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Lohse in “wait and see” mode

By noon on Thursday, Kyle Lohse had already received two rounds of treatment on a sore right ankle. He remained non-committal about making his next scheduled start on Tuesday against the Blue Jays. 

“I’ve had two rounds already this morning, but we kind of have to wait and see,” Lohse said. “We have to figure out how to make sure I can do what I need to do without aggravating it. There’s not really anything I can say right now about what’s going to happen.” 

Because of an off-day preceding Lohse’s start, the Brewers could simply skip his turn and keep the rest of their starting pitchers on schedule.

Asked about that scenario, Lohse pointed toward the manager’s office and said, “That’s up to them. I’ll take the ball when I can. Right now, I don’t know when that will be, so we’ll see. It’s still five days away. I’m sure they’re already thinking about it, you guys [reporters] are already thinking about it. I’m just trying to think about what I need to do to try to get ready to take the ball the next time I’m on the hill, whenever that is.” 

Was it pretty sore on Thursday morning?

“Yeah, Lohse said with a sigh. “Yeah. It’s weird, because it’s not like a roll or a sprain that’s a big, blow-out thing. It’s where, when I’m pushing off, it’s affecting what I’m trying to do. It’s just one of those things where you can’t repeat your mechanics because you can’t get your balance, you can’t push off. You don’t want it to lead to something else. I was fighting it the whole time last night, and made it worse when I tried to check a swing. I don’t even know what happened. I didn’t look to see what exactly it looked like, but it didn’t feel good. I thought I could go and keep battling it out, but it wasn’t smart to keep going like that. …

“It’s just frustrating, because it doesn’t feel that bad. It’s just an annoying thing. It’s just not right. That’s all I can say right now.” 

He indicated he had yet to undergo an x-ray or MRI on the ankle. 

“That’s probably my fault because I was trying to push it,” Lohse said. “It’s probably my fault because I was telling them I’m good. I’ll be a little smarter this time.”

And here’s what Brewers manager Ron Roenicke had to say: 

“He’s sore today,” Roenicke said. “We’ll probably have to go here the next couple of days and see. He’s got to get a lot better. I hate to put him out there again if that thing is going to still bother him. Then you worry about the next start after it. We do have an off day — he was supposed to pitch Tuesday — so we could adjust it if it’s still sore.”

Roenicke’s primary concern is that an injury, even a minor one, will affect a player’s mechanics. 

“Always is,” he said. “Hitters do the same thing, and sometimes, well probably most of the time, when a hitter goes into a bad slump, it’s because of some injury changes his mechanics, and even when he gets well the mechanics are different, and all of a sudden he’s in trouble.

“You know, Kyle’s obviously very important to us the rest of the season. We can’t have him going out there if he’s going to scuffle with the physical part of it, and if we can skip him, which we can with this day off, then it may be the way to go. But I haven’t really talked to him about it, so we’ll see how he’s doing here in the next couple days.”

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Roenicke reiterates aggressive running philosophy

Carlos Gomez was thrown out trying to steal third base with two outs in the seventh inning of Saturday’s 4-1 win over the Dodgers, with Jonathan Lucroy at the plate going for his fourth hit of the night, and, no, manager Ron Roenicke was not happy about it.

But in a lengthy discussion about the matter Sunday morning, Roenicke explained why he’s going to continue giving Gomez the green light.

“I thought about [putting on a stop sign] last night because I really didn’t want him going and getting thrown out,” Roenicke said. “He knows that when he goes, he needs to be safe in that situation. It can’t be a question. He knows he needs to be safe.

“But in saying that, when you take things away from a player, and you don’t allow him to do things, they get frustrated and then you see it starting to get into the other parts of their game. It’s a battle I’ve tried to do before, and I do take guys off [running on] their own at times, but it’s just, ‘What are the negatives that are going to come from it?'”

The positives of letting a player be aggressive, Roenicke has argued and will continue to argue, no matter how loudly anyone screams about “bad baserunning,” far outweigh the negatives of an occasional “dumb out.”

No one is going to convince Roenicke otherwise.

“If you rein him back, then you don’t get any of the other [good] stuff you get from him,” Roenicke said. “That’s what this whole thing has been about. That’s why [Gomez] has turned into a good player, I think. They’ve tried to do this [pull back Gomez’s raw aggressiveness] for years with him, and it hasn’t worked, and they haven’t gotten the player I think we have right now. The pluses outweigh the minuses.”

He feels that way in general — that being super aggressive on the bases generates more positive than negative, both because, in Roenicke’s view, it disrupts opposing teams and makes his own players better in every other facet of the game.

There’s no metric to measure that. Roenicke simply believes it to be true, and anyone arguing with him otherwise is wasting breath.

“Absolutely, there’s no question about it,” Roenicke said. “If you feel free to do things and you’re aggressive, it carries over into all parts of your game. No question. This whole game is about what goes on upstairs. These guys are all talented by the time they get to the big leagues, they all have physical talents. But it’s the mental part.”

Asked whether he developed this philosophy during his own playing career, or subsequently as a Minor League manager and big league coach Roenicke said, “I was a different player than these guys are. I was talented, but not even close to these guys, so I had to really think my way through it. So I did not make mistakes like this. Like, when you’re on second base and a ball is hit in front of you — you’re taught in Little League how you don’t go. Well, I never went.

“Sometimes these guys go. I saw Derek Jeter do it two weeks ago. So it’s a different game, a different era. Guys are freer to do things more now than they’ve ever been. Some guys, mentally, you can tell things to and it doesn’t affect their game. David Eckstein, I could tell him anything and it made him better. A lot of these guys, I tell them something and it restricts their game and now, all of a sudden, they’re not instinctive anymore. Now you don’t have a good player. It’s all types.”

Does it make him crazy sometimes?

“Sometimes,” Roenicke said with a smile.

 

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Brewers being cautious with Lucroy’s hamstring

Add catcher Jonathan Lucroy to the Brewers’ list of walking wounded.

Lucroy is batting a minor strain to his right hamstring, concerning enough to manager Ron Roenicke and the team’s medical staff that Lucroy was held out of the opener of the team’s weekend showdown with the National League West-leading Dodgers at Miller Park.

“We were going to give him a day somewhere,” Roenicke said. “He’s got a little bit of a hamstring issue. It’s there. I’m being cautious with it. I don’t want him to miss time.”

It’s that time of year. Shortstop Jean Segura and second baseman Scooter Gennett are still fighting nagging quadriceps strained (Gennett started Friday) and left fielder Khris Davis has a sore throwing elbow. Those are merely the bumps and bruises that have prevented players from starting games in recent days.

Lucroy, an All-Star Game starter, has been one of Milwaukee’s steadiest hitters this season. He entered Friday among the National League leaders in doubles (second, 38), extra-base hits (fifth, 51), batting average (seventh, .307), OPS (eighth, .867) and on-base percentage (10th, .374). Lucroy is on a pace to challenge Lyle Overbay’s franchise record 53 doubles in 2004, and to be the Brewers’ first regular catcher to bat better than .300 since Ted Simmons hit .308 in 1983.

 

Rk            Player   BA Year  AB   H HR RBI
1        Ted Simmons .308 1983 600 185 13 108
2    Jonathan Lucroy .307 2014 410 126 12  53
3       B.J. Surhoff .289 1991 505 146  5  68
4    Jonathan Lucroy .280 2013 521 146 18  82
5       B.J. Surhoff .276 1990 474 131  6  59

Chart data provided by Baseball-Reference.com.

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Kintzler, Roenicke on recent results

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke says he’s waiting for a right-hander to step up in the eighth inning. Despite a tough outing Wednesday, and conceding his signature sinker has not been as consistently sharp as a season ago, Brandon Kintzler believes he’s done enough to earn the job.

“I don’t know, he never throws me in there,” Kintzler said. “I threw well all of July, I never got a hold situation the whole time. I felt like I’ve done my job whatever they’ve asked me to do.”

During the second half of last season, after the Brewers traded Francisco Rodriguez to Baltimore, Kintzler was an effective set-up man for then-closer Jim Henderson. But both Henderson and Kintzler dealt with early-season shoulder injuries in 2014, prompting Roenicke to re-order bullpen roles.

Kintzler, who has been off the disabled list since April 24, has appeared in every inning from the fifth to the ninth and has eight holds with a 3.76 ERA in 42 appearances. Last season, he had 26 holds with a 2.69 ERA in a career-high 71 appearances.

“He was really consistent last year,” manager Ron Roenicke said. “It’s a lot — it’s confidence. His stuff seems to be fine. He’s fine. It’s the confidence that it gives you to relax and let your body work by and hit spots, and he’s not doing that. If you look at just velocity and things like that, it’s fine. He’ll throw some good breaking balls, but consistently he doesn’t, and he’s not getting the sinker down and in like he usually does. We always talk about confidence in this game. When it’s not there and it’s not there really well, you’re a little bit short.”

Roenicke also said, “He’s not throwing the same. He knows it. Until we find somebody that can get that spot done as a right-hander, we’ve had the two lefties [Will Smith and Zach Duke] that have done it most of the year, until recently.

“We need to get somebody going. We know that [Kintzler] has done the job really well. It’s like, who else do you try? I still think he’s got it in him, it’s just he’s got to believe that, he’s got to show it, and then get that confidence and get on a roll.”

Kintzler argues he was on a roll, pointing to a run from July 8 to this week in which he was not charged with an earned run and retired 13 consecutive batters in one stretch, but pitched only seven times. Kintzler said he was a “wake-up call” when Roenicke summoned him to the manager’s office for a chat on July 11 to stress the importance of Kintzler reverting to 2013 form, and felt good when he struck out Allen Craig that night to preserve a 6-6 tie in the seventh inning, starting a stretch of five appearances in which Kintzler allowed only one hit — a Denard Span single in Washington D.C.

The scoreless streak ended Wednesday when the Giants hit three singles and saddled Kintzler with two earned runs in a Brewers loss.

“I still feel good about what I’m doing,” Kintzler said. “If I gave up missiles everywhere [Wednesday], that’s one thing, but two broken bat hits and then a home run [off another reliever, Tom Gorzelanny].”

Asked whether his shoulder is 100 percent healthy, Kintzler said, “I’d like to think so. I’ve had my fair share where I don’t feel good. We warm up a lot, and sometimes we don’t pitch.”

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Garza to DL with rib-cage strain

Given the nagging nature of rib-cage muscle strains, it came as no surprise Tuesday when the Brewers placed right-hander Matt Garza on the 15-day disabled list, marking the first significant injury this season to one of the team’s starting pitchers.

The Brewers recalled reliever Rob Wooten from Triple-A Nashville to take Garza’s place on the roster, but they did not announce a timetable for Garza’s expected absence, nor did they immediately name a replacement for his spot in the rotation. Marco Estrada, who made 18 Brewers starts before he was bumped to the bullpen before the All-Star break, is the top in-house candidate to start Saturday against the Dodgers.

Garza felt the muscle grab on the 70th of his 71 pitches against the Cardinals on Sunday, and was forced to exit a one-hit shutout and watch the Cardinals rally for three quick runs against his replacements for a 3-2 Brewers loss.

“It was like, ‘Son of a gun,’” Garza said. “You put a bullpen in that situation where everybody is caught off-guard. Your starter has 70 pitches, nobody assumes he’s coming out.”

But there was no doubt, Garza said. He was coming out.

“I’m going to stay positive and say it’s not bad,” Garza said Sunday evening, “but it’s bad enough to where I had to take myself out of the game, and I don’t do that. I had to look at long-term more than short-term. I could have kept going and made it worse, and I could have been out, probably, the rest of the year.”

Garza has now been on the disabled list each of the past four seasons. He suffered what he described as a more severe strain in his rib-cage and back during Spring Training with the Cubs last year, and was sidelined until the third week of May. His four-year, $50 million contract with the Brewers includes some language that protects the team in the event of significant injuries.

Sunday’s setback came at an inopportune time for the team, which owned a one-game lead in the National League Central on Tuesday as it entered a homestand against the top two teams in the National League West (the second-place Giants, followed by the first-place Dodgers).

It was also ill-timed for Garza because he was pitching so well. He’d allowed only two runs on eight hits in 21 innings over his last three starts since a disastrous outing in Washington D.C. on July 19. Even with that one-out, five-run start included, Garza owned a 2.13 ERA and a .142 opponents’ average since the start of July.

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Garza knocked out by rib-cage injury

The conspiracy theorists can discuss the circumstances surrounding Matt Garza’s sudden departure all they want, but Sunday’s final result was not a matter for debate.

A crushing, 3-2 loss to the Cardinals sent the Brewers away from Busch Stadium with the slimmest of leads in the National League Central.

Garza exited a one-hitter after 71 pitches and six scoreless innings because of a left rib-cage strain, a troublesome development in itself that was made worse by the fact it was not relayed to the broadcasters covering the game. That opened Brewers manager Ron Roenicke to significant second-guessing as the Cardinals rallied quickly against Garza’s replacements.

Zach Duke retired only one of the three batters he faced and Jeremy Jeffress opened his outing by allowing three straight singles, including Oscar Taveras’ go-ahead hit, as the Cardinals scored three times in the seventh inning to claim the series, two games to one.

“They dodged a bullet today,” Garza said.

The Brewers, meanwhile, absorbed one. Including his outing Sunday, when Matt Adams mustered the only hit off Garza — a fifth-inning double — Garza has allowed only two runs and eight hits in 21 innings over three starts since his nightmarish outing in Washington D.C. coming out of the All-Star break. Against St. Louis, he struck out four batters, hit one, but did not walk any.

Garza said he felt a muscle grab on his left side on his second-to-last pitch.

“It was like, ‘Son of a gun,’” Garza said. “You put a bullpen in that situation where everybody is caught off-guard. Your starter has 70 pitches, nobody assumes he’s coming out.”

But Garza told reporters it was his own decision to come out of the game, even though television cameras saw him with a helmet on his head and a bat in his hand in the top of the seventh inning. Garza was quickly called back and replaced by pinch-hitter Lyle Overbay.

A miscommunication, according to Roenicke.

“He wasn’t going on-deck. He didn’t understand what I was telling him down below,” Roenicke said. “I told him he was done, but he figured he was still going to go up there. I talked to him before that. He said he couldn’t go [pitch]. When you’re talking about obliques, it’s not a question of whether a guy can go out there or not. He can’t go out there.”

Asked whether there was a chance of it being a long-term issue, Roenicke said, “there’s a chance.”

“I’m going to stay positive and say it’s not bad,” Garza said, “but it’s bad enough to where I had to take myself out of the game, and I don’t do that. I had to look at long-term more than short-term. I could have kept going and made it worse, and I could have been out, probably, the rest of the year.”

As it is, he could still miss some time. Garza will be examined in Milwaukee on Monday, an off day for the team, by Dr. William Raasch. Garza suffered a similar injury, but more serious, in his estimation, injury during Spring Training with the Cubs last year and opened on the disabled list.

If the Brewers need a replacement, Marco Estrada would be the likeliest choice. He made 18 starts this season before a move to long relief.

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Gennett, Segura sit out with stiff quads

With two important months remaining in the regular season, the Brewers have some concern about the lingering leg issues dogging their double play combination.

Both second baseman Scooter Gennett (right quadriceps) and Jean Segura (left quadriceps) were sidelined Sunday after previous injuries flared up in Saturday’s loss at Busch Stadium. Segura played the full game, but Gennett exited in the sixth inning.

“It’s OK ,” he said Sunday morning. “It’s just one of those things that obviously isn’t going to really go away. It probably will eventually. I just need to watch out, how much I’m using it. I can’t go out all-speed every time. That’s usually how I play, I’m running out every ground ball no matter what the case is. I think the only time I don’t run the ball out is when there’s a runner on first and I pop out and there’s nowhere for me to go. I just have to watch, have to be smart.”

Would it help to take off an extended stretch?

“I did. I took, like, five days off, and it felt good,” Gennett said, referring to a stretch just after the All-Star break. “Then it just got a little tight on me again. I think it’s just one of those things where us as players learn how to play through some things. At the same time, if I get on and I’m the winning run and I’m at second base, I don’t want to not be able to score for my team. I think that’s where we all have to be smart. I’ll have to communicate well with them to let them know how I feel. Right now, it’s not the right time to have a serious injury.”

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Peralta, Vuke and racking up wins

Considering Wily Peralta wasn’t aware Saturday that he was tied with a trio of Cy Young Award winners for the Major League lead in victories, he was certainly not aware of how rare a finish that would be in Brewers history.

Only once in the first 44 seasons of Brewers baseball has one of their own led his league in victories. It was in strike-shortened 1981, when Pete Vuckovich won 14 times to tie Baltimore’s Dennis Martinez, Oakland’s Steve McCatty and Detroit’s Jack Morris atop the American League. Cincinnati’s Tom Seaver led the National League that year, also with 14.

It would take a strong finish for himself and his team, but second-year right-hander Peralta has at least an opportunity to match Vuckovich’s achievement. He allowed two runs in 6 2/3 innings of Friday’s 7-4 win, giving him 13 victories in his first 22 starts this season.

The other pitchers with as many wins as of Saturday afternoon: The Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw, the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright and the Tigers’ Max Scherzer.

“Whew!” Peralta said. “I didn’t know. That’s a few Cy Young guys. That’s what I’ve been working for. I’ve improved in pretty much everything. My command has been unbelievable this year and that’s something I was struggling last year. I was working behind the counts on hitters. I said in spring that was one of my goals — attack hitters.”

Peralta is 13-6 this season with a 3.52 ERA, including 4-0 with a 1.71 ERA in four starts since a nine-run blowup against the Phillies on July 8.

The league is taking note.

“I think last year he started to figure things out, second half especially,” said Wainwright, who was on the losing end Friday night. “He’s just got such a great fastball sitting 96 [mph] with some very good movement on it. He’s obviously stepped his game up.”

The Brewers tend to keep their starting pitchers in order through team off-days, so Peralta has about 10 starts remaining. He would have to win seven of them to be the fourth 20-game winner in franchise history, a round number not reached since Teddy Higuera went 20-11 (with 15 complete games) in 1986.

If he wins only half of his remaining starts, Peralta could still be just the eighth 18-game winner in Brewers history. Chris Capuano (18-12 in 2005) is the only Milwaukee pitcher to win that many times since 1987.

While it’s rare for a Brewers pitcher to lead his league in wins, it’s not unprecedented in Milwaukee’s Major League history. Hall of Famer Warren Spahn led the National League or tied for the lead in victories six times with the Milwaukee Braves from 1953-61, including a ’59 season in which he and teammate Lew Burdette each matched Sam Jones of the Giants with 21 wins.

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Henderson sent back to Maryvale

Brewers reliever Jim Henderson’s 30-day rehabilitation assignment expired Friday but all parties agreed he was not ready to rejoin the big league bullpen, manager Ron Roenicke said.

So, for the second time, Henderson was sent to the team’s facility in Phoenix to continue strengthening a right shoulder that has given him trouble since Spring Training.

“We asked him about it, we gave him a couple of options, and he said he didn’t think he was ready to be activated,” Roenicke said. “I still don’t think something’s right. His velocity is still down. It’s OK. For another pitcher, it’s probably pretty good.

“But the thing is, if we bring him with us, I don’t think I can pitch him three days in a row. And face it, these guys have to be able to do things like that. I just don’t know with our roster and where it is, how we would be able to do something like that, especially if he says he doesn’t feel he’s ready.”

Henderson was 28-for-32 in save chances as the Brewers closer last season and was supposed reprise that role in 2014 before spring velocity concerns prompted a switch to Francisco Rodriguez. Working in a setup role, Henderson posted a 7.14 ERA in 14 appearances before the Brewers placed him on the disabled list.

He had shoulder surgery as a Cubs Minor Leaguer in 2008, a year before the Brewers signed him, but a myriad of tests this season has revealed no physical damage beyond what’s customary for a 31-year-old pitcher.

“I don’t think he’s hurting, he just can’t get back to where he feels like he’s ready,” Roenicke said. “He hit 94 [mph], but he was not pitching at 94.”

Henderson’s average fastball last season was 95.3 mph, and he routinely touched 98 mph.

Roenicke said he still hopes Henderson can contribute before the end of the season, but the Brewers have also been working to acquire a right-handed reliever in a trade.

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Brewers acquire OF Parra from Arizona

Gerardo Parra did not immediately know where he would fit into the Brewers’ outfield mix after the team swing a trade for him Thursday, but he knew one thing.

“They play hard and they play happy,” Parra said in a telephone conversation minutes after the trade. “I love that.”

The Brewers love his defense at all three outfield positions and his left-handed bat, so they parted with a pair of Minor League prospects to pry Parra from the D-backs on Thursday, about two hours before the nonwaiver Trade Deadline. Heading to Arizona is Double-A Huntsville outfielder Mitch Haniger, who was No. 8 on MLB.com’s list of the top Brewers prospects, plus 20-year-old left-hander Anthony Banda, who was drafted by the D-backs in 2011 but did not sign. The Brewers took him in the 10th round of the Draft the following season.

Parra was scheduled to travel to St. Louis on Friday in time for the Brewers’ series opener at Busch Stadium. Assuming he arrives in time the Brewers will option outfielder Logan Schafer to Triple-A Nashville to create roster room.

Parra, 27, is batting .259 with six home runs and 30 RBIs in 104 games this season and has one more year of arbitration eligibility remaining after this season. He has started mostly in right field this year, but with Ryan Braun a fixture there and Carlos Gomez entrenched in center field, Parra figures to split time with young Brewers left fielder Khris Davis, who is in his first full Major League season. He can also provide insurance against injuries for Gomez, who has battled a back issue of late, and Braun, who has managed thumb, back and ribcage ailments at various times this year.

“The addition of Parra gives us a veteran player who helps to balance our lineup and also brings Gold Glove defense,” Brewers GM Doug Melvin said in announcing the deal.

Parra has won National League Gold Glove Awards in both left field (2011) and right (2013). His 62 outfield assists since 2009 are tied for second in the Major Leagues, trailing only the Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista’s 63.

He will be greeted by a couple of familiar faces on Friday. Parra is friends with Brewers closer and fellow Venezuelan Francisco Rodriguez, and was teammates with Mark Reynolds in Arizona in 2009 and 2010.

“It’s a new part of my life, and I say thank you to the Milwaukee Brewers for giving me this new opportunity to try to make the playoffs and play on a team in first place,” he said. “I heard something [about a potential trade]. I know baseball. But you don’t think anything until it happens.”

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