Random HGH testing to take place

January 11, 2013

> We may be looking at the end of the steroid era. MLB has finally decided to bring down the hammer, and in-season HGH testing is going to take place for the first time, starting in 2013.

Previously, testing only took place during Spring Training and the offseason, but now it’ll happen randomly during the regular season. The random timing of the testing brings about an element of surprise- in other words, players won’t know when they’re going to be tested, so they can’t juice up strategically and work around their testing dates (which they would have had prior knowledge of).

But this is definitely a positive for baseball. The doubts of the steroid era showed their true colors yesterday, as no one was inducted into the Hall of Fame for the first time since 1996. Players like Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds were never proven to have taken steroids, but the speculation was still out there, which was enough to keep them out of the Hall. This new rule should take that aspect away from the game (though it won’t show in the HOF voting for a few years to come).

> Now for an intriguing piece of Brewers news: the club brought aboard right-hander Kelvim Escobar with a minor league deal and an invite to Spring Training. Escobar hasn’t thrown a pitch in the Majors since 2009, and that was in just one start: he hasn’t pitched a full season since 2007.

2007 also happened to be Escobar’s career year, when he went 18-7 with a 3.40 ERA as a member of the Angels. For his career, he’s 101-91 with a 4.15 ERA (seven years with the Blue Jays, five in LA).

The odds of Escobar making the big league team at any point during the season are slim, barring a major injury to one or more of the Brewers’ starter prospects. But, at 36 years of age, he’ll still be a cool story to follow.

> The Brewers also avoided arbitration with Chris Narveson, one of the many starters competing for a spot in the rotation this spring. He received $840,000 in his first year of eligibility.

> The club outrighted Arcenio Leon to Triple-A yesterday after designating him for assignment earlier this week.

> Jonathan Lucroy is also going to play in the World Baseball Classic, joining Ryan Braun on Team USA.

> Minor moves: 

Giants: Signed Kensuke Tanaka to a minor league deal.
Nationals: Signed Ross Ohlendorf to a minor league deal.
Blue Jays: Claimed Tommy Hottovy off waivers from the Rangers; designated Chad Beck for assignment.
White Sox: Signed Jeff Gray, Ramon Troncoso, David Purcey, Bryan Anderson, Josh Bell, Steve Tolleson, and Stefan Gartrell to minor league deals.
Cubs: Re-signed Luis Valbuena to a one-year deal; signed Brent Lillibridge and Darnell McDonald to minor league deals.
Rays: Signed Craig Albernaz, Jason Bourgeois, and J.D. Martin to minor league deals.
Reds: Signed Nate Samson to a minor league deal.
Dodgers: Signed Matt Palmer to a minor league deal.

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The blowpen strikes back

August 30, 2012

POSTGAME

> The bullpen was in mid-season form today, managing to blow what was once a 9-3 lead and turned it into an 12-11 loss to the Cubs. And it’s too bad, because there were a lot of great storylines for the offense.

Shaun Marcum wasn’t himself today, and it showed early, as the Cubs got RBI hits from Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo, and David DeJesus in the first two innings. But the Brewers stormed back against Cubs starter Brooks Raley, posting a five-run third inning that included a grand slam from Jonathan Lucroy. Ryan Braun hit a two-run homer the next inning.

The Brewers tacked on two more on a Lucroy single in the sixth, but the bullpen had another episode, allowing six runs. There were extra-base hits, bases-loaded walks, and basically everything you don’t want to see.

Cody Ransom promptly gave the Brewers the lead on a solo shot in the seventh, however. Lucroy tacked on another RBI in the eighth for a seven-RBI day.

With John Axford for some reason unavailable after pitching the last two games, Francisco Rodriguez was put in for the save. After striking out Joe Mather to start the inning, K-Rod gave up a double to DeJesus, walked Luis Valbuena, gave up an RBI single to Castro, an RBI double to Rizzo, then a walk-off single to Alfonso Soriano. Yep, went from good to bad pretty quickly.

MY TAKE

> Why K-Rod was used in the closer’s role today is beyond me. He had been pitching great in the eighth inning recently, having not given up a hit in his last eight appearances. So, instead of keeping K-Rod where he had been producing, Ron Roenicke used Jim Henderson in the eighth, where he threw a scoreless inning.

But I don’t get why Henderson isn’t the back-up closer (or just the regular closer). K-Rod has proven he’s not going to get better this year, and he’s definitely not coming back next year. So why bother using him there?

> I’ve been a Manny Parra-backer for pretty much his entire career, but what a pile of junk he’s turned into. After being removed from the starting rotation in late 2010 following a 3-10 record and an ERA over 5.30, he was put into the bullpen, where he threw well until the end of the season. He didn’t pitch at all in 2011 due to a series of back and elbow injuries, but was going to be relied on heavily as the one lefty in the ‘pen this year.

And he’s been terrible. He has a 4.62 ERA, and hasn’t been able to touch the strike zone half the time. That showed again today, as he walked two in a third of an inning while allowing some of Livan Hernandez’s runs to score.

But what gets me is that Parra came out earlier this year and, following a bullpen explosion similar to this one, that he “was having a good year, no matter what anyone else said,” and that the breakdown was a fluke.

Nope, it happens every other outing. Parra better be sent packing along with K-Rod at season’s end.

THE NEWS

> Roenicke said he wasn’t bothered by the lack of complete games. I love how he just keeps brushing off this stat nonchalantly, continuing to say that our bullpen should be able to pick up one or two innings.

Well guess what, Ron? The Brewers have no complete games, and the worst bullpen in baseball. Those two things do NOT add up. This is what people who continue saying this season isn’t RRR’s fault are failing to understand.

> The Brewers will unveil the new Bob Uecker statue at Miller Park tomorrow.

THE NUMBERS

> Lucroy hit his second grand slam of the year. It was also his second seven-RBI game of the year.

> Rickie Weeks went a perfect 5-for-5.

> Ransom went 3-for-4. I was hoping I’d be able to write here that he didn’t strike out for once, but the one time he was retired- in the ninth inning- was via the strikeout.

> Hernandez and Parra gave up a combined six earned runs in that disaster sixth inning.

> The match-ups for the upcoming Pirates series:

Jeff Karstens (5-3, 3.47 ERA) vs. Mark Rogers (2-1, 4.28 ERA)

Marco Estrada (2-5, 4.02 ERA) vs. A.J. Burnett (15-5, 3.67 ERA)

James McDonald (12-6, 3.57 ERA) vs. Yovani Gallardo (14-8, 3.52 ERA)