Seven Brewers to participate in WBC

January 17, 2013

> It seems like the list just keeps getting larger. As of right now, seven Brewers are on their respective countries World Baseball Classic rosters: Ryan Braun, Jonathan Lucroy, John Axford, Jim Henderson, Taylor Green, Yovani Gallardo, and Martin Maldonado.

Braun and Luc will play for Team USA (Braun also played for them in 2009). Axford, Henderson, and Green were all selected to Team Canada. Gallardo will play for Team Mexico, and Maldonado for Puerto Rico.

I’m happy for all of these guys, but the one issue with the Classic is that it interferes with Spring Training. I typically don’t have an issue with that, but, as someone on Twitter pointed out earlier today, both of the Brewers’ big league catchers will be participating in the WBC, so the new Brewers pitchers (particularly the relievers) won’t have much time to get familiar with them. That shouldn’t be an issue, but it is something to think about.

Also, the fact that Gallardo will be throwing extra innings due the WBC will probably try and prompt Ron Roenicke to give him some sort of innings limit, knowing his shenanigans. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that.

> The Brewers added righty reliever Rob Wooten to Major League Spring Training as a non-roster invitee. The Brewers’ list of non-roster invitees now stands at 18: pitchers Wooten, Jairo Asencio, Jed Bradley, Darren Byrd, Kelvim Escobar, Donovan Hand, Taylor Jungmann, Arcenio Leon, Travis Webb, catchers Dayton Buller, Anderson De La Rosa, Blake Lalli, Rafael Nada, Adam Weisenburger, infielders Hector Gomez, Hunter Morris, Donnie Murphy, and outfielder Kentrail Davis.

> Four Brewers filed for salary arbitration today: Axford, Burke Badenhop, Marco Estrada, and Carlos Gomez. Axford projects to get the largest contract. The Brewers already avoided arbitration with one of their eligibles, Chris Narveson.

> Minor moves: 

Blue Jays: Signed ex-Brewer Henry Blanco and Adam Loewen to minor league deals; designated Tommy Hottovy for assignment; re-signed Colby Rasmus to a one-year deal; signed Denis Villatora to a five-year deal.
Orioles: Re-signed Nolan Reimold and Tommy Hunter to one-year deals.
Phillies: Signed Rodrigo Lopez, Juan Cruz, and Aaron Cook to minor league deals.
Yankees: Released ex-Brewer Chris Dickerson; re-signed Phil Hughes to a one-year deal.
Angels: Signed Fernando Cabrera to a minor league deal; re-signed Jerome Williams to a one-year deal.
Indians: Released Thomas Neal.
Reds: Signed ex-Brewer Cesar Izturis to a minor league deal.
Pirates: Re-signed Jeff Karstens to a one-year deal.
Diamondbacks: Re-signed J.J. Putz to a one-year deal.
Nationals: Signed Delwyn Young to a minor league deal; signed Rafael Soriano to a two-year deal.
Dodgers: Signed Peter Moylan, Jesus Flores, Deivy Castillo, Ariel Sandoval, Ravel Hernandez, and Miguel Urena to minor league deals.
Mariners: Signed Luis Liberato to a minor league deal.
Rangers: Signed Kyle McClellan to a minor league deal.
Marlins: Signed Michael Wuertz, Nick Green, and Austin Kearns to minor league deals.
Tigers: Signed Don Kelly to a minor league deal.
Rockies: Re-signed Wilton Lopez and Josh Outman to one-year deals.


Rauch, Frasor, Farnsworth, Gonzalez on relief radar

December 18, 2012

> Doug Melvin has already missed out on multiple opportunities to sign relievers this offseason, the most notable guys being Jason Grilli and Sean Burnett. But, for the first time this offseason, Melvin himself named off a few relievers that the Brewers are currently interested in. Those names included Jon Rauch, Jason Frasor, Kyle Farnsworth, and Mike Gonzalez, all of whom were in my relief pitcher article from a few weeks back.

In my opinion, Frasor is by far the most attractive pitcher of those four. He fits the bill of a power arm the Brewers are looking for, and can pitch the eighth inning (I’m not so sure I completely trust Jim Henderson in the eighth yet). Frasor doesn’t have the greatest career numbers, but you have to take into consideration that he’s spent the majority of his career with the Blue Jays in the AL East, so a move to the NL might do him good.

Frasor

The other three options Melvin listed are decent, I suppose. Farnsworth had a breakout season in 2011 as the Rays’ closer, but had an injury-plagued 2012. Gonzalez is that coveted lefty the Brewers are looking for (though I’d much prefer J.P. Howell, who I’m surprised Melvin didn’t mention), but the competition for him his; same goes for Howell. And I’d stay away from Rauch- he reminds me too much of Kameron Loe.

But if Melvin does decide to go after one of these guys, hopefully he gives him a substantial offer. Not that I want Melvin to overpay for a reliever, but I felt like he didn’t go hard enough for guys like Grilli or Burnett. However, the four guys Melvin mentioned today should come much cheaper than Grilli or Burnett.

> The Brewers signed utility infielder Donnie Murphy to a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training. Murphy, who’s pretty versatile in the field, isn’t the greatest at the plate, as he hit just .216 in 129 plate appearances for the Marlins last year, and is a career .205 hitter. But, he does provide some depth at shortstop,a position the Brewers struggled with last year until the acquisition of Jean Segura. After Alex Gonzalez went down, we saw the tandem of Cody Ransom and Cesar Izturis flail miserably.

Anyway, Murphy should compete with guys like Mat Gamel and Taylor Green for one of the back-up infielder spots.

> Minor moves: 

Red Sox: Signed Stephen Drew to a one-year deal.
Athletics: Signed Hiroyuki Nakajima to a two-year deal.
Astros: Signed Carlos Pena to a one-year deal; designated Mickey Storey for assignment.
Cubs: Designated Jeff Beliveau for assignment.
Giants: Signed Santiago Casilla to a three-year extension.
Angels: Signed Luis Rodriguez to a minor league deal.
Royals: Released Ysrael Abreu, Jose Brazoban, Adelso Polanco, and Yerinson Tatis.


Zduriencik wants Gamel back

November 23, 2012

> Yesterday, the Brewer Nation reported that the Mariners are interested in Mat Gamel. I don’t know why anyone else (or me) thought of this possibility earlier, but it makes perfect sense.

If Gamel does return to the Brewers next year, he’d be playing a bench player/utility man-type role. Gamel was basically handed the starting job at first base in 2012 following the departure of Prince Fielder, but the opportunity was snatched from him early in the season. While trying to catch a foul pop-up in San Diego, he lost track of where he was, and his knee met with the wall. As it usually works, the wall won, and next thing you know, the Brewers’ starting first baseman is gone for the season. Thankfully, Corey Hart swooped in from right field and took over at first base- a position he hadn’t played since Class A, which was nearly a decade ago- and was stellar defensively. And, since his offense was already better than Gamel’s, there wasn’t much thought put into who should start at first base in 2013.

Gamel can also play third base (though not very well) and the corner outfield spots, but he’s blocked by Aramis Ramirez, Ryan Braun, and Norichika Aoki at the respective positions. That would leave him as a bench player, and history tells us he wouldn’t have much success in that role. Gamel has proven that he needs consistent playing time in order to produce, and it appears the Brewers aren’t going to be able to give Gamel that playing time.

This is where Jack Zduriencik and the Mariners enter the equation. Zduriencik, who was a scouting director for the Brewers at the time Gamel was drafted (he also played a huge part in drafting Fielder), knows Gamel well, so there’s some familiarity there. The Mariners, as we all know, are also in desperate need of offense in any way they can get it, particularly at first base, third base, and the corner outfield positions. First baseman Justin Smoak hasn’t given the Mariners the power numbers they thought he was capable of producing. The M’s just released third baseman Chone Figgins. The Mariners’ outfield has been a revolving door the past few years. All of those factors prove even more as to why this move could benefit the Mariners as a low-risk, high-reward transaction.

But enough of how it would help the Mariners- it could help the Brewers in a lot of ways, too. The Mariners make up for what they don’t have in offense with their wealth of young pitching; keep in mind this team produced Felix Hernandez, one of the best pitchers in the game. Anyway, the Mariners probably wouldn’t be willing to part with an ultra-prospect like Danny Hultzen or James Paxton, but they still have more than enough pitching depth behind those two. Perhaps the Brewers could get a guy like Blake Beavan in return for Gamel.

The point is this has the potential to be one of the rare deals that truly benefits both sides. It could also be of huge benefit to Gamel; I think he just needs a fresh start somewhere else.

> Also via Brewer Nation, Josh Hamilton’s agent has reached out to Doug Melvin. This probably doesn’t mean much; it’s probably just the agent saying, “My client would consider playing here” (as stated in the article).

It’s doubtful that Hamilton-Brewers talks will advance anywhere beyond this, but it’s certainly worth keeping an eye on.

> It’s needless to say the Marlins are in a horrible situation. Mark Buehrle, part of the 12-player mega-deal between the Fish and the Blue Jays, came out and said this:

“Just like the fans in South Florida, I was lied to on multiple occasions. But I’m putting it behind me and looking forward to moving on with my career.” (Via MLB.com)

Then there was this tweet from Giancarlo Stanton a few hours after the trade was first reported last week:

Keep in mind this the Marlins’ only star player left.

Anyway, Buehrle was apparently told “verbally” that he wouldn’t be traded. But the Marlins don’t give out no-trade clauses (probably because they like having the ability to dismantle their team at any given time, as history has told us), at least officially. So Buehrle does have a legitimate beef, but, to be fair to the Marlins, it was never legally official, giving them every right to trade him. Though I still think not giving out no-trade clauses is a stupid concept.

> It was reported two days ago that the Blue Jays signed Cesar Izturis to a minor league deal. But, today, we found it was actually Julio Izturis, not Cesar. So whoever originally reported this needs to get their Hispanic names straight.

The Jays also signed Maicer Izturis, Cesar’s half-brother, to a three-year deal earlier this offseason. All three of these guys are related.

> I found this on Twitter a few days ago. Whether or not it’s legitimate, this is hilarious.


Welcome to the Brewers, Michael Olmsted

November 5, 2012

> Yesterday, the Brewers signed reliever Michael Olmsted to minor league pact and added him to the 40-man roster. My immediate first thought was, “Oh great, the Brewers are going to try and shore up the bullpen by signing no-names and hoping they pitch well.” That strategy works from time to time, but not often.

But, after doing some research on Olmsted, the kid might not be some no-name- at least not for long. This past year for Boston’s Class A and Double-A affiliates, Olmsted had a stellar 1.52 ERA, and picked up 19 saves as their closer. The year before that (2011), he had a 1.39 ERA between Boston’s Rookie and Class A levels. Olmsted also had unbelievable strikeout numbers, notching 92 in just 59 1/3 innings of work in 2012.

So why wasn’t this guy on the Red Sox (or at least in Triple-A) yet?

Turns out Olmsted has quite the story behind him. He was drafted out of college by the Mets in 2007, and posted a solid 2.52 ERA in 10 games that year. Then, in 2008, he put up a 2.67 ERA at three different levels for the Mets. However, while pitching in the Instructional League following that season, Olmsted blew out his elbow, and required the dreaded Tommy John Surgery.

He spent all of 2009 rehabbing, then reported to extended Spring Training in 2010 to get back on track. However, the Mets immediately released him after that, which came as a surprise to Olmsted- it’s not like he was pitching bad prior to his injury (in fact, the numbers say he was pretty good).

That was the beginning of three years away from American baseball for Olmsted. He became an assistant pitching coach at the college he attended before being drafted, then caught the eye of a Japanese scout. Next thing he knew, he was in Japan pitching for the minor league affiliate of the Softbank Hawks. But, while in Japan, he was hit with some shocking news: his mother, who already had cancer, had fallen into a coma.

So Olmsted decided to return from Japan. He did get to speak to his mother again, but she only lived for 23 days after awaking from the coma. Due to the circumstances, Olmsted decided to request his release from the Hawks, and they granted it to him. For the next few months, he continued pitching at his former college, but “thought his career was over.”

At a tryout the following spring, however, the Red Sox took notice of him and his stuff, and decided to give him a chance in their organization.

At that time, Olmsted’s fastball was sitting at just 89-92, but has improved to a consistent 95-97 since. He also features a hard slider.

But why were the Brewers able to pick up him up so easily? Olmsted was on Boston’s Double-A roster, but not on their 40-man roster. Unless the Red Sox added him to the roster, Olmsted would have been eligible to be snatched up by another team in the upcoming Rule 5 Draft. But Doug Melvin acted fast and managed to get him before the draft. Since the Brewers offered Olmsted a spot on their 40-man roster (thus getting protection from the Rule 5 Draft), he was willing to leave the Red Sox organization to sign with the Brewers.

So I hope nothing but the best for Olmsted this season. Not only does he have a great shot at making the Brewers’ bullpen out of Spring Training because of the shape the ‘pen is currently in, but all he has been through makes him deserve this chance.

(By the way, most of this info came from Peter Gammons’ amazing article on Olmsted that he wrote back in August.)

THE NEWS

> Josh Hamilton’s asking price is $175 million over seven years. Ouch.

However, some are speculating that this won’t stop the Brewers from going after Hamilton. The only other major contender for Hamilton is the Braves, which could also benefit the Brewers.

> More Hamilton news: I don’t know who David Lennon is, but apparently he predicted the Brewers landing Hamilton with a five-year deal.

> Minor moves:

Dodgers: Outrighted Alfredo Silverio to Triple-A.

THE EXTRAS

> Nyjer Morgan might be gone, but this remains one of my favorite pictures of all time.

> OK, I understand that the shortstop market is terrible this offseason, but there’s no reason to put Cesar Izturis and Yuniesky Betancourt among the rest of these guys who will probably have starting jobs.

EDIT: Just noticed Ronny Cedeno is in there too. The MLB Twitter account has gone insane.


Yo does the job again

August 29, 2012

POSTGAME

> The Brewers once again handled the Cubs with ease tonight, winning 4-1. Yovani Gallardo had another stellar start, going seven innings while giving up a run on three hits. He walked three and struck out nine.

The Brewers jumped on Travis Wood early, as Jeff Bianchi hit his first career home run- a three-run blast- in the second inning. The only Cubs run came on a home run from Wood, the pitcher. Other than that, the Cubs’ offense was rather lifeless.

The 2011 bullpen was successfully revisited tonight, as Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford got the hold and save, respectively. If only we could have had that a few months ago.

LOOKING INTO THE NL MVP RACE

> Recently I’ve been mulling over who I think should win the major baseball awards come the end of the season, and I’ve found there are a lot of interesting award races around the game. One I’m having a particularly tough time with is the National League MVP race.

Our own Ryan Braun took it home last year after posting a career high in batting average and leading the Brewers to the playoffs. But, while Braun is nearly duplicating the numbers he put up last year- and on pace for a career high in home runs- I can’t see him taking it home this year. The Brewers aren’t remotely close to contention, which we all know always affects the MVP race. And his eventful offseason is certain to take more than a few votes away.

Other than Braun, I see three candidates for the MVP (all on contending teams): Andrew McCutchen, Buster Posey, and Matt Holliday. Obviously there are other sleeper guys around the league, such as Adam LaRoche, Freddie Freeman, Carlos Beltran, and so on, but the three I listed prior seem to be the choices whom all the buzz is surrounding.

Everyone was pretty much handing McCutchen the award in July, which is clearly too early. He was hitting around .370 at the time, but has fallen into the .340’s. That still isn’t bad, but, as McCutchen has fallen, so have the Pirates. If that continues, my vote would not go to Cutch.

Posey and Holliday are my top two right now; both are valuable assets to their contending teams. Assuming the Giants and Cardinals stay where they are in the standings into the playoffs, my vote would go to Posey. The Giants have an otherwise weak offense without him, while the Cardinals still have a lineup of perennial All-Stars without Holliday.

That’s my opinion on the race right now. I would be thrilled if Braun somehow came out with the award again, but I have a feeling one of the guys I listed will to do Braun what Braun did to Matt Kemp last year.

MY TAKE

> Bianchi must have been listening when I called him Brooks Conrad 2.0 the other night, because he’s gone on a tear since I criticized him in Pittsburgh. After starting his career with an 0-for, Bianchi had five consecutive hits, ending with his first career homer in the second inning.

Needless to say I’m liking the Jean Segura-Bianchi shortstop tandem than I did the Cody Ransom-Cesar Izturis tandem.

THE NEWS

> Shaun Marcum was placed on waivers today. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him get nabbed by a contender.

> Randy Wolf didn’t go unemployed for very long, as it was reported that the Orioles signed him earlier today. They’ll likely use him as a relief since they’re primary lefty out of the ‘pen, Troy Patton, is taking a long time to recover from an injury. But Buck Showalter didn’t rule out using him as a spot starter in the ever-changing O’s rotation.

UPDATE: The Athletics also had “serious interest” in Wolf before he signed with the Orioles.

> Pitching coach Rick Kranitz said he doesn’t want Brewers pitchers trying too hard to get strikeouts in what could be a record-breaking season.

“I don’t want to see guys try to get strikeouts. They are a product of strike one and strike two. But when the situation dictates it, we’ve got guys who know how to strike guys out.”

“I’m just as happy with a shutout with no strikeouts and no walks. I don’t want to get caught up in all that [strikeout talk]. That’s why you have a defense out there.”

The Brewers are on pace to break the team strikeout record set by the 2003 Cubs, who featured elite arms such as Kerry Wood and Mark Prior.

> The Pirates released Erik Bedard. His final start with them was a loss at the hands of the Brewers just a few days ago, when he gave up seven earnies in 4 2/3 innings.

THE NUMBERS

> Gallardo made strides in quite a few stats tonight. He reached 14 wins for the third consecutive year. He won his sixth consecutive decision. He struck out nine for the third consecutive start. He threw his Major League-leading 22nd quality start. Yep, he’s the ace of the staff right now.

> Brewers pitchers struck out 10 for the eighth straight game.

> Holy crap, Justin Verlander gave up eight earned runs today.

> Tomorrow’s match-up:

Mike Fiers (7-6, 2.98 ERA) vs. Jeff Samardzija (8-11, 4.09 ERA)


Braun is officially back

August 18, 2012

POSTGAME

> The Brewers took the series from the Phillies today, defeating them 6-2. The stars of the show tonight were Yovani Gallardo, who is showing he’s become quite the second-half pitcher, and Ryan Braun, officially out of his slump.

Gallardo dominated a pretty depleted Philly lineup, going seven inning while giving up a run on four hits. He walked two and struck out nine. He won his fourth consecutive start, bring his season record to 12-8.

Down 1-0 in the fourth, the Brewers posted a two-out explosion against Vance Worley. After Corey Hart hit a single and Martin Maldonado walked, Nyjer Morgan hit a triple that bounced off of right fielder Dominic Brown’s glove. That gave the Brewers the lead. Worley then opted to walk Jean Segura so he could get to Gallardo’s spot in the lineup, but Yo made him pay with a two-run single.

In the sixth inning, Braun hit his third home run- a two-run shot- over the past two games. Looks like the off-day and early batting practice is still paying off.

The Phillies’ last run came on a Kevin Frandsen RBI single in the ninth.

THE NEWS

> Shaun Marcum will make one more start for the Class A Timber Rattlers. He’ll throw 75 pitches, then hopefully return to the Brewers’ rotation, assuming all goes well.

> The Nationals designated Cesar Izturis for assignment today. That’s the second former Brewer shortstop DFA’d this week.

> The Cubs are working on an extension with Starlin Castro.

> Prince Fielder belted two home runs to give the Tigers the win over the O’s today. Looks like he’s starting to figure out Comerica Park.

THE NUMBERS

> Gallardo is now 3-0 with a 1.74 ERA against the Phillies in his career. I have a strong hatred towards the Phillies, so I love that.

> Aramis Ramirez went a dismal 0-f0r-5 with three strikeouts in today’s game.

> It’s worth noting that tomorrow’s starter for the Phils, Cole Hamels, is coming off two consecutive shutouts. Hamels also threw a complete game against the Brewers last year.

> Tomorrow’s match-up:

Cole Hamels (13-6, 2.91 ERA) vs. Mike Fiers (2.63 ERA)

> Sorry about tonight’s short article. I started late and don’t have much time on my hands. Everything here at BWI is kind of scattered right now (you can probably tell by the current setup of the site), but I’m hoping to get everything organized within the next few weeks.


Bullpen hangs on for much-needed win

August 7, 2012

Postgame

> Finally, a game I can enjoy covering. It’s been too long. The Brewers defeated the Reds somewhat handily today, 6-3. This snapped a three-game losing skid courtesy of the Cardinals, and was a strong start to an important series, even if the Brewers aren’t contending.

I wasn’t high on Yovani Gallardo’s chances coming into tonight’s start. He had struggled his two starts before his last one, and, despite performing well in his last one, it came against the Astros. Plus, Yo has struggled against the Reds at Miller Park in his career. But, he jammed that down my throat with a great start, going seven innings while giving up a run on six hits. He walked three and struck out four. Gallardo had  to dance around danger multiple times, but it was one of his better outings this year as far as pitching in the clutch. He improved to 10-8 on the year and his ERA fell to 3.79.

Meanwhile, the offense backed him late. Early on, it looked like the Brewers were in for another rough go against Reds starter Bronson Arroyo. Coming into tonight, the Brewers at a .139 average against Arroyo in three games this year. That stat held true until the fifth inning, when the Brewers finally solved the puzzle. Martin Maldonado led off the inning with a double. After Jean Segura advanced him to third on a sacrifice fly (the throw actually hit Maldonado as he was sliding into third), Gallardo himself drove in the game’s first run. That was all the Brewers got that inning, but they added on massively later.

The Brewers hit three home runs off Arroyo in the sixth inning, which is what they should be doing to him all the time. Aramis Ramirez, who had been barking with Arroyo earlier in the game due to some beef that goes back a ways, hammered his 14th home run of the season. Corey Hart followed that up with a mammoth shot into the Harley Davidson deck (if you know Miller Park’s geography you know that’s pretty far). Then, after a single by Rickie Weeks, Maldonado hit what appeared to be a routine fly ball off the bat, but it just kept carrying until it was a two-run homer.

The only Reds tally came in the seventh on a Zack Cozart home run, which was the one blemish on Gallardo’s line.

Then, in the eighth, the bullpen appeared to be having one of its classic meltdowns. Jay Bruce led off the inning with a single off Francisco Rodriguez. One batter later, Scott Rolen hit a ground-rule double that put men on second and third with one out. After K-Rod walked Todd Frazier to load the bases, Ron Roenicke opted to go to the Brewers’ other struggling closer, John Axford. Ax promptly gave up an RBI single to Xavier Paul. Then, the Brewers were given a dash of luck. On a 3-2 pitch to Dioner Navarro, he hit into the right center gap, and it looked like it was going to be a bases-clearing double. But, right fielder Norichika Aoki saved the game with a sliding catch, and it turned into a sacrifice fly for Navarro. Axford then induced a Cozart pop-out to end the threat.

The Brewers tacked on one more on Maldonado’s RBI double in the bottom of the eighth. That allowed Axford to come back out for the ninth and record his first multi-inning save since 2010 (yes, all the way back to the Ken Macha era).

The Analysis

> Segura made his anticipated Brewers debut tonight, batting eighth and playing shortstop. It didn’t go well, as he went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. He saw eight pitches total, six of which were sliders that his nerves wouldn’t let him lay off of. He did have a productive at-bat to advance Maldo to third in the fifth, and he smashed a line drive to right field in the sixth, although Bruce had him played perfectly.

Segura didn’t look bad defensively, though. I was worried he’d pull some Yuni B’s in his debut, but that didn’t happen, thankfully.

I’m excited to see what Segura will do in the future for the Brewers. I have very high hopes for the kid who was the centerpiece of the Zack Greinke trade for the Brewers.

> I forgot to mention this last night, but Jim Henderson finally gave up a run. His ERA is now 1.93. Despite the small sample size, I consider him the most reliable reliever in our bullpen. Had Axford blown it tonight, my theory of Henderson closing may have became a reality.

The News

> Shaun Marcum will make his first rehab start for Class A Wisconsin on Thursday, which will be the first step for his comeback. Once he comes back, he’ll basically be auditioning for the free agent market or a late August trade, though.

> Cesar Izturis is headed to the Nationals, as he was claimed off waivers by them earlier today. That allowed the Brewers to call up Segura and get a look at him.

>And that’s about it. I leave you with tomorrow’s match-up, which should be a low-scoring contest, with each team’s best pitcher going:

Johnny Cueto (14-5, 2.52 ERA) vs. Mike Fiers (5-4, 1.88 ERA)


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