The Milwaukee Brewers have made what is at least their first round of September call-ups prior to Monday’s game in Chicago.
As I first told you on Twitter just before 10pm on Sunday night:
— The Brewer Nation (@BrewerNation) September 1, 2014
I went on to mention how much sense it makes to have a third catcher in the month of September. Just think back to how the Brewers utilized Yorvit Torrealba, and you’ll get the idea.
In order to clear a 40-man roster spot, which I mentioned they’d need, the Brewers moved infielder Jeff Bianchi to the 60-day Disabled List.
The only other true September call-up at this point is outfielder Logan Schafer, likely recalled a day earlier than he would have been due to the uncertainty surrounding the injured wrist of Carlos Gomez. Gomez said he felt a pop in his left wrist while swinging during an at-bat in the top of the third inning on Sunday afternoon in San Francisco. He was pulled from the game after awkwardly finishing his at-bat with a bad swing.
To Schafer’s part, he’s had a whole lot full of better looking swings since getting back in a groove due to his regular playing time with Nashville. When he was demoted following the acquisition of Gerardo Parra, Schafer went back to a .236/.349/.375 slash line in Triple-A. All he’s done is get hits in 19 out of his 23 games (including eight multi-hit affairs) and raised his slash line to .273/.356/.461 which is not an insignificant increase. Schafer still brings his glove with him which he might need early.
As for the other additions made official on Monday, while Jimmy Nelson is technically a September call-up (he was only officially with the Brevard County Manatees on paper while awaiting his scheduled MLB start Monday afternoon), the Brewers otherwise activated both Matt Garza and Wei-Chung Wang off of the 15-day Disabled List.
Garza is scheduled to rejoin the Brewers starting rotation on Wednesday in Chicago. He has been out since being pulled during a brilliant start against the St. Louis Cardinals back on August 3rd after straining his left oblique. The Cardinals came back to steal that one from the Brewers prompting Garza to say that they “dodged a bullet.” Hopefully it doesn’t take Garza long to round back into that same form. The Brewers are going to need him.
The Brewers probably won’t need much from Wei-Chung Wang though. Wang has been stretching out during his rehab assignment, most recently completing the longest outing (7.2 IP) of his professional career with the Brevard County Manatees. In it, he tied a career-high with eight strikeouts, something he hadn’t done since his first appearance in 2013 in the Pirates’ system. It will be good experience for Wang to be around a pennant push, though I wouldn’t expect him to pitch maybe at all in September. They’ve got more than enough arms to cover themselves and Ron Roenicke rightfully won’t exactly trust Wang with every pitch being so crucial over the next 28 days.
The other new face in the Brewer locker room on Monday is expected to be relief pitcher Jonathan Broxton whom the Brewers officially acquired from the Cincinnati Reds just after noon on Sunday. For more on that deal, check my write-up here as well as my short interview with Broxton’s agent.
A few funny things have happened on the way to June.
While the Brewers have been slogging through a seesaw month of May (two and six in their first eight, five and one in the next six, one and five in the six after that, five and two in the most recent seven games entering play on May 31st), they’ve tinkered and toyed with some things that we simply wouldn’t see — because we haven’t — in recent history.
First, the Brewers posted their May 24th lineup and it featured a major change. After a day off to rest his tweaked oblique, rightfielder Ryan Braun was back in the lineup but he was hitting second. It’s a move that sabermetricians would love as there is plenty of statistical evidence that the second spot in the lineup is the most efficient and productive spot for your “best” hitter. Braun and his offensive brethren would falter in that game from a run production standpoint as they would only score once despite 11 hits. (It was Braun that scored the run, for what it’s worth.) But this would not be a one day trial that manager Ron Roenicke would abandon due to lackluster results in the columns of R or W.
Roenicke explained his thoughts after the game, more or less, and confirmed that this was the plan for a while. Truth be told, it started in phases even though that might not have been by design. Season-long leadoff hitter Carlos Gomez needed a day off two days earlier on May 22. It was that day that Roenicke moved Jean Segura up to lead off for Milwaukee. Segura responded by going 3-for-5 with two runs scored in a loss to Atlanta. When Gomez returend on May 23, Roenicke left Segura at the top and inserted the powerful Gomez in the cleanup position. That was seen as a reaction to Braun being out and moving Jonathan Lucroy up to Braun’s customary third spot. It was seen as a blip and scarcely even mentioned let alone thought deeply about. Then Braun returned on May 24 and Segura, Lucroy and Gomez held their positions as Braun slid in at number two.
The offense has been on a tear since that 22nd of May, tying a franchise record with at least 10 hits in 10 straight games. All this has happened without Aramis Ramirez, and it’s almost June 1, which we collectively know as Aramis Ramirez Day. If he comes back (scheduled for Wednesday in Minnesota and likely DHing) and doesn’t take long to warm up, the offense could really make a splash early in the second third of the season.
But there is more going on than just a significant lineup change.
On that same May 24 in Miami, the Brewers outrighted Jeff Bianchi to Triple-A Nashville after he cleared waivers. Bianchi, who is out of options, has been outrighted off of a 40-man roster before in his career and therefore had the right to refuse this assignment thereby electing free agency. He eventually decided to stay, but the point here is that there was more going on than simply swapping one utility infielder for another (they called up Irving Falu, but you know that).
The Brewers of the recent past would not risk losing an asset, even one grossly underperforming as was Bianchi, by outrighting them. This is a front office displaying more of a sense of urgency than even they themselves did this off-season by signing Matt Garza and bolstering a rotation that many assumed they’d just fill in house with five readily identified arms.
That they were willing to shake up their lineup, one that had been struggling to score runs shortly beforehand, and outright Bianchi at all speaks to the team’s desire to sustain their position atop the National League Central. They are not going to stand idly by, subscribing to the Ned Yost School of Thought that once infamously and dismissively reminded worriers that his Brewers were “still in first place”.
No. These Brewers, while still in first place, were seeing a once large lead begin diminshing as perennial division rivals the St. Louis Cardinals began to find their stride a bit while the Brewers scuffled. Their lead was down to 1.5 games as recently as May 27. Milwaukee is certainly striding right at the moment as they’ve won their last three with St. Louis losing its last three and the division lead entering play on the last day of May was back up to 4.0 full games.
Complacency and status quo are not seemingly in the toolbox of the 2014 Milwaukee Brewers. Kudos to them for yet another day alone in first place (where they’ve been since April 9) but more so they deserve accolades and attention for not just thinking that was good enough.
What’s more? They aren’t necessarily done.
They could consider changes in their first base platoon, including dumping the defensively solid but weak-sticked Lyle Overbay. They could juggle their bullpen pieces a bit which they’ll have to do when Tom Gorzelanny is ready but there’s certainly room for more if they desire. They could certainly continue to tweak their bench and bring in a more powerful option their the currently versatile yet light-hitting duo of Falu and Elian Herrera. And if someone doesn’t perform in that rotation or if they need to use a piece to get a piece elsewhere, they could make the decision to go with Jimmy Nelson at some point.
The bottom line is that if they decide to stand pat this season it won’t be due to a lack of want to change nor will it be due to any apprehension thereof. This is a front office that not only sees the benefits in making moves, but certainly won’t be lured in by making a change for the sake of change.
It’s a different feeling than we’re used to as fans over recent history, but it’s certainly a welcome one.
Following his season debut (5.2 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 6 K), spot starter Jimmy Nelson was optioned back down to the minor leagues. As I said on Twitter at the time, it was an exciting glimpse at a piece of the Brewers future.
Nelson had a number of high leverage moments in his start and got through them all with high marks.
In his place, the Brewers filled their opening on the 40-man roster and strengthened their bench by purchasing the contract of infielder Irving Falu from their Triple-A affiliate, the Nashville Sounds. Falu fills the open spot on the Brewers’ 40-man roster that was vacated when utility man Jeff Bianchi was outrighted to Nashville following Saturday’s game in Miami.
Falu, 30, will join the Brewers as they arrive home following their season-long 10-game road trip. He brings with him a .280/.342/.333 slash line in 38 games for the Sounds. He has also appeared in 14 games defensively at shortstop, including 12 starts. That’s a key note because when the Brewers decided to outright Bianchi to Nashville, they did so knowing that they preferred a replacement who could help fill the void as a backup defenseman, especially at the crucial position of shortstop. Falu is skilled at second base and third base as well, once again providing quality versatility.
(For more on Falu’s background, check out his “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers” entry from Spring Training.)
Like Elian Herrera who has also been tapped more than once this season in no small part because of his defensive versatility, Falu is a switch-hitter. Unlike Herrera, Falu’s career handedness splits aren’t as drastic at all. In 2014 for Nashville to this point though, he’s slashing .314/.386/.392 as a right-handed hitter but only .259/.315/.296 as a left-handed hitter.
Still, Falu should be capable of proving a nice boost off the bench where Bianchi had been faltering of late. It remains to be seen exactly how Ron Roenicke orders his defensive depth chart, but the Brewers field manager is on record as liking the game of Falu who was one of the final players cut in Spring Training.
Hopefully he performs better and more consistently than did his predecessor.
Jimmy Nelson will be officially recalled to make his season debut for the Milwaukee Brewers before Sunday’s series finale in Miami. That much we knew since yesterday.
What needed to happen though was a player being removed from the 25-man roster one way or another to make room.
Here’s what we found out after the game on Saturday…
— The Brewer Nation (@BrewerNation) May 24, 2014
Jeff Bianchi has been outrighted off of a 40-man roster before in his career and why that matters is that he has the right to refuse the assignment thereby becoming a free agent. The Brewers have expressed a desire to keep Bianchi in the organization, but he has said that he’ll talk things over with his agent before making a decision.
Bianchi was originally acquired by the Brewers on January 11, 2012 via waiver claim from the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs had claimed Bianchi on December 9, 2011 from the Kansas City Royals, his original organization.
For the foreseeable future, it looks like the Brewers will retain switch-hitting utility man Elian Herrera as their primary backup at the key shortstop position. Herrera can play all three outfield spots, third base, and second base as well.
We’re on the precipice of Opening Day, but there are still some decisions awaiting the front office staff of the Milwaukee Brewers.
Most pressing, if not most important, is how they will construct the 25-man roster to begin the 2014 regular season. In this, they’ve got some options.
Let’s assume a couple of things off the top here. First, a standard 13 hitter, 12 pitcher roster split. Second, that we’re all aware that things will change throughout the season and plenty of the players who don’t make the Opening Day roster will don a Brewers uniform at some point in 2014.
I’ll lay out the different roster groupings and then explain what went into my decisions thereafter. Cool?
With that, to the list!
Starting Pitchers (5)
- Yovani Gallardo
- Kyle Lohse
- Marco Estrada
- Matt Garza
- Wily Peralta
I did my best educated guess at the order here too. It was announced that Gallardo has Opening Day honors and that Lohse will follow in Game 2. It was also hinted that Garza could pitch the opener in Boston, but that isn’t for sure yet…at least not publicly. Couple that with how well Estrada has pitched and he’s the superior choice against Atlanta in Game 3 than is Peralta.
The wrinkle here is that the Brewers have the opportunity to start the season with four starters because of the off-days scheduled. They don’t need a fifth starting pitcher until mid-April. If they do that, Peralta would start with Nashville to stay on rotation.
Relief Pitchers (7)
(with one more starting on DL)
- Jim Henderson
- Francisco Rodriguez
- Will Smith*
- Brandon Kintzler
- Wei-Chung Wang*
- Rob Wooten
- Alfredo Figaro (Alternative: Tyler Thornburg)
- Tom Gorzelanny* (DL)
Henderson is the incumbent closer. Rodriguez was brought in on a MLB deal and has the longest track record out of any of the options. Smith has been great this spring after being acquired in trade. Kintzler was very good last year and has a spot locked up. Wang makes it in part because of how well he’s thrown but also because of the Rule V circumstances. Wooten pitched well enough in his time last year that he gets one of my “open” jobs. He’s certainly in a fungible position, though, as he’s got minor league options remaining.
For the final active spot, I’m going with Alfredo Figaro. I know that Tyler Thornburg is under consideration for that job, but I think that they’ll realize that he’s more valuable staying stretched out at Nashville in order to cover the inevitable first injury to the starting rotation than he is in pitching at best every other day in Milwaukee as the long man. Figaro filled the long relief role admirably last year as his stuff played up out of the bullpen.
Wooten, Figaro, and Thornburg all have at least one minor league option remaining so there’s no real consideration of roster depth when making any decisions concering the three. And I think we’ll be seeing all of them pitch at Miller Park in 2014 at one point or another.
As for non-roster invitee Zach Duke, I think that the Brewers have liked what they’ve seen but with Wang making good (so far), there really isn’t room for Duke to begin the season. The veteran lefty is on a minor-league deal, so most likely he’ll simply be assigned to Nashville to start.
- Jonathan Lucroy
- Martin Maldonado
They’re the only two on the 40-man and that’s because they’re the two best in the organization. Nothing more needs to be said here.
- Mark Reynolds
- Rickie Weeks
- Jean Segura
- Aramis Ramirez
- Juan Francisco** (Alternative: Lyle Overbay)
- Scooter Gennett**
- Jeff Bianchi (Alternative: Elian Herrera)
Reynolds was signed to a minor-league deal for roster considerations at the time. He’s got a job. Weeks is the longest-tenured player in the organization right now and isn’t moveable (yet). Segura and Ramirez are obvious inclusions. Gennett comes along if they go with two second basemen, which has been the hottest talk of late.
Despite all the talk to the contrary lately, I still think that if they must choose between them, Francisco’s potential, relative youth, power, and increased patience this spring outweight Overbay’s veteran savvy, locker room presence, and far superior defense. That said, I can absolutely see a scenario in which they trade Francisco for an asset and keep Overbay. Maybe I’m projecting Francisco simply out of hope.
The other hotly contested job has been the utility infielder role. Jeff Bianchi filled the role last year with middling success. The biggest challenger to Bianchi’s incumbency has been the 40-man rostered Elian Herrera, who was claimed off waivers from the Los Angeles Dodgers over the winter. They’ve both hit, they both have defensive versatility. The differences that matter: Bianchi is a better defender at shortstop. Herrera is a much more natural outfielder (which is big when you’ve only got four rostered). Herrera is a switch hitter. Bianchi is out of options; Herrera has one remaining. It is that last point that I think will be the deciding factor. Herrera will start at Nashville and would absolutley be the first man called upon should an injury befall any infielder on the big league roster.
For the record: Should they decide that they can forego two second basemen to start the year to even the roster out a bit a more, I think Herrera would make the club over a fifth true outfielder.
- Khris Davis
- Carlos Gomez
- Ryan Braun
- Logan Schafer**
Another easy prediction. Schafer could see some time starting in left field, but as the only man on the projected roster that can backup centerfield, he’ll likely be providing coverage from the bench more often than not.
* - Throws left-handed ** - Bats left-handed ---
So there you have it.
I welcome feedback and want to hear your opinions. Do you agree? Disagree? Think I’m overlooking an important detail or better player? Look down there…a “Comments” section.
TWO WEEKS! You’re officially allowed to start freaking out, if you haven’t done so already. It’s so close that we can almost taste it. It’s certainly close enough to feel, despite the reluctance of Mother Nature to loosen her icy grip on the nation’s heartland. Thankfully, with Miller Park’s roof and heating system, they’re able to raise the “inside” temperature roughly 30 degrees over outside temps.
So even though it might be cold in two weeks, the thoughts of tailgating and baseball should keep us warm through the balance of the month of March.
Not worried about Wisconsin’s weather — at least not yet — is the man who’s been wearing number 14 during the warm Cactus League season…
Jeffrey Thomas Bianchi is a 5’11” infielder who was originally drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 2nd round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft. In other words, this is a guy who’s carried quite a bit of expectation with him throughout his professional career. I outlined his injury troubles last year which helps to explain his delay in debut and his limited successes since then, but he’s been fairly injury prone throughout.
That includes 2013. Bianchi was asked to play in the 2013 World Baseball Classic on behalf of Team Italy but was unable to participate after an early groin injury and a resultant bout of hip bursitis. It was a shame too, as Team Italy was a the surprise of the tournament and could have used the man slated to be their starting shortstop.
Bianchi rehabbd throughout much of the month of April and made his season debut after finally being activated from the DL on May 2. The Pennsylvania native contributed a little bit at the plate and offered some necessarily defensive flexibility, even covering 5.1 innings in left field over parts of three games.
The situation for 2014 though is something of a different set of circumstances. Bianchi is being challenged by a couple of different players who are new to the organization. Both Elian Herrera and Irving Falu have been playing a bit of round robin with Bianchi this spring, covering innings at second base, third base, shortstop and the outfield. And while Bianchi is limited as best in the outfield, Elian Herrera has been playing centerfield as well as the corners.
Herrera has been hitting well (.296/.367/.556) this spring and is more versatile overall in the field, but for his part Bianchi has hit too (.310/.355/.448 at time of posting) and is the best defensively at shortstop of the three.
In a perfect situation the Brewers would be able to structure the 25-man roster such that they can keep both Bianchi and Herrera. However, the roster pinch that exists due to the desire to keep two first basemen and possibly two second basemen could severly hamstring the Brewers’ ability to maximize the flexibility on their bench. The pain could be eased by optioning Scooter Gennett to Triple-A to start the season, but that’s reliant on Rickie Weeks proving he’s worthy of another chance at holding down the every day job at the keystone.
But we’re not here for that discussion. All that Jeff Bianchi can do is try to excell in the areas he can control. He can’t control how Herrera, Falu, Weeks, Gennett, or anyone else plays. He can only perform to the best of his ability and hope that, coupled with his track record of dependability, that’s enough.
The clock is ticking, though, and a decision looms.
Miss anyone along the way? Catch up on the Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers profiles to this point:
- #15 Caleb Gindl
- #16 Aramis Ramirez
- #18 Khris Davis
- #20 Jonathan Lucroy
- #21 Juan Francisco
- #22 Matt Garza
- #23 Rickie Weeks
- #24 Lyle Overbay
- #25 Hunter Morris
- #26 Kyle Lohse
- #27 Carlos Gomez
- #29 Jim Henderson
- #30 Tyler Thornburg
- #32 Tom Gorzelanny
- #38 Wily Peralta
- #40 Johnny Hellweg
- #41 Marco Estrada
- #45 Alfredo Figaro
- #46 Hiram Burgos
- #47 Rob Wooten
- #49 Yovani Gallardo
- #50 José De La Torre
- #51 Wei-Chung Wang
- #52 Jimmy Nelson
- #53 Brandon Kintzler
- #54 Michael Blazek
- #58 Ariel Peña
- #59 Zach Duke
- #60 Kevin Shackelford
- #61 Jason Rogers
- #63 Brooks Hall
- #64 Mike Fiers
- #65 Irving Falu
- #66 Robinzon Diaz
- BONUS COLUMN: #77 David Goforth, #76 Kevin Mattison, #75 Mitch Haniger, #74 Michael Olmstead, #73 Kentrail Davis, #72 Cameron Garfield, #71 Adam Weisenburger, #70 Dustin Molleken, #67 Eugenio Velez
BREWERS ON DECK, PRESENTED BY TIME WARNER CABLE, TO INCLUDE OVER 50 PLAYERS, COACHES, BROADCASTERS & ALUMNI
Free Admission to All Fans in 2014; Food Donations Accepted through Hunger Task Force
Nearly thirty Milwaukee Brewers players plus a host of alumni, coaches, front office executives and broadcasters are scheduled to participate in Brewers On Deck, presented by Time Warner Cable, which is set to take place on Sunday, January 26 from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. at the Wisconsin Center.
Admission to this year’s Brewers On Deck is free of charge. Tickets are not required for the event. Food donations will be accepted through the Hunger Task Force (peanut butter is requested by the Hunger Task Force, in particular). Donations can be dropped off at two main entrances to the Wisconsin Center, located at 4th Street and Wisconsin Avenue, and 4th Street and Wells Street. Players, coaches and alumni scheduled to attend include (all subject to change):
- Jeff Bianchi
- Michael Blazek
- Ryan Braun
- Hiram Burgos
- Khris Davis
- Marco Estrada
- Mike Fiers
- Yovani Gallardo
- Scooter Gennett
- Caleb Gindl
- Tom Gorzelanny
- Brooks Hall
- Sean Halton
- Donovan Hand
- Johnny Hellweg
- Jim Henderson
- Elian Herrera
- Brandon Kintzler
- Kyle Lohse
- Jonathan Lucroy
- Hunter Morris
- Jimmy Nelson
- Mark Reynolds
- Jason Rogers
- Logan Schafer
- Jean Segura
- Kevin Shackelford
- Will Smith
- Tyler Thornburg
- Rob Wooten
- Craig Counsell
- Rollie Fingers
- Jim Gantner
- Larry Hisle
- Geoff Jenkins
- Gorman Thomas
- Robin Yount
- Ron Roenicke
- Joe Crawford
- Mike Guerrero
- Marcus Hanel
- Garth Iorg
- Rick Kranitz
- Johnny Narron
- Ed Sedar
- John Shelby
- Lee Tunnell
- Jerry Augustine
- Dave Nelson
- Bob Uecker
Brewers On Deck will feature a number of activities for the entire family. Autographs and photos from Brewers players, coaches and alumni; interactive games in the Kids Area; Q&A sessions and game shows with Brewers players, coaches and broadcasters; vendor booths with baseball memorabilia; Brewers Community Foundation’s Treasure Hunt and many other activities will all be a part of Brewers On Deck.
Details regarding autographs include the following: Recipients of “PREMIER” autographs (players to be announced next week) will be chosen through a random selection process. Each fan in attendance will receive one Premier Entry sheet which may be redeemed at the Random Selection area outside the Main Exhibit Hall of the Wisconsin Center District. The Premier Entry sheet will be exchanged for a numbered coupon to be entered into the random selection process for any one of the select Brewers players. Coupon distribution will be available at 8 a.m. the day of the event and will continue up to an hour before each designated autograph session. There is no cost for coupons to enter the random selection process; however, those holding winning coupons must pay $10 at the respective autograph stage to collect their player signature. There will be 250 winners for each of the autograph sessions. The winning ticket numbers will be posted at the designated autograph stage no less than 30 minutes prior to each player’s session.
Players and staff not included in the PREMIER autograph list will not use the random selection process. Each of these players will sign 250 autographs at prices ranging from free to $10. A schedule of players, their session times, and distribution info will be posted next week. The autograph opportunities are for signatures on photo cards provided by the team; the Brewers cannot guarantee that any player will sign other memorabilia. For additional information, visit Brewers.com/ondeck.
Autograph proceeds benefit Brewers Community Foundation. Please note that cash is the only acceptable form of payment for autographs. The Brewers cannot guarantee that any player will sign other memorabilia, and personalization of items is solely up to the discretion of each player.
Fans also have the opportunity to enter to win autographs from their favorite players via a #BrewersOnDeck Vine & Instagram contest, which runs through Monday, January 20. The details can be found here: http://brewers.mlblogs.com/2014/01/07/win-an-autograph-from-your-favorite-brewers-player-at-brewers-on-deck/