Tagged: Spring Training

Brewers 2012 Spring Training Coverage

This spring, whenever I’ve posted a lineup or scheduled pitchers for a given game, I’m invariably asked whether the game is on TV or radio (or hopefully both).

I don’t mind answering the questions because interaction with you on Twitter and/or Facebook is part of the reason that I’ve got the community that I do, but in order to help get you the answer more quickly, I’m posting everything and will post the link to this blog.

I’d absolutely suggest to add this post’s URL to the favorites list in your internet browser of choice.

In case you’re reading this via the homepage, the permalink for this post is:

http://brewernation.mlblogs.com/2012/03/09/brewers-2012-spring-training-coverage

Here are the dates, with scheduled first pitch time listed in Central Time. It takes into account Daylight Savings Time which begins in two days.

Radio:

– Sunday, March 4, 2:05 p.m.
– Tuesday, March 6, 2:05 p.m.
– Saturday, March 10, 2:05 p.m.
– Tuesday, March 13, 3:05 p.m.
– Wednesday, March 14, 3:05 pm.
– Saturday, March 17, 3:05 p.m.
– Sunday, March 18, 3:05 p.m.
– Wednesday, March 21, 3:05 p.m.
– Saturday, March 24, 3:05 p.m.
– Sunday, March 25 – 3:05 p.m.
– Wednesday, March 28 – 3:05 p.m.
– Thursday, March 29 – 3:05 p.m.
– Saturday, March 31 – 2:05 p.m.
– Sunday, April 1 – 3:05 p.m.
– Tuesday, April 3 – 8:40 p.m.
– Wednesday, April 4 – 2:40 p.m.

TV:

– Monday, March 5, 8:35 p.m. || MLB Network
– Tuesday, March 6, 2:05 p.m. || FSWisconsin
– Saturday, March 10, 2:05 p.m. || WGN, MLB.TV
– Saturday, March 17, 3:05 p.m. | FSWisconsin, MLB Network, MLB.TV
– Tuesday, March 20, 3:05 p.m. | FSWisconsin, MLB Network, MLB.TV
– Friday, March 30, 3:05 p.m. | FSWisconsin, MLB Network (on delay), MLB.TV
– Saturday, March 31, 3:05 p.m. | FSWisconsin, MLB.TV
– Wednesday, April 4, 2:40 p.m. | FSWisconsin, MLB Network (on delay)

How The Rest Were Won: Final Roster Spots Preview

By: Big Rygg

I double-checked how many days it is until pitchers and catchers report to Maryvale Baseball Park so that I could update the blog’s Facebook page with the information. Since it’s 25 days away, that naturally got me thinking about the 25-man roster and how it will shake out when the team heads north to face the Detroit Tigers at Miller Park to close out Spring Training. Yes, they don’t have to have it to 25 men at that point, but by then they pretty much know what they’re going to do.

Let’s review what we know today, Sunday, January 24th.

Assuming everyone is healthy on April 5th, and no trade has been made involving them, the following men (alphabetically, by position) are locks* to make this team:

SP – Doug Davis, Yovani Gallardo, Randy Wolf
RP – Todd Coffey, LaTroy Hawkins, Trevor Hoffman, Mitch Stetter, Claudio Vargas, Carlos Villanueva
C – Gregg Zaun
INF – Craig Counsell, Alcides Escobar, Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks
OF – Ryan Braun, Jody Gerut, Carlos Gomez, Corey Hart

I also think that Jeff Suppan will be on the big league roster for certain, I just can’t say for certain whether he will be in the rotation or the bullpen.

First of all, you may be asking yourself where Casey McGehee is on my list. To be honest, despite his success last year, I can’t guarantee him a spot on the roster. If he comes into Spring Training this year as cold as he was hot last year, and Mat Gamel plays like this year’s McGehee…suffice it to say that I don’t see them both on the 25-man roster since they both need to be playing most every day. If Gamel plays lights out and McGehee doesn’t come back strong from his surgery, it could very well be McGehee that starts the year with Don Money and the Nashville Sounds. It would be a harsh reality, but that’s what can happen in this game.

Getting back to the point, if you count the players I listed above, it totals 19 when you include Suppan.

That leaves a total of six spots to be decided, but the competition isn’t nearly as open as that number would make it seem. Looking more closely, you will find that given a standard 12 pitcher (5 starters, 7 relievers)/13 hitter breakdown of the roster that what is available are two spots in the rotation, one spot in the bullpen and four spots for hitters. Before you complain that those numbers add up to seven, keep in mind my belief that Suppan make the roster. If he does, he would take either one of the rotation spots or the open bullpen spot.

Regardless, we need to better analyze who will be competing for the open spots. Let’s begin with the rotation.

As I said, Jeff Suppan stands to make this team and will be competing for a spot in the starting rotation and just might have the inside track given his experience and his salary. Should he pitch his way out of that spot, the other men that will be eager to take his (and the other) place include 2009 rotation hold overs Dave Bush and Manny Parra.

Some guys also will be competing in the “longshot” category. One guy trying to revive his Major League career after spending 2009 pitching in Japan in Kameron Loe, a second revival story in Chris Capuano who is trying to make it back following his second Tommy John surgery, along with the Brewers’ own late-season standout Chris Narveson. Last spring, Narveson pitched very poorly and cleared waivers on his way back down to the minor leagues. Had the team tried to send Narveson back to AAA prior to the end of last season, you can bet that he wouldn’t have made his flight to Tennessee. Still another name that might be brought up is former Oriole farmhand Chris Waters. He is the outer fringe of the longshots and is most likely slated directly for Nashville to start and provide much better depth than the team had last year.

I won’t be discussing people not signed to a contract with Milwaukee. Should anyone sign between now and the time I do my podcast, I’ll discuss the player or players at that time.

By the way, other than performance, I will be more than happy to give my point/counterpoint on whether individual players will or will not make the roster that takes the field for the pomp and circumstance of Opening Day, but for that early analysis, you’ll have to download our upcoming podcast which will be recorded just prior to the start of Spring Training.

So assuming that Suppan and either Gamel or McGehee are on this club, we have five open spots to fill.

One of them will definitely be a backup catcher; a competition for which will be limited to those that know how to catch. This list includes 2009 AAA starter Angel Salome, 2009 AA starter Jonathan Lucroy and free agent signees George Kottaras and Matt Treanor. This leaves a totals of two spots for the pitching staff and two spots for the bench. I spoke about the rotation first, but ‘ll get back to the bullpen in a bit as I talk about the position players.

If you’re with me, then you think having two backup non-catcher infielders and two backup outfielders just makes sense for the sake of balance if nothing else. It also helps you get your backups more regularity in their at-bats and spot starts. With Craig Counsell and Jody Gerut having been brought back to handle two of those jobs (one IF and one OF job respectively), that leaves one more of each position to fill.

(Sidebar: Personally, I think the Brewers made a good signing in bringing back Jody Gerut. If you’ve read anything I’ve written here, listened to any podcast where he is brought up or sat near me at a game where Gerut plays whether you knew you were nearby or not, you might be shocked to hear that admission. I was shocked to say it, but the more I thought about it, the more my optimistic nature influenced my brain. “Gerut can backup all three OF positions”, my brain would think. “Gerut hits left-handed,” my brain would opine. “Gerut had pretty good numbers to finish the year once he played more consistently,” my brain would suggest. Well, color me gullible because I started to listen.)

For the infield we have heard a few names that could be under consideration for the IF spot. They include Hernan Iribarren, Adam Heether, and the loser of the Battle for the Hot Corner. As I’ve stated elsewhere for some reasoning, I think that Iribarren has the inside track for that position as he is out of options. It also doesn’t hurt that he has played both 2B and CF though reports are that he doesn’t play CF very well as he is a natural 2B.

As for the final OF spot? Right now the team could go in a few different directions. They claimed Trent Oeltjen off of waivers from Arizona, they have a couple of young OF prospects that they could conceivably bring up I guess, but I’ve also been told that they are keeping tabs on a few inexpensive free agents like the very capable Frank Catalanotto who is quite adept at pinch-hitting. (Sidebar: Catalanotto also had one of the biggest karaoke-inducing walkup themes of the year in The Outfield’s “Your Love”. After the music cut in the stadium, you could hear the fans singing along for at least a line or two. Loved it.) High-ceiling prospect Logan Schafer was given an invitation to Spring Training as well, but since he isn’t even on the 40-man roster yet, it would take nothing short of a miracle or disaster for him to be the 5th outfielder this year. A final name to remember is Norris Hopper. While he wasn’t given a formal invitation to the big league side of Spring Training, he will obviously be performing on the minor league side and, should an injury or ineffectiveness rear its ugly head he could easily spend some time with the Brewers.

Then again, with Gerut’s ability to play all three OF positions and Iribarren being able to backup CF in an emergency, they might decide to keep Adam Heether as he can play at least LF along with some IF positions. The 13th man on the bench will be an interesting decision indeed.

Back to the pitching spots that are available. I already made mention that Suppan will make this team in my opinion. If he makes the rotation, that means either Dave Bush or Manny Parra is out and, in my opinion, off the team. Though I started this article on January 23rd, as I finish this up it is the evening of January 24th and Bush has signed a one-year deal with a salary that isn’t guaranteed until Opening Day. I do think, though, that Bush would have to perform very poorly toward the end of Spring Training to miss the ballclub. Again, the “why” to that point will be in the podcast.

As for Manny Parra, if he fails to make the rotation, the Brewers might be able to stash him in AAA simply so that he can continue to start. Parra’s mental make up has been questioned by Brewer Nation at times, so who is to say how he would handle a perceived demotion. The only real option in his case would be to tell him that he pitched the worst of the three and he’s needed for depth. Hopefully, though, he pitches great so that his maturation can contiinue at the big league level.

As for the other bullpen spot, the main candidates at this point appear to be Chris Smith, Chris Narveson, Rule 5 Draft Pick Chuck Lofgren, the potentially rehabbed David Riske and a handful of others that will be involved in the discussion but will probably fall short. The bottom line in the bullpen is that there are a bunch of candidates and only one (possible) spot available. The team can probably start Riske off in the minors on a rehab assignment to give themselves a bit more time to decide if they aren’t quite sure, but performance will have a big effect on the ‘pen.

Then again, in every competition it’s nice if there can actually be true competition. The best performer will win the majority of the time. Yes, track record factors in, but in the end he who is performing tends to get the opportunity to continue.

But isn’t that kind of what we’re going for here?

News and Notes

By: Big Rygg


There are two newsbites that I want to make sure I touch on.
First, Corey Hart agreed to a one-year contract for $3.25 million that avoided what was looking like the first arbitration hearing in the Doug Melvin era as general manager.
This is a good thing for a couple of reasons. The dollar amount is less than Hart could have been awarded had the deal gone to arbitration (not that I think he would’ve won that case), and it lets Hart just play baseball this year.
Also, Hart avoids the dreaded arbitration hearing where it is the team’s task, nay responsibility, to tear the player down and point out every shortcoming in an effort to have the arbiters choose the team’s submitted dollar figure over that of the player.
Hart seemed to struggle enough mentally during the second half of last year. Many times after waving over a pitch low and away it looked like he had resigned himself to always swinging and missing at that pitch. A multi-hour tear down session reminding him of that horrible stretch of games not to mention bringing things up that he had probably already forgotten about from other times in the season…..well, that wouldn’t be very productive for your 20/20 guy, would it?
The other newsworthy item that I want to talk about today is the team’s surprise move to resign relief pitcher Eric Gagné to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training.
After being courted this offseason, most notably by the Minnesota Twins who had a deal in place which Gagné had agreed to only to then pull it off the table before there was a chance for him to sign it, Gagné returns to the team that he feels he let down in 2008.
It is a no-risk signing for the Brewers. Either Gagné pitches well enough in Spring Training to earn his way into the bullpen by March 25th or he has the option of becoming a free agent again. It’s a similar deal to the one that Jeff Weaver signed last season. The major difference is that while Weaver pitched with AAA Nashville during his Minor League contract, Melvin does not expect Gagné to do the same. He feels that Gagné will exercise the right to become a free agent on March 25th if he hasn’t made the bullpen for certain by then.
If Gagné makes the 25-man roster, he’ll earn a base salary of $1.5 million with the opportunity to earn up to $3 million more in incentives. For the record, $2 million of that is tied to the number of games in which he appears and the other $1 million is tied to the number of games he finishes.
It’s a far cry from the $10 million that he didn’t quite earn (by most people’s definition including Gagné’s own admission) and if you couple all these factors together, we might just be singing Doug Melvin’s praises again when the year is done.
  • The Mitchell Report isn’t hanging over Gagné with the same crushing weight this season
  • Gagné doesn’t haven’t the expectations of fulfilling a $10 million contract nor the expectations of being “the guy” in the bullpen
  • Gagné actually pitched acceptably in the second half of last season in a set up role, a role that was previously blamed for his mighty struggles with Boston in 2007
He may never pitch again in a regular season game for the Brewers, that’s true. But the fact that the Brewers are paying him next to nothing in return for letting him prove himself to both Milwaukee and the 29 other teams around the league in live action is the real value here.
Some people blasted Melvin for handing $10 million to a guy that was more likely to be dominated than dominate. Well, consider this signing as a way to make amends. After all, a two-year $13.5 million contract sound a lot better anyway. And the fact that it was ostensibly front-loaded? Mere semantics at this point. If anything, it would allow the Brewers to have the extra money this season that they needed for all of their arbitration-eligible players…like Corey Hart.

Open Season at the Hot Corner

By: Big Rygg

I know that this news is a couple of days old already, but I wanted to make sure it got touched on here at the Brewer Nation.

As I’m sure you’re well aware by now (or just in case you aren’t) Bill Hall will miss the majority, if not all, of Spring Training this year with a partially torn calf muscle in his left leg. The rehab is expected to take 4-6 weeks which, if it’s the latter, take Hall’s convalesence right up to Opening Day in San Francisco.

Tim Lincecum will be on the bump for the Giants on Opening Day, barring an injury of his own of course, so maybe Ken Macha would have give the start to Mike Lamb anyway, making this a very strict platoon from the get go.

Ken Macha has stated that he will evaluate the players on their merits and performance throughout Spring Training and make his lineup and roster decisions from there.

But again, we know all that.

What we don’t know quite yet is exactly how the team will use the extra reps at the hot corner during the February and March that just became available. That is what I’d like to discuss today.

As is stands now, Mike Lamb and Bill Hall were set to platoon (at least to an extent) at third base. Hall hits right-handed and struggled greatly against right-handed pitching last year to the tune of .174 battingn average. Lamb, hits left-handed and is probably the first option to be the yang to Hall’s yin all season long.

However, now in the absence of Hall from the games and whatnot, where does the team go? Does waiver wire pick up Casey McGehee get all of Hall’s at-bats? Do they give Mat Gamel those turns at the dish which therefore would give him that many more chances in the field to show what progress he’s been able to make this past winter with his glove?

Personally, I think it’s a golden opportunity for Gamel to show what he’s made of. We know the kid can hit, that’s obvious. In fact, if not for an elbow injury that he hid from the organization last year, he might have led the prospect-rich AA team in all offensive categories in 2008.

Gamel, however, led in another category. His 30 errors while with Huntsville in 127 games played translates very poorly…heck, standing on its own merits it’s bad enough. The fact is, one error every four games isn’t nearly good enough to cut it at the big league level. Poor fielding is what led to a position switch for some guy by the of Ryan Braun. All he did was happen to win the National League’s Rookie of the Year Award based primarily, I’m sure even he would tell you, on his offensive prowess. Braun, though, had major trouble adjusting to 3B and was moved to left field where he continue to shine.

Gamel’s situation is different for two reasons. First, there isn’t anywhere else for him to go right now. Mike Cameron is still playing a good centerfield, Corey Hart isn’t going anywhere other than right field for the time being and Braun patrolls LF as previously stated. Suffice it to say, the outfield is full…not that you’d put Gamel in center anyway, but you get what I’m saying.

The only other spot to move a guy with a great bat but heavy glove is first base, but as we also all should know by now, Prince Fielder was signed to a two-year contract which locks him in as the team’s first baseman through the 2010 season.

In other words, what this all means is that 3B is Gamel’s position and to make it to the show with the roster the way it currently is constructed, that’s where he’ll have to play. The good news is that Gamel is committed to becoming a serviceable 3B at worst. He wants to play there which is an important factor in all this.

So, the question needs to be asked, Brewer Nation…

If you were Ken Macha, how would you handle it?

36 Hours

By: Big Rygg

It has been a long off-season.

I want you to think about those words for a few moments. Think about them and allow yourself to feel them. What do they say? What do they mean? How do those words make you feel?

What makes the off-season long?

Is it as simple as the length of time between the ball popping a broken in mit to end the last game of the fall and the first pop of that familiar glove when pitchers and catchers begin to throw?

Is it a mental thing where the seaons change from nine games in 10 days to one game per week (if you even are a football fan)? Is it the b@stard two weeks of the sports calendar that suck the life of out of everyone between the end of the Super Bowl and that glorious day a short 36 hours away because they are just so empty?

Is it a physical thing? Lots of us (at least in the heart of Brewer Nation here in Wisconsin) put on at least a few pounds over the winter due to simple inactivity. You just aren’t able to take walks around the neighborhood in -30 degree windchills. You can putter around the yard with the mower, trimmer, pruning shears, etc. Shoveling at least gets your some movement, but it’s hardly much of a constant motion thing.

Is it a temperature thing? This ties into both the mental and physcial, but more specifically the temperatures (again, especially here in Wisconsin) can be so devestatingly cold at times. This makes the days simply seem longer because all you want to do is climb back into bed and hide under your warm covers. With baseball comes the promise of warmer days. That is a powerful force.

Is it all related to the annual Hot Stove League and all the comings and goings? Did this off-season seem longer because of the flux on this Brewers team? CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets both leave the organization for greener pastures and paychecks. Salomon Torres rides an amazing performance into the sunset as he retires for the second time in his career. Our one-year bullpen contracts, and one of the longer ones, expire causing the team to lose Mr. Dependable (Brian Shouse), Mr. 2nd Half (Guillermo Mota) and the $10 millon mistake (Eric Gagne). Mike Cameron was thought to follow in those players’ footsteps, but the team surprised some when it exercised the option on his contract. Then there were rumors of Cameron being traded to the Yankees but ultimately the team kept him. There were even more rumors about some players possibly being moved for other pieces, whether or not a certain prospect would break camp with the club, which free agents we might sign, etc, etc, etc! It certainly got to be exhaustive.

Whatever your reason for feeling that the off-season is as long as it feels, let’s delve deeper into the next layer of it all.

How does the anticipation of what begins in 36 short yet excruciatingly long hours make you feel? What do the words “Pitchers and Catchers” mean to you?

Let me bold this next sentence in a perhaps feeble attempt to convey the emphasis that I wish to place on it…

I contend that every baseball fan, every true fancier of the game of baseball, knows exactly what those words mean.

For me it’s a cornucopia of emotions and memories. A blend of the past and present along with thoughts of the future.

It’s County Stadium. It’s Bernie’s Chalet and Beer Stein. It’s waiting for players to walk to their cars after the game. It’s long car rides to the game flush with childhood eagerness and long car rides home that I mostly slept through. It’s hot dogs, bratwursts, popcorn and Cracker Jack.

It’s Miller Park. It’s Bernie’s Dugout. It’s the 1982 A.L. Championship banner decal in left field. It’s the green, patterned grass. It’s the precision of the grounds crew, the gameday staff, the vendors. It’s shorter rides to and from but with just as much eagerness to get to the ballpark. It’s tailgating from my own car. It’s bobbleheads and good friends.

It’s a job on game day. It’s taking my family to the game like I was taken. It’s sharing what I know about the game with my daughter when she’s able to learn it and just enjoying her presence both now and then.

It’s calling the postgame show. It’s discussing the previous day’s game with the fella at the office. It’s blogging. It’s podcasting. It’s interviewing players, staffers and the guys in the boothes.

From the things I know about myself and this game, Pitchers and Catchers, the anticipation of the season, these last 36 hours…what I feel, what this means to me, why the off-season seems so long and it feels like Opening Day will never come though it always does…

To put it into one word that should be taken at it’s purest and simplest definition:

Passion.

So…what does it mean to you?