August 2013

Rogers removed from 40-man

The Brewers quietly removed first-round Draft pick Mark Rogers from the 40-man roster on Friday, positioning Rogers to be a Minor League free agent after the World Series.

Rogers, now 27, was the fifth overall pick in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft. His path to the Majors was slowed by shoulder and hand surgeries, but he appeared to gain a foothold last July and August by going 3-1 with a 3.92 ERA in seven Brewers starts.

He was expected to compete for a spot on the 2013 Opening Day roster but suffered from diminished velocity in Spring Training that the Brewers attributed to “shoulder instability,” and he never made it past Double-A. Rogers did touch 93 mph in his most recent start for advanced Class A Brevard County on Thursday but was not considered for a September call-up to Milwaukee.

Assistant GM Gord Ash did not rule out re-signing Rogers to a Minor League contract, but nothing is guaranteed.

“We just talked to him [Friday], told him to finish his season in Brevard, go home after that and we’ll be in touch,” Ash said.

With Rogers’ removal, the Brewers have 38 players on the 40-man roster, with the potential of adding one more as the player to be named later in Friday’s trade that sent John Axford to St. Louis.

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Axford was stunned to be traded

Sometimes, players have a sense that could be traded. That was not the case for John Axford, who had just finished packing for the Brewers’ flight home from Pittsburgh on Thursday night when manager Ron Roenicke called him into the office.

Axford had been traded — to the division-rival Cardinals, of all teams.

“I definitely did not see this coming,” Axford said. “It was a total surprise, a shock, when I was pulled into the office last night.”

Because the Brewers were coming off a road trip to Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, he opted to travel back to Milwaukee with his now-former team so he could spend Friday morning with wife Nicole and their two children. Then it was back on the road for a Cardinals trip to — seriously — Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.

“We just went through Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, and we were playing for wins, but at the same time, we knew we were playing to be a spoiler,” Axford said. “Right now, I’m going to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati and I’m going to be contending for a division championship. That’s huge. That’s going to rekindle a lot of fire within me and get me going. Every game is going to be important.”

What was going through his mind on Friday?

“A million different things,” Axford said. “It’s hard to grasp all of the things I’ve been thinking of today, all the things I have to get done. At the same time I’m not trying to take on too much. I’m just going to a new team. I don’t want to blow it out of proportion.

“I’d lie if I didn’t say I was getting nostalgic about all of the good times I’ve had in Milwaukee on and off the field. I enjoyed every minute of playing, but also every moment of being in the city, going out and about and engaging myself with different people and the different styles of the city, and living as it were home. It’s been interesting having all of those feelings while thinking about going to a new place.

“But at the same time, after that nostalgia, there was a lot of excitement. I’m excited to start something new in my career. Baseball is all about change, and I’m really looking forward to this change.”

The biggest shock of all, Axford said, was that he was dealt within the National League Central. He was happy the destination was St. Louis, and not just because the Cardinals will begin play Friday in first place. He and Nicole have good friends in that city, and have explored its neighborhoods extensively during the Brewers’ trips there.

“St. Louis has a great history, and I love the city,” Axford said.

What will be his role with his new team?

“I really have no idea,” Axford said. “I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. Just like with the Brewers, I’ll take every opportunity I can and do my best. I’m going to a team that’s contending and is in first place in the division, and that’s automatically going to light another fire in getting me going.”

Axford became expendable with Brandon Kintzler’s emergence as a shutdown set-up man and Jim Henderson’s hold of the closer role. Henderson simply outperformed Axford, just like Axford outperformed Trevor Hoffman to take the role in 2010.

“He’s really taken control of that role,” Axford said of the fellow Canadian Henderson. “Not to say that it would have been any different if I were back with the [Brewers] next year, but you never know what might be looming or what he might be thinking. In this case now, he knows that it will be his job and he can run away with it and take full control.”

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Gennett making most of ‘second’ impression

It is a small sample, to be sure. But so far, Scooter Gennett has been better than Rickie Weeks at the plate and better than Weeks in the field, leading many to wonder whether the Brewers would be better with Gennett at second base on Opening Day next season.

“I don’t know,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said Thursday. “I don’t even really want to think about what we’re doing [next year]. I like him a lot. It’s not a question of whether we like him or not.”

Weeks’ .769 OPS over the past four seasons ranks eighth among Major League second basemen with at least 1,000 plate appearances in that span, behind the likes of Robinson Cano and Dustin Pedroia, but ahead of the Reds’ Brandon Phillips and the Angels’ Howie Kendrick. But after consecutive years of 20-plus home runs in 2010 and 2011, Weeks has endured consecutive subpar seasons, batting .209 in 2013 with a .306 on-base percentage and a .357 slugging percentage before undergoing surgery this month for a torn left hamstring.

The injury opened playing time for Gennett, who entered Thursday’s start in the leadoff hole hitting .321/.358/.527 while played adequate defense, the area Gennett needed the most work in his Minor League development.

“I think he’s been really good,” Roenicke said. “He’s going to need some time, probably, to figure out the timing of plays; fast runner, slow runner, just when he needs to hurry it up and when he needs to slow it down. That usually comes with experience.

“Besides that, I think he’s been really good. He’s turned double plays really well, the play we saw [Wednesday] night, diving for the ball and getting up and throwing, he’s done a really nice job.”

That play actually occurred in right field. Positioned in the outfield as part of a defensive shift against power-hitting Pedro Alvarez, Gennett dove toward center field for a grounder and threw out Alvarez at first base.

“I like diving around, making awkward throws,” Gennett said. “Sometimes those are the ones where I get off the most accurate throw, when I’m not even looking at the base. [Wednesday’s] was one of those plays where I was just happy to stop the ball and save a run, but if we can get the out, it’s the cherry on top.”

Gennett won’t turn 24 until May and has two Minor League options remaining. Weeks will be 31 next month and will earn $11 million in 2014, the final guaranteed season of his four-year, $38.5 million contract. Weelks also has an $11.5 million vesting option for 2015 that will become guaranteed if he is healthy at end of 2014 and has 600 plate appearances next year, or 1,200 plate appearances in 2013-14 combined. Weeks batted .209 with 10 home runs in 399 plate appearances this season.

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Davis thawing to idea of position switch?

Back in Spring Training, then-Brewers outfield prospect Khris Davis all but dismissed the notion of switching positions, saying he had tried first base in the 2010 fall instructional league.

“It didn’t go too well,” Davis said then. “I think I’m an outfielder in my blood.”

But now that he has shed prospect status, gotten a taste of the Major Leagues and has thrived since taking over for the suspended Ryan Braun, Davis sounds more open-minded. With Braun expected back next season and the rest of the Brewers’ outfield set, Davis was asked again Tuesday whether he would consider a switch.

This time, Davis said, “Whatever keeps me in the bigs.”

With each quality at-bat, he is making club officials including manager Ron Roenicke ponder whether Davis might not be “just a left fielder,” after all. The 25-year-old entered Tuesday on an 11-game hitting streak, batting .432 in those games with five home runs, and has impressed Roenicke with a calm and patient approach at the plate.

First base happens to be the Brewers’ most uncertain position heading into 2014.

“You could” consider a position change, Roenicke said. “They tried him at first base, is the thing, and it didn’t go well. I don’t know why. I haven’t really asked that much into it. But I think with what we’re seeing, and if we continue to see this, we’re going to have some discussions on what we can do.”

For now, Davis remains an outfielder.

“He does a good job in the outfield, that’s the other thing,” Roenicke said. “He runs down the ball well, and I think I can put him in right field and not worry about it. The arm, OK, it’s not a right fielder’s arm, but how much does it really come up? It doesn’t come up enough that I can’t put him out there to start in right field for a game, or a few. A season, you’ve got to look at it.”

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Braun sends letter to Brewers fans

Through the Brewers, Ryan Braun sent this letter to season seatholders and email subscribers on Thursday night after issuing his statement to the media:

August 22, 2013

Letter to the fans of the Milwaukee Brewers:

I have always been very grateful for the privilege of playing baseball in the great city of Milwaukee. I am so sorry for letting you down by being in denial for so long and not telling the whole truth about what happened. I am ashamed and extremely embarrassed by the decisions I made. There are no excuses for what I did and I take full responsibility for my actions. I apologize to all Brewers fans for disappointing you.

I came forward because I knew it was time for me to tell the truth and accept my punishment. I understand I have abused your trust and that of our great owner Mark Attanasio and the entire Brewers organization. Admitting my mistakes and asking for your forgiveness are the first steps in what I know will be a lengthy process to prove myself to you again.

It is an honor to represent the people of Wisconsin by wearing a Brewers uniform. I want all of you to know how much I have appreciated the support I’ve received from so many of you throughout my years with the organization. I will continue to work on improving myself and making amends for what I have done. I am deeply sorry for my actions and I apologize to everyone I have let down. I am committed to doing everything I can to earn back your trust and support.

Sincerely,

Ryan Braun

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Melvin: Braun’s actions will matter more than words

I just spoke to Brewers general manager Doug Melvin and asked whether he was satisfied with Ryan Braun’s prepared statement.

“I think it’s just got to satisfy Ryan. He’s got to feel good about it,” Melvin said. “He has to put it out; I think people were waiting for it. He wanted to put some thought into it and wanted to make sure he got all of his facts straight before he did it.

“My feeling is, I know he put a statement out, and that’s the right thing to do. But I think when any player goes through what he’s done, it’s going to be the actions after that will be important, too. … [The statement] is going to be analyzed, dissected, and it’s never going to satisfy everybody. That’s why I’m saying beyond a release of what he has to say, the most important thing is an individual’s actions when he comes back. He’s going to be one of 25 players.”

Does Melvin believe Braun needs to say or do anything more before donning a Brewers uniform again next season?

“I don’t know what ‘more’ is,” Melvin said. “I think his actions when he comes back are going to be the most important thing. When a player comes back from a situation like this, he’s going to be one of the guys. It’s up to every individual on how he’s going to be [accepted back]. Every individual has his own feelings, and I think once you put on the Brewers uniform, there’s an acceptance that you’re all working in the same clubhouse, on the same team. Guys are all professional enough to understand they’re on a team. They’ll all move forward and try to win ballgames.”

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Braun issues statement

Ryan Braun released this statement tonight:

Now that the initial MLB investigation is over, I want to apologize for my actions and provide a more specific account of what I did and why I deserved to be suspended. I have no one to blame but myself. I know that over the last year and a half I made some serious mistakes, both in the information I failed to share during my arbitration hearing and the comments I made to the press afterwards.

I have disappointed the people closest to me – the ones who fought for me because they truly believed me all along. I kept the truth from everyone. For a long time, I was in denial and convinced myself that I had not done anything wrong.

It is important that people understand that I did not share details of what happened with anyone until recently. My family, my teammates, the Brewers organization, my friends, agents, and advisors had no knowledge of these facts, and no one should be blamed but me. Those who put their necks out for me have been embarrassed by my behavior. I don’t have the words to express how sorry I am for that.

Here is what happened. During the latter part of the 2011 season, I was dealing with a nagging injury and I turned to products for a short period of time that I shouldn’t have used. The products were a cream and a lozenge which I was told could help expedite my rehabilitation. It was a huge mistake for which I am deeply ashamed and I compounded the situation by not admitting my mistakes immediately.

I deeply regret many of the things I said at the press conference after the arbitrator’s decision in February 2012. At that time, I still didn’t want to believe that I had used a banned substance. I think a combination of feeling self righteous and having a lot of unjustified anger led me to react the way I did. I felt wronged and attacked, but looking back now, I was the one who was wrong. I am beyond embarrassed that I said what I thought I needed to say to defend my clouded vision of reality. I am just starting the process of trying to understand why I responded the way I did, which I continue to regret. There is no excuse for any of this.

For too long during this process, I convinced myself that I had not done anything wrong. After my interview with MLB in late June of this year, I came to the realization that it was time to come to grips with the truth. I was never presented with baseball’s evidence against me, but I didn’t need to be, because I knew what I had done. I realized the magnitude of my poor decisions and finally focused on dealing with the realities of-and the punishment for-my actions.

I requested a second meeting with Baseball to acknowledge my violation of the drug policy and to engage in discussions about appropriate punishment for my actions. By coming forward when I did and waiving my right to appeal any sanctions that were going to be imposed, I knew I was making the correct decision and taking the first step in the right direction. It was important to me to begin my suspension immediately to minimize the burden on everyone I had so negatively affected- my teammates, the entire Brewers organization, the fans and all of MLB. There has been plenty of rumor and speculation about my situation, and I am aware that my admission may result in additional attacks and accusations from others.

I love the great game of baseball and I am very sorry for any damage done to the game. I have privately expressed my apologies to Commissioner Selig and Rob Manfred of MLB and to Michael Weiner and his staff at the Players’ Association. I’m very grateful for the support I’ve received from them. I sincerely apologize to everybody involved in the arbitration process, including the collector, Dino Laurenzi, Jr. I feel terrible that I put my teammates in a position where they were asked some very difficult and uncomfortable questions. One of my primary goals is to make amends with them.

I understand it’s a blessing and a tremendous honor to play this game at the Major League level. I also understand the intensity of the disappointment from teammates, fans, and other players. When it comes to both my actions and my words, I made some very serious mistakes and I can only ask for the forgiveness of everyone I let down. I will never make the same errors again and I intend to share the lessons I learned with others so they don’t repeat my mistakes. Moving forward, I want to be part of the solution and no longer part of the problem.

I support baseball’s Joint Drug Treatment and Prevention Program and the importance of cleaning up the game. What I did goes against everything I have always valued- achieving through hard work and dedication, and being honest both on and off the field. I also understand that I will now have to work very, very hard to begin to earn back people’s trust and support. I am dedicated to making amends and to earning back the trust of my teammates, the fans, the entire Brewers’ organization, my sponsors, advisors and from MLB. I am hopeful that I can earn back the trust from those who I have disappointed and those who are willing to give me the opportunity. I am deeply sorry for my actions, and I apologize to everyone who has been adversely affected by them.

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No deal for Dice-K with Brewers

My friends on the Norichika Aoki beat tell me that reports out of Japan suggest the Brewers were poised to sign right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka, who was granted his release Tuesday by the Indians. Not so, said Brewers general manager Doug Melvin.

While it’s true that agent Scott Boras reached out to the Brewers, “I told Boras I didn’t have a spot for him,” Melvin said. “We already have six starters for September.”

The Brewers have Kyle Lohse, Yovani Gallardo and Wily Peralta entrenched in the rotation and will use the remaining weeks of the season to evaluate right-hander Marco Estrada and left-hander Tom Gorzelanny. A sixth starter, right-hander Johnny Hellweg, will join the club in September, and the Brewers are planning to employ a six-man rotation while finishing the season with 20 games in as many days.

Matsusaka, 32, who wants to pitch in the Major Leagues again, simply isn’t a fit, Melvin said.

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Roenicke: Braun will talk ‘when timing is right’

Ryan Braun will break his silence, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke reiterated on Monday.

The question at Miller Park, from the clubhouse to the upper deck, was: When?

“I hate to comment on some things, but I know what he’s told me,” Roenicke said. “When the timing is right, he’s going to say something.”

The timing and format of that something remained a mystery as the Brewers took batting practice on Monday afternoon. It was unclear whether Braun was planning to take any questions after delivering his statement.

Would Roenicke be satisfied if Braun merely releases a statement?

“Yeah,” Roenicke said. “Sometime along the line, he’s going to have to answer, whether we go into next year or whatever. I think there’s different views on what he should do and what he should not do. Everybody’s got a feeling. I don’t claim to know what the right way is. I [aired] my opinions and how I feel about things, but everybody is a little different [in terms of] the advice that you get and the people you listen to, and then he has to make his decisions. He’s getting a lot of opinions from people.”

Roenicke spoke via telephone with Braun on Friday, one of several calls placed by Braun to uniformed and non-uniformed Brewers personnel to further explain the “mistakes” he admitted in accepting Major League Baseball’s 65-game suspension.

Roenicke again declined to provide details of that conversation, but described Braun as eager to begin the public process of mending his tattered reputation.

“That’s important to everybody,” Roenicke said. “Those are things I’ve talked to him about even before all this stuff happened with the suspension. When it was rumored, we had a lot of long discussions about it, and I told him what I thought about what needed to be done, needed to be said. He’s trying to do things the right way, and when he’s ready, he’ll say something.

Major League rules allow suspended players to work out with their teams, providing he leaves the field before the gates open to fans. Few players actually do so, and Roenicke does not expect Braun to be an exception.

“It’s a distraction to the team,” Roenicke said. “You’ve got extra work that somebody is going to take swings away from, and I don’t see the need. If you’re not going to play this year, I don’t see the need.”

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Gomez back to baseball activities

Two days after he was limping around the clubhouse on crutches, Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez resumed baseball activities on Sunday and spoke of returning to the lineup before the end of the week.

Gomez sprained his right knee when he made a wall-banging catch on Thursday against the Reds and needed an MRI scan the following morning to confirm there was no serious damage. He completed a pool workout on Sunday, took “dry” swings in the batting cage and played catch on the field, and hoped to graduate to regular batting practice before the Brewers begin a series against the Cardinals on Monday.

His timeline remains open-ended. Considering the Brewers will want to use Tuesday to see how Gomez responds to his field work, and that Wednesday is a day game and Thursday a scheduled off-day, it could make sense to wait until Friday’s series in opener in Cincinnati to return to the lineup.

“Everything is going like it’s supposed to,” Gomez said. “It’s way, way better.”

Gomez said Monday would be a “big day” in terms of determining a schedule for his comeback. He would not rule out playing before the end of the Cardinals series.

“When we knew there is no damage there, we can be more aggressive,” Gomez said of his speedy recovery. “I don’t know about two days, three days [before he can return]. If it goes the way it’s going right now, we expect to play soon, but we don’t have a date. If I played another position, like first base, and I didn’t depend on my speed, maybe sooner. But the way I play, the way I run, my speed is a big part of my game.”

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