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 Championship Series begin

October 14, 2012

> All of the Division Series have come to a close. And, considering it was the first time in history that all of the necessary DS games were played- each series went to five games for 20 games total- I don’t think any of them was a bad series.

> The Giants came all the way back from an 0-2 deficit in their series against the Reds and won three straight to reach the NLCS. Their offense was non-existent during the first two games. But, after a Scott Rolen error in the 10th inning of Game 3 gave them a gift win, the offense exploded in Games 4 and 5. The highlights were Pablo Sandoval’s two-run homer in the seventh inning of Game 4 and Buster Posey’s grand slam in Game 5 that pretty much sealed the series.

> The Tigers nearly allowed the other Bay Area team- the Athletics- to come back from an 0-2 deficit against them, but Justin Verlander was having none of that. He threw a four-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts to abruptly end the A’s miracle season and send the Tigers to the ALCS.

> The Yankees’ offense only showed up for one inning during the entire series with the Orioles, but CC Sabathia didn’t need much yesterday. He threw a complete game to also end a dream season for the O’s. The big story was that Alex Rodriguez- the highest-paid player in baseball- was benched in Game 5 of the series, but Raul Ibanez’s .444 ALDS average picked up the slack.

> Despite the fact they were down 6-0 early, the Cardinals did exactly what they did in the 2011 World Series. Down 7-5 going into the ninth inning, they ambushed Nationals closer Drew Storen with four two-out runs. With the bases loaded, Daniel Descalso hit a hard ground ball up the middle that deflected off of shortstop Ian Desmond’s glove- I leave it up to you as to whether or not Desmond should have had the ball- and boom, tie game. Then Pete Kozma, some rookie shortstop that no non-Cards fan had heard of until late September, hit the go-ahead two-run single to sink the Nats.

Hate to say it, but this season might once again by written in the stars for the Cardinals. (Yes, that pun was definitely intended.)

MY TAKE

> PLEASE quit calling the Cardinals a “cinderella story.” Yes, they won in dramatic fashion last night, but that doesn’t put them in that category. A cinderella story is a team that, at the beginning of the year, is expected to finish near last in their division, then go on to have a miracle season. This year, that was the Orioles and Athletics (you could argue the Nationals, but I don’t think anyone expected them to be terrible this year).

Sure, the Cards lost Albert Pujols, Tony La Russa, and Dave Duncan. But there was still way too much talent on that team coming into 2012 for them not to contend.

So I guess if you expected the Cardinals to finish in dead last and lose 100 games coming into this season, then sure, they’re a cinderella team to you. But there’s clearly a problem if you expected that.

> There aren’t series MVPs handed out in the Division Series, only for the Championship and World Series. But, if they did exist in the DS, these would be my MVPs for each series:

Giants: Sandoval

Cardinals: Kozma

Yankees: Ibanez

Tigers: Verlander

I actually had a tough time picking for the Giants, but Sandoval was the only Giants hitter to hit over .300 for the series. And I couldn’t give it to a pitcher, since the starters especially underperformed in this series. The rest of MVPs were rather easy, however.

THE NEWS

> Shaun Marcum doesn’t expect to pitch for the Brewers next year.

> Following outright assignments, relievers Vinnie Chulk and Tim Dillard each elected free agency.

> The Brewers also outrighted Cody Scarpetta and Eric Farris to Triple-A Nashville, but neither has the right to elect free agency.

> News has surfaced regarding Francisco Rodriguez and his arrest for domestic violence sometime in September. The incident took place in Wales, a suburban city about 45 minutes to an hour away from Milwaukee.

But apparently K-Rod has a history of things like this that I wasn’t aware of. In late 2010, he had to take anger management classes after “an altercation” with one of his relatives at Citi Field during his days with the Mets.

It seems he’s doing everything he can to make sure he can’t find a deal anywhere else for 2013. His horrible 2012 campaign made it bad enough, but you can bet teams that see this on his resume won’t be impressed.

> Other than that, there hasn’t been much to report about the Brewers lately, so let’s get on to the minor moves around baseball the past week:

White Sox: Outrighted Ray Olmedo, who elected free agency.
Blue Jays: Outrighted Jesse Litsch, Aaron Laffey, Bobby Korecky, Robert Coello, and Scott Richmond, all of whom elected free agency.
Pirates: Outrighted Doug Slaten, who elected free agency.
Padres: Outrighted Ross Ohlendorf, who elected free agency.
Rays: Outrighted Brooks Conrad, who elected free agency.
Indians: Outrighted Shelley Duncan and Luke Carlin, both of whom elected free agency.
Red Sox: Outrighted Jason Repko and Guillermo Quiroz, both of whom elected free agency.
Diamondbacks: Re-signed Brent Clevlen.
Giants: Outrighted Shane Loux and Justin Christian to Triple-A.


Brewers embarrased by Padres’ bullpen

June 10, 2012

> Today was an embarrassing day for the Brewers’ offense, to say the least. They lost to the Padres, 5-2, and gave up 13 hits to the worst offense in the National League. And the Brewers could barely get any hits for themselves, despite the fact Padres starter Andrew Cashner left after just 2 1/3 innings. I thought the Brewers would start hitting after that, since Cashner was coming at them with a huge fastball- topping out at 101 MPH- and a 90 MPH change up that complimented the fastball nicely.

The Brewers got one run off Cashner, which was an RBI double by Rickie Weeks in the first inning. After he left the game, the Brewers could only get one more run: an RBI single by Martin Maldonado that gave them a temporary 2-1 lead. But the Padres jumped on Michael Fiers in the sixth inning for three runs, and a lead they wouldn’t again lose.

> I wouldn’t be as mad about the Brewers getting shut down by the Padres’ bullpen if we were still in 2011. Last year, the Pads actually had a bullpen they could brag about, with guys like Heath Bell, Mike Adams, Luke Gregerson, and so on. But that isn’t necessarily the case this year. Today, the Padres used Ross Ohlendorf (who went 4 1/3 innings of long relief), Gregerson, Joe Thatcher, Dale Thayer, and Huston Street. The Brewers should have been able to hammer Ohlendorf, like they did back in his days with the Pirates. Same goes for Street, whose save percentage against the Brewers is hovering around 60%. Other than Gregerson, none of these guys should have been too tough for the Brewers to handle. But I guess I can’t expect too much out of the Brewers’ offense with all the injuries. Regardless, though, it’s embarrassing.

> The only positive that came out of today’s game is that the Brewers only needed to use three pitchers. The enigma that is Fiers went six innings while giving up four runs on ten hits. He walked one and struck out six. Then, Manny Parra went two innings, and Francisco Rodriguez handled the ninth.

> And that’s already about it; really not much to talk about today. The Brewers will play a rubber game of this series tomorrow at 1:10 PM CT. They’ll send Yovani Gallardo (4-5, 4.50 ERA) to the mound, who will hope to come back from a sub-par outing against the Cubs his last time out. It was an odd start- he had good stuff, as shown by his ten strikeouts, but gave up five runs in six innings.

The Padres will counter with Anthony Bass (2-5, 4.21 ERA), who has shown flashes of being a decent pitcher at times this year. But, his ERA has escalated over his past few starts. Bass has never faced the Brewers.

> Anyway, I’ll have up the box score later. But for now, thanks for reading, and feel free to leave your thoughts.

> Box Score

AB R H RBI BB SO LOB AVG
Corey Hart, 1B 5 0 0 0 0 3 5 .258
Norichika Aoki, RF 5 1 1 0 0 0 0 .297
Ryan Braun, LF 5 0 1 0 0 2 1 .306
Aramis Ramirez, 3B 4 0 2 0 1 0 0 .259
Rickie Weeks, 2B 4 0 1 1 0 0 3 .159
Cody Ransom, SS 2 1 0 0 2 2 2 .226
Nyjer Morgan, CF 3 0 1 0 0 2 1 .230
Martin Maldonado, C 2 0 1 1 1 0 1 .233
b-George Kottaras, PH-C 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 .241
Michael Fiers, P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
a-Brooks Conrad, PH 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 .081
c- Taylor Green, PH 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .245
d-Carlos Gomez, PH 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 .258
Totals 33 2 8 2 4 11 15

a-Struck out for Fiers in the 6th.

b-Struck out for Maldonado in 8th.

c-Batted for Parra in the 8th.

d-Singled for Green in the 8th.

BATTING

2B: Weeks (9), Ramirez (17).

TB: Maldonado, Braun, Ramirez 3, Weeks 2, Aoki, Morgan, Gomez.

RBI: Weeks (15), Maldonado (7).

Team RISP: 2-for-8.

Team LOB: 11.

BASERUNNING

SB: Aoki (4).

FIELDING

DP: (Ransom-Weeks-Hart), Hart.

IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA
Michael Fiers (L, 1-2) 6.0 10 4 4 1 6 0 4.50
Manny Parra 2.0 2 1 1 1 2 0 4.30
Francisco Rodriguez 1.0 1 0 0 0 2 0 4.50
Totals 9.0 13 5 5 2 10 0

WP: Fiers, Rodriguez.

Pitches-strikes: Fiers 91-62, Parra 32-19, Rodriguez 14-10.

Groundouts-flyouts: Fiers 2-4, Parra 2-0, Rodriguez 0-0.

Batters faced: Fiers 27, Parra 9, Rodriguez 4.


Recap of Brewers-Pirates series

August 25, 2011

I’m back. Sorry for not getting up posts for a few days, but I was out of town. Anyway, I should probably reflect a bit on the Brewers-Pirates series in Pittsburgh that took place while I was away.

The Brewers split that four-game series. That’s alright, I guess, but when the Brewers are playing the Pirates, you’d expect an easy four wins for the Brewers. But, the law of averages had to come into play eventually, meaning the Pirates couldn’t do this horrible against the Brewers forever.

Anyway, the offense for the Brewers was on and off all series. In the first game of the double-header, they made a mockery of the Pirates’ bullpen by scoring six runs off them in an 8-1 victory. But, the Pirates countered in the night game of the double-header, tagging Zack Greinke for seven runs in a 9-2 loss for the Brewers. Seven of their nine runs came in a never-ending seventh inning off Greinke and reliever Frankie De La Cruz.

But, the Brewers had a seven run inning of their own the next day. They crushed Ross Ohlendorf, who was making his return from the DL, for seven runs in the second inning, which was part of an 11-4 blowout win.

During the final game of the series, the offense pretty much disappeared. The Pirates won, 2-0. Pirates starter Aaron Thompson was making his Major League debut, and he did alright, I guess. He lasted just 4 1/3 innings, but didn’t give up a run. He allowed a lot of baserunners, but the Brewers weren’t executing with runners in scoring position at all. That was their 11th shutout loss of the year- all of which have come on the road.

Anyway, here are a few more things that took place while I was away.

Narveson moves to bullpen for the time being

Chris Narveson will be in the bullpen for the next two series or so. He’s typically the No. 5 guy in the Brewers’ rotation, but, due to scheduled off-days during the next stretch, they won’t need a fifth starter. That means they’ll be working with a four-man rotation (Greinke, Yovani Gallardo, Shaun Marcum, and Randy Wolf). This move also gives the bullpen a lefty, something the Brewers’ bullpen has been lacking nearly all season.

But, I don’t know how much I like this move. It’s true that Narveson is only an average starter- he’s 9-6 with a 4.31 ERA- and isn’t a superstar ace, meaning they can go without him for awhile. But, during the next two series, the Brewers will be playing the Cubs and Cardinals- two teams that Narveson has had a ton of success against in his career. In my opinion, a more logical move would have been to move Wolf to the bullpen for a little while, because Wolf hasn’t had nearly the success against the Cubs and Cardinals that Narveson has. But, Narveson is the only guy in the rotation with recent bullpen experience (Greinke was in the Royals bullpen a few years back), so I guess that’s what this move was based off of.

Parra has ANOTHER setback…

Brewers pitcher Manny Parra had yet another setback yesterday. He’s going to need to undergo surgery to replace a screw in his elbow that’s been giving him some trouble recently.

Parra has been having setbacks all year, though. He probably would have made the Opening Day roster as a lefty out of the bullpen, but had back problems in Spring Training that kept him from that. Since then, he’s had simultaneous issues with both his back and elbow, and definitely won’t pitch again this year, not even in the Minors. But, if he can avoid undergoing major surgery (such as Tommy John Surgery), he could be ready to go by Spring Training in 2012.

In 2010, Parra had a disappointing season as a starter, and went 3-10 with a 5.02 ERA overall. But, he had success out of the bullpen that year, putting up a 2.93 ERA during appearances out of the ‘pen. And, since the Brewers already have five capable starters, Parra would have fit perfectly into the bullpen, being a lefty.

Parra will be arbitration eligible for the second time in his career this offseason, but, if he has yet another setback, I can’t imagine the Brewers will offer him arbitration. I’m even surprised with the patience they’re giving him at this point.

Anyway, that’s about all I have right now. The only other thing I missed was that Marco Estrada will be moving back to the bullpen after making his last start on Tuesday, and De La Cruz is probably going to be sent down, but that’s a pretty minor situation. The Brewers have an off-day today and will begin a series with the Cubs tomorrow, so, before I finish, here are the probable pitching matchups for the series:

Rodrigo Lopez (4-4, 4.97 ERA) vs. Randy Wolf (10-8, 3.45 ERA)

Ryan Dempster (10-9, 4.60 ERA) vs. Yovani Gallardo (14-8, 3.51 ERA)

Casey Coleman (2-6, 7.59 ERA) vs. Zack Greinke (12-5, 4.22 ERA)