Tagged: Mat Gamel

Winter Meetings Preview: Milwaukee Brewers

2012-Winter-Meetings-logoThe Winter Meetings aren’t officially underway just yet as I sit down to give my keyboard a workout this evening, but the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee is set and baseball executives from across North America have checked into their rooms and have no doubt begun to follow up on things begun prior to departing for Music City.

Doug Melvin is there (along with his entourage) and has had plenty to say about what he expects out of the 2012 Winter Meetings. With appreciation to the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel for the quotes themselves, I’ll be laying out some things Melvin said and analyzing what I think they mean for the Brewers heading through the rest of the off-season.

Before I do that, let’s recap the basics about what educated fans know already about the Brewers and their needs.


John AxfordThe bullpen was bad in 2012. In fact, it underperformed so incredibly that it alone could be labeled as a singular reason that the team failed to reach the postseason. Just a handful of losses flipped to wins and the Brewers would have had that opportunity to face the Braves in the first-ever National League Wild Card Game.

As a result of their collective struggles, the bullpen has been basically gutted. Gone are multi-year Brewers like Kameron Loe, Francisco Rodriguez, Tim Dillard, Mike McClendon, and Manny Parra. Along with them, first-year tryouts for Jose Veras and Livan Hernandez ended in free agency. Even short-term fixes like Vinnie Chulk came and went. The only guys left who pitched in the big league bullpen to end the regular season and are still a part of this organization are likely closer John Axford, likely setup man Jim Henderson, and the finally healthy Brandon Kintzler.

As we all know, the Brewers did announce a trade acquisition on Saturday when they dealt a minor-league outfielder for established relief pitcher Burke Badenhop. That addition still leaves three jobs to be filled. FoxSports.com’s Jon Morosi already tweeted earlier this evening about one of those open roles:

Just some names to know.

Starting Pitching

Yovani GallardoThe Brewers got good performances for the most part from the men who took the ball every fifth day during the year but there is a lot of flux possible in what was left at the end.

A return of all five starting pitchers from the 2011 NLCS team was seen as a rarity, not to mention that the Brewers only used six starting pitchers all that season. Now? Randy Wolf was released, Shaun Marcum is a free agent, Zack Greinke was traded, and Chris Narveson is coming off of shoulder surgery.

That’s the stuff of how question marks are made.

Yovani Gallardo is set to return atop the rotation but after that hasn’t yet been decided. As it stands right now, the Brewers have probably six arms vying for the open four spots in the rotation. Mike Fiers, Marco Estrada, Chris Narveson, Wily Peralta, Mark Rogers and, to a lesser extent in my opinion, Tyler Thornburg.

Doug Melvin has mentioned a couple of free agent starters by name this off-season already (Edwin Jackson and Ryan Dempster, for the record) but had some commentary on that front as well.


ryan-braunWhile the starting offense can be returned completely intact, the bench will need addressing and a couple of decisions need to be made.

Will Jean Segura begin the season as the starting everyday shortstop in Milwaukee or in the aforementioned city of Nashville as he gets a bit more seasoning in Triple-A? Who will take over as the backup infielders after the Brewers burned through a number of MLB veterans during 2012? Travis Ishikawa is gone, Alex Gonzalez is a free agent after being hurt most of the season, Mat Gamel should be healthy but missed a ton of at-bats and doesn’t really have a job at this point…and that’s just the infield.

In the outfield, Nyjer Morgan was released and Logan Schafer seems incredibly obvious to become the fourth outfielder with Milwaukee. After that, though, will they carry a fifth outfielder? If so, who will it be?

About the only spot on the field where there isn’t a question is behind the plate. Jonathan Lucroy and Martin Maldonado are healthy and coming off of strong seasons.

Excuse whilst I knock on some wood.

Okay. With that, let’s get to those quotes from Melvin.

dougmelvinThe big quote is one about payroll. After setting a franchise record in 2012 with a payroll north of $100 million, the Brewers finished in the red, meaning that they actually lost money this year. (Part of that is because the fans didn’t show up quite as well as they had budgeted for, but wins bring attendance.)

Melvin said, “(The payroll is) coming down. We’ll probably look at (an opening payroll) of $80 million or thereabouts. We want to keep flexibility in case players become available.”

In other words, despite a large chunk of money coming off the books there should be no expectation of a dollar-for-dollar reassignment. That could limit how much the Brewers can do in free agency but it will almost certainly limit the magnitude of what the Brewers can do.

That assumes that Melvin sticks to his initial words, but more on that in a bit.

Melvin was clear in that the Brewers don’t plan to get involved on high-end (in terms of years or dollars) relief pitchers.

“We’re not looking at those kinds of guys. We’d probably be reluctant to go three years with anybody. We might have to do two. David Riske was our last three-year deal for a reliever. That didn’t work out,” said Melvin.

Would left-handed reliever Sean Burnett be a pipe-dream then? Burnett had to debunk a rumor that he was seeking a four-year deal but that doesn’t mean he isn’t looking for three.

The starting rotation was mentioned earlier and was brought up to Melvin as well. He stated that with how the contracts worked out with Jeff Suppan and Randy Wolf that the Brewers “wouldn’t go three years with a starter. You look at those contracts and they don’t usually work out. Look at all the free-agent players who have been traded the last few years. Free agency gets people excited, but it’s not as effective as people would like to think.”

Does that mean that following a report which I linked to on Twitter the other day that the Brewers are taking themselves out of the market for the aforementioned Jackson and Dempster, both of whom are believed to be seeking deals of a minimum three years? Perhaps.

Melvin stated that the Brewers will probably go with some of their younger players in the rotation but that he understands the dangers of trusting a small sample size.

josh hamiltonAs for the offense, Melvin admitted (as reported in this space) that contact was made between him and Josh Hamilton’s agent Michael Moye, but Melvin also said that, “I don’t see (a big-ticket signing) happening. If it does, we’d have to be creative with something.”

Melvin added, “You never know how those things work out. I never thought we’d be able to get Aramis Ramirez last year (for what they signed him for). Things change. If major things happen, you have to be prepared to act quickly.”

In other words, Melvin is reminding everyone that you simply can’t use definitives when discussing transactions in Major Leage Baseball. Or, to go the cliched route…Never say never.

Finally, for the bench, Melvin said that they’re in the market “mostly for depth.” He stated that they “may have to go with some of our younger guys” but that “it’s always nice to have an experienced bat on the bench.”

And since a lot of you have reached out via social media as to why I haven’t pass along many rumors in the last few days, Melvin confirmed that he has made no offers to any free agents yet and, as of the time he said so out loud, he didn’t have any serious trade talks going either.

Then again, he’s in Nashville now at the Winter Meetings. It’s made for just those kinds of things.

Stay tuned all week for reaction and analysis to anything and everything that I hear or read related to the Brewers. I’ll pass it along just as soon as I can.

My suggestion? If you aren’t on Twitter or you are and don’t follow me @BrewerNation…now’s one of the best times of the year to take the plunge. I can’t always blog right away but tweeting is much easier to do on the fly.

Hot Stove Report: On The Move?

Let me start this particular Hot Stove Report by saying that I don’t expect them to be occurring quite this often. Normally there’d still be a couple of weeks until a lot starts happening, but for a number of reasons conversations that would be taking place at the Winter Meetings, for example, have taken place earlier this year; well initial conversations anyway.

The first pair of Hot Stove Reports (an unintended “series” name, I guess) which I posted were about players who would be coming to Milwaukee had anything gotten farther along than it currently was at the time I learned of them. (Ricky Nolasco is said to be staying in Miami now while LaTroy Hawkins is still on vacation as of the time I’m writing this.) However, today’s report deals with a current member of the Brewers roster who would be on the move elsewhere.

Here’s what I know…

The Brewers were contacted about the availability of a particular player by a particular team (yes, I’ll name them in a couple of paragraphs) which makes sense for a few of reasons among which are:

  1. The player is blocked.
  2. The player is no longer “prospect” age.
  3. The player is out of options.
  4. The player has talent but hasn’t been able to realize it here. (“Change of scenery” candidate.)
  5. The player has some versatility, though that would need to be polished.

The team which did the calling matches up as a trade partner for this player for a handful of reasons which include:

  1. They could use a potential 1B/corner OF bat.
  2. They can make use of the Designated Hitter to get this player additional at-bats.
  3. The player and the team’s GM are familiar with each other.
  4. The team’s organizational depth is pitching which the Brewers need.

Have you guessed the sides yet?

They are none other than Mat Gamel and Jack Zduriencik’s Seattle Mariners.

Gamel, a 2005 draft pick of the Brewers while Zduriencik was Milwaukee’s Director of Scouting, has had a star-crossed career with the Milwaukee Brewers. He’s been hurt, he’s lied to the front office about being hurt, he’s been out of shape, he wasn’t properly committed to his craft by many accounts, but when he finally got an opportunity with a clear end goal things began to come together.

Tabbed as the Opening Day first baseman for 2012, Gamel appeared to have finally reached the end of a long road and the beginning of another. He hit okay to begin the year and was fielding his position capably when disaster struck him again. Chasing after a foul pop fly, Gamel tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, requiring surgery and resulting in an end to his season.

Normally, you’d think “Rehab, and get back in there next season”, especially given that the closest prospect with a chance to maybe take over at first base was still down in Double-A and hadn’t really gotten on many radars just yet. We know what happened though.

Corey Hart shifted to first, a move Hart previously was on record as saying he was against, and performed surprisingly well defensively while maintaining his usual offensive output. Manager Ron Roenicke said after the season that he preferred to keep Hart at first base full-time going forward. That presents a problem as Gamel has shown throughout his career that he needs consistent playing time in order to hit.

Enter the Mariners. Zduriencik knows Gamel. He was at the heart of picking Gamel in the amateur draft seven years ago. It makes sense that he could still believe in Gamel’s potential at the plate. It is also no secret that the Mariners lack impact bats in the upper levels of their farm system. They could do well with acquiring a guy who could contribute something right away who also is still pre-arbitration, therefore inexpensive, and with multiple years of team control. (Gamel is currently able to become a free agent following the 2017 season.)

And given the need of the Brewers in acquiring pitching, it could be a perfect match if it advances beyond where it stood over the weekend. Gamel needs a chance to play and the Brewers don’t have the opportunity any more to offer one to him.

That being said, the Brewers do need a capable left-handed power bat off the bench which Gamel certainly could be should they retain him. Roenicke would simply have to come up with a way to keep Gamel ready to contribute at the plate.

Thoughts? Would you be willing to move Mat Gamel if pitching was in the return?


See Previous Hot Stove Reports:

Transactions for Monday, October 29, 2012

The following transactions have been officially announced by the Milwaukee Brewers today:

  • Mat Gamel has been reinstated from the 60-Day Disabled List
  • Chris Narveson has been reinstated from the 60-Day Disabled List
  • Alex Gonzalez has been reinstated from the 60-Day Disabled List
  • Alex Gonzalez has elected free agency
  • Francisco Rodriguez has elected free agency
  • Shaun Marcum has elected free agency
  • UPDATE: Infielder Hector Gomez* has signed a minor league contract with an invite to major league Spring Training

No free agent can sign with a new team until this coming Saturday (November 3rd) at the earliest.

If any other official transactions take place today, this space will be updated with the information.

* – Hector Gomez was outrighted off the the Brewers 40-man roster on October 19th.

Transactions – Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Just in case you missed the announcements when they officially came out this afternoon, the following roster moves took place today…

RHP Livan Hernandez and C Yorvit Torrealba have refused outright assignments to Triple-A Nashville (which is their right with their respective statuses as MLB veterans) and elected free agency.

RHP Jesus Sanchez, a relief pitcher, had his contract selected from Triple-A Nashville and was thereby added to the 40-man roster. Sanchez would have been exposed in the upcoming Rule V Draft had he not been added to the 40-man roster.

With these three moves, the Brewers’ 40-man roster stands at 37. Remember too that Mat Gamel and Chris Narveson will need to be reinstated from the 60-day disabled list at some point. Also, should the club decide to exercise its option on Alex Gonzalez he too would need one if those currently open spots.

Decision Day is Drawing Nigh for the 2012 Milwaukee Brewers

At the close of play today, Thursday, July 5th, the Milwaukee Brewers sit with a record of 38-44, 8.0 games behind the National League Central Divison-leading Pittsburgh Pirates.

It’s a far cry from where the Brewers were a year ago at this time, and at times it feels like this year’s incarnation will never accomplish anything.

While this may prove to be true in the end, at least as far as a playoff participation is concerned, there is still plenty of time left this year to simply enjoy the game of baseball if nothing else.

Then again, there is still a small window of opportunity in front of the Brewers. Between now and Monday, July 23rd is a stretch of 12 regular-season games (along with the MLB All-Star break) which will decide how busy general manager Doug Melvin’s phone will be and whether he’ll be making calls or receiving them.

This stretch is singularly key to the Brewers decision-makers because all 12 games are intradivisional along with the final nine of those games coming against the three teams in front of them in the Division.

The three games prior to the break are in Houston, against an Astros team that traded off one of its only offensive pieces. Those are extremely winnable games, especially given that Yovani Gallardo and Zack Greinke will be pitching in the series.

The nine games immediately following the break begin with six at Miller Park (a place where the Brewers seriously need to play more consistent baseball) against the Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals, and then three on the road in Cincinnati against the Reds.

The Brewers trail the Cardinals by 5.5 games, the Reds by 6.5 games and, as I mentioned earlier, the Pirates by 8.0 games. So, while the Brewers would be hard-pressed to overtake any of the teams during this stretch, even should they somehow go 12-0, one can see the importance here.

Should the Brewers continue to falter and lose, the front office will be left with little choice but to sell off valuable pieces to the highest bidders. As we discussed on the podcast recorded Thursday morning (which hopefully will be posted soon), those pieces should include Shaun Marcum, George Kottaras, Nyjer Morgan, Francisco Rodriguez, Cesar Izturis, and even Zack Greinke (assuming the team is as far away on a contract offer as it appears that they are). Furthermore, should a team approach the Brewers with an acceptable offer for any expendable member of the Brewers roster, that deal should be made.

Nobody in the locker room wants the team to sell. They enjoy this group and want to maintain it, if at all possible. That just simply can’t happen if they have no chance of winning though.

Now, some may say that after the injuries to Chris Narveson, Mat Gamel and Alex Gonzalez that the team never had a chance, but that’s beside the point.

The point being: if the team can gain some significant ground on the teams ahead of them in the Division, and they do so by showing some consistent play in all facets of the game, the front office would likely try to add to the roster and make a push.

Nobody is saying that this scenario doesn’t seem like a tremendous long shot, but as of today at least its a shot that’s available to take.

Bottom line: Pay attention, Brewer Nation. A decision will be made by Monday, July 23rd as to whether this team buys or sells before the July 31st non-waiver trading deadline. Trust me, either way there will be plenty of time to make one or more deals, regardless of the direction of the roster.

Also, either way, it’ll be an exciting time to pay attention to the team. Just make sure you haven’t checked out by then.

Milwaukee Brewers Uniform Number History: #24

Wondering who wore a certain uniform number all-time for the Milwaukee Brewers?

The Brewer Nation has got you covered. If you found this list on its own, head back here for the full repository after checking out this one.


Lew Krausse (’71)
Ken Brett (’72)
Ben Oglivie (’78-’86)
Darryl Hamilton (’90-’95)
Chuck Carr (’96-’97)
Darrin Jackson (’97-’98)
Alex Ochoa (’99)
James Mouton (’00-’01)
John Vander Wal (’03)
Chris Magruder (’04-’05)
Kevin Mench (’06-’07)
Mat Gamel (’08-’12)
Lyle Overbay (’14)
Adam Lind (’15)
Andy Wilkins (’16-Current)

Opinion Poll: Who Should Start for the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday?

After a mild winter, the experts claimed that Wisconsin would see an increase in the number of insects that nobody likes this summer. Mosquitos, black flies, those annoying orange lady bugs. What the experts didn’t tell us in Milwaukee was that the injury bug would be the most prevalent before the calendar even turned to June.

The Brewers have now lost three starters (Chris Narveson, Mat Gamel, Alex Gonzalez) to injuries that, barring a quick recovery by the two surgically-repaired ACLs, will cost them the balance of the 2012 season. They’ve lost games by other players both on the Disabled List but already back (Carlos Gomez), not to the DL but just missed a few games (Rickie Weeks, Ryan Braun, and maybe Aramis Ramirez after getting drilled in the elbow last night), and finally two more players that have gone down to the DL over the past two games (Cesar Izturis, Marco Estrada) that were filling in for guys lost for the year.

The shortstop position has been a mess. The team claimed 36-year-old Cody Ransom off of waivers from the Arizona Diamondbacks to replace Edwin Maysonet on the roster, but after Izturis’ hamstring injury Maysonet is coming back up to, presumably, backup Ransom now. There really isn’t much more that General Manager Doug Melvin can do about the shortstop position right now.

What he does have some options at, however, is what this post is here to discuss.

Melvin announced through the media that he expected recently-injured starting pitcher Marco Estrada to miss “three or four starts”. The diagnosis since then is that Estrada could miss “4-6 weeks” which of course is a lot more than four starts.

Given that Melvin has options, I took to social media and asked who my followers and friends would like to see fill Estrada’s void. This was asked when we were under the assumption of “three to four starts”, but I’m not sure that Estrada being out longer would affect the answers much.

Here now are the answers, ordered by the number of mentions the player received:

Total Votes: 51

Manny Parra: 13
Wily Peralta: 9
Tyler Thornburg: 8
Roy Oswalt: 7
Anyone but Manny Parra: 4
Michael Fiers: 3
(the rest of the list is presented alphabetically by last name since they’re all tied with 1 vote)
Brian Baker
Teddy Higuera
Brooks Kieschnick
Jonathan Lucroy (with George Kottaras catching)
Jason Marquis
Kevin Millwood (via trade)

Obviously some people went for a humorous response (Higuera, Chorizo, Kieschnick), and I’m sorry to inform seven of you that Roy Oswalt isn’t coming to a team in the Brewers current state (record and otherwise).

The beat writers seem to think that Ron Roenicke is backing off of Manny Parra as an option, and that Parra will likely remain in the bullpen, but he got the most votes here. Also, assistant GM Gord Ash made comments that while Thornburg is “in the discussion”, his likelihood of getting chosen is low because he’s not on the 40-man roster already and that must be a consideration.

But, seeing the list here, do you agree? Who would you vote for if you haven’t already?

Or is this the guy you want on the mound on Tuesday?

Series In Review: Brewers Fall Short of First Four-Game Wrigley Sweep

The Brewers hit the road following their brief three-game season-opening homestand. They headed south on Interstate 94 to Chicago to take on the Cubs in a four game series which, because it’s Chicago, meant two evening games and two day afternoon games.

The Crew took the first three games in the series and looked good heading into an opportunity for their first ever four-game sweep of the Cubs at Wrigley Field. They fell painfully short of that goal, but more on that later.

The fact is that in a venue where the 96-win 2011 Brewers only won two games all year, leaving town with three notches on the bedpost is certainly an acceptable outcome.

For more on each game’s individual happenings, read on!

Game 1 – Monday – Brewers (1-2): 7, Cubs (1-2): 5

Winning Pitcher: Shaun Marcum (1-0, 4.50) Losing Pitcher: Shawn Camp (0-1, 7.36)
Save: John Axford (1)

In the opening tilt of the series, the Brewers not only scored early (RBI sac fly by Aramis Ramirez, plating Nyjer Morgan), but often (scoring runs in six of their nine frames).

In a nice blend of small ball and…big ball, I guess…the Brewers got a solo home run from Rickie Weeks in the third and RBI extra-base hits from Mat Gamel (triple) in the sixth inning and Ramirez (double) in the Brewers’ next frame. Milwaukee also picked up RBIs by way of both a safety and suicide squeeze, and a pair of sacrifice flies.

The only real point of concern came in the bottom of the ninth when, sporting a 7-3 lead and with closer John Axford having just thrown 27 pitches the night before, manager Ron Roenicke called on Manny Parra to finish out the game.

Parra allowed a leadoff double and was lifted for Tim Dillard once the left-handed hitters were done. Dillard walked Geovany Soto which forced Roenicke’s hand.

Axford entered the game and allowed his first batter faced to single home a run on Parra’s linescore. With men at second and third and only one out, Axford struck out David DeJesus but then walked Darwin Barney to load the bases.

In a beautifully-called and executed sequence, Axford then struck out Starlin Castro on three pitches to end the game.

Game 2 – Tuesday – Brewers (2-2): 7, Cubs (1-3): 4

Winning Pitcher: Chris Narveson (1-0, 3.60) Losing Pitcher: Paul Maholm (0-1, 13.50)
Save: Francisco Rodriguez (1)

A cold night in the Windy City saw a team of (mostly) hooded men residing in the first base dugout.

The hoods designed to keep a player’s head and neck warm could also be pulled up to cover the face while running the bases, and the sight of so many of the Brewers wearing them caused many fans to invoke a “ninja” theme to the evening’s events.

It was a mostly fitting description for the early part of the game as the Brewers struck blows to the Cubs starting pitcher repeatedly. The loudest blow of the night for Milwaukee came from the first hitter in the batting order to plays sans shroud, Alex Gonzalez. He made plenty of noise by blasting a three-run home run into the left-center field bleachers, capping the scoring at five for the frame.

The ninja thing might have been a perfect description if not for the fact that Corey Hart and Mat Gamel were both hit by pitches in the first inning. After all, ninjas are supposed to be incredibly stealthy and therefore shouldn’t be able to be plunked.

Or something.

The Cubs were never really in this game, though they did cut the lead to three runs in the third inning.

There was more ninth inning drama as well. The Brewers once again put a four-run lead up against the Cubs final three outs and put a non-closer on the bump to begin the ninth.

After Kameron Loe had pitched two mostly brilliant innings of scoreless relief, Jose Veras was given the first chance to slam the door but hung a curveball to Geovany Soto which was blasted into the stands for a home run. After striking out the scuffling Marlon Byrd, Veras walked the pinch-hitting Bryan LaHair.

The situation now being a three-run lead with the tying run in the on-deck circle made it a Save opportunity. With John Axford having thrown over 50 pitches over the previous two days, manager Ron Roenicke had decided prior to the game that the Ax Man was off limits tonight. Roenicke walked to the mound and signaled for a right-hander to enter the game.

Francisco Rodriguez jogged to the mound looking to record his first Save as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers.

K-Rod needed just seven pitches to get through the final two hitters. He secured Chris Narveson’s first Win of the year by striking out David DeJesus and inducing Darwin Barney to ground out to Alex Gonzalez.

The Brewers had just guaranteed themselves no worse than a series split, but had eyes for more.

Game 3 – Wednesday – Brewers (3-2): 2, Cubs (1-4): 1

Winning Pitcher: Yovani Gallardo (1-1, 5.91) Losing Pitcher: Ryan Dempster (0-1, 1.88)
Save: John Axford (2)

Yovani Gallardo’s start on Opening Day was brutal. (You can click here for that recap.) A lot of people were questioning the staff ace and his abilities, which is ridiculous but they were, and were looking for a bounce-back start against the Cubs.

Gallardo delivered.

Going seven strong innings, only allowing one run (earned) while scattering five hits and two walks, he struck out six Cubs hitters on the day. He shaved nearly nine runs off of his ERA (early season small sample sizes are fun!), nearly a point and a half off of his WHIP, and thousands of doubters off his back about his admittedly rough start five days earlier.

Nearly exceeding his performance, however, was Cub starter Ryan Dempster. He too pitched on Opening Day for Chicago, but with much better personal results than Gallardo achieved. Dempster made it to the seventh scoreless, but allowed a one-out, two-run home run to George Kottaras which proved to be the difference in the game.

Gallardo was set to be pinch-hit for had Kottaras not come through, but instead he came back out in the bottom of the seventh and worked himself into and out of the only substantial Cub threat of the afternoon.

The eighth and ninth were by design after that, with both Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford striking out the side around two walks and one double, respectively.

Having hoisted the L flag atop Wrigley for the third consecutive game, the Brewers looked to do what they had never done before…

Sweep a four-game set from the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Game 4 – Thursday – Brewers (4-2): 0, Cubs (1-5): 8

Winning Pitcher: Matt Garza (1-0, 1.23) Losing Pitcher: Zack Greinke (1-1, 6.75)

When you head into the final game of a series with a chance to sweep that series, and you have one of the best pitchers on your staff starting, you feel pretty good about your chances that day. So, too, did the Brewers with Zack Greinke toeing the rubber on Thursday afternoon.

In a confluence of recent and unfortunate trends, however, Greinke pitched during the day and on the road. While coincidental at best, neither of those situations was particularly friendly to Greinke last season. (For the record: Greinke’s Win-Loss record was good during the day last year, but we all know how much that actually reflects his performance.)

Regardless of the circumstances, Greinke seemed out of sorts the entire day. He barely touched speeds with his fastball that he usually sits comfortably at. He normally sits 94-95, touches 97, but on Thursday he was sitting 91-92 and his high watermark only rounded up to 95. PitchFX information had Greinke topping out at 94.9 MPH, while averaging 92.64. (Those figures were quoted to me by mutual Twitter follow Jaymes Langrehr of the Disciples of Uecker blog. You can follow him on Twitter: @JaymesL.)

The second half of the Brewers pair of aces could only muster 3.2 innings pitched on Thursday afternoon, and he was charged with eight earned runs before it was all said and done. That was a far cry from his seven shutout innings against the St. Louis Cardinals five days prior.

The highlights of the game for the Brewers would be that two relief pitchers, who had been previously roughed up a couple of times, posted multiple, scoreless innings in relief of Greinke. Manny Parra took over in the fourth inning and pitched through the sixth, striking out four along the way while walking none. Tim Dillard then covered the seventh and eighth, also walking no one. Each relief pitcher allowed two hits while working.

Otherwise, Matt Garza simply had his way with every Brewer hitter not named Nyjer Morgan (two hits in four trips to the plate) or Jonathan Lucroy (one hit, one walk in three PAs).  Garza only allowed three hits through 8.2 innings pitched, while striking out nine and walking only two.

His only hiccup, if you can even call it one, was when Garza induced a ground ball back to himself off of the bat of pinch-hitter Norichika Aoki but then threw the ball way over and past first baseman Bryan LaHair, allowing Aoki to reach.

With Garza then at 119 pitches, Cubs manager Dale Sveum marched to the mound and lifted his starter in favor of Monday’s starter Shawn Camp. Camp got George Kottaras to ground out on four pitches to finalize things.

In Summary…

Like I said at the top, taking three out of four games at Wrigley Field is never a bad thing, regardless of whether you lost the final game with arguably your best pitcher on the bump.

Games against the very much so rebuilding Cubs are just as important, if not more so, as games against other opponents in the division. You must beat the teams which you are supposed to beat if you hope to approach last season’s franchise-best win total.

I really liked seeing solid starts from Shaun Marcum and Chris Narveson in their first turns, and was greatly encouraged by the fact that heavy use early didn’t affect John Axford and Francisco Rodriguez as they were both very good as usual.

The bats need to wake up a bit still. Look no further than notoriously slow starter Aramis Ramirez (2-for-22 to begin the campaign) as evidence of that, but there is plenty of time to turn things around.

After beginning 2011 with a 0-4 record and not winning for the third time on the road until their ninth try, being 4-2 after six with three victories away from Miller Park isn’t a bad place to be.

The Brewers are in Atlanta tonight for the first of a three-game series. Tonight is the Braves’ home opener. That game will be contested by Randy Wolf and Jair Jurrjens with the first pitch being scheduled for 6:35 Central Daylight Time.

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers: #1 Corey Hart

Ladies and gentlemen it has happened.

The Brewers flight from Arizona got back to town late yesterday evening. That’s right, to be a bit corny: “The boys are back in town!”

There’s no word whether the team boarded by jersey number, but if they had then today’s final profile subject would have been the first one on.

He is the starting right fielder and will bat fifth tomorrow at Miller Park, despite not exactly piling up the at-bats this spring.

He wears the number one on his back. He is:

Corey Hart.

Standing 6’6″ tall and weighing an official 235 pounds, Jon Corey Hart came to camp in 2011 poised to continue making good on an off-season contract extension negotiated with the club before the 2010 season.

Hart had posted career-worst numbers in 2010 in several categories but negotiated his way in an arbitration hearing to a $4.8 million contract. I blasted Hart in this space for that situation, and was happy to be proven wrong to a degree in 2010.

So when he got hurt in Spring Training however and started the year on the disabled list, people had cause for concern both about missing his production and whether his long-term outlook would be affected.

He only played 130 total games after beginning the season on the DL with an oblique strain and, he would later admit, it shouldn’t have been that many. Hart told members of the media that he rushed back because he felt he could help the team even at less than 100%. It didn’t work well, and Hart realized that he should have stayed in minor league rehab games longer than he did.

When he was on the field in 2011, Hart continued two recent trends: increased power and greatly decreased speed.

His final statistics totaled:

130 G, 492 AB, 80 R, 140 H, 25 doubles, 4 triples, 26 HR, 63 RBI, 51 BB, 114 K, 7 SB, 6 caught stealing, .285/.356/.510

Hart had played in 15 more games in 2010 than 2011, and had gotten 64 more at-bats which resulted in better counting stats, but the rates of certain stats were up and with better health, Hart probably would have at least equaled his 2010 in many categories.

Two numbers that were exactly the same were Hart’s steals and caught stealings. It continued to be disconcerting because despite his 6’6″ frame, Hart was always a benefit on the bases. Hart stole 23 bases in both 2007 and 2008 before falling to 11 in 2009 and just seven the next two years.

Hopefully his realization about carrying the extra weight and subsequently dropping that weight will help Hart regain some of that lost quickness.

But has it made a difference? In a Spring Training where Jonathan Lucroy was running wild on the basepaths, how many stolen bases did Hart attempt? And what was his success rate?

We don’t know if Hart’s speed was positively affected in game situations because he only played in two official Cactus League games. And therein lies the x-factor for the Brewers in 2012: health.

In any season where position players stay healthy and are able to answer the bell 150 times or more, there is a lot of luck involved. For the second straight spring, the only kind of luck Hart had was bad luck.

While hurrying to Ryan Braun’s press conference at Maryvale Baseball Park this spring, Hart was wearing his spikes and slipped on some cement, damaging his meniscus, requiring surgery. While he was rehabilitating his knee, Hart was injured again in the weight room when a metal bar hit him in head, requiring eight stitches.

Having a good sense of humor about it all, Hart hit the nail on the head when he stated that he needs to just report to camp with about a week to go in Spring Training so as to limit his exposure to the perils of Arizona.

Four weeks to the day following knee surgery, Hart was back on the field playing. It’s quite a remarkable recovery in some respects, but Hart worked hard at his rehab to get himself ready.

In the two official games he played this spring, Hart was 3-for-6 with a home run, two RBI and two runs scored. He also ran well in the outfield. Hopefully he can hit the ground running tomorrow afternoon.

Hart did have plenty of highlights in 2011 though.

He tied franchise records with a three-home run, seven-RBI  game against the Washington Nationals. Hart produced five lead-off home runs after moving up the lineup following Rickie Weeks’ ankle injury in July. He put together an 18-game hitting streak which started on August 18th, during a month for which Hart would later earn team Player of the Month honors.

Hart also recorded a pair of home runs in the postseason while batting .244 (10-for-41).

As for 2012, if Hart’s knee remains healthy, I’d like to project a solid year at the plate. And if his conditioning changes are a benefit he’ll increase his value to the team both on the basepaths and in right field.

With the departures of Prince Fielder and Casey McGehee in the off-season, all the talk has been of how the combination of Aramis Ramirez and Mat Gamel will need to be able to make up the lost production. But if Hart adds 20 games to his register this season, hitting in the fifth spot in the order and coming through in RBI situations, that will combine into those offensive totals and significantly affect the outcome of several games.

But it all finally starts tomorrow at Miller Park.

We’ll see you there if you’re going, and we’ll see 25 of the men who were previewed and reviewed throughout the weeks leading up to tomorrow.

I’ve had a fun ride with this series and hope that you learned something along the way.

Thanks so much for reading and stay tuned all season as the articles and analysis will be here.

Batted .285 with 26 HR and 63 RBI in 130 games…..made 123 starts, all in right field…Established a career high in walks (51)…Committed only 2 errors the entire season for the second consecutive season…Missed the first 22 games of the season after suffering a left oblique strain in spring training….. was on the 15-day disabled list from 3/30-4/25, retroactive to 3/22…Appeared in 5 games at Triple-A Nashville from 4/19-4/25 during a rehab assignment…Batted .324 (69-for-214, 13hr, 32rbi) over his last 53 games of the season, raising his overall batting average from .255 to .285…Batted leadoff in his last 62 starts (77-for-256, .301, 15hr, 36rbi)…..had previously not started a game in that spot in the order since 7/22/09 at Pittsburgh…Hit 5 leadoff home runs: 7/19 at Arizona, 7/30 vs. Houston, 8/3 vs. St. Louis, 8/22 at Pittsburgh and 8/31 vs. St. Louis…..now has 7 career leadoff homers…Produced 3 HR and 7 RBI on 5/23 vs. Washington, tying franchise records…..the 3 HR marked his first homers of the season (22nd game)…..became the 10th player (15 times) in franchise history to hit 3 HR in a game…..joined Ted Kubiak (1970), Jose Hernandez (2001), Richie Sexson (2002) and Damian Miller (2007) as the only Brewers with 7 RBI in a game…Tied his career high (3x) with 4 hits on 7/30 vs. Houston, including a leadoff homer in the 6-2 victory…Was named Brewers Player of the Month for August (.321, 8hr, 17rbi)…Recorded a season-high 18-game hitting streak from 8/18-9/6, batting .359 (28-for-78) with 5 HR and 9 RBI…Batted .244 (10-for-41) with 2 HR and 5 RBI in 10 games during the postseason.



Milwaukee Brewers on ESPN Top 500 MLB Players List

ESPN is slowly revealing its list of the best 500 players in baseball, heading into the 2012 season.

This was determined by a team of 34 “experts” (their word) were given a list of the top 600 players projected to play in the Major Leagues this season.

Using a 0-10 scale, they evaluated “only the quality of each player for the 2012 season” which means no past performance should be factored in, though we know that likely won’t be the case.

In the event of ties, ZiPS was used to project performance and therefore break those ties.

I make this post to pull out the Brewers players as they are revealed.

The surveying took place over the last two weeks of February, so I’m very interested to see where Ryan Braun’s final ranking comes in.

Ages listed are as of July 1, 2012.

Without further ado, here are the Brewers that have been revealed to this point on the list:

Rank – Name – Position – Age – Twitter handle (if appicable)

# 6 – Ryan Braun – LF – Age: 28
# 42 – Zack Greinke
– RHP – Age: 29
# 53 – Yovani Gallardo
– RHP – Age: 26
# 84 – John Axford – RHP – Age: 29 – @JohnAxford
# 90 – Rickie Weeks
– 2B – Age: 29
# 130 – Shaun Marcum
– RHP – Age: 30
# 133 – Aramis Ramirez
– 3B – Age: 34
# 144 – Corey Hart
– RF – Age: 30
# 173 – Francisco Rodriguez
– RHP – Age: 30 – @El_kid_rod57
#232 – Randy Wolf
– LHP – Age: 35
# 320 – Alex Gonzalez – SS – Age: 35
# 330 – Jonathan Lucroy – C – Age: 26
# 331 – Nyjer Morgan
 – CF – Age: 31 – @TheRealTPlush
# 362 – Chris Narveson
– LHP – Age: 30 – @sleep_trick
# 458 – Carlos Gomez – CF – Age: 26 – @C_Gomez27
# 461 – Mat Gamel – 1B – Age: 26 – @JMGamel

I will be updating this post daily as more names are announced.

(A cool little bonus to the list is that ESPN is including confirmed Twitter handles for players when they know them, and while they’ve included Chris Narveson’s, they skipped both Gomez’ and Gamel’s. I have included them in this post.)