May 2013

Thumb injury sidelines Brewers’ Braun

Add left fielder Ryan Braun to a Brewers injury report that has claimed the team’s three best power hitters, its best starting pitcher and its closer.

Braun was forced to sit out Monday with a nagging right thumb injury. With third baseman Aramis Ramirez on planned day off for his still-healing right knee, and first baseman Corey Hart still rehabbing from knee surgery, the Brewers were extremely shorthanded for the opener of a quick, two-game Interleague Series against the Twins.

“I hurt it two weeks ago, and I’ve just basically been dealing with it since,” Braun said. “We all deal with different things through the course of the season, and you try to compensate and do the best you can with with you’re dealing with. Anything with the hand is tough. I’ve basically been swinging with one hand for two weeks.

Over those two weeks, Braun batted .326 with five doubles, a home run and seven RBIs.

“I’ve changed the way I’ve held the bat, I’ve changed the way I’ve swung,” he said. “And it’s frustrating, because we’re not progressing. It’s not getting any better at all, so it’s just at the point where I need to take the time to get it close to being healthy so I can contribute and do the things I’m used to doing.”

On top of the thumb issue, Braun has been getting treatment all season for a persistent stiff neck.

He was not sure Monday morning how many days he would miss. The series opener with Minnesota marked the fourth of 20 games in 20 days for the banged-up Brewers.

The problem, Braun said, is that instead of getting better with treatment and various methods of padding the bat, the thumb has been getting “progressively worse.”

“I’m not going to swing a bat or do anything today,” he said, “so hopefully it gets better. I don’t want to put a timetable on it. Maybe I show up [Tuesday] and it gets a lot better.”

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Gallardo’s postgame transcript

A very interesting postgame scrum with Yovani Gallardo after his four-inning, five-hit, four-run, two-walk, seven-strikeout outing against the Pirates today. I thought you may be interested in the whole thing (my own emphasis in bold): 

Gallardo: “It’s definitely frustrating. I mean, I don’t know how to explain it, really. I felt good. I felt good last start, also, and I felt even better today. The walk to [Michael] McKendry, and then [Jordy] Mercer hits that triple. I just left a curveball up in the zone with two strikes. Especially with two strikes, you can’t be doing that. You can’t be having that kind of mistake. And then that one to [Pedro] Alvarez, it was a change-up that he pulls [the bat] in and somehow it stays just fair, it hits the line, which makes it even more frustrating to see the little things like that.”

Question: When you say you’re feeling better, do you feel as good as you did the last few years?

Gallardo: “Yeah, I do. I know we’re going to talk about the velocity again. But, I mean, velocity is not the issue. I’m sure if you ask any guy in here, I’m sure they would want to have 96 [mph] for the rest of their career. My mechanics, they’ve been feeling great the last start and this start. Now it’s just a matter of finishing guys off whenever I need to.

“Like today, that curveball with two strikes [to Mercer]. Just leaving pitches up in the zone whenever I have to locate down.”

Question: Ron Roenicke said he thought your “stuff” was good today, especially the life on your fastball. Were you feeling that way, too?

Gallardo: “Yeah. Like I said, today felt a lot better than my last start against the Dodgers. I felt like I was locating the ball down and away to a righty and going in when I needed to. It was just one of those weird days that everything felt good [and the results did not match]. I was throwing changeups for a strike — when have you guys ever seen that from me? It was one of those things that’s just frustrating. you go out there and have pretty good command of all your pitches, and obviously the results are not there. But it’s a matter of keep moving forward. I know it seems I’ve been saying that for a while now, but there’s not much you can do. I can’t control what happens after I let go of that ball, throw that pitch.”

Question: How about the Pirates? Do you see them as a better team than past years?

Gallardo: “Yeah. Like I said the last time, they make you work. They foul off some pretty good pitches. They make you battle and fight. You leave a mistake up in the zone, and they’ve got the kind of guys who can take advantage of it.”

Question: What is the frustration level, as a group, in this clubhouse right now?

Gallardo: “It’s tough. It’s definitely tough. We all know we’re a lot better than what we’re playing right now. For the team, it’s frustrating. It just seems that we can’t get things together. But we just have to turn it around as a team. Obviously, I know the starting pitching hasn’t been very good. For us as starters, we have to turn it around. We have to go out there and go seven, eight innings and give the bullpen a break, let the hitters swing the bats and putting up some runs and when we get the lead, hold the lead.”

Question: You said the starting pitching hasn’t been very good this year; do you feel like you need to be the catalyst for turning that around?

Gallardo: “I think we all do. Obviously, it doesn’t help that I’m going out there struggling. We all just have to pick each other up. Just like you said, we’ve been struggling, but we can’t let each guy get down on themselves. You have to keep pushing them forward, keep working hard. Not letting guys give up, that’s the main thing. I’m not speaking about anybody in here, but once guys give up, going out there not competing — the guys we have in here, we’re on each other to work on things we need to work on to turn it around. It’s a tough stretch right now. I’m not going to sit here and lie, saying that we’re going out there and doing well. When things are going tough, you just need to work harder and battle through it.”

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Henderson to DL; second move coming Sunday

An injury has temporarily darkened one of the Brewers’ rare bright spots. The team placed closer Jim Henderson on the 15-day disabled list Saturday with the strained right hamstring he suffered the night before.

A corresponding roster move was coming Sunday, and Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said club officials were still discussing a variety of options. The Brewers have been playing one position player short, but they also need a starting pitcher for Tuesday against the Twins and could use help for a bullpen that has shouldered a heavy workload of late.

The decision to DL Henderson came after he was examined Saturday afternoon by the team’s head physician, William Raasch.

“He didn’t see any gaps, what he was feeling around for in there, so it isn’t a serious pull,” Henderson said. “So we’re just kind of taking the ‘better safe than sorry’ route right now. If they weren’t going to DL me, there would probably be that pressure to rush back. So we’ll just take our time with it. It’s the first time for me.”

The roster move was forecast before the game, when Brewers manager Ron Roenicke told reporters, “It’s going to be a while.”

Henderson suffered the injury in the ninth inning on Friday on a one-out pitch to Russell Martin. Henderson said he felt his hamstring pull at the release point on the pitch while pushing off the rubber, before making an attempt to field a ground ball hit back to him.

Henderson, who is 9-for-9 in save opportunities and holds a 0.92 ERA, threw one warm-up pitch before exiting the game. He has no history of hamstring injuries.

“Hopefully, in a few days it settles down a bit, I’ll get rid of this limp and I can walk around better,” said Henderson, who moved very slowly around the clubhouse on Saturday. “The biggest thing for me is I want to keep my arm in shape and keep that going, because that’s the key right there.”

Roenicke said he would use a “closer by committee” approach during Henderson’s absence.

“It’s tough right now,” Henderson said. “We’re getting hit here [with injuries]; some guys come back from the DL and other guys are going on. We still haven’t played this year full-strength, and I know it’s hurting us in all areas of the game.”

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Fiers’ mom will be watching when he takes the mound Saturday

Mike Fiers will have plenty of eyes on him when he makes his second start of the season Saturday against the Pirates. One pair in-particular will be extra special to him.

Fiers’ mom, Linda Korman, will be watching from her hospital bed in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to see her son take the mound against Jeff Locke. Korman has suffered from lupus for many years. Earlier this season, Fiers received news that her internal organs were failing and spent time with her between starts during a stint with Class A Brevard County.

“She’s always excited for every game, but especially when I’m pitching,” Fiers said of his mom who watches Brewers’ games on her iPad.

Fiers said his mom was moved out of the intensive care unit this week and is “on the right path.”

“They just moved her to a different room the other day, her own room,” Fiers said. “That’s another big step for her. She’s definitely moving the right way.”

Fiers began the season in the Brewers’ starting rotation but was demoted to Triple-A Nashville after one start and two relief appearances. The Brewers did him a favor by transferring him to Class A Brevard County, about a two-hour drive from home, so he could spend time with his mom.

He was recalled to the Brewers on May 12, making five relief appearances since. He is taking Kyle Lohse’s turn in the rotation on Saturday because of elbow irritation in Lohse’s right pitching arm, forcing him to miss a start.

-Kevin Massoth

 

Narveson to work back as a starter

A fresh arm will soon be on the way to the Brewers’ beleaguered pitching rotation. When left-hander Chris Narveson begins a Minor League rehabilitation assignment next week, he will stretch out as a starter.

Narveson, out since early April because of a sprained ligament in his left middle finger, faced hitters for the first time Friday and said the plan calls for one more extended mound session at Miller Park on Monday, followed by a trip to a Minor League affiliate, perhaps Triple-A Nashville for a Thursday night start against Iowa.

He began the season in the Brewers’ bullpen, a proactive move mean to protect his surgically-repaired shoulder, but prefers to start.

“Definitely,” Narveson said. “That’s what [I] want to do, but you also want to help the team win any way you can.”

He worked a pair of 15-pitch simulated innings against Martin Maldonado and Logan Schafer on Friday afternoon. Narveson threw his full assortment of pitches and deemed the “outing” a success.

“There’s always room for improvement, but I’m ready to go for a rehab start,” he said.

Narveson expects to work only two innings in his first start, so he is still weeks away from a return to the Brewers’ rotation.

He has not pitched extensively since 2011, when Narveson was 11-8 with a 4.45 ERA in 28 Brewers starts and two relief appearances.

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Brewers place Burgos on DL, activate Gorzelanny

The Brewers placed starting pitcher Hiram Burgos on the 15-day disabled list on Friday with what the team calls right shoulder impingement.

The move made room on the roster for left-handed reliever Tom Gorzelanny who was activated from the 15-day DL with left shoulder tendinitis.

Burgos’ ERA rose from 3.00 to 6.44 in his last three starts after allowing 15 earned runs combined in losses to the Reds and Pirates and a no decision against the Dodgers. The righty lasted just 3 1/3 innings against Los Angeles on Tuesday, allowing six hits and two earned runs.

-Kevin Massoth

Lohse to miss start with elbow issue

Kyle Lohse will miss his next Brewers start with what manager Ron Roenicke called “irritation” in the veteran’s right elbow, a potentially troubling development considering Lohse is nine starts into a three-year, $33 million contract. He began feeling discomfort “two or three starts ago,” Roenicke said, and was recovering slower than usual between starts.

Another right-hander, Mike Fiers, will take Lohse’s turn on Saturday against the Pirates at Miller Park. Lohse is tentatively scheduled to return to the rotation for one of the Brewers’ games at Minnesota next week.

“He could go out and pitch,” Roenicke said. “But because he didn’t have a Spring Training, we would rather try to get rid of this, so we’re going to bump him a start.”

Is an elbow issue a red flag?

“He didn’t seem that concerned about it, so I’m hoping that it’s not that big a deal,” Roenicke said.

Lohse is 1-5 this season despite a respectable 3.79 ERA, mostly because he has the worst run support (2.11 runs per game) of the 59 National League starters with enough innings to qualify for the ERA title. The Brewers are 2-7 when he starts and have scored eight total runs in the seven losses, with more than one run in only two of those games.

Fiers started the season in the Major League pitching’ rotation but was bumped to the Minors after losing his season debut against the D-backs, then recalled to the Brewers’ bullpen when left-hander Tom Gorzelanny was placed on the disabled list. Fiers was the winning pitcher Tuesday night after escaping a bases-loaded, one-out pickle in the fourth inning and going on to work 1 2/3 scoreless frames against the Dodgers.

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Gorzelanny, Narveson nearing returns

The Brewers are on track to get two left-handed arms back from injury in the next two weeks. Tom Gorzelanny and Chris Narveson have each spent time on the Brewers’ disabled list, but each made strides Tuesday to get back on the active roster.

Gorzelanny tossed 20 pitches in a live batting practice on Tuesday and aims to return to the Brewers’ bullpen on Friday when they start a three game set against Pittsburgh at Miller Park.

Gorzelanny was placed on the 15-day DL on May 11 with left shoulder tendinitis, a frustrating injury for the lefty who has only been on the DL twice in his nine-year career.

The Brewers’ reliever said he was able to throw all of his pitches in Tuesday’s session and noted the shoulder injury has been approached more carefully by the Brewers because of the early juncture of the season.

“If this came up in August or September it’d be a different story, but we’re just dealing with it now and I’ll go back out and be ready to go,” Gorzelanny said before Tuesday’s game against the Dodgers. “It went well. I feel good.”

Manager Ron Roenicke noted the Brewers’ need for a left-handed arm like Gorzelanny in the bullpen.

“He can go long for us, he can get out lefties,” Roenicke said. “Right before he got hurt he was mainly coming in late in the game and going through one or two lefties in that lineup and really pitching.”

Narveson was placed on the 15-day DL on April 8 with a sprained left middle finger but threw a bullpen session on Tuesday and is scheduled to face live hitters on Friday.

Narveson said if things go well Friday the next step is to start a rehab assignment, possibly with the Brewers’ Triple-A affiliate in Nashville, at the beginning of next week.

“The finger felt good. Just kind of taking it day by day and see how it goes Friday against hitters,” Narveson said. “You’re just trying to prepare yourself and get your body ready to pitch again. I think you expect yourself to hit the ground running once you come back.”

Kevin Massoth

Roenicke delivered rare postgame pep talk

Manager Ron Roenicke was the only one who spoke when he called a rare postgame meeting on Thursday, after the Brewers suffered their 12th loss in 14 games.

“It gets to a time when I feel like it’s right,” said Roenicke, who reluctantly discussed the gathering on Friday ahead of a key series at Busch Stadium. “Maybe it’s something I feel like I need to say. It may not even be going that bad; it may just be something I see that I need to address. I always have a chance to talk to them that first day on the road, but we’re going home for a long homestand [so] it may be two and a half weeks or so until I can say something. Sometimes I don’t want to let it go that long.”

One of those sometimes came late Thursday following a 7-1 loss to the Pirates.

Asked for his view of the meeting’s tone, veteran third baseman Aramis Ramirez said, “We know we’re better than we’ve been playing. We’ve lost 12 out of the 14 games — we know we’re better than that. Even though we’re playing some good teams and facing some good pitching, it’s not going to get any easier. We’ve got to get it done. It doesn’t matter who we play.”

Roenicke’s gathering was not completely unprecedented. He said he called “a couple” of postgame meetings last year, and also occasionally addresses big-picture issues during the Brewers’ regular pre-series meetings, especially at the start of a road trip.

Sometimes, veteran players will chime in. Not Thursday, according to Ramirez.

“Just the manager,” Ramirez said. “He just tried to keep it on the positive side. You never want to get used to losing. You’ve got to try and turn it around one way or another. …

“I’m not a big fan of meetings and I’m sure Ron isn’t, either. But sometimes you’ve got to let the players, ‘You’re better than what you’re doing out there.’ And we know we’re better than that. We proved it last year — we didn’t start the way we wanted but we played good the last two months, but that wasn’t enough. That’s why you don’t want to get so far behind. Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and St. Louis; they’re really good.”

In the first 39 games of his third season as Brewers manager, Roenicke has already removed John Axford from the close’s role, demoted fifth starter Mike Fiers (he has since re-joined the team as a reliever) and made significant alterations to his batting order in light of prolonged slumps for second baseman Rickie Weeks and catcher Jonathan Lucroy.

The Brewers have been streaky, to say the least. After beginning the season 2-8, they won nine in a row and 12 of 15, then lost five in a row and 12 of 14 games entering Friday night in St. Louis.

It has been a challenging couple of weeks.

“Yeah, more than a couple weeks,” Roenicke said. “It’s been tough on everybody this year. We went through one good span, and that’s really been it.”

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Report says Brewers made long-term offer to Segura

How confident were Brewers officials that Jean Segura could handle his first full season in the Major Leagues? They reportedly have already offered him a longer contract.

Agent Joe Klein told FoxSports.com that the Brewers made their offer about a month ago, mere weeks after 23-year-old Segura made his first Opening Day roster. The report did not include details about the nature of the team’s proposal, and Klein indicated that talks have not progressed since then. Brewers general manager Doug Melvin declined to comment for the story.

“Right now, I guess it’s in my court,” Klein told the website. “But with a guy this young, it’s hard to figure out what the right numbers would be. It would be good, be nice if it was possible to do. But I don’t know. It’s way, way on the drawing board.”

Segura’s price has only gone up since that offer was made. He entered Tuesday’s game in Pittsburgh leading the National League batting average (.368), hits (50), multi-hit games (17) and stolen bases (13). He is earning $492,000 this season, just north of the league minimum salary, and entered the year with only 65 days of MLB service. That means he will continue to draw a salary near the league minimum through the end of the 2015 season, then be arbitration-eligible but still under Brewers control from 2016-18 before reaching free agency.

The Brewers acquired Segura from the Angels at last year’s nonwaiver Trade Deadline, along with two Minor League pitchers, for right-hander and free-agent-to-be Zack Greinke.

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