Results tagged ‘ Tim Dillard ’

Brewers sixth starter? Not sure

The Brewers happily traded back-end depth for front-line talent in their starting rotation, but it led to a “what if” that stumped manager Ron Roenicke on Saturday.

With left-hander Manny Parra out indefinitely with a bad back and right-hander Mark Rogers moving along slowly after some early-spring shoulder stiffness, what if one of a member of the five man starting rotation goes down before Opening Day? Who would step in as the so-called sixth starter?

“Do you want me to look at the list?” Roenicke asked, reaching for a roster.

“[Tim] Dillard is there,” Roenicke said, referring to the right-hander and longtime Brewers farmhand who a year ago radically altered his style to a sidearm sling. “[Wily] Peralta is a possibility, even though he’s young. [Amaury] Rivas is a possibility.”

Peralta is a top Brewers pitching prospect, but he is also 21 years old and has made all of eight starts above A-ball. Rivas was the team’s Minor League pitcher of the year in 2009, but would have to make a big leap after spending last season at Double-A Huntsville.

Reliever Kameron Loe could be an emergency option, considering he made 47 starts for the Rangers from 2004-07. But Roenicke indicated he leave Loe in the bullpen.

“When he was with Texas, they tried to tinker with what to do with him, starting or relieving. He never found his niche, and I think he’s found it” in relief, Roenicke said. “I wouldn’t want to mess with that.”

The Brewers’ relatively thin starting ranks are a change from last season, when they entered Spring Training with four established pitchers vying for two rotation spots behind Yovani Gallardo, Randy Wolf and Doug Davis.

In the end, that depth did not translate to success, and the Brewers ranked next-to-last in the National League in starters’ ERA. General manager Doug Melvin spent the winter focused on adding front-line pitching, trading for Shaun Marcum of the Blue Jays and Zack Greinke of the Royals to go with Gallardo, Wolf and Chris Narveson.

“I’ll take our five starters, and we’ll work out the others,” Roenicke said.


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Axford sent down

The Brewers optioned right-hander John Axford to Triple-A Nashville on Tuesday afternoon but manager Ken Macha expects the right-hander to return at some point before 2010 is over. 
“We need to get him pitching on a regular basis in case we do have a problem with one of our right-handed relievers,” Macha said. “This guy has had an extremely impressive spring.”
Axford surrendered a run on two hits in one inning of Tuesday’s 10-2 Brewers win over the Indians. It was the first run he had allowed since his Cactus League debut on March 4, when the Giants touched Axford for four runs on five hits. In five outings between that game and Tuesday’s, Axford surrendered only four hits and no earned runs. 
His mid-90s fastball makes Axford a potential closer candidate, but general manager Doug Melvin said Axford would report to Nashville without any specific instructions. 
“I’m not a big believer in one-inning closers in the Minor Leagues,” Melvin said. “His assignment is just go pitch. He needs to get his work in.”
Axford’s work in camp impressed Macha. 
“From where this guy has come — he was almost a release candidate at one point in time — to [now], he’s going to have a chance to get some people out in the big leagues,” Macha said. “He’s got an explosive fastball and a snapdragon curve. That’s a good combination. That’s Troy Percival kind of stuff.”
Percival saved 358 games in 14 Major League seasons. Axford probably won’t have an opportunity to rack up those kind of numbers; he’s a late-bloomer who will turn 27 on April 1 and only has three seasons of professional experience. The Brewers signed Axford in March 2008 after a tryout at Maryvale Baseball Park.
Axford was the third of three moves on Tuesday. Right-hander Tim Dillard was reassigned to Minor League camp and fellow nonroster invitee Scott Schoeneweis left camp after being informed he would not make the Opening Day roster. The Brewers intend to formally release Schoeneweis on Thursday, Melvin said. 
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Schoeneweis: 'I wasted a month of my time'

An upset Scott Schoeneweis packed his bags and left Maryvale Baseball Park on Tuesday after team officials informed him he would not make the team. Schoeneweis figures he never had a shot in the first place. 
“The only regret I have is that I wasted a month of my time,” Schoeneweis said. “I didn’t have a chance to make the team. That’s what I learned today.” 
The Brewers did not officially release Schoeneweis from his Minor League contract but announced to the media that the player, “was advised today that he would not be part of the Major League roster and is free to pursue other opportunities.” General manager Doug Melvin said Schoeneweis would officially be released on Thursday, the date specified in his contract on which he could elect free agency if not added to the 40-man roster.
Schoeneweis was removed from the Brewers’ big league camp roster and so was right-hander Tim Dillard, who was returned to Minor League camp. The team might have one more move later in the day.
Schoeneweis, 36, ostensibly was bidding to be a second left-hander in the Brewers’ bullpen with Mitch Stetter, but the numbers game worked against him. The team is looking at four pitchers for the final two spots in the starting rotation, and to preserve depth at least one of those pitchers will likely begin the season in relief. 
Brewers general manager Doug Melvin told Schoeneweis on Tuesday morning that the team didn’t have a spot for him. Melvin and manager Ken Macha asked Schoeneweis to take an assignment to Triple-A Nashville but he declined. 
Schoeneweis is coming off a difficult year at home. His wife, Gabrielle, died suddenly last May while Schoeneweis was pitching for the D-backs. He bounced between home and the team the rest of the season and ended up with a 7.12 ERA, the highest of his career. 
“I’m a big league pitcher and I shouldn’t have to prove anything,” Schoeneweis said. “This will be my 12th year in the big leagues and I wasn’t injured [last season], I wasn’t out of the game because my skills diminished. I just had to prove to myself that I wanted to play and [be sure] it was OK with my family. I am OK with all of those things. 
“I appreciate the platform to come in and realize those things and to realize that I am a better version of myself than I have been for the last three or four years. It’s just ironic that I can’t get a job because my wife died. It doesn’t make much sense to me.” 
In seven Cactus League appearances, Schoeneweis had a 7.71 ERA, but that number can be particularly deceptive in Spring Training for left-handed specialists because they are not used in lefty-on-lefty situations like they would be in the regular season. 
Schoeneweis said he would ask his agent, Scott Boras, to see employment elsewhere, hopefully with a team near the west coast so he could remain close to his four children. The family lives in the Phoenix area. 
“The positive I take out of this is I realize I can have fun again,” Schoeneweis said. “I haven’t had fun for a long time. I know 100 percent that I am a big league pitcher, bottom line. It would be a shame if this was it for me because I feel like I did when I was 28. If there aren’t any big league jobs out there, then I’ll have to work something out that works for me and my family. I’m not going to toil around in the Minor Leagues.”
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Dillard buys into new delivery

Give Brewers right-hander Tim Dillard some credit: The old way wasn’t exactly working, so he’s trying something new. 

Dillard is working on a new, side-arm delivery this spring and will continue the project with another bullpen session on Friday at Maryvale Baseball Park. His last mound work was Wednesday, when Dillard worked on his full arsenal of pitches and then stayed late to chat with an army of organizational pitching coaches including Rick Peterson. 
“It’s basically the same thing; I’m just tilted over,” Dillard said. “It didn’t take them much to talk me into it.”
It’s in Dillard’s interest to try something new. He made 13 appearances for the Brewers in 2008 but only two in 2009, when he walked five batters in 4 1/3 innings and was charged with six earned runs. The Brewers removed him from the 40-man roster earlier this month after they claimed fellow righty Marco Estrada off waivers from Washington. 

Dillard had better luck as a starter in 2009 for Triple-A Nashville, going 11-7 with a 4.51 ERA. The Brewers assigned him to start so he could log more innings to work on his breaking pitches, but now it appears he’ll focus on becoming a relief specialist with his new, funky delivery. 
Peterson has had success with similar changes in the past. He worked, for example, with Mets pitchers Aaron Heilman and Pedro Feliciano on dropping down, though Feliciano throws much lower than Dillard. Heilman’s angle is more similar to Dillard’s. 
“The whole thing was to try to get his stuff to be a little more effective,” Brewers manager Ken Macha said. “He didn’t throw many in the strike zone [on Wednesday] but his breaking ball had a little depth to it. I thought the quality of his breaking ball was good. Now if we can get them over the plate, it would be a lot better.”
Macha brought up Kent Tekulve as another example of a pitcher who found success after dropping his arm slot. Tekulve made the change 40 years ago in Class A ball — Peterson’s father, Harding, was the team’s farm director at the time — and was a teammate of Macha for several subsequent seasons in the Pirates’ farm system. It took Tekulve parts of seven Minor League seasons to crack the Majors, but he went on to have a long and very successful career. 
Dillard has bought into the change.
“I just haven’t stuck,” Dillard said. “They’ve seen me as a reliever, as a starter, and a few years ago I even closed some. I’ve asked before, ‘Just put me in a role and let me stay with it.’ I think that’s what they’ve done with this move. They think I can be effective this way. There’s not as many right-handers out there doing it like this.
“I’ve thrown a little bit like that and high school and college, so it’s not that big a deal for me. They didn’t have to do a lot of convincing to get me to try it. I almost like being a little ‘dirty.’ I like the bullpen. If this is the role they see me in, I think I can do it.”
It’s a work in progress. He gave catcher Angel Salome quite a workout on Wednesday, spraying pitches all over the strike zone and one that sailed over Salome’s head and struck the fence. It might be some time before he tries facing hitters. 
Dillard will be patient. He turns 27 in July, so there is still time to get back to the big leagues.
“A lot of friends were asking me over the winter what I thought was going to happen this year,” Dillard said. “I think I joked around and said something like, ‘Who knows, maybe they’ll have me try something crazy.’ Well, here I am.” 
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Dillard clears waivers, sticks with Brewers

The Brewers announced Friday that right-hander Tim Dillard had cleared waivers and been sent outright to Triple-A Nashville. The team removed him from the 40-man roster on Wednesday to clear a spot for waiver pick-up Marco Estrada

Dillard, 26, appeared briefly for the Brewers in both 2008 and 2009 but walked 11 versus six strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings. He has struggled to translate his raw “stuff” — including a heavy, sinking fastball — into sustained big league success. 
“That may be because we’ve switched roles on him. He’s started, he’s relieved, we’ve even thought about him closing out games, which didn’t seem to work out,” Brewers assistant GM Gord Ash said. “There are players that just don’t make that transition as easily as others, and he has not made it.” 
Dillard was 11-7 with a 4.51 ERA in 24 starts at Nashville last season. He was the Brewers’ 34th round Draft pick in 2002.
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Brewers claim righty from Nationals

Based on a strong recommendation from their new Triple-A pitching coach, the Brewers on Wednesday claimed right-hander Marco Estrada off waivers from the Washington Nationals. 

To clear a spot on the full 40-man roster for Estrada, the Brewers designated right-hander Tim Dillard for assignment. 
Estrada, 26, made 15 appearances during brief stints in the Majors with Washington in 2008 and 2009 but spent most of last season at Triple-A Syracuse, where he was 9-5 with a 3.63 ERA in 25 starts and two relief appearances. His pitching coach at the end of the season was Rich Gale, who was hired by the Brewers in October to serve the same role beginning next season at Triple-A Nashville.
“Based on Rich’s recommendation, we decided to make a claim,” Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash said. “He’s not exactly young at 26, but he’s a younger guy that we had some strong reports on.”
Estrada has two Minor League options remaining. 
Dillard, also 26, appeared briefly for the Brewers in both 2008 and 2009 but walked 11 versus six strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings. He has struggled to translate his raw “stuff” — including a heavy, sinking fastball — into sustained big league success. 
“That may be because we’ve switched roles on him. He’s started, he’s relieved, we’ve even thought about him closing out games, which didn’t seem to work out,” Ash said. “There are players that just don’t make that transition as easily as others, and he has not made it. 
“Hopefully, we can work out a way to keep Dillard. If we lose him, it’s like making a trade [for Estrada] I guess.”
Dillard was 11-7 with a 4.51 ERA in 24 starts at Nashville last season. He was the Brewers’ 34th round Draft pick in 2002.
Estrada will wear uniform No. 74 from the Brewers.
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Dillard: No hard feelings about bullpen assignment

Tim Dillard is happy to be back in the big leagues, no matter his role.

The Brewers essentially passed on Dillard when they decided to pull Carlos Villanueva out of the bullpen to make Tuesday’s start against the Nationals at Miller Park. Dillard, a starter all season at Triple-A Nashville with very good results — 10-4 with a 3.66 ERA in 19 starts — said there were no hard feelings.

“I’ve been starting the whole year, but, obviously, they know what’s best for the team,” Dillard said. “‘Villa’ has been a guy who can do it all. He’s got four pitches he can throw for strikes at any one moment.”

Dillard, meanwhile, is a fastball-slider guy. His best pitch is a low 90s fastball with considerable sink.

“Dillard is kind of limited in his pitches,” said Brewers manager Ken Macha, adding
that he expected Dillard to pitch on Tuesday in relief of Villanueva. “His secondary pitches
aren’t as refined.”

The 26-year-old Dillard — he celebrated a birthday last week — had pitched exclusively as a reliever from midway through the 2007 season through the end of 2008, including 13 big-league appearances with the Brewers last year. But he was asked to convert to a starting role at the end of 2009 Spring Training.

In his most recent outing for Nashville, Dillard allowed one hit in an eight-inning complete-game shutout. Many — including Villanueva himself — expected that Dillard would be tabbed to start Tuesday.

Instead, Dillard will be in the bullpen. He was prompted from Nashville on Sunday and arrived just before game time.

“You’d rather be here [in the Major Leagues],” he said. “If this is what they want me to do, than this is what I’m going to do. I’m going to be happy doing it. No matter what my role is, I’m going to do whatever I can to help this team. It’s a good team, and I’m kind of privileged to be here, actually.”

Villanueva surprised by start

“You don’t have to be a brain surgeon,” Brewers reliever-turned-starter Carlos Villanueva just told reporters, to figure out that he could be a placeholder while team officials work behind the scenes to bolster the starting rotation ahead of Friday’s nonwaiver trade deadline.

Villanueva was the Brewers’ surprising choice to start Tuesday’s game against the Nationals after the team demoted the right-hander who had previously occupied that spot — Mike Burns — to Triple-A Nashville. For now, Villanueva, who has made his last 81 appearances in relief since making what was expected to be a permanent switch to the bullpen last May, is viewing it as a one-time assignment.

He knows that general manager Doug Melvin has been burning up the phones trying to work a sensible trade for a starter.

“I know what we’re doing. I know we’re trying to improve our team,” Villanueva said. “Whatever I can do to help [on Tuesday], I’ll be glad with that. After that, I can’t really worry about the future right now. You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to feel like if they can find a way to improve the team, it’s a possibility.

“Right now, they chose me. I’m ready for the opportunity.”

Some of Villanueva’s fellow bullpen mates told him Sunday that they read online he was a candidate to start, but Villanueva didn’t believe it. He thought manager Ken Macha was just “taking some heat” off newly-promoted righty Tim Dillard, who was 10-4 with a 3.66 ERA in 19 starts for Triple-A Nashville.

Villanueva’s tune changed on Monday afternoon, when he was summoned to Macha’s office and handed the assignment.

“Yeah, it was [a surprise],” Villanueva said. “I really thought that [Dillard] was going to start. But he called me into the office and told me I was going to go tomorrow, and I’m just thankful for the opportunity.”

Villanueva’s longest outing this season was his 56-pitch, three-inning stint against the Pirates on July 20. He has thrown one inning or fewer in 37 of his 43 appearances.

“I haven’t heard anything about a pitch count,” Villanueva said. “It’s going to be interesting to see” how deep he can work into the game.

Villanueva drew a comparison to 2007, when he made 52 of his first 53 appearances in relief before moving to the starting rotation on Sept. 4 because of injuries to Claudio Vargas and Manny Parra. In that start against the Astros, Villanueva threw 95 pitches and allowed only one run on five hits in six innings of a 7-3 Brewers win.

It’s unclear whether Macha will let him throw that many pitches on Tuesday.

“I always knew I could [start],” Villanueva said. “I was able to help out more in the bullpen last year, but with [Dave] Bush on the DL and now [Seth] McClung on the DL … I just think, ‘give me the ball.'”

In 43 games, Villanueva is 2-7 with a 6.18 ERA. He posted 15 consecutive scoreless appearances from May 5-June 6, but since then has allowed 20 earned runs in 16 2/3 innings over 17 games for a 10.80 ERA. Most of the damage in that span was done over six bad outings in which he allowed 16 earned runs in 2 2/3 innings.

“Obviously, it’s been an up-and-down season,” Villanueva said. “I’ve been staying strong, mentally. I’m feeling the same confidence in myself I’ve had every single year I’ve been here. … I think I can help the team out. I’ve helped the team out before, and it’s been disappointing not to help recently.”

You can read Macha’s comments about the decision to go with Villanueva in Cash’s blog post.

McClung to 15-day DL, Dillard up

The Brewers already needed to add a pitcher. Instead, they had one taken away.

The team placed reliever Seth McClung on the 15-day disabled list with a sprain to his surgically-repaired right elbow, announcing the move minutes before the start of Saturday’s Brewers-Braves game and a few hours after McClung underwent an MRI scan.

Two innings into the game, a spokesperson said that Triple-A right-hander Tim Dillard would take McClung’s spot. Dillard becomes a candidate to fill the Brewers’ need for a starter on Tuesday against the Nationals, though manager Ken Macha offered strong hints that he might use reliever Carlos Villanueva instead. 

“We have a number of candidates for that spot,” Macha said.

McClung, who was injured during his outing against the Braves on Friday night, isn’t one of them. His immediate concern is his elbow, the subject of Tommy John reconstructive surgery in 2003. By definition, a sprained ligament is torn, but for now it appears that surgery is not on the table.

Instead, McClung will rest the elbow until it’s pain-free.

“The timetable is on the elbow,” McClung said. “I don’t want to push back too hard. I want to be a part of this team.”

McClung felt what he termed a “weird” sensation in his elbow while pitching against the Braves and exited with two outs in the ninth inning. McClung was hurt on a change-up to Nate McLouth that sailed to the backstop, and, after throwing 10 more pitches, decided to call it a night.

He said it was the first time in his career that he walked off the field with an injury.

“[Surgery] was not brought up as a possibility for the immediate or for the season,” McClung said. “It wasn’t like that. Obviously, we talked about it because I’ve been through it before. That was my first question. … But they said we’re going to rehab it and take care of it.”

McClung has a 5.03 ERA in 36 relief appearances and two starts this season. With McClung sidelined, deposed starter Mike Burns took over long relief duties on Saturday.

Dillard is 10-4 with a 3.66 ERA in 19 starts this season for Nashville. He was converted back to a starting role after pitching as a reliever in 2007 and 2008, including 13 Brewers appearances last season.

Dillard and Villanueva are options to start Tuesday, but there’s also the possibility that general manager Doug Melvin will be able to swing a trade.

Gagne wants to "pay back" Brewers

Here are some quotes from new Brewer Eric Gagne, who returned to Maryvale Baseball Park on Wednesday as a Minor Leaguer on a mission:

“I let the team and the organization down,” said Gagne, who inked a Minor League deal with the Brewers and reported to big league camp just in time for a physical exam and Milwaukee’s first full-squad workout. “The one thing is that it’s easy to succeed, it’s hard to fail. …

“They paid me a lot of money last year and I didn’t really deliver. This is a little bit of payback.”

On being a $10 million bust last season:  “You look at your paycheck every two weeks and it’s like, ‘Man, that’s crazy what I get paid for,’ and you put pressure on yourself,” Gagne said. “I felt bad about it. I want to pitch good. I was happy with the season because we made the playoffs, but I was disappointed because I knew [general manager Doug Melvin] took a chance on me last year, he stuck his neck out. … He gets judged on all his moves, [especially] the big moves, and it didn’t work out with me.”

On whether he turned down Major League offers from other teams to wait for a better deal that never came:  “I’m not going to talk about that one,” Gagne said. “Yes and no. It was a weird offseason, let’s put it that way.”

He added: “I could have retired, but I’m not done.”

As I wrote yesterday and again this morning, Gagne has no assurances about a job and has tough competition from pitchers already on the 40-man roster. Barring injuries, I see two open spots and five 40-man guys with a shot: Jorge Julio, Todd Coffey, Eddie Morlan, Mark DiFelice and Tim Dillard.