Tagged: Jeff Bianchi

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers – #14 Jeff Bianchi

BBtJN Logo

Two weeks.

Fourteen days.

Roughly 336 hours.

It’ll be Opening Day before we know it and as such we need to begin to finalize our preparations. The Brewers have begun doing so as they announced a cut today. As a result, I have one less profile to write, though you can still expect something with two days to go.

JeffBianchi

Today though we are 14 days away from Opening Day and April 1st and I am profiling…

Jeff Bianchi.

The story of Jeffrey Thomas Bianchi (pronounced: “be-YAIN-kee”) is all too common in baseball. Good defender, capable bat, flashes of power, could reach the show with some luck … … injury derailment, setbacks, releases, second chance, third chance.

Bianchi has had a host of injuries throughout his professional career after being selected in the second round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft out of high school by the Kansas City Royals. Bianchi was no slouch. He was a capable shortstop defensively with projectability to being a plus defender who should have hit enough to contribute at the plate as well. He was set back though at different times. He had relatively minor injuries along the way like an ankle and a hamstring all the way to major surgeries including shoulder surgery in 2006 and Tommy John surgery in 2010. Add to that a groin strain this spring as a Brewer, but even without it you could argue that he’s more than just “unlucky” at this point.

Yes, the story is the same though the particulars often change. In short, not everybody who “should” reach the Major Leagues even comes close let alone reaches The Show.

The final chapter is usually one of “retired due to injury”. Normally a chapter in a prospect’s novel isn’t “Persevered and eventually realized the goal of reaching the big leagues”, but that’s exactly what happened with Bianchi.

First though, let’s go over how the Brewers even got him in the first place. Bianchi was designated for assignment by the Royals at the end of November in 2011 and was, at the time, claimed by the Chicago Cubs. A month later though, the Cubs needed the 40-man roster spot and exposed Bianchi to waivers once again. This time he reached the Brewers who were awarded his services in January of 2012. The Brewers snuck Bianchi through an outrighting which allowed them to keep his services but remove him from the 40-man roster. That happened in mid-March.

Bianchi, then on a minor-league deal, had his contract purchased by the Brewers over the All-Star break last year. He was hitting .305 for the Triple-A Nashville Sounds at the time of his promotion. What made even more sense about the move at the time was how poorly the other options at shortstop had played for the Brewers after Alex Gonzalez went down with his season-ending ACL tear.

After coming in and not safely reaching base once in his first 12 plate appearances, Bianchi was optioned back to the minors on July 26th. Bianchi would yo-yo twice in August before finally settling in for the rest of the year. He played solid defense but only hit .188/.230/.348 in his admittedly small sample size of 76 plate appearances. He walked just four times and struck out 13 times, but was able to hit three home runs and drive in nine runs.

Bianchi is now out of options. It remains to be seen how the bench will shake out, especially since Bianchi has missed as much time as he has this spring. He’s only received 17 turns at the plate in Cactus League action and, for what it’s worth, is hitting .235/.235/.471 in them. If Bianchi heads north with the Brewers in 10 days it will likely be more for his still developing defensive versatility. A natural shortstop, Bianchi played both second and third last season. His primary competition so far this spring for that role have been Donnie Murphy (who plays the same defensive positions) and, to a lesser extent, Taylor Green who does not play shortstop but very well could be platooning over at first base primarily until Corey Hart returns from off-season knee surgery.

He’s shown throughout his minor-league career that he’s got talent, but for Bianchi to contribute the way that this team needs him to, he’ll have to be plus defensively and hold his own in pinch-hitting situations. Something tells me that Bianchi has the leg up on Murphy as he’s already on the 40-man roster plus Murphy isn’t exactly wowing with the bat right now either.

The days are running out for someone to separate himself from the other. Then again, as the non-roster invitee, the burden really is on Murphy to outperform Bianchi. If all things are equal, the Brewers would have no reason to expose Bianchi to waivers to clear a 40-man roster spot for Murphy. Not that you would want to win a job that way, but a job’s a job.

For Bianchi though the biggest hindrance is his missed time. He needs to round into form soon though in order to be relied on by Ron Roenicke come April 1st.

If there’s anything that Bianchi ha’s proven at all, it’s that he’ll stick with it.

Miss anyone along the way? Catch up on the Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers profiles to this point:

Brewers Now Sending Fifteen to World Baseball Classic

teamcanada

In news he broke himself on Twitter yesterday, Brewers starting pitching prospect Nick Bucci told the world that he had been asked to join Team Canada after one of their originally selected pitchers had to bow out due to injury.

This presented a bit of a quandary last night because I thought I recalled there being a maximum of 14 players from any one franchise who could be used by teams in the World Baseball Classic. As I reported back in January, the Brewers were at 14.

I was then reminded that the limit is a soft one in that every player beyond 14 who is asked to participate in the WBC may do so with the blessing of their ballclub.

Here then is the updated list of Brewers’ employees who will be representing for their countries during the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

Team USA (2)

  • Ryan Braun*
  • Jonathan Lucroy* (Twitter: @JLucroy20)

Team Mexico (2)

  • Yovani Gallardo*
  • Marco Estrada*

Team Canada (5)

Team Puerto Rico (2)

Team Dominican Republic (1)

Team Italy (1)

  • Jeff Bianchi*

Team Netherlands (1)

Team Australia (1)

*-active MLB player as of 8/31/2012

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Brewers Agree Again With Gonzalez

seabassKen Rosenthal of FOXSports.com has learned that the Milwaukee Brewers have an agreement in place to re-sign veteran shortstop Alex Gonzalez.

You may recall that Gonzalez was inked to be the club’s starting shortstop for 2012 but suffered a season-ending knee injury in early May.

The two sides have been linked all winter because the Brewers obviously like what he brings to the club (or else they wouldn’t have signed him a year ago) but the sticking point was that Gonzalez wanted a starting job if he could find one.

Apparently he wasn’t able to and agreed to a one-year deal to back up now-incumbent shortstop Jean Segura.

The positives for the Brewers are two-fold. First, he provides a proven option should Segura struggle and end up needing a break or demotion for any length of time.

Also, it’s certainly palatable from a financial perspective as Rosenthal tweeted:

That’s a good deal for the money and so long as it doesn’t result in a major stunting of the growth of Segura, which it won’t as many members of the Brewers decision-makers have told us all winter, then I’m happy to welcome Gonzalez back. Furthermore, I can’t imagine that Gonzalez returned to Milwaukee for that small a dollar amount if he was expecting to be the everyday shortstop.

Welcome back, Sea Bass!

This signing will necessitate a 40-man roster move and could have significant impact on the composition of the 25-man roster. Jeff Bianchi, Bobby Crosby and Donnie Murphy won’t exactly be at the forefront anymore, especially with the need to carry a competent backup 1B due to Corey Hart’s injury.

This signing will also not be made official until Gonzalez passes a physical, but I’m told privately that the Brewers want two opinions on Gonzalez’ knee before the contract gets signed. Though given how assistant GM Gord Ash said that Gonzalez was doing so well toward the end of last season that they were considering activating Gonzalez, I’d think that probably a formality.

Early reaction on Twitter came from Brewers pitcher Chris Narveson:

And later from Brewers starting catcher Jonathan Lucroy:

Fourteen Brewers Listed on Provisional World Baseball Classic Rosters

2013wbcThe World Baseball Classic provisional rosters were announced this afternoon live on MLB Network. They’re provisional because rosters don’t lock until February 20th but these are the names that you can expect to see playing in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. Pool play begins on March 2nd.

Among those members of the Brewers organization who are participating are nine players who were active on a 25-man roster as of 8/31/2012. The limit from each organization is 10. The overall limit is 14 players from each franchise.

Brewers players will represent seven countries (and Puerto Rico) in the international tournament which began in 2006, was played again in 2009 and now falls into its every-four-years format.

Without further ado, here are the participants along with the team they’ll be representing in 2013.

Team USA (2)

  • Ryan Braun*
  • Jonathan Lucroy* (Twitter: @JLucroy20)

Team Mexico (2)

  • Yovani Gallardo*
  • Marco Estrada*

Team Canada (4)

Team Puerto Rico (2)

Team Dominican Republic (1)

Team Italy (1)

  • Jeff Bianchi*

Team Netherlands (1)

Team Australia (1)

*-active MLB player as of 8/31/2012

Official Release: Brewers On Deck To Feature Over 50 Players, Coaches

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Thirty-two current Milwaukee Brewers players from the 40-man roster plus a host of alumni, Minor League prospects, coaches, front office executives and broadcasters are scheduled to participate in Brewers On Deck, which is set to take place Sunday, January 27 from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. at the Delta Center.  The event is presented by Time Warner Cable.

Brewers On Deck is the annual Fan Fest that bridges the gap between winter and Spring Training.  Players, coaches and alumni scheduled to attend include the following (all subject to change):

PLAYERS

COACHES

  • Ron Roenicke
  • Joe Crawford
  • Marcus Hanel (@Markoos55)
  • Garth Iorg
  • Rick Kranitz
  • Jerry Narron
  • Johnny Narron
  • Ed Sedar
  • John Shelby
  • Lee Tunnell

MINORS

ALUMNI

  • Jerry Augustine (@jaugie46)
  • Jim Gantner
  • Larry Hisle
  • Gorman Thomas
  • Bob Uecker

Tickets for Brewers On Deck are currently on sale.  Advance tickets are $15 for adults and $9 for children ages 14 and under. Tickets may be purchased at the Miller Park ticket office, by calling the Brewers Ticket office at 414-902-4000, or online at Brewers.com/ondeck. On the day of the event, only cash will be accepted for purchases made at the door.  Tickets the day of the event are $20 for adults and $15 for children 14 and under.

Brewers On Deck will feature a number of activities for the entire family.  Autographs and photos from Brewers players and coaches, interactive games in the Kids Area, Q&A sessions and game shows with coaches, players and staff, vendor booths with baseball memorabilia, the Brewers Community Foundation Treasure Hunt and many other activities will all be a part of Brewers On Deck.

The same system for autographs will be used for Brewers On Deck that was used last year.  Recipients of any “PREMIER” autographs (players to be announced at a later date) will be chosen through a random selection process. Numbered coupons to be entered into the random selection process will be available the day of the event only and will be distributed beginning at 8 a.m. at the Delta Center. Coupon distribution will be available up to an hour before each designated autograph session. A schedule of players, their session times, and distribution info will be posted later this month.

Fans can receive one coupon per event admission ticket and can use that coupon to enter the random selection process for any one of the select Brewers players. There is no cost for coupons to enter the random selection process; however, those holding coupons that are chosen must pay $25 at the respective autograph stage to collect their player signature. There will be 250 winners for each of the PREMIER autograph sessions.

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. 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 regarding the lottery process, visit Brewers.com/ondeck.

All 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.

If The Season Started Tomorrow…

It’s the final day of 2012.

This was a year which saw the Milwaukee Brewers attempt (unsuccessfully) to defend a division championship for the first time since 1983. It was the first time that the Brewers featured their very own defending league Most Valuable Player since 1990. They entered the season with an intact rotation which used the fewest different arms (6) to make all 162 starts. Arguably the league’s most fearsome bullpen back-end was returning as well with only a couple of key veterans taking jobs elsewhere. And sure, Prince Fielder followed the money to Detroit but this was going to be Mat Gamel’s breakout year and Aramis Ramirez would pick up most of the slack…at least once May rolled around, he would.

Alas, we all know how things turned out in 2012 so I shan’t recap the trials, tribulations, trade, and triumphs that resulted in 83 victories a year after winning a franchise-record 96 games.

No, for this column we look forward. We look forward to 2013. We look forward to P&C. We look much too far forward to Opening Day with this set of projections.

If the season started tomorrow, the following things would be true:

  • I’d be extremely happy that I wouldn’t have to still be counting down to Opening Day (91 days as of this writing).
  • I’d be extremely cold while tailgating outside of Miller Park for a few hours on my wife’s birthday.
  • I’d have failed miserably in posting my season preview “Brewers By the Jersey Numbers” articles.

But really, I’m posting today to take a look at how the current roster stacks up and what I think a 25-man roster would look like when the games started counting.

dougmelvinI gotta tell you all that I would normally not make this projection for quite some time but with Doug Melvin’s declaration that they were “coming to the end” of acquiring free agents (or however he exactly worded it), chances are the majority of options at the team’s disposal today are going to be the same options they are presented with in 43 days when Pitchers and Catchers officially report.

Of course, and it should go without needing to be said, a ton can change between now and then anyway despite appearances. Somebody could be traded. Somebody could be signed as a veteran backup where currently only inexperience resides. Somebody could injure themselves in a pickup basketball game. Et cetera. But if we accounted for every “if” that we could, nobody would ever project anything. That’s simply not much fun.

Assuming everyone is through rehab successfully, here is how my 25-man roster would look if the season started tomorrow. (Players listed alphabetically within their position group.)

Starting Pitchers (5)

  • Marco Estrada
  • Mike Fiers
  • Yovani Gallardo
  • Chris Narveson*
  • Mark Rogers

Gallardo

I know what you’re thinking. “Free Wily Peralta!” I agree that he’s likely one of the best five options available to fill a spot in the rotation but based on the necessary evil of depth maintenance and with respect to the rules on minor league options, this just feels like the rotation that will head north from Arizona. Gallardo is a lock. Estrada was mentioned more than once this off-season as having an advantage in the competition. (He also isn’t hurt by the fact that his manager really likes his pitching.) Fiers did more than enough throughout most the season to be given a shot from the get. After adding two left-handed relievers to the bullpen, sticking Narveson in there doesn’t make sense anymore (if it ever did). Rogers is out of options and I really want to see him get a shot to contribute as a starting pitcher. He won’t make it through waivers to Nashville. Peralta has options remaining and that’s what this should come down to. Don’t doubt for a minute though that if Fiers struggles for a few starts early and it appears that the end of 2012 was due to being “figured out” more so than simply fatigue, he’ll be optioned down to Nashville in favor of the young Dominican.

Tyler Thornburg will get a look this spring but I feel like they don’t want to mess with him as a reliever this year at all. They’ll give him a full season starting in Triple-A. Hopefully with the regular and steady work he was used to, he’ll be able to avoid the arm fatigue that slowed his development in 2012. Hiram Burgos, just added to the 40-man roster, should also pitch in games in big league camp to start the spring, but after skyrocketing through the system this year, he’ll be in Nashville’s rotation when camp breaks.

Relief Pitchers (7)

  • John Axford (Closer)
  • Burke Badenhop
  • Mike Gonzalez*
  • Tom Gorzelanny*
  • Jim Henderson
  • Brandon Kintzler
  • Michael Olmsted

axfordaction

One open spot for competition. Many feel that the aforementioned Peralta should be in the rotation and that either Narveson or Rogers will become the default long reliever as a effect. For me, the final spot in the ‘pen will come down to one of the recent high-ceiling additions which Melvin and his staff have picked up this off-season. If I had my druthers, Michael Olmsted gets first crack at it. Spring Training performance might dictate that he isn’t ready for the jump over Triple-A, and this might be specifically adjusted in March, but based on minor league numbers, projectability, and stuff, Olmsted appears to be at the top of the influx of opportunity-seekers. Olmsted is already on the 40-man roster too, something that would come into play should someone like a Jairo Asencio continue to impress.

Last year’s swingman Josh Stinson has an option remaining so he’ll head to the minors. Likewise Miguel De Los Santos. One other note, as of this posting the Mike Gonzalez deal still hadn’t been made official. When it is, someone must come off the 40-man roster. I think that will be Fautino De Los Santos. So, if he’s even still with the organization, he’ll be tucked away in the minors to begin the year.

Catchers (2)

  • Jonathan Lucroy
  • Martin Maldonado

lucroy-bunting

Need there be a lengthy explanation? How’s this: no other catchers on the 40-man; these two played very well all year (when healthy); next best options coming to camp are Blake Lalli and Dayton Buller. Next!

Infielders (7)

  • Jeff Bianchi
  • Mat Gamel**
  • Corey Hart
  • Donnie Murphy
  • Aramis Ramirez
  • Jean Segura
  • Rickie Weeks

segura

A “traditional” roster usually consists of six infielders and five outfielders. I’ve split this roster differently for a couple of reasons though. First, Mat Gamel and Jeff Bianchi are both out of minor league options. Bianchi performed okay last year in his first big league action, but really what the Brewers will be holding onto is depth at shortstop. Sure, they wouldn’t have to add Donnie Murphy to the 40-man roster at all and could just stash him in the minors to begin the year but he is the superior defender to Bianchi and can more capably cover defensively at the hot corner. Furthermore, the team has made no secret of the designs to have Gamel play in the corner outfield spots this spring along with Corey Hart’s obvious ability to fill in should an emergency arise.

Taylor Green will once again be the victim of circumstance, but he is more valuable to the organization playing everyday anyway even if that’s at Nashville. He can stay ready at the plate and be called upon if an injury creates a need.

Outfielders (4)

  • Norichika Aoki**
  • Ryan Braun
  • Carlos Gomez
  • Logan Schafer**

braunaction

To elaborate a bit on my point from above, Logan Schafer can play all three defensive outfield positions very well. He can take over for any of the regulars when they need a day off and can be utilized in double-switches late in games. It’d be the same way that the Brewers played the majority of 2012 defensively once Hart moved to first base. Assuming that day’s starting outfield was Braun-Gomez-Aoki, Nyjer Morgan was the only “true” outfielder remaining on the roster. Schafer can do more than Morgan could defensively and still brings at least as much at the plate from the same left side.

For the record, if the Brewers did decide to carry five outfielders, I’d guess that Murphy would begin the season in the minors for depth and the extra outfielder would be Caleb Gindl. This seven IFs and four OFs configuration can work, though, with the proper personnel. The Brewers would have that group in 2013 should they choose to go that route. I would.

Opening Day Lineup

  1. Rickie Weeks
  2. Norichika Aoki
  3. Ryan Braun
  4. Aramis Ramirez
  5. Corey Hart
  6. Jonathan Lucroy
  7. Carlos Gomez
  8. Jean Segura
  9. Yovani Gallardo

On Opening Day I foresee manager Ron Roenicke looking to do a couple of things with his lineup. I think he’d like to have Weeks back up near the top and despite how Aoki performed so well while leading off in 2012 I think he’ll play the same card he did once he moved Weeks down the lineup last year to justify the order I have listed. You may recall that on days when Carlos Gomez started in center, Aoki batted second because Aoki handled the bat better to move the leadoff hitter over should he reach base. When Morgan started in center Roenicke felt that Aoki’s patience resulted in a better chance to get on base for the rest of the lineup. As we know, despite typically low batting averages, Weeks gets on base. His .350 career OBP is 99 points higher than his career batting average and only .005 lower than what Aoki did in his rookie season. What’s more, despite the struggles Weeks had for a majority of 2012, he still managed to walk 74 times (and reached based 13 more times after being hit by a pitch).

That being the situation near the top, I think it affords Roenicke the opportunity to begin with Gomez further down the order where he won’t hurt the Brewers early on in the season should he regress from last year’s breakout. If Gomez proves that 2012 is the baseline going forward then Roenicke will have a good problem with which to deal.

Segura is still young, still growing into his skills and performed well enough in the oft-dreaded “spot before the pitcher” that he could flourish there to begin the year. His winter league numbers are also encouraging regardless of the competition level. If he can develop more patience, he’ll be contributing plenty out of the 8th spot all season.

* - Throws left-handed
** - Bats left-handed

So that’s how I see things shaking out if the season started tomorrow.

And you?

All Five Brewers Home Runs Hit on Sunday, September 2, 2012

So, I’m not entirely sure why only the Braun video shows up as watchable directly on the page, but you can link directly to the other individual clips by clicking on the images.

Ryan Braun – First Inning, 3-Run Blast off the NYCE Club

Jeff Bianchi – Second Inning, Solo Shot; The second home run of his career

Rickie Weeks – Second Inning, 2-Run Bomb off the scoreboard

Carlos Gomez – Third Inning, 2-Run Rope to left

Yovani Gallardo – Fourth Inning, Solo Shot; 10th Career Home Run as a pitcher makes him the Brewers franchise leader

Brewers Release Randy Wolf

The Milwaukee Brewers have announced that they have released veteran pitcher Randy Wolf today.

Wolf, 36, amassed a 3-10 record this season while posting the worst ERA of his career (5.69), a full two runs higher than a season ago.

Signing with the Brewers as a free agent in December of 2009, Wolf couldn’t last the full three years of the guaranteed portion of his contract.

Over the course of his tenure as a Brewers starting pitcher, Wolf was 29-32 with a 4.37 ERA in 92 games (91 starts). His ERA+ finished at 92 despite a career-worst 73 in 2012.

The Brewers did have a $10 million club option on Wolf’s contract for 2013 with a small $1.5 million buyout that won’t have much of an impact at all.

While many figured Wolf’s days in the Cream City were numbered, everyone thought that he’d have until the end of the season. Especially after talk that current rotation members Mike Fiers and Mark Rogers might need to be shut down at some point before the season ends, it was assumed (or perhaps resigned to) that the veteran stalwart Wolf would continue to throw.

The Brewers do have a couple of arms they need to see this September as they look to the future at that position, including Wily Peralta and a hopefully rejuvenated Tyler Thornburg. Also with the return from injury by Shaun Marcum, a spot had to be opened up in the rotation and manager Ron Roenicke told the media yesterday that they aren’t ready to shut down Fiers or Rogers just yet.

As for Wolf, as mentioned earlier, he is now 36 years old and will be coming off the worst season of his career. While that’s hardly uncommon at 36, one has to begin to wonder how much more time he’ll have in a big league uniform…at the very least as a starting pitcher.

Regardless as to his professional future, Randy Wolf is a tremendous man and teammate. Brewers fans will hopefully recall his contributions last season fondly.

As the additional piece of news in today’s transactions, infielder Jeff Bianchi was recalled from Triple-A Nashville. The Brewers have been playing a hitter short for a while.

How I’d Have the Brewers Finish Up the Season – Guest Blog

It’s been quite a while since someone wrote on the blog here other than me, the primary author. This was submitted by my podcast co-host for your enjoyment back near the beginning of August. My crazy schedule led to my forgetting to get it posted until now.

With that said, certain information is “as of writing” and should be taken as such (i.e. Izturis wasn’t yet traded).

By: Cary Kostka

The Brewers were selling in the days leading up the non-waiver trade deadline sending us all on a “what now” path for the rest of this season, as well as what to look for next season. Although this is largely seen as a step backwards for the organization, I see this as an opportunity for the team to be better down the road.

The Brewers have the next couple of months to evaluate their current roster and newly acquired players, and like most Brewer fans I have my own theory as to how the next couple of months should play out.

I broke it down into the following categories: starting pitching, bullpen, catching, infield, and outfield.

Starting Pitching:

The injuries we have seen over the course of the season have given us long looks at Marco Estrada and Mike Fiers, as well as a touch of Tyler Thornburg mixed in.

The Brewers acquired a couple of arms in the Zack Greinke deal, and a bullpen arm in the George Kottaras deal. But what will the rotation look like for now?

Below I have two rotations: one for August, and one for September. You will notice that the September rotation has six pitchers listed. This is not a mistake on my part…I see a 6 man September rotation as a great way to take a look at some additional young arms. With Shaun Marcum’s impending free agency and Randy Wolf’s option possibly not being picked up, the make-up of the 2013 rotation is in the air.

So, here are my projected rotations (not in any particular order) for the rest of 2012.

August rotation: Yovani Gallardo, Wolf, Estrada, Fiers, Marcum/Mark Rogers.

Marcum is still a question mark at this point, and him being moved to the 60-day DL means that he will not be available until the last third of August. He has been feeling good in simulated outings, so I would imagine he would be back in time for a late August start.

September rotation: Gallardo, Wolf, Marcum, Estrada, Fiers, Rogers/Wily Peralta.

Go to a 6-man rotation in September, and in the 6th spot, alternate starts between Peralta and Rogers. Peralta has been pitching much better lately for Nashville (5-2, 3.06 ERA in his last 10 starts).

With his arm fatigue, Thornburg would be best served spending September on the bench or in limited bullpen duty.

Bullpen:

What a thorn in the side of the 2012 season this bunch turned out to be. Let’s face it; the bullpen was a heaping load of mediocrity this year.

Try to deal K-Rod if you can…if not, park him at the ass end of the bullpen. I think John Axford will be fine, and a new bullpen coach will help here. The loss of veterans LaTroy Hawkins and Takashi Saito hurt him this year, as he leaned on both of them for advice and instruction (Hawkins in particular).

Below is how the roles should shake out for both August and September.

August:

Closer: Axford and Jim Henderson. Keep throwing Ax out there, but let Henderson continue to get work in as a closer.
Setup/General Relief: Whatever the situation dictates.
Lefty Specialist: Manny Parra Longman/mop-up: Livan Hernandez

September:

Same as August, except you add Rogers and Peralta to the bullpen mix when they are between starts. Park K-Rod and Hernandez on the bench, and let’s see what our newly acquired arms (Pena, Hellweg, and De Los Santos) can do. Thornburg could help here as well, but that depends on how his arm is responding to rest. I’d like to see how Rogers would do in the setup role.

Catchers:

Ok, so this one is easy.

Lucroy is back, but I say split his playing time with Maldonado 60/40. Catchers are the baseball equivalent to NFL running backs; they have short shelf lives due to constant wear and tear. There is no sense in “using up” Lucroy in a non-playoff season. Also, this gives Maldonado a great chance to continue his growth. This pair will be one of the best catching tandems in baseball next season.

Infield:

Corey Hart is here to stay as our first baseman at least for this season. With Aramis Ramirez entrenched at third, the big questions arise in the middle of the infield.

Rickie Weeks has had just shy of two months of production this year, and shortstop had been ok defensively but a black hole in the lineup, sans Cody Ransom’s innate ability to seemingly make every one of his few and far between hits a game changer.

My thoughts on this are to send Izturis packing…he is not a long term option, and the team would be better off if newly acquired Jean Segura was promoted and started. Jeff Bianchi would be called up on September 1st, and would see some time at short as well.

At second, we’re basically stuck. Would the team be able to find a place on the 25-man roster for Eric Farris? I’d like to see what he’s got, though he projects as more of a backup type player. I would like to see Taylor Green get more playing time to get a better feel for what he is capable of, or not capable of doing. I feel this is something the team needs to know going into next season.

Mat Gamel will be a question mark next season, and if Green shows he can hit, 1B could be a little less of a question mark in spring training, and would allow the team to confidently move Hart back to right. Hart has done pretty well at first, but next season will be the final year of his contract. It would be good to know our other options at that first.

I have heard speculation about giving Green more time at second, but that would be a mistake given his concrete boot like range at second.

Travis Ishikawa maintains his current role on the team.

Outfield:

Trade or waive Nyjer Morgan. He does not have a place on this team at all. I would much rather see Caleb Gindl or Logan Schafer get some MLB trigger time.

Ryan Braun is a lock in left (duh).

The mechanical adjustments Carlos Gomez made recently have upped his game to a new level. Make him the sole starter in center and see where this takes him.

Norichika Aoki has played great and is a lock in right. Call up Gindl as a reserve outfielder, as he has logged double digit games in all three OF spots. Schafer gets the call up on September 1st.

So, Brewer Nation, what say you?

Summary of Today’s Official Brewers News

The Brewers are acutely aware that the next nine games have major implications to not only the remainder the 2012 regular season but also potential impact on the direction of the franchise to a degree.

Decision Day is rapidly approaching as  I laid out several days ago.

To this end, the team is taking this stretch of games very seriously.

First, despite Thursday of this week being the final day of the All-Star break the Brewers organized a full-squad workout instead. They are making the most of the opportunity to no doubt review the fundamental aspects of the game which at times seem to be forgotten in the heat of the moment. From not remembering the count at the plate to not remembering how many outs there are when playing defense, from breaking from second on a ground ball hit in front of you to not hitting the cut-off man on a throw home, from not picking up your coaches while running the bases to missing a sign and being caught unaware.

The list could go on but that it could belies the problem. There is a lot to refresh.

Therefore, it is great news  because it shows that the org recognizes how important a strong second half start is. If you go even 5-4 over the next nine games, you may as well sell. Even going 6-3 probably relies on the other teams in front of the Brewers losing more than three in the same span.

Making a push is easier when you have better players (or at least players more capable of contributing) on your roster making that push.

We already knew back on Sunday that Taylor Green had been optioned to Triple-A Nashville in order to get some playing time and restart his bat but we didn’t know who would be coming up other than that manager Ron Roenicke had said it would be a bat. I guessed Eric Farris because I figured they’d want a right-handed hitter for the infield and Farris was already a member of the 40-man roster.

I was right about the right-handedness and the infielder parts, but wrong about who was coming.

Jeff Bianchi, a shortstop hitting .305 for the Sounds at the time of his promotion, had his contract selected instead. It makes sense that they would take a chance on Bianchi (said “be-YAIN-key”) because if he can contribute at the big league level he could solidify the position for next year.

Bianchi is a former top prospect in the Kansas City Royals’ system but his career was waylaid by some significant injuries. It will be interesting to see if he’s got what it takes.

But, Bianchi’s promotion required a opening be made on the 40-man roster. That was accomplished when Tim Dillard was outrighted to Nashville. Dillard, who has been outrighted off of a 40-man roster before, has the right to refuse the assignment and become a free agent. That decision is Dillard’s alone to make and no word has been released to that end yet.

Outrighting Dillard opened a spot on the 40-man but it also opened another spot on the 25-man roster and in the bullpen.

Taking that spot? Well that would be none other than Tyler Thornburg who has been recalled from Nashville following a sore wrist and one start (a Win) at that level.

Whew! Doug Melvin certainly knows how to keep things busy during the two of the slowest days in the sports calendar all year. Last year it was the post-All-Star Game acquisition of Francisco Rodriguez. This year a trio of interconnected moves to help the Brewers make one final mini-push before decisions simply MUST be made.

Will this year work like last year? Only time will tell.

But instead of waiting until September to find out we’ve only got but nine games in 10 days to wonder.