Results tagged ‘ Braden Looper ’

No arbitration offers

As general manager Doug Melvin forecast on Monday, the Brewers did not extend arbitration offers to any of their ranked free agents ahead of Tuesday’s deadline to do so. That means the club won’t reap any Draft compensation in the event that outfielder Mike Cameron, catcher Jason Kendall, infielder Felipe Lopez or pitchers Braden Looper and David Weathers sign with other clubs.

All five players were Type B free agents. Had the Brewers extended arbitration offers and the players declined, the team would have received a compensatory pick between the first and second rounds of next June’s First-Year Player Draft. Since no offers were made, the Brewers won’t reap any extra picks in 2010.

That’s disappointing for amateur scouting director Bruce Seid, who is already deep into preparation for the Draft. But the risk in extending such offers is that the player can accept, making him signed for the following season at a salary to be determined either in negotiation, or if talks prove unsuccessful, in an arbitration hearing. Players almost always get raises through the process, and that would have certainly been the case for all five of the Brewers’ ranked players.

Four of the decisions were likely easy ones. Melvin has already made it clear he wouldn’t pursue Cameron (who earned $10 million in 2009) or Kendall ($5 million), and the Brewers already paid buyouts to Looper and Weathers instead of exercising club options. The options ($6.5 million for Looper and $3.7 for Weathers) could have cost than what the players would have earned via arbitration, so an offer didn’t make sense.

Lopez, though, was a matter for debate as late as Monday afternoon, when Melvin and his assistants met to finalize their decisions. Lopez earned a reasonably $3.5 million base salary in 2009 and had a career year, batting .310 for the D-backs and Brewers with nine home runs, 57 RBIs, 88 runs scored and a .383 on-base percentage. He was at his best after a July trade from Arizona to Milwaukee, batting .320 for the Brewers with a .407 on-base percentage and filling the void atop the lineup that had existed since second baseman Rickie Weeks was lost to season-ending wrist surgery.

Based on that strong finish, Lopez, who is represented by Scott Boras, will almost certainly seek a multi-year contract. But the Brewers’ decision to not offer him arbitration on Tuesday was a sign that Milwaukee officials, after analyzing which teams will be looking for second basemen this offseason, aren’t convinced he’ll get it.

That left open the possibility that Lopez could accept the offer, and a multimillion dollar bench player probably wouldn’t fit Melvin’s plans. The Brewers are committed to Weeks at second base and are set elsewhere on the infield with first baseman Prince Fielder, shortstop Alcides Escobar and either Casey McGehee or Mat Gamel at third base. Lopez has some outfield experience, but Ryan Braun is a fixture in left field for the Brewers and Corey Hart is the incumbent in right. Hart earned $3.25 million last season and is arbitration-eligible once again.

Payroll is tight for the Brewers despite recent cost-cutting measures because Melvin intends to use the bulk of his remaining resources to fix the team’s starting rotation.

“You would love to have that depth,” Melvin said Monday in previewing his looming decisions. “But is [Lopez] going to want to be a part-time player? He’s going to want to be an everyday player, and Rickie is going to want to be an everyday player. In some sense, you also ask, are you willing to trade the possibility of [acquiring] a pitcher for Felipe Lopez? That’s the question.”

On Tuesday, Melvin answered his own question. He’d prefer to save resources for the pitcher.

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Arbitration decisions today

Brewers officials met Monday afternoon to make final decisions, but it appeared they were leaning against extending arbitration offers to any of their five compensation-eligible free agents, including infielder Felipe Lopez

“Where would he play?” general manager Doug Melvin asked. 

Before exploring that question, an arbitration primer is in order: 

Lopez, outfielder Mike Cameron, catcher Jason Kendall and pitchers Braden Looper and David Weathers all qualified as Type B free agents, meaning the Brewers could reap a compensatory pick in next year’s First-Year Player Draft should any of those players sign with another team. 

But in order to qualify for compensation, the Brewers would have to first extend an offer of arbitration to those eligible free agents. If the player declines, the Brewers would be compensated when he signs elsewhere; former teams get a first- or second-round pick from the player’s new club plus a so-called “sandwich pick” between the first two rounds for a Type A free agent, or just a sandwich pick for a Type B player. 

But if the player accepts the offer, he is considered signed for the next season at a salary to be determined, usually higher than the previous season. That possibility can present a risk teams are unwilling to take.

That risk is why the Brewers have been expected all along to decline making offers to Cameron ($10 million salary in 2009) and Kendall ($5 million). The team already declined club options on Looper ($6.5 million) and Weathers ($3.7 million), making an arbitration offer extremely unlikely. Why would the team pay those players buyouts only to bring them back several weeks later?

But many expected that the team would offer arbitration to Lopez, who is coming off a season split between Arizona and Milwaukee in which he batted a career-best .310 with 88 runs scored and a .383 on-base percentage. Lopez was relatively reasonable at $3.5 million. 

Lopez is likely to seek a multiyear contract, and would have to decline an arbitration offer from the Brewers to get one. Because he narrowly missed qualifying for Type A compensation, he is actually more attractive to rival clubs because they would forfeit a Draft pick.

But the Brewers are wary of what they would do if Lopez were to accept. The team is committed to Rickie Weeks at second base and already has two players (Casey McGehee and Mat Gamel) to play third. Lopez has some experience in the outfield, but the Brewers have Ryan Braun set in left field and Corey Hart in right. 

Melvin is already working on a tight budget and wants to preserve as much payroll space as possible to improve the team’s pitching. A multi-million-dollar reserve infielder might not fit Melvin’s plans. 

“You would love to have that depth,” Melvin said. “But is [Lopez] going to want to be a part-time player? He’s going to want to be an everyday player, and Rickie is going to want to be an everyday player. In some sense, you also ask, are you willing to trade the possibility of [acquiring] a pitcher for Felipe Lopez? That’s the question.” 

Melvin has proposed a series of changes to Major League Baseball’s Draft process, and free agent compensation is one of his beefs. He doesn’t expect any changes to come out of next week’s Winter Meetings in Indianapolis.  

“If we want to sign a Type A free agent, we would lose a second-round pick, but we don’t have a way to get picks back,” Melvin said. “Our whole Draft process needs to be redone.” 

The deadline for teams to extend arbitration offers to their free agents is 10:59 p.m. CT on Tuesday. Players who get offers have until Dec. 7 to accept.

Melvin expects Counsell & Co. to hit open market

Thursday is the final day for teams to negotiate exclusively with their own free agents, but Brewers general manager Doug Melvin is not anticipating striking any deals before the market opens in earnest.

“No,” he said Wednesday. “I don’t think they want to sign, personally. They want to wait until Friday and hope someone picks up the phone and makes them an offer they never thought they would get.”

Beginning Friday at 12:01 a.m. ET, free agents are free to field those calls from all 30 teams. Before then, during a 15-day window that follows the World Series, other teams can only express general interest but are technically barred from making any offers.

The Brewers have nine outgoing free agents: Outfielders Mike Cameron, Frank Catalanotto and Corey Patterson, infielders Craig Counsell and Felipe Lopez, catcher Jason Kendall and pitchers Braden Looper, Claudio Vargas and David Weathers. Looper and Weathers hit the market after the Brewers declined their options.

Melvin wouldn’t say which of those players he would like to bring back to avoid giving other teams an idea of the Brewers’ thinking. He did say this month that the Carlos Gomez acquisition likely closed the door on Cameron, that the Brewers might not be able to afford Kendall unless he takes a serious pay cut and that the team remains committed to Rickie Weeks at second base, making a Lopez return very unlikely.

Counsell seems the most likely incumbent on the Brewers’ radar but a report this week said that as many as 12 teams had expressed interest. That’s not surprising at all given Counsell’s defensive versatility and his outstanding 2009 season at the plate, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he could field multi-year offers.

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Looper, Vargas formally file for free agency

Braden Looper wasted no time in formally filing for free agency, and fellow Brewers right-hander Claudio Vargas was right behind him. 

Both veterans formally filed their paperwork on Friday, meaning all nine of the Brewers’ potential free agents at the start of the offseason are officially on the open market. Outfielders Mike Cameron, Frank Catalanotto and Corey Patterson, infielders Craig Counsell and Felipe Lopez, catcher Jason Kendall and reliever David Weathers all filed previously. 

Earlier Friday, the Brewers declined their half of Looper’s $6.5 million mutual option, choosing instead to pay a $1 million buyout and free $5.5 million more in payroll flexibility. General manager Doug Melvin left open the possibility of re-opening negotiations with Looper at a later date. 

Melvin may also have interested in bringing back Vargas, who was acquired in a July 31 trade with the Dodgers for Double-A catcher Vinny Rottino. Vargas boosted his stock in a late-relief role with the Brewers, appearing in 28 games with a 1.78 ERA. 

Teams have exclusive negotiating rights with their own free agents for 15 days following the World Series. That window closes Nov. 19.

When Looper and Vargas filed for free agency, the Brewers were left with 33 players on their 40-man roster.

Brewers decline Looper's option

Here’s a roster decision with some irony: The Brewers on Friday cut loose their winningest pitcher from 2009 in order to improve the starting rotation for 2010.

The team on Friday declined right-hander Braden Looper’s $6.5 million mutual option. Looper will instead get a $1 million buyout and will join the pool of free agents.

After signing a one-year deal last winter to come to Milwaukee, Looper led the Brewers with 14 wins and tied for the National League lead by making all 34 of his starts, but he also ran up a 5.22 ERA and led the Majors by allowing 39 home runs. By declining the option, Brewers general manager Doug Melvin was left with $5.5 million to allocate elsewhere.

“I talked to Braden and I told him that we wanted to keep our flexibility, but we would still consider him,” Melvin said. “You don’t know if that will be at a lower [salary] number or a higher one because it depends on the market. That’s the risk we take.”

In August it seemed a foregone conclusion that the Brewers, who are short on pitching prospects at the top levels of the Minor Leagues, would bring Looper back. But a high-ranking club official indicated during the final week of the season that Looper’s future with the team was thrown up for debate as he posted a 6.58 ERA over the season’s final month with a .349 opponents’ batting average. He did manage to go 5-2 over that span thanks to the Brewers’ offense.

In the season’s final days, Looper revealed that he pitched the entire season with a sore right knee that would need arthroscopic surgery.

“I tried the best I can to get the ball down because that’s my whole game,” Looper said. “I don’t know [if the knee played a part in pitches staying up]. I know I haven’t been a consistent this year. That’s the thing that upsets me, I hope that [the knee] didn’t cause that.”

Looper turned 35 on Oct. 28. The Brewers had until Saturday to decide on his option. Had they exercised it, Looper would have had three days to decide whether to accept.

Looper is a Type B free agent, but it’s impossible to imagine the Brewers offering him arbitration, a necessary step to reap a compensatory Draft pick should he sign elsewhere. If Looper were to accept such an offer, he would earn more than the $6.5 million option the team just declined.

Melvin is focused on acquiring help this offseason for a pitching staff that ranked next to last in the National League with a 4.83 ERA and tied the Orioles for the worst starters’ ERA in all of Major League Baseball at 5.37. The $5.5 million saved by declining Looper’s option will presumably be spent on another arm.

Melvin has made a series of cost-cutting moves in recent days. Last week, he traded J.J. Hardy to the Twins for center fielder Carlos Gomez, who is a first-time arbitration eligible player but will earn far less than Hardy, who made $4.65 million in 2009. That move opened shortstop for rookie Alcides Escobar and meant the Brewers would but pursue departing free agent Mike Cameron, who earned $10 million in 2009.

That same day, Melvin told a Milwaukee radio station that the team was considering using catching prospect Jonathan Lucroy behind the plate in 2010 over another free agent, Jason Kendall, who earned $5 million last season. Melvin met this week with Kendall’s agent to inform him that the team would spend less than that at catcher next season.

Some of that savings will have to go to arbitration-eligible players who are getting more expensive, but Melvin may also be freeing payroll to make a play for a free agent arm. He reportedly met this week at the General Managers Meetings with representatives for veterans John Lackey, Randy Wolf and Doug Davis, all of whom will seek multi-year contracts. The Brewers also could make a bid for Tigers right-hander Edwin Jackson, who may be available in a trade as Detroit manages its own payroll.

Say what you will about Looper’s secondary numbers, he still won more games in 2009 than all of those pitchers. Davis was 9-14 with a 4.12 ERA for a poor Arizona team and Jackson was 13-9 with a 3.62 ERA for a Tigers team that lost a one-game playoff for the American League Central. Lackey was 11-9 with a 3.83 ERA for the 97-win Angels and Wolf was 11-7 with a 3.23 ERA for the 95-win Dodgers.

“I think Braden had more wins than all of the free agents out there, but the other guys had much lower ERAs,” Melvin said. “It shows you the difficulty of predicting what pitchers can do for you. I don’t want to downplay the year [Looper] had for us. He hit all of his incentives, so he did what we asked him to do.

“In the end, we felt we wanted to keep the flexibility to maximize the money we do have left.”

With Looper out of the mix, the Brewers still have four returning starters in Yovani Gallardo, Dave Bush, Jeff Suppan and Manny Parra. Also under team control are Carlos Villanueva and Seth McClung, both of whom are arbitration-eligible and have made starts over the past three seasons. 

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Brewers eye free agent pitching market

Surprise, surprise. Brewers general manager Doug Melvin spent his time at this week’s General Managers Meetings in Chicago focused on pitching.

Melvin spoke this week with agent Arn Tellem, who represents free agent left-hander Randy Wolf, and Steve Canter, the agent for free-agent left-hander Doug Davis, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. At some point he also expressed interest in left-hander Jarrod Washburn, Washburn’s agent Scott Boras told the newspaper.

According to a Major League source, Melvin also met with Steve Hilliard, who represents righty John Lackey, the top available pitcher. In a chat with the Journal Sentinel before heading home to Milwaukee, Melvin downplayed the Brewers’ chances of landing Lackey. 

“It depends what they’re asking for,” Melvin said. “I don’t know if it could fit or not. I might have to make some other moves to make it fit.” 

The Brewers may have jumped to the top of the list of teams expected to pursue Lackey last week, when Melvin brought up Lackey’s name in a discussion of his plan to bolster a pitching staff that ranked next-to-last in the National League in 2009. 

Melvin said he would have to focus on bounce-back candidates coming off poor- or injury-plagued seasons, and indeed he has already checked in with the agent for Mark Mulder, who missed all of 2009 with shoulder woes. At some point Milwaukee could also check in with former Brewer Ben Sheets, who never pitched in 2009 after undergoing elbow surgery.

But at the same time, Melvin would not rule out a look at the top shelf of free agents. 

“There’s one guy that stands out and it’s John Lackey,” Melvin told reporters on a conference call last Friday. “He’s head and shoulders above the others. … You look at the consistency of pitchers who are out there and John Lackey is a great competitor, but we’ll have to take a look at that and see.” 

Since Melvin raised Lackey’s name without being asked, he was pressed on the matter. Is he a free agent of interest to the Brewers? 

“We’ll leave that discussion internally for ourselves,” Melvin said. “When you get involved in free agency and you talk about people, then all you’re doing is letting people know you’re interested and it drives the prices up. So I’m not going to say who we’re interested in or who we’re not.” 

It’s a two-way street, said Melvin, who believes most free agents enter the market with a short list of teams they prefer. 

“It’s our job to find out if we’re on that list of teams,” Melvin said.  

If the Brewers are on Lackey’s list, then Melvin might have to move some more payroll, as he suggested to the Journal Sentinel on Wednesday. 

Melvin has already said he won’t pursue center fielder Mike Cameron, who earned $10 million last year, and has hinted that Jason Kendall’s $5 million salary might not fit next year, either. His highest-paid returning players are starter Jeff Suppan (due $12.5 million in 2010, the final year of his four-year contract), first baseman Prince Fielder ($10.5 million), closer Trevor Hoffman ($7.5 million) and reliever David Riske ($4.5 million in the final year of his three-year deal). 

More decisions are coming. The Brewers have until Saturday to exercise their half of starter Braden Looper’s $6.5 million mutual option, and pitcher Dave Bush (who made $4 million in 2009), outfielder Corey Hart ($3.25 million) and second baseman Rickie Weeks ($2.45 million) head the list of arbitration-eligible players whose salaries could jump again. 

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Free agency period is on

FAs2.jpg Let the offseason begin.

When the Yankees clinched the World Series on Wednesday night, it kick-started the season after the season for all 30 teams, not to mention the dozens of unattached players looking for new homes. Thursday began a 15-day period for those players to formally file for free agency, during which they may only negotiate with their current team.

The Brewers have seven such players, including two — center fielder Mike Cameron and catcher Jason Kendall — who have been fixtures in the starting lineup in the past two seasons. The other players eligible to file are outfielder Frank Catalanotto, infielder Craig Counsell, second baseman Felipe Lopez, outfielder Corey Patterson and pitcher Claudio Vargas.

Two others must wait to learn whether they will join the free agent pool. The Brewers have 10 days after the World Series to decide whether to exercise their half of Braden Looper’s $6.5 million mutual option and whether to pick up reliever David Weathers’ $3.7 million club option.

Looper, who led the team with 14 wins and tied for the National League with 34 starts but ran up a 5.22 ERA and led the Major Leagues by allowing 39 home runs, is a particularly interesting case. The Brewers would have to pay a $1 million buyout if they declined his option. 

In August it seemed a foregone conclusion that the Brewers, who are short on pitching prospects at the top levels of the Minor Leagues, would bring Looper back. But a high-ranking club official indicated during the final week of the season that Looper’s future with the team was now up for debate. He went 5-2 in September/October but posted a 6.58 ERA and a .349 opponents’ average. With general manager Doug Melvin intent on bringing in two new starters — his stated goal last month — and the Brewers’ four other ’09 starters under contract for 2010, Looper could conceivably be one of the odd men out. 

If the Brewers decline Weathers’ option, they owe him a $400,000 buyout. 

Among the players already eligible for free agency, Cameron, Counsell, Kendall and Vargas are the likely priorities. Lopez was excellent after a July trade from Arizona to Milwaukee — .with a 320 batting average and a .407 on-base percentage in 297 plate appearances — but Melvin made it clear that he is committed to Rickie Weeks at second base. If that’s the case, it appears the Brewers don’t have a spot for Lopez. 

Also on Thursday, the Brewers learned that Cameron, Kendall and Lopez all qualified as Type B players in the Elias Sports Bureau’s ranking system and that Looper and Weathers would also rank as Type Bs should they reach free agency.

That system considers a player’s last two seasons of statistical output and is used to determine which free agents are eligible for Draft compensation. In order to qualify, a free agent must be offered arbitration by his former team, but decline the offer and then sign elsewhere.

The former club of a Type A free agent receives the player’s new team’s first- or second-round pick in next year’s First-Year Player Draft, depending on where that team finished in the standings, plus a “sandwich pick” between the first- and second rounds.  The former club of a Type B free agent receives only the sandwich pick.
 
Lopez.jpgLopez was one spot shy of qualifying as a Type A player. National League second baseman, shortstops and third basemen are grouped together by Elias, and Lopez was the first Type B, with a rating of 71.889. Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla was the final Type A, at 72.350.

For more on the Brewers’ free agent-eligibles, see my story on Brewers.com.

Of the players in question, who would you like to see back? Who should the Brewers let go?

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Counsell, Looper undergo surgery

Brewers infielder Craig Counsell and right-hander Braden Looper each underwent arthroscopic surgeries on Tuesday to repair the meniscus in their respective right knees. The procedures, performed by Dr. William Raasch, were “routine,” per a team spokesperson.

Both Counsell, who is a free agent, and Looper, whose contract includes a mutual option for 2010, played through knee pain all season. Counsell mulled surgery at the end of Spring Training but ultimately decided against it. Looper surrendered a Major League-worst 39 home runs this season and wondered aloud during the season’s final weekend whether his persistent knee pain played a role.

The Brewers have until 10 days after the World Series to decide on their half of Looper’s $6.5 million option. If they decline, he gets a $1 million buyout. If the team exercises its half, Looper has three days to decide whether to accept.

Tuesday’s procedures brought to four the number of “clean up” surgeries performed by Raasch since the end of the season. Raasch also removed loose bodies from third baseman Casey McGehee’s right knee, and repaired the AC joint in pitcher Manny Parra’s left shoulder.

For more on all four players, see my story about the pending surgeries from Oct. 5.

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Surgeries set for Counsell, Parra, McGehee, Looper

Add Craig Counsell and Manny Parra to the list of Brewers set for arthroscopic surgeries in the coming days to fix problems that nagged all season. 

Counsell, fellow infielder Casey McGehee and pitcher Braden Looper will each undergo relatively minor procedures next week to clean up right knee injuries and pitcher Parra will have surgery on his left shoulder.

All four procedures will be performed by Dr. William Raasch, the team’s head physician. In chronological order: 

- Parra will undergo what a club official stressed was a routine surgery Tuesday to clean up the AC joint in his left shoulder. The procedure has been planned for some time, and the injury did not prevent Parra from making his final starts of the season. 

It’s also “not even remotely close” to the shoulder issues in Parra’s past, according to assistant general manager Gord Ash. Parra had season-ending surgery in August 2005 to repair a torn rotator cuff. 

“What Dr. Raasch is going to do is eliminate the friction” outside of Parra’s shoulder joint, Ash said. “It’s nothing inside the joint. It’s been nagging him all year, but not nagging to the point where he couldn’t pitch. There is some irritation there, so we’re going to take this opportunity to eliminate it. It’s kind of like having a pebble in your shoe.”

Ash hoped the surgery would provide some peace of mind for Parra, who had a trying season. He went 11-11 but posted a 6.36 ERA in 27 starts and spent three weeks in the Minor Leagues following a June demotion. Of the 67 National League pitchers who worked at least 100 innings, only teammate Dave Bush (6.38) had a higher ERA than Parra. 

- As previously reported, McGehee will also have surgery on Tuesday, to clean out loose bodies from his right knee. McGehee played most of the season with pain in the joint, and has known since the All-Star break that he would probably require surgery. 

McGehee enjoyed a breakthrough season in spite of the constant knee pain, which affected him more in the field than at the plate. He singled in his first at-bat in Sunday’s season finale to finish with a .301 batting average, and his 66 RBIs led all Major League rookies. McGehee also hit 16 home runs. 

Manager Ken Macha pulled McGehee from Sunday’s game early to preserve his batting average. 

“That’s something he by no means had to do, and I appreciated it,” McGehee said. “I thought [my year] went pretty well. I want to get my defense back next year to where I expect it to be at. Other than that, I feel like I had a solid year.” 

- Also, as expected, Looper will have surgery next week to fix torn meniscus in his right knee. Looper told reporters on Saturday that he pitched all year with the issue. 

He led the Brewers and set a career high with 14 wins and led the National League with 34 starts, but also led the Majors by allowing 113 earned runs, 39 home runs and posted a 5.22 ERA. Looper wondered aloud whether the pain in his knee contributed to his trouble keeping the ball in the park. 

“I tried the best I can to get the ball down because that’s my whole game,” Looper said Saturday. “I don’t know [if the knee played a part in pitches staying up]. I know I haven’t been as consistent this year. That’s the thing that upsets me, I hope that [the knee] didn’t cause that.

- Counsell has been dealing with an injury similar to Looper’s since Spring Training, when he briefly considered surgery that would have sidelined him for several weeks. Instead, he opted to play through it and enjoyed his best season in years, batting .285 — a career high for a full season — with a .766 OPS — his best mark since 2000.  

In recent days, Counsell had said he would not have surgery. On Monday, he changed his mind, and will also have his surgery scheduled for next week. 

- In another medical matter, Ash said that outfielder Corey Hart had visited Monday with Dr. Don Sheridan, a Phoenix-based hand specialist who confirmed the diagnosis of Hart’s right hand injury. Hart has a pair of sprained fingers but no fractures and will require only rehabilitation.

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Brewers begin season's final set

A couple of milestones are in reach for the Brewers this weekend in St. Louis, including a dubious one for Friday starter Braden Looper. He needs to keep the Cardinals in the ballpark to avoid being the first pitcher since 2005 2004 2005 to surrender 40 home runs. On a brighter note, Ryan Braun is three hits shy of 200. He’s 6-for-28 (.214) against Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright, who is aiming for his 20th win.

Felipe Lopez  2B
Craig Counsell  3B
Ryan Braun  LF
Prince Fielder  1B
Mike Cameron  CF
Jody Gerut  RF
Alcides Escobar  SS
Jason Kendall  C
Braden Looper  RHP

More on Looper: Only 17 pitchers have surrendered 40 or more homers in a season, including Hall of Famer Robin Roberts three times and Bert Blyleven, Eric Milton twice and Phil Niekro twice apice. Blyleven set the all-time record when he served up 50 homers in 1986, and Milton was the last to do it, in 2004 2005 with the Reds. 

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