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Melvin says no decision on Ramirez option

Brewers general manager Doug Melvin expressed surprise Wednesday about a report from Jon Heyman of CBS Sports and MLB Network indicating the team had already decided to exercise its half of third baseman Aramis Ramirez’s $14 million mutual option for 2015.

Melvin said he had yet to even broach the topic yet with Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio.

“We don’t do anything on contracts until the end of the year,” Melvin said. “Paul Kinzer is [Ramirez’s] agent. Paul Kinzer was in town a month ago and we met with him, and he never even brought it up.”

Melvin also noted that Ramirez’s option is mutual, “so if the team picks it up, he has a chance to refuse it and go try to get a multiyear deal. So that makes absolutely no sense reporting it.”

The three-year, $36 million contract struck between Ramirez and the Brewers in December 2011 calls for a mutual option for 2015 with a $4 million buyout to be paid in a pair of $2 million installments over the following two years. Ramirez, 36, has already indicated a desire to play an 18th Major League season in 2015, but has declined to declare his own intentions as it pertains to the option. As Melvin suggested, he may be inclined to test his value on an offseason third base market expected to be led by the Giants’ Pablo Sandoval.

Ramirez entered Wednesday batting .295 with 15 home runs and 65 RBIs, a pace for the lowest homer and RBI totals of any season in which he had played more than 100 games. But the Brewers have no obvious in-house candidate for third base should Ramirez depart.


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Roenicke speaks out constructively on coverage

4f48202ba7a4e.preview-1024It’s an understated part of the gig when you’re manager of a Major League Baseball team, the fact you’re required to meet the media before and after every game to answer the questions of the day. By nature of that arrangement, Ron Roenicke is far and away the Brewers’ chief spokesperson, forced to answer more than anyone else in the organization when things turn south. 
On Wednesday, when Roenicke handled with reporters on the Brewers’ bench while the team began batting practice, he had something to say. Since he did so with the voice recorders and cameras rolling, I think it bears sharing publicly: 
“A lot of times,” he said, “I’ll read something that’s been written, like during this time, obviously it’s a tough time. And sometimes when I read stuff I feel like I’ve been pointing fingers at what’s been going on, and I don’t like that. And it’s too bad that when you guys write articles, that there can’t be the question first as to why I’m answering this way. 
“For instance, I read [Ryan] Braun and [Aramis] Ramirez. You guys asked me about them … and if I was just to bring up, ‘Hey, Braun and Ramirez need to get this thing going,’ that’s coming from me and I’m saying, ‘These guys need to do it.’ But when you ask me, ‘Hey, do you think Braun and Ramirez need to get this going for you to get it done?’ my response is then going to be, yes, that Braun and Ramirez are both parts. But when there’s no question there, it appears I’m the one bringing it up. And I don’t want — through all of this stuff, I’ll point fingers at myself as much as anybody else. It’s my responsibility to get this thing turned around. 
“So I don’t want to read me saying it’s somebody else’s fault, because it’s not. We’re all in this together. We’re all a team trying to get the mojo back and trying to get this rolling right. These guys are going about their business the right way. They work hard. They have energy for the game. But yet, because it’s such a negative time, that when I read it, I read it like I’m pointing fingers.” 
It strikes me that is a completely fair critique of news items that appeared on several outlets Tuesday, including Here’s the lede to my story

MILWAUKEE — Aramis Ramirez’s first RBIs in September came with Ryan Braun out of the lineup nursing a lingering right hand injury. Brewers manager Ron Roenicke knows that for his team to snap its prolonged funk, it will need more from its middle-of-the-order hitters.

“We need [Ramirez] and we need Ryan,” Roenicke said Tuesday afternoon. “We need to somehow get them back to that good spot where they are. With these remaining games, we need to have guys really performing. I don’t ask them to do anything they aren’t capable of doing. Just perform the way we know they can.” 

Everything in that passage is true, and Roenicke is quoted accurately. But I am sympathetic to the critique that it suggests the manager offered up this idea to reporters, unprovoked, of needing more from those two players. He did not. He was asked a series of questions about Braun’s injury and Ramirez’s recent production, and he answered honestly. Then the quotes and the information get packaged together in a story. The questions never make it in print. 
“I’ve felt this [for as long] as I’ve managed, that when I say something, I always wished that the question was written. ‘This is what was asked, and this is how I responded.’ Then, if I’m a player and I’m reading it, I’m like, ‘He was asked this question, he’s got to answer it,’ versus, ‘Why would Ron bring that up? Why would he all of a sudden just say that?’ Well, they didn’t hear the question. It has nothing to do with [a specific] article. … 
“There’s no issue recently that’s been any different from the first day I managed. It’s just, during this time because I am sensitive about what I say — I’ve always thought this way, and now I’m paying more attention to it, I guess. When things are going good, players are kind of like, whatever. When it’s going bad, they don’t want to feel like they’re getting blamed for something that’s going wrong. I guess that’s why I’m more sensitive about it.”
“There hasn’t been [any finger-pointing], and I don’t want to be the guy, certainly, if a player picks something up and reads it, he’s like, ‘Well why is he pointing a finger at me?’ That’s just something I was thinking about.”
For the record, Roenicke has been candid about the Brewers’ recent failures, but has not once unduly pointed fingers at a specific player or facet of the team during its recent slide. His style has not wavered: He will not call players out, and he will not go out of his way to assign blame. I realize that some in the Twitterverse and Talk Radio Land have criticized that strategy, but Roenicke has at least been consistent. 
So, there you go. Something else to chew on as the Brewers prepare to face the Marlins at Miller Park. 
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Gomez return appears imminent

Carlos Gomez came through Saturday’s batting practice session well enough that the Brewers have graduated to the next step: Trying to figure out where to reinstate him to the starting lineup. 

Limited to pinch-running and defense since Sunday because of a sprained left wrist, Gomez will probably slot back into the leadoff hole, perhaps as soon as Monday night against the Marlins. 

“We talked about it today. I think that’s what we’ll do,” manager Ron Roenicke said Sunday moning. “It kind of depends talking to him and where he is. If he would feel more comfortable down somewhere, we’ll do that. He hasn’t really been gone that long, so it’s more on physically what he can do.”

Gomez was to be examined prior to Sunday’s game by head team physician William Raasch. If he checked out, Gomez would be available immediately off the bench. 

When Gomez returns, the Brewers will essentially be back to all hands on deck as they look to reverse their recent losing ways. 

“Yeah, we’ve got our guys,” Roenicke said. “We’ll see with Gomey what he’s like when he comes back. I think there has to be, probably, a little apprehension when he goes to swing. We’ll kind of see how he gets through this period until he gets confident with it.” 
Gomez said Saturday the biggest worry is how the wrist will hold up when he swings and misses, and Roenicke added, “That’s part of what bothers you, because if he feels it again, it’s pretty hard to just let it go and swing hard again. I think he can [dial back] some, it’s just — you get a fastball inside, what do you do? You can’t say, ‘Well, I’m just going to swing 80 percent,’ when you know you’ll never get the bat head there if you do that. That’s the hard part about it.”

Two more notes about Sunday’s lineup: 
— Ryan Braun moving up to the two-hole and Jonathan Lucroy taking over at No. 3 is a response to the way Braun is swinging the bat lately, with renewed pain in his right hand. That was covered over at yesterday. When Gomez returns, Braun may fall into the five-hole. 
“He’s OK with wherever we put him,” Roenicke said. “But we need him to start swinging like we’re used to seeing him swing.”
— The Brewers usually put Lucroy at first base and Martin Maldonado behind the plate against a left-handed starting pitcher, but they did so Sunday against Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright because Roenicke decided Lucroy needed a break behind the plate.
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Melvin on Seid: ‘He was always rooting for his players’

draft09rs0011Brewers general manager Doug Melvin’s last text from Bruce Seid was, naturally, about a ballplayer. Seid, the team’s amateur scouting director, was in Nashville watching a former Draft pick who was under consideration for a September call-up. 

“Jason Rogers crushing the ball,” Seid’s message read. 

On Tuesday, Melvin was stunned to learn that Seid, 53, had passed away of an apparent heart attack while visiting family in Las Vegas.

Later that night, Rogers doubled in his first Major League plate appearance.

“I pulled Jason aside and showed him that message,” Melvin said. “Then I sent an email to all the crosscheckers and to [special assistants] Dick Groch and Dan O’Brien, and Reid [Nichols, the farm director] and everybody that said, ‘This is really coming from Bruce, because if he was here, you would all be receiving an email that Jason Rogers got his first big league hit.’” 

He was remembered around baseball on Wednesday for that fierce dedication to his players, many of whom took to Twitter to express their admiration. 

“My heart hurts today [because] he world lost another great man,” said Josh Prince, Milwaukee’s third-round pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, Seid’s first as scouting director. “A man of dignity, respect, honor and loyalty. Bruce Seid thank you for everything.”

“RIP Bruce Seid,” wrote 2013 second-rounder Tucker Neuhaus. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without this man believing in me.”

Seid was a 17-year veteran of the Brewers’ front office, a former fourth-round Draft pick of the Chicago Cubs who never made it to the Majors as a player but nonetheless impacted the league, and will do so for years to come as his picks continue to advance.

After stints as an area scout with the Padres and Pirates, Seid spent nine seasons in the same capacity for the Brewers. Among the players whom he drafted and signed were former top prospects Nick Neugebauer (second round, 1998) and Rickie Weeks (first round, 2003). Seid was promoted to West Coast crosschecker from 2007-08, then to the team’s top amateur scouting post after the Mariners hired Jack Zduriencik to be their GM.

Seid has directed the Brewers’ last six Drafts, which have netted five players currently on the active roster: Khris Davis, Scooter Gennett and Mike Fiers from the 2009 Draft, and Jimmy Nelson and Rogers from 2010. He also played a significant role as West Coast crosschecker in drafting Logan Schafer in 2008. 

Melvin gathered those six players outside the Brewers’ clubhouse Tuesday night to share the news of Seid’s passing.

Seid was visiting his 81-year-old mother and some other family members in Las Vegas at the time of his passing. Several days ago, he emailed Melvin asking to extend that visit.

Melvin, of course, agreed.

“I told him, ‘Bruce, you need to take time off and get away from the game once in a while,’” Melvin said. “He was always a guy who wanted to be at ballgames. Couldn’t wait to get to the next game or the next tournament. I’ll miss our conversations. Last week, we were on the phone for over an hour talking about players. He was always rooting for his players. The guy never stopped.”

Look for more reaction to Seid’s passing on this afternoon. 


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Pagnozzi among Crew’s callups

The Brewers’ September call-ups included one new player and a quartet of returning ones, including a starting pitcher for Monday’s series opener against the Cubs. 

The moves involved five players: 

  • Jimmy Nelson was recalled from Class A Brevard County and is scheduled to pitch at Wrigley Field after spending the weekend on the roster of the Brewers’ Florida State League club, a paper move that allowed the big league team to add a bullpen arm. 
  • Right-hander Matt Garza and left-hander Wei-Chung Wang were reinstated from the 15-day disabled list. Garza had been sidelined by a left oblique strain since the first week of August and is scheduled to rejoin the rotation on Wednesday. Wang, a seldom-used Rule 5 Draft pick, had been on the DL since July with what the Brewers termed left shoulder tightness. 
  • Logan Schafer was recalled from Triple-A Nashville in time to bolster a potentially-depleted outfield corps. Starting center fielder Carlos Gomez said he felt a pop in his left wrist during a swing in Sunday’s loss to the Giants, and while x-rays were negative, Gomez is “doubtful” for Monday’s game, according to manager Ron Roenicke. Schafer has batted .183 in 119 Major League plate appearances this season and was demoted to the Minors when the Brewers traded for Gerardo Parra on July 31. 
  • The newcomer is catcher Matt Pagnozzi, whose contract was purchased from Nashville to be an emergency option for the final month. To create space on a full 40-man roster, the Brewers shifted injured infielder Jeff Bianchi to the 60-day DL. Pagnozzi is the nephew of former Cardinals catcher Tom Pagnozzi, and has logged big league time in his own right for the Cardinals, Rockies, Pirates and Astros. 

The Brewers on Monday also expect to be joined by reliever Jonathan Broxton, acquired Sunday in a trade with the Reds. Broxton projects to pitch as a set-up man for closer Francisco Rodriguez.

So, six “new” players if you count Wang, but only two bats, and no Rob Wooten. Since Wang rarely pitched from April to June, it’s difficult to imagine the young lefty seeing significant action in a pennant race.

Remember, the Brewers can always make more additions after Nashville concludes its season on Monday. 


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Brewers get Broxton from Reds

The Brewers have found the bullpen help they’d been seeking, and it came from within their own division. 

In acquiring right-hander Jonathan Broxton from the Reds, the Brewers filled a need for a tested right-hander to help set-up Francisco Rodriguez, a role that has bounced between a number of different players since Rodriguez was installed as the closer on Opening Day. Milwaukee will send two players to be named to Cincinnati in the teams’ first trade since Jim Edmonds went to the Reds in August 2010. 

Broxton, 30, owns a 1.86 ERA and seven saves in 51 appearances for the Reds this season, mostly pitching ahead of shutdown closer Aroldis Chapman. He is signed through the end of next season, with a 2016 option that converted from a club option to mutual the moment he was traded. 

The Brewers will owe Broxton $9 million next season, and the 2016 option is also for $9 million, with a buyout that increased to $2 million on Sunday because he was traded. Broxton, a former closer for the Dodgers and Royals, would be the leading contender to fill that role in Milwaukee next season should Rodriguez depart via free agency. 

Because he joined the organization before the end of August, Broxton will be eligible for the Postseason roster should the Brewers get that far. They entered Sunday on a four-game losing streak, with a one-game lead over the second-place Cardinals and a two-game lead over the third-place Pirates.


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Nelson open to relief role when Garza returns

The Brewers are nearing the day they have more healthy pitchers than they have slots in the starting rotation. If that means someone has to go to the bullpen, Jimmy Nelson is open to the idea. 

“Truthfully, it’s so cliche, but whatever helps us win,” said Nelson, scheduled to start against the Padres on Tuesday night. “Whatever helps us get to the playoffs and succeed in the playoffs. Whatever role it is, I just want to contribute to this team as best as I can, in whatever way that is. 

“I just take the ball when I’m told to. It has to be [that mindset]. You can’t start thinking about the outside stuff. It will get to you, and you’ll lose your focus. You have to keep your focus.” 

Nelson joined the Brewers’ rotation for good after Matt Garza suffered a left rib-cage strain in early August and, including a start earlier this season in Miami, is 2-4 with a 4.15 ERA. The other candidate to be bumped from the rotation upon Garza’s return is Mike Fiers, who is 4-1 with a 1.54 ERA in eight games, four starts. 

Garza is scheduled to throw a more intense bullpen session on Tuesday before Nelson starts opposite Padres ace Tyson Ross. Because of an off-day later this week, Nelson’s next scheduled start would be against the Cubs on Sept. 1, the same day rosters expand and teams bring in pitching reinforcements. 

The extra arms could allow the Brewers to reinstate Garza in place of Nelson on Sept. 1, knowing Garza will be on a limited pitch count. Or, they could opt to send him to the Minor Leagues for a tune-up, and bring him back later in the first week of September at closer to full strength. 

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke was not ready to reveal the club’s plan on Monday.

“We’ll wait because things change so much,” Roenicke said. “Obviously a few days away, you start talking about it. We’re not quite there yet.”

Nelson has made 17 professional appearances in relief and said he also pitched a bit out of the bullpen at the University of Alabama his freshman and sophomore years, including stints as a closer. He certainly has the arsenal for it, working predominantly with a fastball and a slider. Nelson only occasionally throws his third pitch, a change-up.

“I’m thinking about [Tuesday],” Nelson said. “That’s all I can do. Try to win today, first, then try to win tomorrow. I’m trying to prepare myself for these hitters and taking care of business.”


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Henderson down 4 months after shoulder surgery

At least Brewers reliever Jim Henderson had a smile on his face Tuesday as a tough 2014 season came to a formal end. 

The former closer faces a four-month rehabilitation after undergoing surgery to clean-up the labrum and rotator cuff in his right shoulder, a procedure recommended last week after a visit with Brewers head physician Dr. William Raasch. Henderson had the surgery with Dr. James Andrews on Tuesday morning in Florida after a second opinion confirmed the diagnosis. 

“Round 2!” Henderson told his more than 13,000 followers on Twitter when he posted a photo of himself smiling on a hospital bed. 

Henderson also had surgery on the shoulder in 2008 when he was in the Cubs organization. He signed with the Brewers the following April and was a 26-year-old closer at Class A Wisconsin, beginning a resurgence that led to the Major Leagues in 2012 after parts of 10 seasons in the Minors, and a closer’s role in 2013 after John Axford struggled. Henderson went 28-for-32 in save opportunities, and was expected to reprise the role in 2014. <

Concerns about his Spring Training velocities led to a change to Francisco Rodriguez. Henderson was placed on the DL in early May after posting a 7.15 ERA in 14 games.

“It’s a tough road. Rehabbing is always tough,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “I’m sure he’s got questions about whether he’s going to come back or not. That’s a tough thing to go through. Not a good year for it. Mentally, you get through it and hopefully you heal up physically and are able to get back out there.”

Henderson will turn 32 in October and would remain a cost-effective option for the Brewers next season if he can reclaim his velocity. He doesn’t project to reach arbitration eligibility until the 2015-16 offseason.


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Henderson, Thornburg shut down

Already ruined by injuries, the 2014 seasons of Brewers relievers Jim Henderson and Tyler Thornburg now appear over. 

Henderson will visit Dr. James Andrews next week for a second opinion on his right shoulder after Brewers physician Dr. William Raasch recommended surgery to clean-up damage to the rotator cuff and labrum. Thornburg had a platelet-rich plasma injection to promote healing in his right elbow this week and will be shut down for six weeks. 

Neither had a significant setback, Brewers assistant GM Gord Ash stressed, but simply were not progressing.

Henderson was removed from closer’s role before Opening Day because of club concern about his diminished velocity. He was placed on the disabled list May 2, and twice went on Minor League rehabilitation assignments that did not produce the results all parties concerned needed to see. Two weeks ago, Henderson finished the second of those assignments and returned to the team’s rehab facility in Phoenix. He visited Raasch in Milwaukee on Wednesday and underwent another MRI scan. 

“His Minor League rehabs were successful because he knew how to pitch,” Ash said. “But he wasn’t feeling 100 percent and he finally admitted that, even though he wanted to be optimistic. He would pitch well one day, but he couldn’t come back. That’s when he said, ‘I’ve got to get this looked at again.’” 

Henderson will turn 32 in October and has one more pre-arbitration season remaining. 

With Henderson struggling, Thornburg emerged as a bright spot for the Brewers, posting a 0.61 ERA and a .122 opponents’ average through the end of April. But he had a 6.00 ERA and a .319 opponents’ average in May and was placed on the disabled list during the first week of June with wrist-flexor irritation in his elbow. He never progressed to the point of a rehab assignment. 

The Brewers have also been monitoring Thornburg’s ulnar collateral ligament, the tissue, if torn, that sends a pitcher for Tommy John surgery and a year-long rehabilitation. Thornburg’s UCL is not torn, Ash said, but scans have detected what he termed “weakness.” 

“The follow-up MRI and second opinion he had 10 days or so ago showed there had been healing. Progress,” Ash said. “So, nothing to be alarmed about. But he just can’t get over the hump.” 

The PRP injection is intended to help. The Orioles’ Chris Davis and Matt Wieters and Reds’ Joey Votto are among the Major League players to undergo the procedure this season, in which a players’ blood is drawn and placed in a centrifuge, after which activated platelets are injected into the injured area to speed healing.

Thornburg will be 26 next month. 


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Thumb issue still bugging Braun

Little has changed since Ryan Braun first spoke in depth in early April about the nerve issue in his right hand that has bothered him since last season. It still flares up on occasion, forcing him out of the lineup as it did Thursday for the first time in a month. And there is still no definitive answer for how to fix it.  

“We’ve discussed a lot of different options,” said Braun, who is under contract through at least 2020. “We’ve looked into a lot of different things. We’re constantly evaluating it. We’ve talked to a lot of people. 

“There’s some thought that it could just eventually go away. And I think if there was a surgery that everybody was really confident would heal the injury and there wouldn’t be any side effects, we would have already done it. But because it isn’t something there is a lot of information on, it’s not something that’s been done often, we just need to continue to gather information. It’s not like I can’t play. I obviously can play.”

He has started 98 of the Brewers’ first 122 games and batted .279 with 14 home runs and 67 RBIs. 

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke didn’t like the defensive swings he saw from Braun in Wednesday’s loss to the Cubs, so he held his three-hole hitter out of the lineup for Thursday’s afternoon finale. Braun had one hit in his first 12 at-bats in the series. 

“A week ago, he was swinging the bat great,” manager Ron Roenicke said. “Probably the last four, five, six days, somewhere in there, it’s been bothering him. If he has a couple at-bats where he doesn’t square up the ball right, sometimes it flares it up, and then you see difference in swings, which I saw [Wednesday] a lot different swings from him” 

Braun has experienced pain in the hand since last May resulting from an inflamed nerve near the base of his right thumb. Because none of the surgical options were guaranteed to work, the hope was that an extended shut-down period from the start of Braun’s suspension last July into Spring Training in February would resolve the issue, but it did not. 

He remains a vital and expensive piece of the Brewers’ future plans. Braun will earn $12 million next season before his salary jumps to $19 million in 2016 at the start of a five-year, $105 million contract extension. 

Over the course of this season, Braun has worked with medical director Roger Caplinger, head athletic trainer Dan Wright and other members of the Brewers’ medical staff to develop methods of padding his bat without costing him “feel” during at-bats. 

“At this point, my only focus is dealing with it the best we can, managing it,” Braun said. “The trainers have been great. We’re trying to stay on the field and compete the best I can.

“Like I’ve said many times, we all deal with challenges physically, and this game is all about making adjustments. We all have different ailments, especially as you get to this point in the season. This is a unique and challenging one, because at times it really alters the way I hold the bat, the way I swing, my approach and some different things. It’s frustrating, but I try to deal with it the best I can.”


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