Results tagged ‘ notebook ’

Emptying Thursday's notebook

Some final notes after a 5-3 loss to the Giants in Scottsdale…

Jeff Suppan threw fastballs and changeups in an uneventful six-up, six-down spring debut and was happy with his afternoon. He focused on spotting his fastball and keeping his change-up low in the strike zone. 
“I felt good,” he said. “My goal was to go out and get ahead. That was No. 1. No. 2, I wanted to have a good downhill plane. I felt like I accomplished that.”
Suppan had to do a double-take when Giants starter Barry Zito drilled Prince Fielder with a pitch. (You can read some more about that later on Brewers.com.) 
“I was like, ‘What?’ I had to think what happened,” Suppan said. “Then, I remembered.”
Macha called the Zito-Fielder incident a, “non-issue.”
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Macha found a number of silver linings to the afternoon, and one of them didn’t show up in the box score. In Weeks’ second at-bat, he checked his swing on a Todd Wellemeyer pitch in the dirt without any complications. That was something of a big deal to Macha considering that Weeks is returning from a 2009 season mostly lost to wrist surgery. Weeks was injured on a check swing last year, Macha said. 
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Ryan Braun should make his spring debut on Friday after getting Thursday afternoon off but Macha couldn’t say for sure whether shortstop Alcides Escobar would start. Escobar had two root canals on Thursday (ouch) and has another dentist appointment scheduled for next week. 
On Friday, we should be able to provide more of an injury report on third baseman Mat Gamel, who was scratched Thursday because of a sore right shoulder, and pitcher Josh Butler, who has been bumped back a bit because of his own sore right arm. 
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Macha cautioned against reading too much into center fielder Carlos Gomez hitting second on Thursday. “We had problems with our two- and our five-hole last year, so we’ll give some [different] guys a chance to go out there,” Macha said. 
Speaking of the outfield, look for Jim Edmonds to get the start in center field or right field on Friday against the A’s. It’s Ben Sheets against Yovani Gallardo, whose contract was renewed Thursday, at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. If you have MLB.com’s gameday audio package, you can listen to the exclusive webcast at Brewers.com. Brian Anderson and Bill Schroeder will step behind the mic for the first time this year. 
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Emptying the notebook…

Some random thoughts from the eve of Opening Day in San Francisco:

– Unfortunately, it appears that weather could play a role. Fans could have worn t-shirts and shorts had the opener been scheduled for today, but they’ll be bundled in rain gear on Tuesday. The phrase “day-night doubleheader on Wednesday,” was even uttered in the press box, sending shivers down my spine, but as everybody in baseball loves to say, it is what it is. Here’s hoping the weather forecasters are wrong.

– Manager Ken Macha will use the same starting lineup on Tuesday that he used Friday and Saturday in Los Angeles (with the exception of the pitcher, of course):

Rickie Weeks  2B
Corey Hart  RF
Ryan Braun  LF
Prince Fielder  1B
J.J. Hardy  SS
Mike Cameron  CF
Bill Hall  3B
Jason Kendall  C
Jeff Suppan  RHP

Macha isn’t worried that Hart seems to have stopped hitting in Spring Training after inheriting the two-hole. It’s too small a sample, Macha said, to draw any conclusions. He hopes to utilize Hart’s speed in that spot, and also thinks Hart will see a more steady dose of fastballs there.

– I’m not 100 percent sure whether the Brewers’ broadcast will show it, but U.S. Airways pilot Cpt. “Sully” Sullenberger will be tossing out the ceremonial first pitch on Tuesday and American Idol Season 5 winner Taylor Hicks will perform the national anthem.

– Macha intends to keep his five starting pitchers lined up this season, meaning each guy will have an extra day of rest when the team has an off-day. That’s very good news for Dave Bush, as the fifth starter is usually the one whose schedule gets thrown out of whack.

– Trevor Hoffman played catch again on Monday and told Macha it went well. Club officials may begin on Tuesday devising a plan for Hoffman to work off a mound, according to the manager.

– All of the non-roster players departed on Monday morning for their respective Minor League destinations, so Macha called his first real team meeting before the final workout of the spring. He laid out the team rules devised by a group of returning players that I believe included Cameron, Suppan, Kendall, Hall, Hart, Hardy, Fielder and Weeks and maybe Dave Bush and Craig Counsell. Macha also said a few words to tie a bow on Spring Training.

“I had a five-minute talk about how fun spring was for me and how much fun it was watching them go out and play,” Macha said. “It’s a special group of guys and my message was that special things happen to special people.”

– Macha told of what he viewed as a special moment on Saturday. The Brewers were trailing when left fielder Ryan Braun left the game, and Braun retreated to the clubhouse to shower and change into his street clothes. But when the Brewers rallied in the late innings, Braun changed back into his uniform so he could see the finish in the dugout.

“These guys root for each other,” Macha said.

– The Brewers released a whole slew of information about their home opening weekend, including some notes about parking and tickets. You can see the entire news release here.

– My prediction for the Brewers: 84-78, which could still be good enough for second place in a balanced National League Central. I asked a few other members of the traveling party for their thoughts and my win total is definitely on the low end. Braun’s back worries me a bit, and so does the bullpen.  

Anyone care to share their own predictions?

Emptying the notebook…

- The Brewers’ veterans are doing everything they can to make sure third base prospect Mat Gamel “gets” the enormity of the opportunity he’s facing. Gamel, who is in his first big league camp, was a late arrival Friday morning apparently because his alarm clock failed, so a certain veteran catcher found a portable locker and moved every last one of Gamel’s belongings outside. Gamel arrived about 15 minutes before the team stretched and dressed under the morning sunshine.

It drew some smiles from the other young players, but this is serious business to the vets. Manager Ken Macha has already met twice with Gamel to lay down his expectations, and now he might have another chat. Earlier in camp, Gamel was nudged to buy lunch for the team after a late arrival.

He started Friday’s game as the designated hitter and got off to a rough start — 0-for-5, three strikeouts — before hitting a three-run home run in the ninth inning.

“It saved his day, he hit a homer,” Macha said. “The talent is there, he’s just trying to figure it out.”

- Just to be clear, we’re not trying to pick on Gamel, who is a supreme offensive talent. Macha has the same expectations for everyone, and sat down one of the veteran players on Thursday after he was late to the team’s stretch and tried to sneak in unnoticed.  

- Dave Bush worked with Minor League Jonathan Lucroy in Friday’s game against the Indians, but Macha is considering pairing Bush and Mike Rivera in the regular season. It appears that it’s down to Bush or Braden Looper/Seth McClung for Rivera, a move designed to give regular catcher Jason Kendall more rest.

For the record, Bush said he would have no problem with the pairing.

“I’ve worked with him a lot over the years and had some success,” Bush said. “I would be fine with it.”

- The Brewers’ second off-day of the spring is Tuesday, and Macha scheduled a morning “B” game at Surprise against the Rangers. It’s mostly to keep the starting pitchers on track, and in this case Seth McClung is scheduled to work.

- I think I have written before that infielder Hernan Iribarren is out of Minor League options, but that’s not the case. Brewers officials learned over the winter that Iribarren qualified for a fourth option, meaning he can be sent out to Triple-A Nashville at the end of camp.

I haven’t mentioned Iribarren in the mix of outfielders because I have barely seen him out there. He played a few innings in left field against the Angels, but it’s a bit curious that he has not seen more outfield action given the Brewers’ thin ranks.

- Played basketball on Thursday night with an agent who broke my heart with the news that all-time good guy Matt Wise has retired. Wise, who pitched for the Brewers from 2004-2007 and was a Tommy John surgery success story, struggled with injuries all last year with the Mets. He threw for teams over the winter but the pain was too much.

- Macha and I are going to end up arm wrestling over who gets the pork chop at Frasher’s Restaurant in Scottsdale named in his honor. Macha is a black belt, so I’d put my money on him.

Emptying the notebook…

- Outfielder Ryan Braun is the Brewers’ resident fashion mogul. A story about his new clothing line, Remetee, will be on Brewers.com later today.

- The Brewers were unable to find a willing opponent for a “B” game on March 4 so manager Ken Macha instead scheduled an intrasquad game to keep his pitchers on track. For now, that’s left-hander Manny Parra’s day to pitch, and he will face a lineup of Minor Leaguers assembled by farm director Reid Nichols.

The Brewers do have a “B” game scheduled for March 10 in Surprise, Ariz. against the Rangers. They will play another intrasquad game on Tuesday in advance of the Feb. 25 Cactus League opener.

- Assistant general manager Gord Ash had his sit-down with Mat Gamel, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Macha was also there as the Brewers laid out their expectations for Gamel, who once again has a surprise injury. The good news is that his right shoulder impingement is not considered serious, and while Gamel is limited from throwing he was able to take part in batting practice on Thursday.

- Brewers pitchers faced hitters for the first time on Thursday. R.J. Swindle’s slow, looping curveball elicited some awkward swings, and some of the club’s baseball officials gathered to watch Trevor Hoffman face a group that included Brad Nelson.

- A downright skinny Ray King dropped by Maryvale Baseball Park and said he’s looking for a job. King, a left-handed reliever who pitched for the Brewers from 2000-2002 and again at the end of 2007, appeared in only 12 games last season for Washington but posted a 2.25 ERA in 32 games for the Astros’ Triple-A club and then pitched well in the Dominican Republic over the winter. He said he has been throwing at his nearby home in Litchfield park, Ariz. and is open to even a Triple-A job. The offseason market has not been kind to the 35-year-old.

“Crickets,” King said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

- Brewers Minor Leaguer Alex Periard was thrilled when the Brewers signed Eric Gagne and assigned him a spot in the clubhouse four lockers away. Periard and Gagne are both natives of Quebec, and Periard has never had a Franch-speaking teammate. Gagne has; he teamed with catcher Russell Martin in Los Angeles.

- Jeff Suppan took the “gold medal” in a bunting competition earlier this week between Brewers pitchers. Lindsay Gulin won the silver medal and Mark Rogers took home the bronze.

- Macha plans to control opponents’ running game from the bench this season. Last year, then-bench coach Ted Simmons allowed catchers Jason Kendall and Mike Rivera to do it themselves, meaning the players didn’t have to look into the dugout for signs calling for pickoffs and the like. Macha thinks coaches have a better perspective of what opponents are trying to do from the bench.

- Third base coach Brad Fisher started a new camp tradition on Thursday. Every morning before the Brewers stretch, one of the team’s Minor Leaguers will be subjected to a question and answer session. Judging by the laughter coming from the group that surrounded catching prospect Angel Salome, there were some good questions.

- The MLB Network is making the rounds in the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues and will feature the Brewers on Sunday, March 15 at 7 p.m. CT. Former FSN Wisconsin sideline reporter Trenni Kusnierek will file the report.

Emptying the notebook…

Some random items that did not find a home in news stories over the past few days:

- Prince Fielder, Craig Counsell and Hernan Iribarren reported to camp on Monday, leaving only three players absent ahead of Tuesday’s report date for position players: Mike Cameron, Alcides Escobar and Mat Gamel. All three are expected to arrive on time.

Cameron is a veteran so it’s not surprising to see him report on time instead of early, but it’s a bit surprising that Escobar and Gamel, two of Milwaukee’s top prospects, have yet to show. Escobar planned to arrive Monday but he missed a flight out of Venezuela, and Gamel stayed back in Florida because he’s about to become a dad for the first time.

- Speaking of Escobar, assistant general manager Gord Ash said the shortstop prospect was not kicked off his winter ball team, refuting a rumor that has circulated the Internet during the offseason.

- Fielder was in high spirits, and he does appear to have slimmed down over the winter. You can see the change in his face.

- The Brewers have already scheduled a “B” game for the March 10 off-day, and will play the Rangers in Surprise, Ariz. at 9:30 a.m. that day. The team is also working to schedule a “B” game for the March 4 off-day, but has not found any takers.

Those games are intended mostly to keep Brewers pitchers on schedule. All of the regular offensive players will get that day off.

- Manager Ken Macha intends to play left fielder Ryan Braun extensively in early Cactus League games so he is ready for the World Baseball Classic. While players like Fielder get their one or two at-bats and call it a day, Braun could play some full games, Macha said.

- Camp was lively on Monday, when the pitchers were divided into teams for a bunting competition. Mitch Stetter is a surprisingly good bunter and so is Trevor Hoffman, though it’s not all that surprising since Hoffman is a former shortstop. Carlos Villanueva delivered the best bunt, landing the baseball within a small target along a virtual third base line.

On a side note, Villanueva is batting right-handed again. He tinkered as a lefty last season, but since he’s now permanently in the bullpen, he figured it was best to keep things sinple.

- General manager Doug Melvin on catching prospect Jonathan Lucroy: “That kid is going to be a player. He reminds me a little of [former A's catcher] Terry Steinbach.”

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