July 2013

Lucroy starts at 1B: ‘I’ve got to stay in the lineup’

The Brewers knew they would have a hard time replacing Prince Fielder when he signed with the Tigers for 2012, but not this much trouble. Jonathan Lucroy on Wednesday became the 12th different player to start a game at first for Milwaukee in the past season and a half.

“Being realistic, if you’re going to screw up, this is a good time to screw up,” said Lucroy, who had previously expressed reservations about manning the position until he had time to learn it in Spring Training. “This is a good year to do it because we’re kind of out of it anyway. It’s a good time to get some experience out there, some game-speed stuff.”

His attitude changed last week when Ryan Braun was lost for the season to a suspension. With Aramis Ramirez and Corey Hart injured, Lucroy knew the team could not afford to be without another big bat on days like Wednesday, when Martin Maldonado was the starting catcher because Wily Peralta was on the mound.

The idea was apparently Lucroy’s.

“I went to [manager Ron Roenicke] after Brauny went down,” Lucroy said. “I said, ‘Look, I’ve got to stay in the lineup. I’ve got to. So what do I need to do?’ … We’re going to go over there today and do some early work, and basically that’s it. I’m just going to try to stop the ball and keep it in front of me. Don’t try to be a Gold Glover or anything, just make the routine plays. Keep my bat in the lineup and see what happens.”

As for whether this could portend a more permanent switch, Lucroy said, “I’m a catcher. I don’t think I hit enough to be a first baseman, anyway.”

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Brewers stand pat at nonwaiver Deadline

The 3 p.m. nonwaiver Trade Deadline came and went Wednesday no more moves by the Brewers, who did trade reliever Francisco Rodriguez to the Orioles last week.

The inactivity did not bother general manager Doug Melvin, even as his team sits in last place in the National League Central with the league’s second-highest total of losses. He said the Brewers’ recent pitching surge had reinforced his belief that a sell-off was not necessary, especially considering the Brewers’ two most valuable trade chips — right-handers Yovani Gallardo and Kyle Lohse — were controllable for the next two seasons.

“I’m OK,” Melvin said. “After you look at proposals we made and things like that, I’m OK. The one thing on our club that has improved over the second half of the year has been our pitching. Do you agree that St. Louis and Washington have pretty good pitching staffs? In the month of June, we were better than the Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals. In the month of July, we were better than the Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals.

“So with the younger guys that we have [alongside] Gallardo and Lohse, I’m encouraged by our pitching and how it’s improved. I can’t defend April and May, but I’m seeing some improvement.”

At the same time, Melvin sees right-hander Johnny Hellweg, acquired from the Angels last July with shortstop Jean Segura and another pitching prospect for Zack Greinke, dominating the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. Hellweg struggled badly in a brief stint with Milwaukee but will be back later this season, Melvin said. The Brewers also expect to take a look at top pitching prospect Jimmy Nelson before the season is out.

With that depth, Melvin was content to stand pat Wednesday when he was not wowed by any offers.

“Does that mean we won’t look at it again in the offseason? Well, no. We’ll look at it in the offseason again,” Melvin said.

Teams can still make trades in August if the players involved clear waivers first. Left-hander Michael Gonzalez could still be dealt, and third baseman Aramis Ramirez could be an intriguing trade piece if he can get his sprained left knee healthy. Gonzalez is a free agent after the season and Ramirez is signed through the end of 2014.

Melvin said Yovani Gallardo’s hamstring injury had no impact on Wednesday’s lack of action. Melvin had previously made clear he was not motivated to move Gallardo.

Much more to come in the Brewers.com notebook.

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Greinke says Braun ‘was willing to use anyone’

After taking some days to think about it, Zack Greinke weighed in on the Ryan Braun suspension Friday, and it wasn’t pretty.

Greinke, a teammate of Braun’s from 2011 to last season’s Trade Deadline, spoke to the Los Angeles Times’ Dylan Hernandez.

“The main thing is, yeah, he lied to us,” Greinke told the newspaper. “He forced us to lie for him, threw people under the bus in order to help himself out and didn’t care, blamed others for his mistakes and it’s just a lot of things you don’t expect from people.”

Braun appeared as close as any Brewers teammate to Greinke, often joking that he wanted to serve as Greinke’s agent in discussions with Brewers GM Doug Melvin about a contract extension. Braun was kidding, but the two did apparently have some frank discussions about Greinke’s intentions as he neared free agency.

Before Monday’s vague admission, did Greinke believe Braun?

“Oh, yeah, 100% believed him,” Greinke said. “Everything was so convincing. He had people to blame. He seemed like a really good guy. He was a good teammate at the time. You don’t know the guys that he was pinning it on. I’m not positive, but I think everyone 100% believed him at the time. Especially the next year, he looked just as good as the year before. His numbers his whole career, Hall of Fame numbers. How could you not believe him? He was so convincing.”

When Hernandez asked whether Greinke has changed his opinion of Braun as a player, Greinke said, “Not even talking about the player. It’s just the person. Just the fact that he was willing to use anyone that got in his path. The closer you were to him, the more he would use you. It’s just disappointing that a human being could be like that.”

He added: “The fact that even to this day he hasn’t had a real apology is really upsetting to me. I thought about it a bunch. He still hasn’t really apologized.”

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Roenicke to team: ‘You can get through this’

The Brewers’ usual pre-series meeting on Friday covered a whole lot more than the Colorado Rockies.

Manager Ron Roenicke gathered players for nearly 40 minutes and delivered forward-looking remarks about his expectations for the remainder of a season during which everything has gone wrong, from injuries to an under-performing starting rotation to Monday’s bombshell suspension of star left fielder Ryan Braun.

Roenicke had also addressed the team in the wake of Braun’s suspension on Monday, but that was more about the imminent media circus and Friday “was more about going forward for the rest of the year. I’ve mentioned to you guys, it’s been a tough year. We all know that. It’s been a tough year on [the players], but you can get through this, and the more you get through this tough situation, it makes you better ballplayers.”

Beginning with Friday’s game at Coors Field, the Brewers still had 61 games to play.

“Mostly it was about what has been going on in the field,” Roenicke said. “I know that we’re not at full strength, we don’t have our big horses in there, but still there are some things I wanted them to know, and how I felt about the rest of the season and where we need to be and what we need to do to win a lot of ballgames. …

“I think they’re still focused. I wanted to make sure [because] we need to be.”

He used Sunday’s 10-8 loss to the Padres, in which the Brewers faced deficits of 6-0 and 10-3, as an example.

“I can live with yesterday’s ballgame,” Roenicke said. “Yeah, we lost. We didn’t pitch well. Yo [Gallardo] didn’t pitch well. [Michael] Gonzalez had an outing like he hasn’t had in a long time. And yet we get way down, and the next thing I know we’re fighting back and we have a monster inning and I’m seeing a lot of really good at-bats, a lot of good things happening out there on the field. That’s the type of game that I think we build off of, even though we lost the game. That type of effort and attitude is going to win games for us.”

Only one bit of other news from Roenicke’s pregame meeting with reporters: Righty Donovan Hand threw a successful bullpen session today and remains on track to start as scheduled in Sunday’s series finale here. He exited his last start after being hit by a pitch on the pitching hand.

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Packers’ Rodgers: ‘Doesn’t feel great being lied to’

Green Bay Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers bet his salary on good buddy Ryan Braun’s innocence. On Friday, a dismayed Rodgers told reporters that he was lied to, while casting doubt on the fellow MVPs’ friendship and business partnership.

“I was shocked, I really was,” Rodgers said, according to Fox Sports Wisconsin’s Paul Imig, who is covering the opening of Packers training camp this week. “I was backing up a friend, who looked at me in the eye on multiple occasions and repeatedly denied these allegations, said they weren’t true. It’s disappointing, not only for myself as a friend but for obviously Wisconsin sports fans … It doesn’t feel great being lied to like that. I’m disappointed about way it went down.”

Rodgers and Braun struck up Wisconsin’s most famous friendship in 2009, fellow Californians who were about the same age and were both single. They both won MVP Awards for their exploits on the field in 2011, Braun the National League MVP who led the Brewers to within two wins of the World Series, and Rodgers the NFL MVP who’d won the Super Bowl the previous season.

Their names and likeness adorn 8 Twelve MVP Bar and Grill in suburban Brookfield, Wis., with a second location planned to open later this year at Bayshore Mall just north of Milwaukee.

Rodgers told reporters that he’d been in contact with Braun since Braun was suspended on Monday. Asked whether their business dealings would continue, Rodgers said, “That’s yet to be determined.”

Rodgers was among the most vocal supporters of Braun during and after Braun’s successful appeal of a suspension during the 2011-12 offseason. Last year, a a 37-year-old flight nurse from Denver named Todd Sutton Tweeted at Rodgers, “you really believe he didn’t [use] PED’s????,” calling Rodgers “delusional,” Rodgers shot back, ““ya, i’d put my salary next year on it,” with the hashtags “pony up” and “exonerated.”

Rodgers’ base salary this season is $4.5 million.

“I don’t regret backing a friend up,” Rodgers said, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Obviously, in hindsight a more measured approach would obviously be a better course of action. I definitely believe in forgiveness and moving forward. He has a tough task in front of him moving forward with his career, on and off the field.

“As far as the business goes, right now I’m focused on football and I have people who can help me with those issues.”

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Will Braun mess hurt Brewers in free agency?

A prominent baseball writer raised a new question on Day 4 of the Ryan Braun suspension: Given the unprecedented, on-the-record venom toward Braun from fellow Major Leaguers, will the Brewers face an even greater challenge luring free agent players?

Conceding that most players follow the money, FoxSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal wrote, “Many players are angry at Braun for claiming he had done nothing wrong. Some free agents, though, also might question whether Braun will be the same hitter now that he will face more rigorous testing, and whether the Brewers’ offense will be diminished as a result.”

The Brewers’ biggest recent free agent acquisition, right-hander Kyle Lohse, was not ready to make that leap.

“We’re in the first week of this,” said Lohse, who has purposely kept a low profile in the wake of Braun’s suspension. “There’s a lot more that’s going to happen in terms of how Ryan handles his part. I know everybody wants to make headlines and say all kinds of things, but I think we should wait a little bit before making bold statements.”

He predicted that free agents would continue to judge Milwaukee on whether they fit for the Brewers and whether they see the organization heading in the right direction. He added of Braun: “To be honest with you, I know as much about this as you do, probably less, because I haven’t been reading stuff.”

No one in a Brewers uniform is more disappointed by the team’s dismal season than Lohse, who signed a three-year, $33 million contract at the end of Spring Training because, beyond the fact Milwaukee made the best offer, he viewed the club as a contender. Instead, the Brewers have the second-worst record in the National League.

Another newcomer, reliever Burke Badenhop, who came to the team in a December 2012 trade, was not buying the idea that the Braun mess will hurt the Brewers’ chances with free agents.

“I really wouldn’t see how that would factor in,” Badenhop said. “It’s a thing that did happen, but when you’re looking at a place to play and an ownership group and the ballclub and the manager — I’m pretty sure those people should not be held accountable [for a player getting suspended]. It’s not really connected to the club. Is nobody going to play for the Yankees now [because of Alex Rodriguez’s alleged involvement with Biogenesis]?

“I think it comes down to each player individually. Some are obviously more fed up with it than others. But that would not have been in the top 10 things for me if I was thinking about a team. I don’t think the Brewers are going to suffer — this is a great ballpark, a great place to play.”

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Attanasio saddened by Braun’s deception

Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio gathered reporters in the back of the Miller Park press box tonight, and here are the highlights:

On what he’s been thinking the last two days…

“Well, there’s a lot of thoughts the last two days. I worked very hard on the statement I released to the press, which expressed my disappointment in Ryan. I accepted his apology. He apologized to me again today. But I also expressed the need for him to redeem himself, and it’s going to take some time and take some work.”

What does he think should be Braun’s next step?

“I think he has to get to the point where he can actually speak about this. Major League Baseball is in the midst of an ongoing investigation. He is obviously now cooperating with baseball [by remaining quiet until the league has doled out other suspensions and closed the Biogenesis matter]. … He is cooperating in such a way that he is going to let them conclude or get further into the investigation before he talks.”

[Major clarification: This does not mean Braun is cooperating with investigations into other players, Attanasio said. Merely that he is staying quiet for now until MLB finishes its work.]

Did Attanasio get a full accounting from Braun of the violations he’s admitting to?

“I don’t have a full accounting on that because given what I just said about the investigation and where he stands in it, I don’t even myself have all the details of what he’s going to say or what actually happened.”

How does this affect the franchise?

“I’m going to answer that in two ways. I’m going to start by saying I’m reminded in times like this that we’re an organization of 25-plus players. The two players who were All-Stars this year were Jean Segura and Carlos Gomez, and we’ve got a bunch of guys out there tonight working really hard to win a game. It kind of makes me proud for what the organization is and who plays for the organization.

“That said, Ryan obviously was the best player on our team, so we miss him.”

How does the team’s best player restore credibility after a year and a half of lying about being associated with PEDs?

“This is a unique circumstance here. I don’t think there is a roadmap for that, but as you point out, there was a year and a half between when this all started and now, so this is going to take time. I told Ryan that this is going to take time. No matter now open, honest, truthful, sincere he is in the next press conference, that is one step in what is going to be [many]. It is going to take time. Everyone will know when, if he gets over that threshold, that he has gotten over it, because the community will be in a position that they can embrace him again.”

Braun is being described as a “pariah” and he is the Brewers’ franchise player. How does Attanasio reconcile that?

“Well, the media uses a lot of provactive terms, and pariah is a provocative term. ‘Face of the Franchise’ is a [provocative] term, too. You know, we never really use that term here. If you look at our media guide, we’ve got a lot of faces on the media guide this year, and Ryan was No. 2 in the MVP voting last year. We’ve never really looked at him that way, so I’d rather not use specific terms like that. Id’ rather deal with Ryan redeeming himself, what it’s going to take, how long it’s going to take, qualitatively what he needs to do.”

Can he redeem himself?

“We’ll see,” Attanasio said.

[Attanasio met with Braun in person on Wednesday morning in Milwaukee but was not sure about Braun’s plan moving forward. Attanasio was also not sure whether Braun would be around the team for any of the remainder of this season, as he is allowed to do as long as he’s off the field before gates open to the public.]

“This community trusted Ryan,” Attanasio said. “So I understand how this community is reacting as negatively as [it is] … because it was so trusting, and it’s had its trust betrayed. We’ll all feel it together when it’s working again.”

Will the community hear from Braun any time soon?

“I don’t know what the plan is for that. I think he does want to come forward, but I don’t know when that will be.”

Personally, how does Attanasio feel about this?

“I issued a statement that I was disappointed, and that is for sure the case. I’m sad. When I thought about Milwaukee baseball, this is not what I envisioned. But I recognize also that this organization is bigger than anyone, certainly bigger than me. … I think we will work together to ride through the difficult times so we can enjoy some good times — and there will be good times again.”

Will the Brewers keep Braun?

“You know, he is under contract with us. I know there is a lot of commentary now. Right now, the full expectation is to keep him, and the full expectation is that he is going to do the right things, he is going to say the right things, and he he is going to put in a lot of hard work to get back into folks’ good graces.

“That is going to take some time. It’s not like we are going to be at Opening Day next year and we’re going to be through this. We are not going to be through this.”

Attanasio intends to help with that public relations effort.

“I’ve told Ryan that I would like to take a more active role in talking to him going forward, and he is very accepting of that,” Attanasio said. “He wants to do the right thing at this point going forward. This was a first step, by coming forward and agreeing to a penalty and being the first player to do that. That is a first step, and it is a baby step, but it is a step in the right direction.”

Does this tarnish the Brewers’ 2011 playoff run?

“That team had so many great players. Yeah, Ryan was great, but Prince Fielder was pretty damn great. Ax and K-Rod were great. Even Craig Counsell was on that team, and Rickie [Weeks] had a great season [before his injury]. A lot of guys got us to the finish line in 2011.”

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Report: Braun suspension tied to summer of ’11

As Ryan Braun’s suspension — and his silence — entered Day 3, details began to emerge about the transgressions that led to his suspension under Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

Citing anonymous sources, ESPN.com investigative reporter T.J. Quinn reported that Braun’s relationship with Tony Bosch and Biogenesis began during the summer of 2011, several months before the October drug test which would trigger Braun’s long battle with MLB. Quinn said via Twitter that his sources allege Braun “was on a performance-enhancing drug regimen for high-end clients”  and posted an image of a note, allegedly in Bosch’s own handwriting, detailing one such regimen, including mint- or cherry-flavored lozenges containing testosterone that a user would place under his tongue.

In July of that year, Braun was dealing with a left calf strain suffered on an eighth inning groundout at Minnesota on July 2. The next morning, Braun was named a starting outfielder on the National League All-Star team — the league’s leading vote-getter — but he would miss the Midsummer Classic because of his injury.

Braun rejoined the Brewers’ lineup on July 14 but continued to battle calf pain (he missed a July 22 start because of the issue). He batted .346 in his final 67 regular season games with 17 home runs and 49 RBIs, then hit.405 with nine extra-base hits in the postseason, including a 3-for-4 performance in Game 1 of the National League Division Series. It was after that game that Braun submitted the urine sample that allegedly showed elevated levels of synthetic testosterone, triggering a 50-game suspension which Braun successfully appealed by questioning the chain of custody of his sample.

On Monday, he was suspended for the remainder of 2013 for unspecified violations of the Joint Drug Agreement. Braun said in a statement released by MLB, “I realize now that I have made some mistakes. I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions.”

He has not come forward since that announcement to answer any additional questions and it remained unclear Wednesday morning whether he would do so.

For MLB.com’s full coverage of the Braun suspension, see our main story from Monday and my follow-up notes from Tuesday. Among the reactions from around Major League Baseball, Dodgers outfielder and 2011 NL MVP runner-up Matt Kemp said that Braun should be stripped of that award.

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Roenicke hoping for answers from Braun

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke faced a barrage of Ryan Braun questions on Tuesday, most of which he had no answers for because Braun never told his manager what exactly he was being suspended for.

Instead, Braun spoke to his manager and teammates Monday in vague terms similar to the statement which was released by Major League Baseball, with a reference to “mistakes.” Roenicke said he would like more detailed answers, assuming Braun’s agreement with Major League Baseball and the Players Association — not to mention possible legal ramifications — allow it.

“You guys know me — I always think it’s better to just come out and say what’s going on,” Roenicke said. “There’s times that I can’t, and when I can’t, I usually tell you guys, ‘Hey, that’s something I can’t talk about.’ And I don’t know how much he can talk about. I don’t know the agreement between the [Players] Association, Major League Baseball and himself on what he can say. I would think there’s parameters put in place with what he can say regarding this, how much he can explain things.

“Knowing that, maybe he just can’t do it.”

Of the remaining unknowns, Roenicke said, “I wish we all knew what was going on. I doubt we ever will. I doubt that I’ll ever know what this is all about.”

Representatives from Braun’s agency, CAA Sports, did not respond to calls for comments on Tuesday. Braun’s corner locker at Miller Park was still filled with baseball gear and uniforms, but he remained absent. (For the record: He is not barred from the ballpark.)

So for the second straight day, Brewers uniformed personnel were left in the awkward position of answering for Braun in Braun’s absence.

“If Major League Baseball allows it, you would hope that some of these things would be clarified from [Braun], that he would be able to give you guys answers instead of us having to do it,” Roenicke said. “I think any time players are asked something they are uncomfortable [answering], it’s difficult. These questions are difficult for me, and you guys ask me questions all the time. A player who is not used to answering anything other than the game and what they had done, it becomes a difficult situation.”

Does Roenicke worry about how Braun will re-acclimate to the team when he returns next season, and how his teammates will accept him back?

“I’m hoping that he’s accepted as a player that would be gone for an injury all year,” Roenicke said. “Obviously, this is a different situation than an injury. There’s a lot more meaning to it, and what happened and how it affects these guys and baseball. Knowing that, these guys are pretty forgiving of their teammates. Staff is pretty forgiving of players. That’s our job. Our job is to take whatever 25 men we have here and to try to help them in any way we can.”

Roenicke watched a few minutes of the postgame coverage of Braun’s suspension on national news networks Monday, then turned it off.

It was difficult to watch for a man whose job, by definition, is to manage situations. This is a situation out of his control.

“This is a group that I feel that myself and the coaches are in charge of what goes on out here, and any time something distracts from that or a problem occurs because of one of the players, it’s going to affect us,” Roenicke said. “It’s going to affect me personally. I like Ryan Braun. He’s a very engaging young man. I have a lot of great conversations with him, as I do with a lot of these young players. So any time something happens with one of our guys, I feel it.”

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Rules for suspended players

A spokesman for Major League Baseball provided this information about what a suspended play can and cannot do.

A suspended Major Leaguer:

- Can participate in Spring Training and Spring Training Games
– Can participate in Extended Spring Training and Extended Spring Training Games
– Can participate in affiliated Winter league games
– Can work out with the Club
– Can participate in batting practice before the gates open before a game

- Cannot receive pay
– Cannot participate in Arizona Fall League
– Cannot participate in post-season games
– Cannot be elected or selected to the All-Star Game

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