Chris Capuano: Comeback Kid?

Chris Capuano

Earlier this week, Manny Parra was ushered out of the starting rotation.  That paved a path for Milwaukee Brewers’ Chris Capuano, who starts Saturday against Pittsburgh.

“When I step onto the mound tomorrow, it will be a feeling of freedom,” said Capuano. “It’s a feeling of release. I can get let go. That’s truly the time you can enjoy the fruits of your labor.”

Three years of intense labor, to be exact. After rehabbing from not one, but two Tommy John’s surgeries, Capuano was placed in relief duty, making 15 relief appearances this season and going 1-2 with an ERA of 3.54. While the bullpen work has prepared the lefty for longer stretches, nothing is sweeter than getting back to the starting spot he has been eyeing all along.

By: Melissa S. Wollering [Read more…]

Chris Capuano Makes Comeback, Then Relegated to Reliever

Chris Capuano

How would you feel if you had come back from two Tommy John’s surgeries, worked your way through painful rehab, paid your dues in the minors and made it back to the mound?

Chris Capuano feels what anyone else would feel over being placed into relief. Surprised. Even with the Brewers starting pitching pool stacked, Chris Capuano says reporting for relief duty never crossed his mind.

“No, never did I consider it. When you work and rehab to get back as a starter, you just work hard and focus on that,” says Capuano. “It’s not something I anticipated.”

By: Melissa S. Wollering

[Read more…]

Three moves to hassle the Hoff and shake up the Milwaukee Brewers

Trevor Hoffman

Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio was willing to can manager Ned Yost with 15 games left in the 2008 Wild Card race. Last August, he fired pitching coach Bill Castro, options the struggling JJ Hardy to Triple A, and showed Bill Hall the door. If Attanasio wants to keep a consistent message, he needs to make at least one of these three moves. [Read more…]

Brewers Racing Sausages Need Spring Training, Too

By: Melissa S. Wollering

Even the Klements’ Racing Sausages were working towards regular season perfection during Saturday’s first Brewers home game of Spring Training at Maryvale Ballpark. They need to train, too, you know.

After beating the Brewers in the Spring Training opener at Scottsdale and watching Zito nail Prince Fielder with a pitch to the back, a little pride was on the line facing the San Francisco Giants again so soon. Unfortunately, the hit-by-pitch fest continued, with Pucetas nailing Rickie Weeks immediately in the first and two more Giants’ pitchers nailing two more Brewers later in the game. Fortunately, those dings didn’t seem to bother the Crew.

Randy Wolf started the game strong, retiring seven batters in two scoreless innings with two K’s, zero BB’s and only one hit. But the real pitching story of the day was the homecoming of Chris Capuano. Cappy has been rehabbing for ages, and took the mound for the first time in the Majors in two years. He has undergone two Tommy John’s surgeries. Frustrating for a guy who won 18 games in 2005 and made the All-Star team the following year. [Read more…]

What’s Brewing in ’09: the Roster, Rickie’s Revival & Peeved Over Peavy

By: Melissa S. Wollering

 
Doug Melvin hates you. Doug Melvin hates you if you disrupt his club’s pre-season prep time with silly banter about Jake Peavy.

 
Enter Peter Gammons.  Peter’s Sunday notebook cited Bill Hall as a source, claiming the Brewers are like white-on-rice over Jake should he go on the market. Then the San Diego Tribune leap-frogged over Peter, publishing the Brewers “are interested.” Tu’ es loca en la cabesa. You city is no longer known as Saint Diego en Espanol. Melvin was so angry he called SD’s GM Kevin Towers to assure him the baseless rumors weren’t coming from him.


Melvin hasn’t talked to the Padres. Peavy’s no-trade clause blocks a deal to Milwaukee. And what are we going to sacrifice?  J.J. Hardy?  Alcides Escobar? Mat Gamel? Top pitching prospect Jeremy Jeffress? A combination of the four?

 
Many of you have called me or written me about the likelihood of this over the past week, due to last season’s midseason CC Sabathia trade. Let me make this clear.  It is not very likely.
Jack at Right Field Bleachers has the numbers to prove Peavy’s not worth sacrificing J.J. Five years of financial obligation with declining numbers doesn’t match a blazing shortstop with top NL hitting lines in his prime. I’m just saying. Cousin Nic Kulinski gets a shout out this week for suggesting I date J.J.  Thanks cuz, that’s flattering.  But that’s not why I think the Brewers should hold onto him.


What do Brett Favre and Ryan Braun have in common?  Braun had the whole Brewers world in cardiac arrest because he thought he broke his thumb Tuesday. He lost a line drive in the lights against the Padres, but alas, x-rays show it’s just bruised and swollen.

Hold your breath for another reason…here’s the ’09 roster barring anymore unforeseen injuries. I hate injuries like I hate waiting for American Idol results after the break.

Starters
RHP Jeff Suppan – predicted by Jason Craig.
RHP Yovani Gallardo
LHP Manny Parra
RHP Braden Looper
RHP Dave Bush

Relievers
RHP Carlos Villanueva – the temporary closer in place of Trevor Hoffman.
RHP Seth McClung
LHP Mitch Stetter
RHP Todd Coffey
RHP David Riske
RHP Jorge Julio
RHP Mark DiFelice
DL – Trevor Hoffman

Locked
C Jason Kendall
C Mike Rivera
1B Prince Fielder
2B Rickie Weeks
SS J.J. Hardy
3B Bill Hall
LF Ryan Braun – strained intercostal has subsided but scaring us with his thumb now.
CF Mike Cameron
RF Corey Hart
INF Craig Counsell – has torn cartilage in his right knee but says he’ll play without surgery.

Limbo
INF Casey McGehee would be the best based on performance to replace Counsell if need be unless Macha wants to send him down to AAA because he still has a minor league option that other guys don’t. He’s been hitting .370 on the spring with 6 homers and 15 RBI’s. However, Lamb is being placed on release waivers, so he gone. Betcha the Yanks pick him up for help while Arod’s out.

OF Brad Nelson appears to have locked the spot at this point and has no minor league options left.

OF Chris Duffy or OF Tony Gwynn Jr.  Only one of these guys can get the spot and Lil TG is out of options. Duffy could see AAA action only to maintain OF depth. OF Trot Nixon, he gone.  No hopes for another Gape Kapler.

In terms of lineup, Ken Macha is trying Corey Hart in the two-hole and J.J. fifth behind Prince. Reasons: Hardy’s excellent spring (.439, 4 HR, 15 RBI, .500 OBP) could convince teams pitching around Fielder equals disaster. Plus, Hart’s speed following Weeks could keep him out of the trap of double plays, something Hardy has been susceptible to in the past.

In “Ace’s Corner,” Ken Rosenthal is the second major sports writer to jump on the Yovani Gallardo-Cy Young bandwagon.  Yo is also coming in 20th on the Sports Guys’ rankings of MLB’s top pitchers.

Meanwhile, in SI’s ’09 MLB Preview Issue, Joe Sheehan suggests trading Fielder for a front-line pitcher to make the Brewers more competitive with the Cubs. He thinks we should move Mat Gamel to majors and off 3B to have him play 1B. Read for another minute and you’ll see why this idea is as great as another new Osbourne family TV show.

Meantime, Chris Capuano has returned to minor league camp after that second Tommy John surgery. He hopes to start pitching some games there soon and judge his comeback timeframe. C’mon Cappy, we need you!

Dave Bush could pitch relief in San Francisco on opening day because Macha wants him to get his work in and stay on schedule. Bush is missing work in Maryvale because his turn in the rotation falls on April 6th, the travel day prior to the opener.

In “Just a Bit Outside,” the Detroit Tigers are going to hell for pissing off Catholics across the country. They are the only MLB team to schedule their game time during the holy hours of Good Friday.  Everyone else, including the Brewers made it 3:05 p.m.  You know me.  Come Good Friday, I’ll be drinkin’ for Jesus. Miller Park is my cathedral. Baseball is my religion. Just don’t say Bud Selig is the Pope. That’s blasphemy.

In “Where Are They Now?” former Brewer Lance Nix may make the Reds 25-man roster while Zach Jackson (traded to Cleveland in the Sabathia exchange) has indeed made the Indians 25-man roster.  Bob Uecker says, “This guy threw at his own kid in a father/son game.” No, that was a movie, April fool’s.

In the last “Spring Training” update, here’s who’s playing hotter than a habanero pepper.  Corey Hart is leading all NL players with a .885 slugging percentage.  On his coattails is J.J. Hardy at .873. As you read, they are both flipping between the two and five holes in the lineup, so we’ll see which it is come opening day.

Prince Fielder hit a two-run homer so far last week that Tom Hardricourt says it nearly burned upon re-entry. It traveled approximately 475 feet, over the berm, over the sidewalk and just short of the white fence at Maryvale. He’s hit at least five HR’s this spring. Go ahead Prince.  Eat a hamburger. You deserve it.

Meantime, Wickie does not Reek this month. Weeks is consistently going hitting just below .350 and has only committed one error throughout all of spring training. He’s the subject of my chart magnificence below, eat it haters.

Call it favoritism thanks to m’boy Mattie Vasgersian and Trenni Kusnierek, but the MLB Network will make the its first regular-season broadcast the Brewers/Giants game in San Fran on April 9th. I watched the Brewers and Rangers last week and realized I have MLB in HD now. It truly is the most religious season of the year, ain’t it? I prayed and it happened.

In a call-out that complements Pete’s fabulous column, Brad at Chuckie Hacks took a hack at the Brewers for putting up a banner for winning the ’08 NL Wild Card. I might be with Brad on this one. Championship banners should be reserved for division titles, league titles and World Series titles. What do you think?

In “Friendly Fire With the Cubs,” three of your players are writing this column for me. Milton Bradley was recently told the Cubs are favored to win the NL Central to which he replied, “they should…I’m here.” He went on to credit himself with turning no less than three clubs into winning teams. Go throw another 3-gallon Gatorade cooler further than any man on the planet, Milton. Bradley also entertained all of Scottsdale last week by doing this.

Everyone knows the spring training atmosphere lends itself to families who want a chance to meet the players in a way they can’t during regular season.  So when someone’s kid patiently waits several times before approaching Carlos Zambrano for an autograph on his Big Z All-Star Jersey, you damn well better sign it you Jag.  And you didn’t. You didn’t even turn your head and acknowledge the kid.

Third, Carlos Marmol lost out on his closer duties to Kevin Gregg this week, Marmol cried like a baby. He made it sound as though it was his all along. I’m really laughing because Lou Pinella is mildly firing back, telling Marmol to get over it. Nice.

Finally, in “Chart Magnificence,” we bring you a graph that compares Rickie to the top 40 2B in the league by plate appearances. The thick lines are league averages, the dotted are Rickie’s stats. I know it doesn’t address his defensive skills, but Beyond the Box score assures you he’s improving (-9.1 UZR in 2006, -4.7 in 2008).  Hey Rickie you’re so fine, you can stop riding the pine! Hey Rickie! Hey Rickie!

TSB Valentine’s Day Survival Guide

By Rikki Greenberg & Melissa Wollering

With Valentine’s Day approaching fast, TSB’s two female contributors thought they would try to put their fellow male contributors (and readers alike) at ease during what can be a tense Hallmark Holiday weekend.

RG: Burning number one question, Melissa.  There’s so much pressure to get her the perfect gift.  Is this really necessary?
MW:  I don’t know if it’s the retail industry or materialistic women making a bad name for the rest of us, but you don’t have to buy me a thing.  I’m a busy person and the person I’m dating is likely a go-getter and workaholic too. If anything, I’d appreciate some time spent together and it doesn’t even have to be on the 14th. Any night that week, come over to my house, make me a drink, let’s watch some NCAA basketball I DVR’ed and didn’t get to watch yet. Then let’s go to bed, but not go to bed. Rikki, what are your thoughts?

MW: If your significant other insists on getting you something, what would you actually appreciate?

RG: That’s a toughie. Victoria Secret is nice, but I tried that once and my booty was a little too bootylicious for them. I would have to say something personal, like a really sweet Bears jersey or a $100 gift certificate to Ulta. When I get a gift like this, I know my guy has been paying attention and that always puts a smile on my face.

MW:  Bootylicious, huh? Nice. I would have to say it’s not cliché to go VS for me. New Victoria’s always makes me feel good about myself and if it makes the guy happy, slam dunk. If however, that’s all he’s ever gifted me after 2 years, I may start to become concerned…

RG: If your boyfriend/husband/significant other gave you the Vermont Teddy Bear I see advertised on SportsCenter how would you react?

MW: Dude, keep your money, save your cash, hold onto your pesos. Buy us two tickets to see the Badgers play the Gophers or find the teddy bear you had as a child and give it to me.  Both earn you more points. Shooting from beyond the arc actually takes less effort. Think about it.

RG: First of all, I love all your basketball analogies and we must have been separated at birth because I share the same reaction to this question. If I got this present, I would deeply rethink the relationship and come to the conclusion that my guy doesn’t know me at all.

MW: Do you have any professional athlete Valentine’s Day stories?

RG: Besides the dream of me and Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker getting married in the Bahamas after a two year courtship filled with hot, passionate love, I would have to say no to this one. The dude is super fine, so ask this question again in a couple years and maybe I’ll have a better answer for you :)


MW:  I’m coming to your wedding, my dear! I have a story: Chris Capuano, 2006 National League All-Star team pitcher with the Milwaukee Brewers, did not fare well in baseball last year, but he hit the jackpot in love.  The 30-year-old LHP left-hander missed the entire season after reconstructive surgery on his left elbow, but it gave him the time to seriously date his long-time love interest Sarah Clifford. They started seeing each other when both were students at Duke.  Chris popped the question in June – something he would not have been able to do while on the road mid-season. The couple got married November 29th in Maui, Hawaii.  See Pete, off-season anniversaries rock.  Now they live in Scottsdale, Arizona, perfect for spring training.

RG: Of course this article begs the question: Melissa, are you single?

MW: Intelligent readers will notice I wrote “person I’m dating is likely” above.  You get the hypothetical connotation. Rikki, you? C’mon…give me the scoop.

RG: Oh the dreaded topic that’s my love life. I’ve been single for 24 years now and my VIP card to the singles club doesn’t have an expiration date on it, so I’m going to say yes to this question. However, there’s a slight wave in the ocean, so I might have to rethink about laminating my card.  It’s time for the 2009 V-Day Survival Guide Shopping List. We agree, it’s not wrong to spend money on something you’ll BOTH use…Beer Pong it up with your woman!  Melissa, aren’t you a b-pong aficionado?

MW: That’s what my Facebook TSB Officer Description says…Banks is recommending this to the guys trying to win my heart. But again, I don’t like people spending money on me.

RG: I am head over heels in love with this gift!! There’s nothing I wouldn’t love more on game day than to dunk my Frito Lay Tostitos Scoop chip in a cup of sour cream and onion dip from a Chicago Bears helmet. Should I hand you a Scoop chip Melissa?

MW:  Yes!  Crunnncchh. Yum. Now to wash it down. Chick Beer comes in Michelob Ultra’s Lime Cactus, Pomegranate Raspberry and Tuscan Orange Grapefruit.

RG: That’s right, 6-pack if you like her, 24 if you’re really in love. No more blue foldable chairs you see at baseball games! The inflatable tailgating chair comes with a beer holder and a mesh pocket to store more beers. Got grease stains and puddles of Bud Light on your new tailgating partner? No problem! The chair is washable so eat and drink away!


RG: Chicago Bears blanket? Check. Chicago Bears lighting fixtures? Check. Chicago Bears Ultimate Game Day Recliner? I knew I was missing something!

MW: Everyone seems to want my full-size portable Coleman grill when I’m tailgating at Miller Park.  Consider any Pro-Team Grill Cover, or go Busta Rhymes and buy your woman a “grill” at Thug Fashion’s website.

RG: A fan isn’t really a fan until every inch of his or her property is covered with team memorabilia. The bathroom may be painted white and black, but I bet the car is lacking a little team spirit. Ride in style and support the cause with a blinged out license plate from your favorite team. (Editor’s note: You guys HAVE to see the Soxcave- Soxman’s crib is pretty much like what you’re describing above!)

MW:  Guys always love a new Bears Jersey. Go his & hers and ask the wife to sport JUST her jersey and nothing else around the house all weekend.   Honestly, we don’t mind as long as you think it’s hot. Remember, it’s all about you. Rikki, would you agree?

RG: Of course! If I have the opportunity to slink around in my favorite player’s jersey, I’ll not hesitate to take it. If it results in a sexy game of tackle football, even better!!
His –
Hers –

RG:  Or you can forget the jersey and wear nothing but these fantastic NCAA slippers or pair of Chicago White Sox socks!!

MW: Reading material for the bathroom is great. We know you guys follow the latest trends on the runway, so why not catch up on the latest in swimsuit fashion?
SI Subscription:
SI Swimsuit Edition:
Sports Illustrated NFL Book

RG: You can’t go wrong with a baseball signed by a big time major leaguer. Bonus points if he or she is a member of Red Sox Nation or a supporter of Big Papi.

What’s Brewing in ’09: Milwaukee’s Infield

By Melissa and Jason Wollering

Don’t start hate-blogging about it now because we can’t handle it this early in the year, but Wickie Reeks will almost certainly be hitting at the top of the order again in ’09. Melvin defends Weeks to Baggot in this article. Bernie’s Crew also crunches Weeks’ average stats, pointing out at least he’s not a detriment to the team.

MW: Brother Jay, these articles bring up some great points about two common perceptions. 1. Why do people think second basemen have to be contact hitters, say, like Jimmy Gantner?

JW: For those who remember watching PBS when the show debuted in 1980, “3-2-1 Contact” this: 90 players struck out at least 100 times in ‘08 and 14 were second basemen.

MW: And it’s a little-known fact, last year Weeks was second in runs scored among NL leadoff hitters. He was also #1 in all of baseball in scoring from second base on a base hit – 23 for 24. Eat your pinstripes Johnny Damon; you went 9 for 22. Onto #2: The leadoff guy must BB a lot.

JW: Big sis’, last week Melvin asked reporters how many players walked more than 100 times last season. Answer = Adam Dunn, Jack Cust, Fat Al Pujols and Pat Burrell; none of whom are leadoff guys.

MW: Did I ever tell you I sloot Melvin’s argumentative skills? Speaking of walks though…

Prince may be King after $18M, but his increased platoon split is one of Paul Noonan’s 10 Biggest Brewers’ Fears. Coming into the league, he hit against both lefties and righties with fervor. But with the Crew already lopsided, we don’t need lefties thinking Prince is easy-to-manage at the plate. He’ll need to take his walks in ’09. No more .313 OBP, even if that is your “real weight” buddy.

In , seven Brewers minor leaguers signed contracts for ’09: SS Alcides Escobar; 3B Mat Gamel; 3B Casey McGehee; 1B/OF Brad Nelson, C Angel Salome and relievers Tim Dillard and Mitch Stetter. Stetter has the best shot at making the club in spring training as their lefty relief specialist. Dillard’s not out of the question, either.

As for Escobar, his baby’s mama is causing drama. But Alcides’ potential has implications for the team’s best defensive infielder – James Jerry Hardy. Melvin isn’t afraid to say the reason JJ’s never been offered a long-term contract is Escobar. Melvin doesn’t want to ask the SS to move to third either, even though speculation regarding that increased this off-season. Enjoy ‘09 and expect Hardy to contribute big: over the last two seasons he’s hit .280, averaged 25 get-up-get- up-get-outta-here-gone’s, and 77 RBI’s.

And who’s on third? Bill Hall. But there’s some speculation that position could become 3B by committee. Crazy, but true. Mike Lamb worked several wonders for the Crew off the bench last season and will be used again. My clear choice when needed is none other than Craig Counsell. And since my readers enjoyed last week’s flow chart, here’s a comparison graph on Counsell’s production since 2002, courtesy of Right Field Bleachers.

This season, In-Between Hops (the site markets itself as a full keg of Brewers with a couple pints of generic baseball news) calculates there’s a 30% chance the Crew could be the 12th team in MLB History to have four 30-HR hitters and a 7% chance it could be the first team to ever possess five.

Ken Macha is not Pete Rose– but if he were, he’s told the media he thinks five of his guys can knock out 25+. There’s a small chance that seven Brewers could go 25+ in ’09: Braun, Cammie, Prince, Hall, JJ, Hart and Weeks. The odds of this may be similar to me replacing Jim Powell….but nevertheless it is possible.

Shouse…Shouse…let it all out. He’s the next we’ll have to live without as Tampa Bay picks him up. He got a two-year gig, we were offering one. Ray Durham may not play for anyone in ’09. The MLB Network is starting off its first season by spewing hogwash. No Jon Heyman, the Brewers do NOT have interest in free agent lefty Oliver Perez because that investment would be as worthwhile as the last Citibank bailout. Hardricourt sniffs a Boras marketing ploy and we concur.

Surprise! Ben Sheets’ ratings are higher than General Hospital ’s or Days of Our Lives…cmon’ man, I needs me some guarantees. Like Marquette shining without Tom Crean, take your inflated self-worth Ben and issue a courtesy flush.

Don’t have a coronary, but Cappy could be back before the All-Star Break. Melvin estimates as early as May, and some have already shot the Chris Capuano as “Comeback Player of the Year” phrase out. The lefty is recovering from Tommy John’s.

This week in “Friendly Fire With the Cubs,” Rich Hill may fly east to nest with the Orioles. This time we’re not laughing at you, we’re laughing with you.

And finally, in “Just a Bit Outside,” Cubs’ pre-game WGN radio announcer Cory Provus may be the front-runner to replace Jimmy Powell. Here’s Jimmy’s farewell to fans. Timeline = February 25th. Uecker reaction = “Back in the day, I signed with the Milwaukee Braves for $3,000. That bothered my dad at the time because he didn’t have that kind of dough. But he eventually scraped it up. Say new guy, how do you catch a knuckleball?

Wait until it stops rolling, then go to the backstop and pick it up.”