attend Team Mexico’s exhibition against the D-backs on Tuesday night to keep an eye on right-hander Yovani Gallardo. He was scheduled to start and pitch one inning, a final test of the right groin strain that bothered Gallardo last week.

“We’ll have a trainer over here, [pitching coach] Rick Kranitz is going over to make sure he’s OK,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “I would think he would be, but just to make sure. Once he throws an inning to see where he is, we’ll have a pretty good idea. If he gets through that, I think we’re pretty comfortable with his pitching [in the tournament].”

Gallardo’s setback — he has not pitched since Feb. 26, when he felt discomfort in his groin during an outing against the Mariners — means he will be limited for Mexico. Roenicke said Gallardo would not be stretched out enough to reach the 65-pitch maximum allowed in first-round World Baseball Classic games.

Roenicke was trusting Gallardo to provide an honest assessment after Tuesday’s test. Gallardo is in line for his fourth consecutive Opening Day start and by far the Brewers’ most established pitcher.

“It’s a trust thing, but ‘Yo’ understands.” Roenicke said. “He understands what would happen if it flares up again — he probably wouldn’t be our starting pitcher to start the season.”

Gallardo already passed one test when he threw a bullpen session on Sunday without issue. At Mexico’s workout on Monday, he told MLB.com’s Lyle Spencer, “I’m ready to go.”

You can read Lyle’s story here.

“Any time you get a quality, top-notch Major League pitcher who can be part of your club,” Mexico manager Rich Renteria said, “absolutely, you look at it as a great positive. We’re happy he’s here. We’re monitoring everything closely and hoping things go well.”

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Bianchi out of Classic; Ramirez out a week or two

Morning notes from Maryvale Baseball Park:

– It came as a surprise to see infielder Jeff Bianchi at Maryvale Baseball Park on Tuesday. He was supposed to be with Italy’s World Baseball Classic entry, but said he withdrew Saturday because of tightness in his left groin.

Was he bummed out?

“Absolutely,” Bianchi said. “I was looking forward to it, but it’s one of those things that happens. Right now, I’m just treating it and getting it better. I would rather be with these guys and getting my work done here. … You can’t stress or dwell over it.”

– With Bianchi out, the Brewers are down to 12 players in the tournament, and that’s assuming Yovani Gallardo pitches for Mexico. Gallardo was originally scheduled to pitch for the Brewers on Tuesday, a final test of the right groin strain that gave him trouble last week. But that would have prevented Gallardo from joining Team Mexico for a players’ meeting on Sunday and a workout on Monday, so Gallardo instead left the Brewers and will pitch Tuesday night in an exhibition against the D-backs. The one-inning outing will determine his status for the Classic.

Aramis Ramirez was happy about the results of his MRI scan on Sunday, which showed no major structural damage in his sprained left knee. But he does not expect to play for the Brewers anytime soon.

“A week maybe? Ten days? Two weeks? I don’t know,” he said. “We’re still in Spring Training, so I guess it’s not that big of a deal.”

The MRI results qualified as very good news. Before that result, Ramirez admitted, “I was scared a little bit.”

“I didn’t know what to expect because I was really hurt,” Ramirez said. “After we got the MRI, we now know what we’re dealing with, and I guess it’s not that big of a deal. We’ve got two weeks to go. … It’s a lot better. Two days ago, I was on crutches.”

Even if he misses two weeks, Ramirez will have about two weeks of Spring Training games to get ready for the Brewers’ April 1 season opener. So much for his plan to increase his spring workload to avoid the sort of slow start he endured last season.

“It didn’t work,” said Ramirez, who was 0-for-10 before legging out the bloop double on which he was injured.

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Brewers launch baseball camps

Makes me wish I was 12 years old again:

im_campspanel-logo_435x250The Milwaukee Brewers are proud to announce the inaugural season of the “Brewers Baseball Academy presented by Kwik Trip.” The Academy is open to youth (ages 6-14) and includes eight separate week-long baseball/softball camps that will be held in various cities across Wisconsin this summer. A complete schedule of camp locations and dates is listed below. The camps will be conducted under the supervision of Tim Rappé, executive director of the Brewers Baseball Academy.

“Our promise is to create a world class Milwaukee Brewers baseball experience for every camper,” said Rappé. “Regardless of skill level, the camp will profoundly improve each player’s ability to play the game of baseball.”

Each camp runs Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. with instruction provided by experienced youth coaches. During one of the five camp days, campers are transported by bus to Miller Park for a one-of-a-kind experience as they will be treated to a guest appearance from a current Brewers player and have their photo taken. Campers will also receive instruction from Brewers coach John Shelby.

A unique component of the Brewers Baseball Academy is that a video motion analysis of each participant will be performed. Every camper’s swing will be recorded, analyzed and shared with the player and his/her parents. In addition, all participants will take part in a baseball or softball skills competition. Each week, scores will be posted at Brewers.com/camps and upon completion of the last camp (August 12-16), the top scorers will be invited to the Champions’ Day Finals at Miller Park. Boys and girls will compete separately in appropriate grade groups.

The fee for the week-long camp is $395 per child, which includes 30 hours of exceptional instruction, a complete Brewers uniform, four Brewers game tickets to one of three select games – compliments of Kwik Trip – and a V.I.P. day at Miller Park.

Registration is currently available at Brewers.com/camps. Registrations received prior to March 31 will receive a $25 discount. This discount may not be combined with any other discount. If registering two or more children, each child will receive a $25 discount if booked together. A limited number of spots are available for each camp location.

As the presenting sponsor of the Brewers Baseball Academy, Kwik Trip will award 120 random participants with $50 gift cards to their store. One lucky camper from each host city will also receive a personalized camp jersey, along with a special presentation during the camp graduation ceremony.

In addition, two registrations per host city will be given away through a promotion at Pick ‘n Save stores throughout the season. For details, visit participating Pick ‘n Save locations.

Additional information can be found online at Brewers.com/camps. For questions, please contact Executive Director Tim Rappé at Tim.Rappe@brewers.com or call (414) 939-8808.

Here are the venues:

Sun Prairie — Sun Prairie High School June 17-21
Green Bay — Notre Dame Academy June 24-28
Delafield — St. John’s Northwestern Military Academy July 1-5
Appleton — Fox Valley Lutheran High School July 8-12
Milwaukee — University School of Milwaukee July 15-19
Oshkosh — Oshkosh West High School July 22-26
Mukwonago — Mukwonago High School July 29-August 2
Kenosha — Carthage College August 12-16

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