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Roenicke: ‘Need to get back to a better offense’

The numbers say the Brewers own the National League’s best offense below 5,000 ft. Only the altitude-aided Rockies rank better among the league’s 15 teams in runs scored, home runs, RBIs, total bases, slugging percentage and OPS.

But those numbers fudge the recent reality, manager Ron Roenicke said in candid comments Wednesday.

“Well, it depends on what you think the best offense is,” he said. “If you’re talking about runs scored — runs scored don’t always tell the whole story. Runs scored can be in a month. You have a super month, and it carries you for a while. So I think that’s a little misleading. I think when you look at an offense, you should look at what the consistency is of an offense and scoring runs. …

The streakiness is what is hard. Because we’re getting some great pitching — our starters have really been throwing the ball well — and when you’re not scoring, it’s easy to say, ‘Well, your offense is fine, you’re second in the league.’ Well, no. Our offense isn’t fine. We were great for a month and a half, and we need to get back to a better offense.”

That month and a half spanned the very end of May and most of June, when the Brewers climbed as high as 19 games over .500 and 6 1/2 games ahead of their closest NL Central challenger. In June, the Brewers’ 5.43 runs per game led all of Major League Baseball — nearly a half run per game better than the next NL team.

But those numbers have plummeted during a difficult July. The Brewers entered Wednesday having scored 3.46 runs per game for the month with a .649 OPS, ranked 13th in the NL in both categories. They entered Wednesday’s game against Rays ace Davis Price with an 8-16 record in July.

Since the Brewers are committed to players at virtually every position, Roenicke was asked whether it’s on those players to turn things around.

“Yeah, who else is it on?” he said. “When your whole team goes a little haywire – [catcher Jonathan Lucroy], we figured, could be consistent. We have to get [third baseman Aramis Ramirez] going. [Left fielder Ryan Braun] has been swinging the bat OK. [Part-time second baseman Rickie Weeks] has been swinging the bat OK. Some of the guys, it’s just the history of when you swing and you’re a certain type of hitter, you’re going to have inconsistencies in your lineup. When I put down the lineup, even though I like it and it looks really good, there’s some inconsistencies there because you have some guys that get hot and cold.”


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Henderson advanced to Nashville

Persistent rains at Double-A Huntsville were part of what prompted a promotion to Triple-A Nashville for rehabbing Brewers reliever Jim Henderson, who is “still a little ways away” from rejoining the big league bullpen, according to general manager Doug Melvin.

Melvin did cite positive progress for Henderson, who has battled a troublesome right shoulder since Spring Training, but declined to provide a report of recent velocities. It was the lack of zip on Henderson’s fastball in the spring that prompted the Brewers to anoint Francisco Rodriguez the closer prior to the regular season’s first pitch.

“I don’t want to get into [radar gun readings],” Melvin said. “We want to get him back to throwing strikes. … We thought he was making some progress, but we want to make sure he’s completely healthy and back to throwing strikes on a consistent basis.”

Henderson is on his second 30-day Minor League rehabilitation assignment. He was recalled from the first one in May after the shoulder flared up again, and was sent back out on July 3 for another 30-day stint.

Melvin said another rehabbing reliever, Tyler Thornburg, who has been on the DL since early June because of a right elbow injury, is throwing off the mound in Arizona.

“We hope to get him back at some point [before the end of this season],” Melvin said.

The Brewers are closely monitoring the progress of both of those pitchers, who played prominent roles during the team’s 20-8 March and April, as the July 31 nonwaiver Trade Deadline draws near. The Angels made the first strike on the relief market Friday when they executed a six-player swap with the Padres to land San Diego closer Huston Street.

Asked whether the Brewers had checked in with the Padres on Street, Melvin said, “I check in on a lot of guys.”

Much of the analysis of Friday’s trade centered on the price paid by the Angels, who received Street (for the rest of this season and all of next season) and a relief prospect in exchange for four prospects, including Los Angeles’ consensus top prospect. Melvin pointed out that when the Brewers acquired set-up man Scott Linebrink from the Padres in July 27, the price was three quality prospects.

“Relievers become costly for the few innings they pitch,” Melvin said.


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Segura: ‘I feel I need to go back to work’

Brewers shortstop Jean Segura was back where he was supposed to be Friday, where he felt he needed to be. Surrounded by teammates during early batting practice at Nationals Park, he stood in the sunshine with a bat in his hand, a neon yellow “Seggy” t-shirt on his back and a smile on his face.

“It’s awesome,” Segura said. “You come here to the locker room, they hug you. I feel like they are my family, too. I feel pretty good. They make me feel strong, like, ‘Wow, those guys care about me, too.’”

Those teammates had been hurting for Segura since the 24-year-old received terrible news exactly one week earlier, that his 9-month-old son, Janniel, had passed away suddenly in the Dominican Republic.

Segura left the team the following morning and was placed on the bereavement list. On Friday, when the Brewers resumed play after the All-Star break, he was not only back on the active roster, but in the starting lineup and batting eighth against the Washington Nationals.

“I’m doing pretty good right now,” Segura said. “I’m just happy to be back to the team, enjoy the team, go back to work.”

It was important to him to work.

“Absolutely,” Segura said “These guys are here to support me. This team here, we’re like a family, and for me, I feel I need to go back to work.”

What helped him get through the past week?

“God,” Segura said. “God helped me to get through this. My family, my friends, my teammates, the organization. This is something I can’t control. I just pray to God to get me through the right way. Whatever he gives to us is the best way in life.

“It’s important to me and to members of my family [to play]. It was a tough moment for me and my family, but being here is awesome, [being] in the same locker room with my friends and teammates, to see the support they all give to me, even other teams. The Cardinals [who posted a message of support on social media], when I read that and heard about that, that they care about me, I feel good. I feel strong to be here, to work, and do the best I can to help the team.”

He received personal calls from fellow Dominicans Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Gomez and Wily Peralta.

“They’ve been helping me since the first time I stepped into the Brewers’ [organization],” said Segura, who was acquired in a July 2012 trade with the Angels and debuted with Milwaukee that August. “I don’t imagine how important they’ve been to me in my career so far. [Some of them] are dads. They have sons, too. They know how to take care of guys. For me, they’ve been the best teammates I’ve had so far because they always support me in everything. They talk to me. They’re like family.”

Segura said he plans to stick it out the rest of the season, but will “take it day by day. I feel strong. They’re going to support me, [give me] what I need. I’m here to work. That’s what we’re here for. If I say, ‘I’m ready to go,’ I’m ready.”


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Melvin: ‘Ears open,’ but no urgency to trade

If Brewers general manager Doug Melvin plans to be active ahead of the July 31 nonwaiver Trade Deadline, he was not willing to share that information publicly on Thursday.

That came as no surprise. General managers typically do not like to stand in front of microphones and lament their team’s weaknesses.

“If you can add, you add,” Melvin said, “but I like our team. We had one bad stretch, and that came near the end of the [first half]. Winning Sunday’s game was very big. It gave everybody the feeling that that’s how we played earlier on in the year. It’s going to be a tough division; you’ve got four teams over .500. I think it’s the toughest division in baseball.”

The Brewers lost 11 of their final 13 games before the All-Star break but beat the Cardinals Sunday to hold onto first place in the National League Central. The top four teams are within 3 1/2 games of each other as second half play begins.

In a chat with reporters on Thursday, Melvin addressed two areas of perceived susceptibility: A bullpen that has been stretched by injuries to right-handers Jim Henderson and Tyler Thornburg, and first base, where the Brewers have platooned Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay and are next-to-last in the National League with a .662 OPS.

“If we can get [Henderson and Thornburg] back, they’ll be a boost to our bullpen,” Melvin said. “But we don’t have a timetable. Jim is closer than Tyler at this point.”

Of first base, Melvin cited the lack of availability at the position and praised Overbay for his clutch hitting and both players for their quality defense. He also pointed out that, overall, the Brewers are second in the NL in runs scored.

Melvin insisted he will not get caught up in Trade Deadline drama.

“Look at the Trade Deadline, and it’s no different than the offseason,” Melvin said. “There’s a lot of acquisitions you can make in the offseason, and all it does is make you look better on paper. It doesn’t make you necessarily a better ballclub. You still have to play well as a team. …

“That’s the way I look at the Trade Deadline. You can go out and acquire a relief pitcher, and he may pitch eight innings for the month.”

Melvin also argued that midseason trades don’t always work. For every deal like the Brewers bringing in CC Sabathia in 2008, there’s a Zack Greinke to the Angels in 2012 or Matt Garza to the Rangers in 2013. Those latter two teams paid significant prices but did not reach the postseason.

“We’re out there, we’re going to have our ears open, and we’re open to anything that can improve our club,” Melvin said. “But we still have to play well as a team, and not to think that one acquisition makes a difference. Not many times does that acquisition make the difference without the team still continuing to play well.”


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Roenicke: Segura ready to rejoin Brewers

After enduring personal tragedy, Brewers shortstop Jean Segura is ready to get back to work, according to his manager.

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke told the team’s flagship radio station that Segura returned to Milwaukee on Wednesday night and would be active in Washington D.C. this weekend. Post All-Star break play begins Friday, one week after Segura’s 9-month-old son passed away in the Dominican Republic.

Segura learned that terrible news in the immediate aftermath of a loss to the Cardinals and traveled home to the Dominican the following morning. According to teammate Aramis Ramirez, who has been a mentor since Segura’s August 2012 debut with the Brewers, a funeral service was held Monday.

“He’s back in town. He got back last night and I talked to him, and he’s ready to go,” Roenicke told 620-AM WTMJ’s Greg Matzek on Thursday. “He needs to do this, he feels, to keep his mind off of some things. So he’ll be back with us. I don’t know that he’ll be playing every day at the beginning. It’s kind of up to him and how he feels. But he wants to do this, so he’ll meet us there tomorrow.”

Segura is currently on the bereavement list. When the Brewers activate him, utility man Elian Herrera will have to return to Triple-A Nashville.

Segura will be surrounded by support in the Brewers’ clubhouse.

“We’re just trying to support him as best we can,” catcher Jonathan Lucroy said at the All-Star Game. “It’s a really bad, tough situation that I would never wish on anybody. Brutal, man. There’s nothing, really, you can do about it, just when he comes back take him in and support him as best we can. There’s nothing you can do or say that will fix it. Nothing.”


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Brewers play big role in ASG

Considering his teammates comprised a third of the National League’s starting lineup and a prominent piece of the bullpen, Aramis Ramirez had a hunch Tuesday afternoon that his Brewers would “have a big influence” in the 85th All-Star Game.

In the end, he was exactly right.

For the first time, multiple Brewers collected multiple hits in an All-Star Game, as Jonathan Lucroy delivered a pair of RBI doubles and Ramirez scored a run in the National Leaguers’ 5-3 loss to their American League rivals. Before Tuesday, Ryan Braun in 2012 owned the only multi-hit All-Star Game for a Brewer.

Francisco Rodriguez pitched in a non-save situation — a spot that has given him trouble at times this season — but delivered a scoreless sixth inning, working around a walk and getting help from Dodgers second baseman Dee Gordon on a slick, inning-ending play.

Carlos Gomez, meanwhile, was 0-for-2 with a pop-out behind home plate and a strikeout.

“We’ve got to get on ‘Gomey,’” Ramirez said. “He didn’t do anything.”

Ramirez was joking, so he added:  “I think we represented our team well.”

Lucroy played a central role from the bottom of the first inning onward. As Yankees captain Derek Jeter stepped to the plate for the first plate appearance of his final All-Star Game, Lucroy rose and moved back from home plate while NL starter Adam Wainwright vacated the pitcher’s mound, allowing Jeter to stand alone and receive a long standing ovation. When Lucroy and Wainwright finally took their positions, Jeter turned and offered congratulations to Lucroy, a first-time All-Star.

Jeter looked at Ball 1 low before driving a fastball out over the plate to right field for a double. Wainwright later suggested that he planned from the start to deliver Jeter “a couple of pipe shots.”

Later, Lucroy distanced himself from that notion.

“I think [Wainwright] was trying to get him out,” Lucroy said. “We were going to win. I can tell you that right now. I’m back there catching, and I’m calling the game to win. If that ball is located down, it’s probably an out.”

Lucroy appreciated his part in Jeter’s final Midsummer Classic.

“You kind of appreciate what it means to be a guy like that, who has played as long as he has and been successful as long as he has,” Lucroy said. “He plays the game the right way and has always been a clean-cut, hard-working, hard-playing guy, and I think everyone appreciates that.”

Said Ramirez: “He deserved that and more. The guys a class, class act, on and off the field. Never heard negative stuff about Jeter and I don’t think we will.”


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Tragedy in the Brewers’ family

The toughest defeat amid the toughest stretch of the Brewers’ season was the very least of manager Ron Roenicke’s worries late Friday.

Twenty minutes after the final out of a 7-6 loss to the Cardinals, his voice cracking, Roenicke briefly addressed reporters.

“There’s been a death in one of the families of one of our players so I don’t want to answer questions,” he said. “For respect of him right now, we’re not going to let anybody in the clubhouse. Sorry, but these things are tough and I just don’t want to leave any players open to anything.

“I don’t want to say who it is or anything, but we’ll get this figured out tomorrow and we can talk then.”

“Tomorrow” would come quickly, as the Brewers were to regroup at Miller Park on Saturday morning ahead of a 3 p.m. CT game against the Cardinals. Jimmy Nelson is scheduled to pitch for Milwaukee, making his second start of the season and the third start of his Major League career, opposite Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright.

After Roenicke returned to the clubhouse, the Brewers did not issue any further statements.


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Roenicke on Nelson, Estrada, Wang, weekend

Check later tonight for Jonathan Lucroy’s reaction to being named an All-Star Game starter and Jimmy Nelson’s take on returning to the big leagues amid a miserable team slump. For now, here are some highlights of Ron Roenicke’s session with reporters on a busy day:

Why now for Jimmy Nelson?

“Good question. We’ve been talking about him for a while, and I think it had both to do with him pitching so well and Marco not pitching as well as we know he can. Even though Marco’s pitched, we think, better the last four games, Jimmy was making it impossible for us to keep him down there. … [Marco Estrada, who was bumped to the bullpen] understood. He wasn’t happy. I don’t want him to be happy. But he understood.”

Is Nelson here to stay?

“We’ll see. I don’t want to make a comment on that and then change it in three weeks. We’ll see what happens. This guy deserves a chance to pitch up here and see what he can do.”

Will his earlier start in Miami start help him hit the ground running?

“Yeah, I think last year coming up in the bullpen … and the one start he got last year, the one start this year, all of that helps to be more comfortable with the surroundings here. And he’s been throwing his bullpen sessions in Triple-A with Major League balls to get him used to the feel of the ball. All that helps.”

Even though an offensive outage is to blame, is this move a response to the losing streak?

“During a season, you have all phases that go bad at times. So I don’t think it was necessarily just looking at what wasn’t going well. It’s just that I think this guy deserved a chance. Doug has been talking to me about him and wanting to make a change. Regardless of which area of our game isn’t going well right now, we felt it was the right time to do it. …

“I think the team is where we are, things aren’t going as well the last week, week and a half, and I think that any time you do something that the players are excited about, I think it’s good. That’s not a snub on Marco, it’s just a guy that has probably been the best pitcher in the Minor Leagues.”

Roenicke said Estrada would be used in long relief, and was asked whether the Brewers considered keeping him to the rotation and adding Nelson to the ‘pen instead, to help solve recent shakiness among the set-up men. 

“We talked about that also. Trying to figure out what the best thing was to do for him and us. We did talk about him in the bullpen.”

Regarding Wei-Chung Wang’s move to the disabled list with left shoulder tightness. Is there a chance he won’t be back with the Brewers until September?

“Oh, I don’t know. The plans are 2-4 weeks to get this calmed down and then start up his throwing program. So you just have to kind of project out where it ends up.”

Might he be converted back to a starting role when he’s ready for a Minor League rehab assignment?

“I don’t know. This came up pretty fast yesterday, and I think with me just finding out what we were going to try to do with him and the switch we were going to make that but we haven’t talked about whether he was going to start once he comes back or whether he was going to relieve. So, I don’t know.”

Could this be good for his development?

“Sure. That’s the hard thing with what we were doing with him, is it was so inconsistent as to what we were doing. He would go 10 days, sometimes 12 days. That’s what makes it so hard — you want to develop him, and you also want him to pitch well for you, yet the inconsistent work is tough on a guy. He’s been a starter, he’s been used to pitching whatever days he was going to go. So he went from a starter to a reliever and then with the inconsistent work, it becomes difficult.”

Is this a big series against the Cardinals?

“It’s another series is what it is. We need to turn this around. I thought the last series was important to turn it around, and we didn’t. So this series is important to turn it around. … We have to win games. We’re not playing against one team; we’re playing against the whole league. And we have to win more games. We have to win more games than they do, we have to win more games than Pittsburgh does, Cincinnati and the Cubs. That’s what we have to do.”


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Brewers acquire international dollars from A’s

The Brewers traded Class A right-hander Rodolfo Fernandez to the A’s on Monday in a deal that moved Milwaukee closer to signing Dominican infielder Gilbert Lara to the richest international contract in club history.

The Brewers and Lara already have an preliminary agreement for $3.1-$3.2 million, though the club has yet to confirm the agreement or finalize the contract because it would face penalties for exceeding its original international bonus pool of $2,611,800. Teams are allowed to increase their pool by as much as 50 percent by acquiring portions of other teams’ allotments, which is exactly what happened Monday afternoon.

In return for Fernandez, the Brewers received international signing bonus slot No. 57, with a value of $339,000. It boosted Milwaukee’s total bonus pool for international deals to $2,950,800 — still shy of Lara’s club-record-shattering bonus.

Barring additional trades, the Brewers could face penalties for exceeding their pool. Teams that exceed the pools by 0 to 5 percent have to pay 100 percent tax on the overage. Teams that exceed the pools by 5 to 10 percent pay the tax, plus are not allowed to sign a player for more than $500,000 during the next signing period. Teams that exceed the pools by 10 to 15 percent are not allowed to sign a player for more than $300,000 during the next signing period in addition to paying the tax, and teams that exceed the pool by 15 percent or more are not allowed to sign a player for more than $300,000 during the next two signing periods in addition to the tax.

Once a team exceeds its pool, it cannot make additional trades for slot dollars. So the Lara deal could remain in administrative limbo for some time.

Fernandez, 24, had a 2.87 ERA in 14 games at Class A Wisconsin. Born in Cuba, he signed with the Brewers in 2012.


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Gomez has interest in HR Derby

When the National League’s Home Run Derby captain passed through Miller Park last week, Brewers center fielder and All-Star Game hopeful Carlos Gomez saw an opportunity. He asked teammate Ryan Braun to put in a good word with Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.

“I told him I want to be there,” Gomez said.

Braun went a step further.

“It’s his dream, dude,” said a smiling Braun, who took part in the event in 2008. “He’s been wanting to do it since he was a bench player.”

Tulowitzki has already selected Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton for the July 14 Gillette Home Run Derby at Target Field in Minneapolis. That leaves two three openings for the NL “team,” one of which appears earmarked for Tulowitzki’s teammate and former Minnesota Twin Justin Morneau, but Morneau must first make the NL All-Star team.

So must Gomez, but he was in good position in the most recent round of balloting results. Gomez ranked second among NL outfielders, with the top three vote-getters earning a start. The All-Star teams will be unveiled after 6 p.m. CT on Sunday.

“He would be entertaining,” Braun said. “If he could control his emotions, I think he would do really well. Basically, every single day in batting practice is home run derby for him, and in the game, it’s the same thing. Every single pitch, every situation, he tries to hit a home run, and it works well for him. He’s probably one of those guys who really doesn’t have to change much of anything, which I think is advantageous in a competition like that. He would definitely be entertaining.”

Braun and Brewers manager Ron Roenicke all argued that the concern about a player altering his approach for a Derby and suffering the consequences in the second half do not apply to Gomez, who takes upward of 200 swings before every game.

“Like today already,” he said Friday afternoon, “we had early hitting, and I had 70 or 80 swings, plus 40 in the cage. I already have 120 swings. I don’t swing easy. Why would I swing easy? If I’m in the game, I don’t swing easy.”

Said Roenicke, who endorsed Gomez’s interest in the event: “I don’t think anything’s going to ruin that swing.”

Gomez and Morneau were among the NL players tied for 15th in the league with 13 home runs entering Friday’s games. Stanton led the league with 21 homers and Tulowitzki was second with 19. The Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo (17 homers), the Reds’ Todd Frazier (17) and the D-backs’ Paul Goldschmidt (15) were among the other likely All-Stars among the league leaders.

“It’s hard for [Tulowitzki],” Braun said, “because there’s a lot of guys who want to do it, a lot of guys who are campaigning to do it.”


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