Results tagged ‘ Alcides Escobar ’

Macha shakes up lineup for series finale

MILWAUKEE — As the Brewers continued to excel on the field, manager Ken Macha continued to tweak the club’s lineup on Sunday.

 

After batting catcher George Kottaras second on Saturday because of Kottaras’ high on-base percentage, Macha made another move Sunday to get more guys on base. Macha moved his entire batting order up one spot after Rickie Weeks with the exception of shortstop Alcides Escobar, who was in the ninth spot, behind pitcher Randy Wolf.

“We’ll try this out,” Macha said. “We tried something out yesterday and I think that had some fruits to it. I think it’s just an interesting look. I thought about putting Kottaras there and I thought about this a little bit too.”

As a result, left fielder Ryan Braun became the ninth Brewers hitter to bat second on the season. It’s just the third time Braun has batted second and the first time since he was a rookie.

Behind him, Prince Fielder batted third for the third time this season, Casey McGehee became just the third cleanup hitter this season and Hart batted fifth for the second time on the year.

McGehee was the first Brewers hitter other than Braun or Fielder to bat cleanup since Hart did so on July 1, 2008. The Brewers won that game, 8-6, in Arizona.

Wolf is the first pitcher this season to be in the lineup anywhere other than the No. 9 spot. The only time any other hitter has batted ninth was during the three-game Interleague set with the Twins at Target Field.

With Escobar batting ninth, Macha and McGehee were quick to point out the lineup looks a bit different after the first time through. In fact, it looks a lot more like the team’s usual lineup.

“Looking at the lineup, at the beginning of the game it’s like, ‘Oh, you’re batting cleanup,’” McGehee said. “But it’s really the same. I’m still hitting in front of and behind the same guy. Then hopefully you get Escobar on base and all of a sudden Rickie’s basically hitting second after the first go round. So I think it’s going to be interesting to see how it all shakes out.”

As with the Kottaras move on Saturday, the thought process behind Macha’s decision came down to on-base percentage.

At .402 and .393, Fielder and Braun rank fifth and ninth in the National League in on-base percentage.

“If we score first, we’ve got a high percentage of wins. In the first inning, they’re going to have to face Prince and Brauny. That gives us a chance to score early,” Macha said. “I just want those guys to get on base. Corey’s hot right now, McGehee’s up in the league leaders in driving in runs — I just want the guys to get on base.”

– Jordan Schelling, Associate Reporter

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Macha shakes up lineup

In an apparent attempt to keep a hitter with a high on-base percentage batting second, Brewers manager Ken Macha threw a few wrinkles in his lineup once again on Sunday.

After batting catcher George Kottaras second on Saturday, another Brewers hitter got the nod in the two hole on Sunday. With Kottaras on the bench as Jonathan Lucroy catches for Randy Wolf, left fielder Ryan Braun was bumped up from batting No. 3 to No. 2
The rest of the lineup remained the same, but with everyone moving up a spot as well, including Wolf. Shortstop Alcides Escobar was ninth, behind the pitcher’s spot.
Here’s the lineup:
Weeks  2B
Braun  LF
Fielder  1B
McGehee  3B
Hart  RF
Gomez  CF
Lucroy  C
Wolf  P
Escobar  SS
– Jordan Schelling, Associate Reporter

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Escobar is a triple threat

Obscure record alert: Rookie shortstop Alcides Escobar hustled his way to the 17th two-triple game in Brewers history on Wednesday night. 
The speedy Escobar tripled into the left field corner in the fifth inning and sent another triple to right-center field in the sixth. Both times he trotted the final 90 feet on home runs as the Brewers built a 7-0 lead by the end of their half of the sixth inning. 
According to the site baseball-reference.com, Escobar was the first Brewer to hit two triples in a game since Geoff Jenkins on April 6, 2004 against the Cardinals. Fernando Vina, Paul Molitor and Rick Manning had two, two-triple games each. The only other Brewers shortstop to log two triples in a game was Jose Valentin, in game one of a doubleheader on Sept. 29, 1999 against the Pirates. 
Other Brewers who tripled twice in the same game: Darryl Hamilton, Tom Brunansky, Franklin Stubbs, Robin Yount, Randy Ready, Ted Simmons, Ben Oglivie and Ted Savage. The first Brewer to triple twice in a game was savage in the team’s inaugural 1970 season in Milwaukee. 
Escobar already has three triples this season. The Brewers rookie record for triples is eight, by Bob Coluccio in 1973 and Scott Podsednik in 2003. 

More triples trivia, courtesy of baseball-reference.com: Escobar is the second player this season to leg out a pair of triples in one game. Curtis Granderson of the Yankees was the first, on April 15 against the Angels. 

ince 1920, the record for triples in a regular season game is three, a mark shared by 28 players including Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Willie Mays, Roberto ClementeJoe DiMaggio, Charlie Gehringer, Jim Bottomley, Earle Combs and Ross Youngs. The last player to hit three triples in a game was Rafael Furcal, then of the Braves, in April 2002. 
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Emptying Thursday's notebook

Some random thoughts from Thursday morning:

First baseman Prince Fielder and infielder Luis Cruz reported to camp, leaving only shortstop Alcides Escobar yet to arrive. Escobar’s flight from Venezuela was canceled on Wednesday, so he’s expect to arrive at Maryvale Baseball Park on Friday, assistant GM Gord Ash said. 
When he does arrive, manager Ken Macha intends to work him slowly into the rotation. Escobar played winter ball in Venezuela and saw much more playing time than the Brewers might have liked, hitting .393 in 45 games and 173 at-bats. 
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Rehabbing reliever David Riske was scheduled to throw off a bullpen mound on Thursday, and Macha believed it was Riske’s first such workout since he reported to camp. Riske underwent Tommy John elbow surgery last June and remains a long shot to be ready for Opening Day. He threw some bullpen sessions at home in Las Vegas before reporting for Spring Training.
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Something would have to go terribly wrong for the Brewers to need a backup first baseman this season, but Macha said that the job could go to outfielder Jim Edmonds, assuming Edmonds makes the roster. Edmonds, one of baseball’s best center fielders in the past two decades, has appeared at first in 51 Major League games over eight different seasons. 
“Willie [Randolph, Milwaukee's infield coach] had him over there the other day and he was picking it pretty good,” Macha said. 
Fielder was the only player in the Majors who appeared in all of his team’s games last season. He started all 162 games and played all but four innings. Casey McGehee backed him up. 
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Macha told reporters that he’s working to improve his personal relationships with players this spring. He’s always had an open door policy, but realizes that sometimes it’s best to invite a player to walk through that door. 
“Am I going to change? Well, we’re working on it,” Macha said. 
One player took advantage of the open door on Thursday. After checking out his locker in the clubhouse, Fielder went straight for the manager’s office. 
“He had a big smile on his face,” Macha said. “He’s ready.”
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Macha might hit pitcher eighth

macha.jpg

We’re planning to roll out story tomorrow morning about Ken Macha readying for his second season at the helm of the Brewers, in which he admits that he may have gotten off on the wrong foot with some of his hitters last spring. While that story is in the works, I thought I would pass along a couple of tidbits this afternoon. 
If he put together a lineup today, Macha said it would look like this: 
1. Rickie Weeks, 2B 
2. Casey McGehee, 3B
3. Ryan Braun, LF 
4. Prince Fielder, 1B 
5. Corey Hart, RF 
6. Gregg Zaun, C 
7. Carlos Gomez, CF 
8. Pitcher 
9. Alcides Escobar, SS  
That’s all subject to change over the next six weeks, of course, especially the idea of batting the pitcher in the eight-hole. The Brewers have tried that alignment a number of times over the past two seasons with varying results, and Macha remains intrigued by either Gomez or Escobar in the nine-spot. The idea is to get another man on base in front of the Brewers’ fabulous three-four hitters. 
“We’ll have to see,” Macha said. “I tried Escobar there last year, and the key is you’ve got to get on base. If you get somebody who gets on at a .360 [on-base percentage] rate, then it has some advantages. It may be something to look at a bit further.”  
As for the starting rotation, Macha said that all six primary competitors for the rotation – Dave Bush, Doug Davis, Yovani Gallardo, Manny Parra, Jeff Suppan and Randy Wolf — would be on an even playing field. Barring injury, though, it seems extremely likely that Gallardo, Wolf and Davis will lead the group into the season.  
Macha wasn’t ready to officially name Gallardo his Opening Day starter, but it comes as no surprise that he’s the leading competitor.  
“It would be nice to put it out there for him this year,” Macha said.  
Macha also ticked off some of his priorities for camp. Look for those in my story tomorrow. 
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Anderson on Escobar

escobar.jpgBrewers TV play-by-play man Brian Anderson and I must run with like-minded friends, because he’s been getting the same question this winter. No, not, “What do you do in the offseason?” But, “What do you expect from Alcides Escobar.”

I think Anderson comes up with the correct answer in this great post on his MLBlog, and I wholeheartedly agree that Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun have set an impossibly high bar that hopefully won’t get in the way of Escobar’s rookie progression. BA also gets into the pressure Escobar faces to follow in the footsteps of some legendary Venezuelan forefathers, a topic that requires much more examination in Spring Training.

So I’ll stop writing and let you head over to Brian Anderson’s House of Blogs for a great read.

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Macha says he'll let 'em run

After a season spent extolling the virtues of staying put, Brewers manager Ken Macha said he’ll embrace the running game in 2010. 

The philosophical shift is driven by personnel changes this winter, particularly a Nov. 6 trade that sent shortstop J.J. Hardy to the Twins for speedy center fielder Carlos Gomez, freeing shortstop for top prospect Alcides Escobar and closing the door on a pursuit of outgoing free agent Mike Cameron

Hardy had a down year in 2009 but he still averaged 20 homers over the past three seasons, and Cameron has topped 20 homers eight times in his career including both of his two years in Milwaukee. Gomez, meanwhile, stole 33 bases as the Twins’ regular starter in 2008, and Escobar swiped 42 bases in 109 games last season at Triple-A Nashville. 

The Brewers also expect speedy second baseman Rickie Weeks to return after a 2009 season lost to wrist surgery, and right fielder Corey Hart (assuming the trade rumors don’t turn into an actual trade) should “have his legs under him” after missing time last year following an appendectomy. There’s also left fielder Ryan Braun, who stole 20 bases in 2009 despite hitting in front of slugger Prince Fielder

“We’ve got some guys that can run this year, so it’s going to be a little different,” Macha said on Tuesday at the Winter Meetings. “The games may be a little more exciting with the guys who do get on base. … We’ve got five guys in the lineup who are definite stolen base threats.” 

Macha conceded that he’s concerned about losing Cameron’s and Hardy’s power, but Weeks’ return should help in that area and the Brewers also picked up veteran catcher Gregg Zaun, who’s no Johnny Bench but should provide more homers than outgoing free agent Jason Kendall

In 2009, Macha’s first season at the helm, the Brewers swiped only 68 bases, third-fewest in the Majors ahead of the Braves (58) and Cubs (56). Macha said he discussed the topic with general manager Doug Melvin near the end of the regular season, when Macha was offered assurances that he would be back for the second year of his contract. 

Macha pushed back against the notion that he favored a station-to-station approach.

 “I think you’re branding me as, ‘This is your type of baseball,’ but, no,” Macha said. “I try to do what’s best for the players that we have there. I think you look at the club we have [for 2010] and there’s going to be a little more activity on the bases this year.”

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Escobar named Triple-A All-Star

The Topps Company, in conjunction with Minor League Baseball, unveiled the Triple-A All-Star team on Thursday and Brewers shortstop Alcides Escobar made the cut. Escobar finished among the top base stealers in Triple-A with 42 while hitting .298 with four home runs, 34 RBIs, 24 doubles and six triples for the Nashville Sounds. Escobar was named to the Topps Double-A All-Star team last year.

Next season, he’ll have to contend with Major Leaguers for an All-Star bid. When the Brewers traded J.J. Hardy to the Twins last week, it opened the starting gig for Escobar, who will turn 23 on Dec. 16.

“We’ve got younger players again,”  Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said. “It’s a transition that we’ll probably have to make continually. It’s no different than when we traded Lyle Overbay to make room for Prince Fielder. I told J.J. that when I talked to him on the phone. … We’re trading J.J. to make room for Escobar.”

Here is the full Triple-A All-Star squad:

2009 TOPPS/MiLB TRIPLE-A ALL-STAR TEAM

POS        PLAYER            CLUB/LEAGUE                           AFFILIATE
1B           Randy Ruiz         Las Vegas/PCL                     Toronto
2B           Kevin Russo        Scranton-Wilkes Barre/IL      New York-AL
3B           Andy Marte         Columbus/IL                         Cleveland
SS          Alcides Escobar   Nashville/PCL                        Milwaukee
OF          John Bowker        Fresno/PCL                           San Francisco
OF          Jordan Brown       Columbus/IL                         Cleveland
OF          Shelley Duncan    Scranton-Wilkes Barre/IL      New York-AL
C            John Hester          Reno/PCL                             Arizona
DH          Mitch Jones         Albuquerque/PCL                   Los Angeles-NL
P            Lenny DiNardo      Omaha/PCL                          Kansas City

Topps Double-A All-Stars will be announced on November 18.
Topps Class A All-Stars will be announced on November 25.
Topps Short Season/Rookie All-Stars will be announced on December 2.

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Tidbits: Hoffman, Suppan, Sheets, Hardy

The discussion about whether the Brewers would trade Ryan Braun or Prince Fielder was the most interesting part of general manager Doug Melvin’s year-end wrap-up with the media, but here’s a taste of the other topics discussed:

- The Brewers officially announced their new deal with closer Trevor Hoffman, who re-signed for one year plus a mutual option for 2011. The contract guarantees $8 million and could pay as much as $16.5 million over two years. 

 “By signing Trevor Hoffman, that was a big splash for us,” Melvin said. “If our pitching is going to improve, we have to keep the success we had at the back end of our bullpen. And also, to attract free agent starting pitchers, one of the first questions they always want to know is, ‘Who is the closer?’” 

- Melvin hinted that the focus on pitching could make it difficult for the team to re-sign its key free agents, including center fielder Mike Cameron and catcher Jason Kendall. Rickie Weeks is the second baseman, Melvin reiterated, making it likely that free agent Felipe Lopez will also be let go.

Assistant GM Gord Ash conceded that it’s difficult for teams to win with unproven players up the middle but insisted it can be done. He mentioned Lorenzo Cain and Logan Schafer as the team’s top center field prospects and said Jonathan Lucroy was the team’s top catching prospect. Interestingly, Angel Salome’s name was not brought up.

- Jeff Suppan, the Brewers’ 2009 Opening Day starter, is not guaranteed a spot in the 2010 starting rotation despite his $12.5 million salary. It will be the final season of his four-year contract, and he projects as the team’s highest-paid player for the second straight year. 

“I think Jeff is a professional and he knows that he will come into camp and [compete],” Melvin said. “You have to give him some credit for the fact he’s been given the ball a lot of years. He’s very seldom injured. … I don’t think there will be very many guarantees about who will be in the rotation. We probably have to make it more competitive to get better.” 

- Free agent righty Ben Sheets, who missed all of 2009 following elbow surgery, is still on the Brewers’ radar.

“Ben is somebody who would have to be on anybody’s list when it comes to improving your pitching staff,” Ash said. “We’re not up to date with his physical condition right now since he’s no longer in our care, so that would have to be Step 1. But from our point of view, we enjoyed Ben as part of the Brewers and there’s been, ‘once in a while’ conversations with his agent to remind him that we still have that ongoing interest. It hasn’t been followed-up yet.”

- Melvin already interviewed one potential pitching coach on Monday and was to travel with Ash on Thursday to interview another candidate. He wouldn’t say whether he had already spoken with former A’s and Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson, an early favorite for the position because of his past working relationships with Brewers manager Ken Macha and bench coach Willie Randolph

“We don’t want to advertise who we’re looking at,” Melvin said. “The cat’s out of the bag on one guy. I interviewed him on Monday and another team interviewed him the next day.” 

- Ash shed more light on the options that faced third baseman Casey McGehee, who underwent successful surgery on Tuesday. McGehee has a lesion in his knee, Ash said, that causes fragments of bone to break away. He could have had a more intensive procedure to inject healthy cells into the knee to promote re-growth but it was a riskier procedure that could have sidelined McGehee weeks or even months into the 2010 season. 

“He elected, after consulting with a couple of surgeons, to have kind of the intermediary procedure done, and that was to take out all of the fragments and hope that area of his knee remains intact,” Ash said. “We don’t have 100 percent guarantee on that. What we do know about Casey is that he’s an excellent worker and he’s motivated.” 

- Melvin did little to dispute the notion that shortstop J.J. Hardy will be traded this winter to make room for Alcides Escobar. Hardy’s value is down both because of his poor 2009 season (he batted .229 and was optioned to the Minors in August) and because the rest of the league knows that the Brewers are ready to install Escobar. 

“It might be down a little bit,” Melvin said of Hardy’s value. “But there are still clubs that have interest in him. Shortstop is a big hole to fill.”

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Escobar tops lineup, Villanueva starts

We’ll see what the Brewers can get from Carlos Villanueva, who hasn’t started since mid-August but is pitching today in place of Dave Bush. Alcides Escobar is hitting leadoff for the first time in his young career.

Alcides Escobar  SS
Craig Counsell  2B
Ryan Braun  LF
Prince Fielder  1B
Casey McGehee  3B
Mike Cameron  CF
Jody Gerut  RF
Mike Rivera  C
Carlos Villanueva  RHP

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