Nelson stars on mound, at plate vs. Angels

May 3, 2016

RECAP

> It ended up being much closer than it should have been, but the Brewers’ 8-5 win over the Angels on Monday night was a big one nonetheless.

Jimmy Nelson (4-2, 3.05 ERA) held down a tough Angels lineup, as he went seven innings while giving up two runs on four hits. He walked three and struck out six in what was probably his best start since his first of the season against the Giants. The only damage against Nelson came from Mike Trout, who had an RBI single in the first inning and a solo home run in the sixth.

Nelson was also locked in at the plate against Angels starter Jered Weaver (3-1, 5.40 ERA), as he notched two hits off the soft-tossing righty. One of those was an RBI single in the fifth inning that came in the midst of the Brewers’ first four-run rally. Yadiel Rivera also had an RBI single in the inning, and then Jonathan Lucroy capped it off with a two-run double to give the Brewers a 4-1 lead.

The Brewers had another four-run inning in the sixth. After Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Aaron Hill started the inning with back-to-back singles, Rivera hit another RBI single to knock Weaver out of the game. Jonathan Villar hit a two-run double later in the inning, which was followed by a Ryan Braun RBI single.

Both of those hits turned out to be valuable insurance for the Brewers, as the bullpen made it interesting after Nelson’s departure. Michael Blazek gave up RBI hits to Albert Pujols and C.J. Cron in the eighth before Jeremy Jeffress struggled in a non-save situation in the ninth. After giving up a two-out single to Rafael Ortega, Trout drove him in with an RBI single after he advanced on defensive indifference. Pujols continued the rally with a single, and then Jeffress walked Kole Calhoun to bring the go-ahead run to the plate in Ji-Man Choi. Jeffress regrouped and induced a groundout to seal the win.

> This series is off to a better start than the Miami series, in which the Brewers lost two of three. Adam Conley no-hit the Brewers through 7 2/3 innings, but Don Mattingly pulled him– with the no-hitter still intact– at 116 pitches. Lucroy broke up the no-no in the ninth off reliever Jose Urena, and the Brewers turned that it into a three-run rally, but still lost 6-3. Milwaukee also fell in the second game 7-5 thanks to a blow-up start from Chase Anderson, but outslugged the Fish 14-5 in the third game. Chris Carter homered twice and Domingo Santana also had a solo shot while Villar, Braun, Nieuwenhuis, and Martin Maldonado also had RBIs. Wily Peralta had another terrible start, but still received the win thanks to his offense.

NEWS

> Junior Guerra will start tomorrow in place of Taylor Jungmann, who was optioned to Triple-A Colorado Springs last week.

Guerra is an interesting story. He received a 50-game PED suspension in 2008, and then played anywhere he could find employment, including leagues in Kansas, Italy, Venezuela, and Mexico. Guerra finally made it to the majors last year with the White Sox but made just three relief appearances. This will be his first big league start.

Guerra’s stats at Triple-A this season aren’t impressive: he owns a 4.63 ERA over four starts. However, the Brewers’ top pitching prospect, Jorge Lopez, has struggled to an 8.79 ERA so far this year in his first Triple-A action, otherwise he likely would have gotten the nod. According to Craig Counsell, Josh Hader– who has dominated at Double-A Biloxi to the tune of a 0.78 ERA thus far– did not receive consideration for the start.

The Brewers designated left-handed reliever Sam Freeman for assignment to make room for Guerra on the 25-man roster. Freeman has good stuff, but struggled to harness it in a Brewers uniform, as he posted a 12.91 ERA (11 runs in 7 2/3 innings). He also walked more batters (nine) than he struck out (eight).

> As Braun is off to a hot start this season, many are speculating that he could make a good trade piece for the Brewers somewhere down the line. There is a clause in Braun’s current contract extension that allows him to choose the teams he can block trades to every season; this year, he can veto a trade to every team in baseball except the Angels, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Giants, Marlins, and Padres.

STATS

> Braun is currently fourth in the league in batting with his .372 average.

> Carter’s seven home runs tie him for seventh in the league in the category.

> Nieuwenhuis has brought his average up to .279. He could be the Brewers’ short-term answer in center field.

> Trout, widely regarded as the best all-around player in baseball, showed the Brewers why on Monday: he went 4-for-5 with three RBIs and two runs scored, as well as a stolen base. He’s played just four games against Milwaukee in his career, but over that span, he has destroyed the Brewers, as he’s hitting .600 (9-for-15) against them.

> I’m pretty sure Weaver didn’t throw a pitch harder than 84 MPH today. His decline in velocity over the past few years has been insane; it’s hard to believe he was once one of the premier strikeout pitchers in baseball. After keeping the Brewers off balance through the first four innings, they finally got to Weaver in the fifth. He ended up going 5+ innings while giving up seven runs on 11 hits. Weaver walked two and struck out three.

> Tomorrow’s match-up is Guerra (0-0, -.–) against Nick Tropeano (1-0, 2.11 ERA). Neither pitcher has faced the opposing team.


Brewers score run off Arrieta

April 29, 2016

RECAP

> Yesterday’s game was another disappointing loss, 7-2 at the hands of the Cubs, though this one was expected, so it didn’t hurt as much. On the bright side, the Brewers did score a run off Jake Arrieta (5-0, 1.00 ERA), who, since the beginning of the second half of last year, has been as close to superhuman as one can possibly be (except for some uncharacteristically bad outings in the postseason).

Many speculated it would happen, but it didn’t: Arrieta did not no-hit the Brewers. Though this season, back-to-back starts against the Reds and Brewers would be the most opportune time to toss back-to-back no-hitters.

Arrieta gave up just the one run, but the Brewers made him work a bit. He needed 92 pitches to make it through just five innings, and the Cubs yanked him after that. It was probably a smart decision, though, as the Cubs had a comfortable lead at the time, and Arrieta had thrown 119 pitches in his previous start. He walked four and struck out six.

The Brewers’ only two runs both came courtesy of Alex Presley, who got the start in right field while Domingo Santana had the day off. Presley had an RBI double in the fifth– a rare run-scoring hit off Arrieta– and then a sacrifice fly in the ninth. The other two hits allowed by Arrieta were both to Jonathan Villar: the first was a leadoff single in the first to deny any chance of another no-hitter, then a two-out single in the fifth to set the stage for Presley’s double.

> Taylor Jungmann (0-4, 9.15 ERA) was terrible again. He lasted just 3 2/3 innings while allowing five runs on six hits. He walked three, struck out two, and hit two batters. The biggest blows were Ben Zobrist’s two-run single in the first inning, David Ross’s solo bomb in the second, and then back-to-back RBI doubles from Anthony Rizzo and Tommy La Stella in the third.

NEWS

> Not surprisingly, Jungmann was optioned back to Triple-A Colorado Springs following the start. Reliever David Goforth was recalled in a corresponding move.

After a decent start against the Giants in his season debut, Jungmann completely lost it. He never seemed to recover from his second start of the season, in which he allowed eight runs in just 2+ innings to the Cardinals. Jungmann came up in June of 2015 and almost acted as the ace of the staff for a time, as he went 9-5 with a 2.42 ERA in his first 16 starts in the majors. However, he completely flamed out in September, going 0-3 with a 9.53 ERA in his final five starts of the season. The Brewers hoped he was just getting tired from the extra month of the season that minor leaguers aren’t used to, but it seems he’s just become less effective. We can only hope he’ll figure something out at Triple-A.

The Brewers haven’t announced who will take his place in the rotation yet, but with Matt Garza still out for a while longer, someone will need to bridge the gap. There are a plethora of options in Triple-A right now, such as Jorge Lopez, Hiram Burgos, and Tyler Cravy (who has already seen time in the majors as a reliever this year). If the Brewers want to stay at the major league level, Chris Capuano and Tyler Thornburg are relievers who have previous starting experience.

> Scooter Gennett is headed to the 15-day disabled list with right oblique soreness. He was held out of the lineup on Tuesday with right oblique tightness. Infielder Hernan Perez, who spent most of the season with the Brewers after being claimed off waivers from the Tigers last May, has been recalled from Triple-A to take Gennett’s place.

STATS

> The Brewers’ run off Arrieta snapped his home scoreless streak at 52 2/3 innings, which is the second longest mark in major league history. The longest was set by Ray Herbert of the White Sox, who threw 54 consecutive scoreless innings at Comiskey Park between 1962 and 1963.

> Milwaukee walked a combined 11 batters in yesterday’s game: Jungmann had three, Capuano three, Sam Freeman four, and Carlos Torres one.

> The Brewers start a three-game set with the Marlins tonight. Zach Davies (0-2, 9.72 ERA) will take the mound against power left-hander Adam Conley (0-1, 5.12 ERA). Davies’s only start against the Marlins came late last year, when he held them to a run over seven innings. In two career starts against the Brewers, Conley has a 6.75 ERA with no decisions.

 


Bats heat up too late in loss to Cubs

April 27, 2016

RECAP

> It looked promising early on, but Tuesday night’s 4-3 loss to the Cubs turned out to be another typical Jimmy Nelson start: he breezed along through the first few innings before running into trouble in the middle innings. His final line was three runs (one earned) on just two hits over 5 1/3 innings. He walked four– which ultimately led to his ill fate– and struck out six.

The Brewers struck first on Aaron Hill’s sacrifice fly in the second inning. Nelson (3-2, 3.16 ERA) then cruised along for a while, shutting out a tough Cubs lineup through the first four innings. His control began to elude him in the fifth, however. Nelson walked Jorge Soler to lead off the inning, which was followed by an Addison Russell single. After David Ross laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners up, Nelson walked Tommy La Stella to load the bases. Nelson was lucky the only damage done in that inning would be a game-tying sacrifice fly from Dexter Fowler, but luck was not on his side in the sixth. Kris Bryant reached on an error by the third baseman Hill to lead off the inning, and then, two batters later, Ben Zobrist drew a walk. Russell then hit a go-ahead two-run triple to break it open for the Cubs. Anthony Rizzo hit an RBI double in the seventh off Blaine Boyer for what would be the game-winning run.

Milwaukee wasn’t done, but it was too little, too late for the offense. Pedro Strop walked Hill to lead off the eighth, then walked Colin Walsh two batters later. Ryan Braun, in a pinch-hit appearance, hit a two-run double to bring the Brewers within one, but that was all they would get.

> Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks (1-2, 3.52 ERA) didn’t factor into the decision, but he was stellar over five innings. He gave up a run on two hits while walking one and striking out four. I have no idea why Cubs manager Joe Maddon pulled him so early– he was at just 69 pitches– but the bullpen got it done, so I suppose it doesn’t matter.

> I don’t think there’s any denying that Nelson is the de facto ace of this staff. That’s in part because the Brewers’ other young starters, such as Taylor Jungmann and Wily Peralta, have been unable to step up, but Nelson also probably has the best stuff on the club at the moment, and he can usually harness that stuff.

However, there’s been an alarming trend in four of his five starts this season, one that was also very prominent when he first became a permanent fixture in the rotation in late 2014. Following his first start of the season against the Giants– when he allowed two runs over 7 1/3 innings, arguably his best start to this point– he has struggled to make it past the sixth inning. We first saw this in his start against the Astros, which, don’t get me wrong, was a very good start in which he struck out nine over 6+ innings. Craig Counsell put him back out for the seventh in that start, but he issued a leadoff walk, prompting Counsell to turn to the bullpen. Something similar happened in his third start, which came against the Pirates. He had fired six shutout innings and his pitch count was still low, so it was a no-brainer for Counsell to send him back out for the seventh. Nelson once again walked the leadoff batter in the seventh, but this time Counsell stuck with him because the Brewers had a five-run cushion at the time. The next batter reached on an error, but then Nelson served up a three-run blast to Matt Joyce. That was the end of Nelson’s outing that night, and was a slight cause for concern because it brought back memories of when he first came up.

And even more alarming: it happened again against the Twins in his last start. After cruising through the first five innings having allowed just one run, Nelson gave up two home runs in the sixth, allowing the Twins to tie it. Counsell actually forced him to work through it that time, and he pitched into the seventh inning before being lifted with two outs.

But it happened again tonight. This time started a little earlier than usual, in the fifth inning, but it’s still the same story. The trend has been that he seems to lose his control in the middle innings, which leads to walks, home runs, or both in those innings. This is eerily similar to what would happen to him in his starts in late 2014: he’d mow through lineups for the first six innings and then lose all control in the seventh.

This is common with pitchers who don’t have the greatest of stuff– i.e., they throw maybe in the high 80’s and rely on control and breaking stuff– and a good hitting team can catch on to that and time pitches, especially by the third time through the order; Shaun Marcum was a good example of that sort of pitcher. However, Nelson is not that kind of pitcher. His repertoire is advanced enough to where he can be an ace and should be able to pitch deep into games. It’s clear that he loses command in these innings, so maybe it’s an endurance thing, though he has pitched into and completed eight innings a few times in his career. Another thing that confuses me is that, while Nelson was definitely pretty inconsistent in 2015, the middle innings didn’t seem to be as much of a problem in particular as they were in 2014.

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what he does from here on out. The good news is he’s been pretty consistent as far as damage control goes and, outside of the middle innings, doesn’t seem to be having many problems this year; the 3.16 ERA is a good indicator of that. However, if this middle innings trend continues, I’d say the Brewers should start getting concerned.

> The Brewers will unfortunately be facing Jake Arrieta (4-0, 0.87 ERA), who is coming off a no-hitter against the Reds, tomorrow. He’s 4-3 with a 2.35 ERA against the Brewers in his career, but I’m guessing that ERA will be going down tomorrow. Milwaukee will counter with Jungmann (0-3, 8.47 ERA), who is off to a terrible start this season. In two career starts against the Cubs, he’s 0-2 with a 4.32 ERA.

 

 


Brewers outslugged in third straight loss

April 24, 2016

RECAP

> It was an ugly night for the Brewers pitching staff on Saturday when they fell to the Phillies, 10-6. It was clear from the first batter of the game that Chase Anderson (1-2, 4.50 ERA) was going to have a long night, and even though he battled, Philadelphia’s lineup drove up his pitch count too much early on, which was his downfall.

For the second night in a row, the Brewers struck first blood, as Jonathan Lucroy’s RBI single in the first inning gave the Brewers an early lead. The Phillies retaliated with three runs in the top of the third, but Milwaukee quickly answered back in the bottom of the third against lefty Brett Oberholtzer. Jonathan Villar worked an eight-pitch walk to lead off the inning, and then, two batters later, Ryan Braun hit his fourth home run of the season, a rope to left field to tie the game 3-3. After another Lucroy single and Chris Carter’s double, Domingo Santana gave the Brewers the lead with an RBI fielder’s choice.

However, the Phillies posted another three-run inning in the third: Cesar Hernandez led off with a walk, Odubel Herrera followed with a single, and then Maikel Franco hit his third home run in two games to give the Phils a lead the would not relinquish. Franco continued to be a thorn in the Brewers’ side, driving in a run with a single in the sixth inning.

Down 7-4 in the eighth, the Brewers rallied and appeared prime for a comeback. Carter led off the inning with a solo shot– his team-leading fifth of the year– off reliever Dalier Hinojosa. Milwaukee would get one more in the inning on Aaron Hill’s sacrifice fly, leaving the Brewers down by one heading into the ninth. Jeremy Jeffress was tasked with holding the Phillies down to set the stage for a comeback in the bottom of the inning, but he was unable to do so: he allowed an RBI double to Hernandez and then a two-run blast to Herrera to put the game out of reach.

> Anderson by no means performed well on this night, but he was victim to some bad luck, especially during the Phillies’ three-run third inning. He walked Herrera to lead off the inning, but then induced back-to-pack pop-ups from Freddy Galvis and Franco and appeared to have a way out without allowing a run. Anderson had the next batter, Ryan Howard, in a 2-2 count and threw what appeared to be a decent pitch, a curveball low and outside. Howard tried to check his swing but couldn’t completely and blooped the ball in the air towards third base. Unfortunately, it was somehow too far over the shortstop Villar’s head (Villar was the only one on the left side of the infield due to the shift) and fell into no man’s land between Villar and the left fielder Braun, resulting in a game-tying RBI single for Howard.

Darin Ruf followed him with the most well-struck ball of the inning, a line drive to right center for a single. Carlos Ruiz then hit a soft ground ball down the right field line for another RBI single; had the first baseman Carter been in his normal position, he probably would have fielded it with ease, but for whatever reason he was playing way off the line. Tyler Goeddel was next in line, and he hit– you guessed it– a bloop RBI single over the head of second baseman Scooter Gennett.

So, in essence, Anderson gave up three runs on four hits in the inning, but it’s not like the Phillies were spraying extra-base hits all over the field. Just one of the four hits– Ruf’s single– was well-struck, and the rest were just poor luck for Anderson.

As a result, Anderson’s line was not pretty: he needed 99 pitches to make it through just four innings. He allowed six runs on eight hits while walking four– uncharacteristically high for him– and striking out two.

> Phillies starter Charlie Morton (1-1, 4.15 ERA), a name Brewers fans might recognize from his days with the Pirates, didn’t factor in the decision. He left the game in the top of the second after pulling a muscle and tripping on his way to first; the initial diagnosis was a hamstring strain. Morton threw just one inning in the game, giving up a run on three hits. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out three.

NEWS

> Matt Garza is making strides as he hopes to return from the disabled list earlier than anticipated. He’s been taking batting practice with the team for the last few days, and hopes to start throwing within the next week. Garza was placed on the disabled list shortly after spring training ended with a right lat strain.

> The Brewers recalled outfielder Alex Presley from Triple-A Colorado Springs on Thursday. He was off to a hot start with the Sky Sox, hitting .381 over 34 plate appearances. Presley could compete with Kirk Nieuwenheis and Ramon Flores for the center field job, which is still up for grabs after opening day center fielder Keon Broxton was optioned last week.

In a corresponding move, reliever Tyler Cravy was optioned to Triple-A. Cravy had allowed two runs over 5 2/3 innings (3.18 ERA) so far this season. Right-hander Zack Jones was transferred to the 60-day DL to make room for Presley on the 40-man roster.

STATS

> As Anderson was unable to post a quality start today, the Brewers remain stuck at just four quality starts on the season, which is 29th in the majors. Jimmy Nelson has three of the Brewers’ four quality starts, which were his starts against the Giants (two runs in 7 1/3 innings), Astros (two runs in 6+ innings), and Pirates (three runs in 6+ innings). The other one was Anderson’s start against the Cardinals (three runs in six innings).

The quality start– defined as the starting pitcher going at least six innings and allowing no more than three earned runs– is definitely an overrated and useless stat, but it is alarming that the Brewers only have four at this point in the season. The Brewers have had some other good starts, such as Taylor Jungmann’s first start of the season (one earned run in five innings against the Giants) and Anderson’s first start (five shutout innings against Houston), but both failed to complete the six-inning minimum.

> Franco’s average was .241 coming into this series; he has brought it up to .299 in two games.

> Lucroy extended his hitting streak to eight games.

> The runs Jeffress allowed in the ninth were the first runs he has given up all season.

> Dodgers right-hander Kenta Maeda, living up to and possibly surpassing the high expectations set for him, is off to a crazy start: he’s allowed just one earned run over his first four starts. That is the lowest total any pitcher has ever given up over his first four starts in the history of the game (minimum 20 innings pitched).

> The Brewers will look to avoid being swept by Philadelphia tomorrow at 1:10 p.m. CT. They’ll send the struggling Wily Peralta (0-3, 8.35 ERA) to the mound, who is still in search of his first win; he’ll also hope to bring his ERA down to a more respectable digit. The Phillies will counter with Jerad Eickhoff (1-2, 1.89 ERA), who has actually been spectacular this season, but has just one win to show for it. Peralta is 2-2 with a 6.17 ERA in his career against the Phillies, while Eickhoff has never faced the Brewers.


Brewers once again Hart-broken

January 20, 2013

> Yesterday, when I got home from school, I saw a tweet regarding Corey Hart and how much he hates Spring Training, but I didn’t take it literally. So I tweeted a joke about how I’d be waiting to hear the news about more of his knee injuries come ST.

But I wouldn’t have to wait very long. In fact, a few seconds later, I checked out the MLB news of the day- something I probably should have done first- and found that Hart will be out for 3-4 months with knee surgery.

Yep, we can’t catch a break. This is the third straight ST in which Hart will have been injured for at least part of the time, and the second time over the past three years that he’ll miss at least the first month of the season.

Anyway, this injury certainly affects how I view the possibility of the Brewers extending Hart. While he’s been a power-threat in the Brewers’ lineup ever since his break-out 2010, I don’t know how much longer the team can put up with his constant early season injuries. Also, if Hart misses more than just the first month of the season- which some speculate he will- it’ll hurt the sort of deal he gets, should he hit the free agent market at the end of 2013.

As for the Brewers, though, it would appear they’re going to give Mat Gamel yet another chance to start at first base. First base prospect Hunter Morris might get a closer look during ST, but it’s unlikely the Brewers would burn one of his options just so he could fill in for Hart for a month or so. Another internal option is Taylor Green, who, along with Gamel, was supposed to be fighting for a bench role going into ST.

Bottom line is, though, that this was a year Hart should have been a bit more careful. There’s evidently chronic issues with his knee that should have been fixed for good by now.

Milwaukee Brewers v Arizona Diamondbacks

> The Brewers’ list of World Baseball Classic players grew after the rosters for each country were announced on Thursday. 14 players were chosen: Ryan Braun (USA), Jonathan Lucroy (USA), Yovani Gallardo (Mexico), Marco Estrada (Mexico), Martin Maldonado (Puerto Rico), Hiram Burgos (Puerto Rico), Carlos Gomez (Dominican Republic), Jeff Bianchi (Italy), Hainley Statia (Netherlands), Mike Walker (Australia), John Axford (Canada), Jim Henderson (Canada), Green (Canada), and Rene Tosoni (Canada). All but three of the players- Statia, Walker, and Tosoni- are currently on the Brewers’ 40-man roster.

> The club has also avoided arbitration with all of its eligibles. Gomez received $4.3 million, Axford $5 million, Estrada $1.955 million, and Burke Badenhop $1.55 million. All were one-year deals. The Brewers had already avoided arbitration with their other eligible, Chris Narveson, a few weeks back.

> The Brewers signed catcher Robinson Diaz to a minor league deal.

> Former Milwaukee Braves shortstop Johnny Logan is going to be inducted into the Brewers’ Walk of Fame.

> Today was an extremely sad day for baseball: former Orioles manager Earl Weaver and Cardinals legend Stan Musial both passed away. Weaver was 82 while Musial was 92.

> Minor moves: 

Padres: Re-signed Will Venable, Joe Thatcher, and Everth Cabrera to one-year deals; signed Brad Hawpe and Lucas May to minor league deals.
Red Sox: Signed Mike Napoli to a one-year deal; re-signed Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Joel Hanrahan, and Jacoby Ellsbury to one-year deals; re-signed Craig Breslow to a two-year deal.
Rangers: Signed Matt Harrison to a five-year extension; re-signed Neftali Feliz to a one-year deal.
Twins: Re-signed Drew Butera to a one-year deal.
Pirates: Designated Zach Stewart for assignment; re-signed Garrett Jones to a one-year deal.
Diamondbacks: Re-signed Tony Sipp and Ian Kennedy to one-year deals.
Astros: Signed Rick Ankiel to a one-year deal.
Mets: Re-signed Bobby Parnell and Ike Davis to one-year deals; signed Landon Powell to a minor league deal.
Reds: Re-signed Logan Ondrusek to a two-year deal.
Nationals: Re-signed Drew Storen and Craig Stammen to one-year deals.
Yankees: Re-signed Joba Chamberlain to a one-year deal; signed Bobby Wilson and Reegie Corona to minor league deals.
Athletics: Re-signed John Jaso and Seth Smith to one-year deals.
Angels: Re-signed Alberto Callaspo to a two-year deal; re-signed Jason Vargas to a one-year deal.
Cubs: Re-signed Matt Garza to a one-year deal.
Giants: Re-signed Jose Mijares, Hunter Pence, and Buster Posey to one-year deals.
Indians: Re-signed Drew Stubbs and Chris Perez to one-year deals; signed Ryan Raburn to a minor league deal.
Orioles: Re-signed Matt Wieters to a one-year deal.
Blue Jays: Re-signed Josh Thole to a two-year deal.
Tigers: Re-signed Rick Porcello to a one-year deal.
White Sox: Signed Tony Pena Jr. to a minor league deal; signed Matt Lindstrom to a one-year deal.
Marlins: Singed Matt Downs to a minor league deal.


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.


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.


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