Brewers Doug Davis Waiting in Wings

Doug Davis

This weekend, Manager Ken Macha could have announced what role Doug Davis would play for the pitching staff and how that might affect the rest of the roster.  Instead, Ken Macha announced Doug Davis will most likely make a start for the team sometime before the All Star break. First, however, he will make a third rehab start June 30 in Class A ball in Appleton. 

By: Melissa S. Wollering [Read more…]

When Will the Houston Astros Selling Shoe Drop?

By: Melissa S. Wollering

Humor me for a hot stove moment. The Milwaukee Brewers have a ton of offensive issues. When the pitching is adequate (a rarity some weeks, yes) the bats don’t back it up. When the offense is on fire, the pitching might be as murky as the Menomonee River near the city’s wastewater treatment plant.

So if the Houston Astros start putting up the first signs advertising a summer garage sale in your neighborhood, is Milwaukee right to wheel and deal for a trade?  Would someone like Roy Oswalt make a significant difference or not? Should we look to our farm system instead? Is it too early for me to be asking any of these questions? [Read more…]

Jeff Suppan Claims Neck Injury, Coincidence? Or Just In Time?

By: Melissa S. Wollering

The first four starting pitchers have been named to the Milwaukee Brewers rotation.  No surprise,  Yovani Gallardo, Randy Wolf, Doug Davis and Dave Bush will start in that order.  After watching Spring Training in Arizona this year, I figured that.  But I made one other prediction: if Jeff Suppan got the hint he would not be named #5, he’d fake injury rather than suffer a bruise to his pride.

[Read more…]

Live From Spring Training: 31 Compete to Pitch for Milwaukee Brewers


By: Melissa S. Wollering

For the next week, we’ll be coming to you live from Arizona and Cactus League play. A majority of my coverage will focus on the Milwaukee Brewers, but we’ll also throw is a taste of what’s going on with the Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, San Francisco Giants, Oakland Athletics, Chicago White Sox and more.

We start with what the Milwaukee Brewers need most: pitching. Look at it this way, at least they have options.  31 starters and relievers are looking to the make the roster and plenty of spots are for the taking. That’s a stark contrast to the 2009 rosters, in which the starting rotation had zero spots up for grabs and bullpen roles were fairly set. [Read more…]

Milwaukee Brewers Possess First Real Pitching Rotation in Years

By: Melissa S. Wollering

Ben Sheets is filled with rage.  CC Sabathia has raised his eyebrows, slightly impressed. Rollie Fingers is rejoicing from his leather lounger and the Pittsburgh Pirates now feel utterly-and-completely-screwed as opposed to just sort-of-screwed.  Doug Melvin has assembled the first real starting pitching rotation Milwaukee Brewers fans have seen in years.

The starting rotation could look similar to this: Randy Wolf, Yovani Gallardo, Doug Davis, Manny Parra, Dave Bush. If Jeff Suppan is used in a middle relief capacity, he could eat up the innings Manny Parra can’t quite finish. When the injury bug bites, put Suppan in.  Go ahead.  Or call up Chris Narveson.

This arrangement looks so normal, I’m almost baffled. It is not superb, but it is satisfactory.  It is decent. It is adequate. It is, daresay, pleasing.  It actually doesn’t suck. All season, I’ll be waiting for the floor to drop out from beneath this. I remain in moderate disbelief, sprinkled with feelings of shock and awe.  Yes, please pick my jaw up from the ground. Thank you. [Read more…]

The Hunt for Ken’s Machtober

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By: Melissa S. Wollering

 
Formerly known as What Milwaukee’s Brewing, The SportsBank.net flips the switch on this baseball column in anticipation of October. On Sunday, Doug Melvin and Ken Macha initiated Step 1 in their master plan to secure a return to the playoffs for the Milwaukee Brewers.  Switch-hitter Felipe Lopez increases options at the leadoff spot, fills the void Rickie Weeks left at second base and could be used to play almost any position in the Crew’s infield if needed. The only problem: this move still leaves fans chomping at the bit for another starting pitcher.

 
First things first: was it worth the price tag? Like finding a Deron Williams Cartier diamond-encrusted watch replica at the Dollar Store, yes it was worth it. Arizona drew the short end of the stick on this one.

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This Lopez move sort of reminds me of last season’s Ray Durham pickup. Lopez is an unrestricted free agent come fall. Milwaukee would need to negotiate to keep him, but has the freedom of knowing they’re not married to a long-term contract.

 
The Brewers could get a compensation pick after the first round next June if he shops another team; Class B is what Doug Melvin’s guessing. Felipe has about $1.5M left on his $3.5M contract.

 
The only thing the Brewers organization sacrificed was AAA outfielder Cole Gillespie and A reliever Roque Mercedes. Gillespie was batting .242 with seven homers and 27 RBI in Nashville, but started the season on the DL. Mercedes was 1-1 with a 1.08 ERA and six saves in 29 games played down in Brevard County. Rookie Mat Gamel was sent back down to AAA to free up space on the roster. No worries; this just gives Gamel daily playing time and it’s only a matter of weeks/months before he’s back in the bigs.

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How This Brings Them Closer to October….


Ken Macha has been frustrated while trying to find a right-handed hitter to anchor the top of the lineup when the team faces lefties. Craig Counsell can still be used at second against right-handed aces if needed, and both Craig and Casey McGehee (another 2B substitute) can be utilized elsewhere in the infield.

 
Rickie Weeks exited stage left with a torn-up wrist just as his curtain had gone up for the first time in opera house history.  Weeks was contributing with a .857 OPS. Lopez may make up for some of that lost production, considering 2B has been a sieve on the flip side (offense) for the Brewers. Lopez has been batting .301 with 18 doubles, six homers and 25 RBI for the Arizona D-Backs. More to love: he is batting .313 from the right side of the plate and .298 left-handed. As of Sunday, he ranked second in the NL with a .372 OBP.

 
Arizona beat writers seem to agree that Lopez is selecting more good pitches to swing at and drawing the walk more often. As a result, he should bring more consistency to the lineup and put more guys on base for Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder to drive home.

 
He also provides a boost to the Brewers’ defense, with solid experience at nearly every position in the infield. He previously struggled with his defensive skills at shortstop, but he’s never disappointed at second. In fact, he may have flown under the radar in value due to the bad wrap he picked up while working his previous position.

 
The NL Central is anyone’s division right now. Any effort to improve the quality of play could increase the W column. Just a handful of wins could be the blueberries in your bran flakes. Think about it breakfast fanatics, and feast on it if the Brewers make it to Machtober.

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Any Downside?


Felipe has called Toronto, Cincinnati, Washington, St. Louis and Arizona home.  If five cities were happy to trade him, what makes Milwaukee his sensation destination?

 
Skeptics believe the move won’t make an ounce of difference because the team does not resemble a 90-win ensemble right now. We’ll let you watch and let YOU decide.

 

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Still Needed in the Quest for October….


Doug Melvin made it clear that he tried to nab a Diamondbacks pitcher in the deal (all bets are on lefty and former Brewer Doug Davis).  However, GM Josh Byrnes wasn’t biting.

 
Melvin says he has little to no interest in handing over Mat Gamel or SS prospect Alcides Escobar, but that may limit the organization’s ability to trade for a pitcher of quality.

 

As you read in Blue Jays Don’t Migrate to Milwaukee, I’m not optimistic Roy Halladay will land on a beam of the retractable roof in Miller Park, but the buzz isn’t going away.

 

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Perhaps the most convincing indication Melvin is serious is that he has a habit of becoming mysterious and quiet right before he pulls the trigger on trades. All is quiet on the Halladay front right now, and he brushes information off as “the same old rumors” when possible.  The C.C. Sabathia trade was a prime example of Melvy’s masterful deception, which the guys over at Right Field Bleachers explain in detail quite well.

 

Many of you read the content of premiere insider Tom Hardricourt as well.  If you do, you know he’s changed his tune in recent days and believes Milwaukee will try to secure Roy if only to get him out of the hands of the Cubs and Cardinals.

 

On Twitter Sunday, Tom let us know Dick Groch, Melvin’s top scouting assistant, was in Toronto watching Roy pitch. Regardless of whether the Brewers club possesses the worm of choice for the early bird, we know they are interested. And a solid nest of starting eggs in the rotation should be Step 2 in the Hunt for Ken’s Machtober.

What Milwaukee’s Brewing: Streaky Shine & Return to Wrigley

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By: Melissa S. Wollering

 
Generic Windex has nothing on the absurd streaks of the Milwaukee Brewers. Dave Bush fill-in Mike Burns says Cy Young means squat after outpitching Johan Santana, former Cub Casey McGehee gets his first Grand Slam in the majors and Fielder and Braun give us a glimpse of what the Home Run Derby could look like—all in one week. Plus, the prime window to acquire another starting pitcher narrows as the Milwaukee Brewers head south to play the Chicago Cubs this Independence Day weekend.

 
The phrase ‘atop the NL Central’ still baffles me, but several solid performances, including games on Saturday and Wednesday, restored a bit of the confidence the Milwaukee Brewers lost last week. 

 
Imagine making 48 appearances for four different teams in the majors before collecting one W for your record. Enter Mike Burns.  He has to pitch against Johan Santana then watch David Wright smack a two-run homer in his first inning out. That smells of the same fear gatorade dispensers have for Carlos Zambrano. So how, or better yet, who gives Mike the confidence he needs to last through six-plus innings?

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Ryan Braun.  This question-answer game should start to look familiar by now, o-wise-avid team leadership-tidbit-seekers. Ryan Braun produces 3 hits for 4 runs and pretends third base is a slip-n-slide during a Santana error that allows him to score. Back from that early deficit, Burns goes onto last longer than Doublemint gum. Corey Hart had 3 hits, Prince Fielder goes yard in the 7th for insurance and his 20th homer of the season, Johan sprinkles in some walks, too and there’s your shocking Mike Burns win.

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Burns is the Dave Bush replacement until that minor tear in Bush’s arm heals.  He has a tendency to walk the first hitter, then settles down and starts throwing first-pitch strikes. Burns threw 66 strikes, 29 balls and 16 first-pitch strikes.

 
Shall we do the math? Throwing first-pitch strikes forces more swinging of the bat, equating to 10 outs in three pitches or less. More than half of Burns’ curve balls, fastballs, sliders and change-ups are all strikes. Is he working for the Milwaukee Brewers right now?  You bet he is.

 
Nevertheless, we’re approaching July 3rd.  In my opinion, this was a target date for Doug Melvin and Mark Attanasio to tell us they’ve acquired a new starting pitcher.  Think about it.  We’re about to head south on I-94 to play the Cubs, we’re minus Dave Bush and Manny Parra in our rotation. There’s plenty of time to find one, but this would’ve been my first “date-to-watch-for” on the calendar. Names still popping up: Erik Bedard, Jarrod Washburn and Doug Davis.  Yes, former Brewer Doug Davis.  I don’t know about that.

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Did you know Jarrod Washburn is from La Crosse and went to UW-Oshkosh? Erik Bedard is from Canada, so a July 1st acquisition would be easy to remember along with his national holiday.

 
Can we please talk Casey McGehee?  His bat is so hot the Kool-Aid Man suffered heatstroke. Wisconsin’s dairy farmers say McGehee’s so hot that their cows have only produced evaporated milk in June.

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In more than 115 plate appearances this season, McGehee is hitting .325 with a .388 OBP and .544 slugging (.931 OPS).  He’s not the Savior, but he might be contributing more than anyone in the lineup since the departure of Rickie Weeks.  His defense is solid, too, considering he played exactly 7 games at second base in the minors and zero in the majors before this season.
More fun with production numbers: 73/274.  That’s the combined home runs and RBI’s Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun are on pace for this season. Can you say the new Brewers’ pet dinosaur is the Thatsalottorunsasaurus? The homer record for teammates is 115 set by Maris & Mantle in 1961.  Oh, I love history.

 
History also proves though that if you want to beat the Brewers, just debut a new pitcher against them. The Brewers have lost all 4 of the last 4 games facing a newbie including Sadowski on Sunday, Figaro on June 20, Hanson (no decision, but Atlanta won June 7) and Swarzak on May 23. Yep, that’s right Peter and Palmer.

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In “Just a Bit Outside,” Miller Park isn’t perfect as a full-fledged shadow investigation is underway. No lie.  During a day game, shadows are distracting players by the 4th inning. It happens during evening games to a lesser extent as well. Last Thursday against the Twins, Prince Fielder was asked what kind of pitch he homered off of.  Turns out he hit the ball blind, didn’t even know if he’d make contact. When asked what should be done about the lighting situation, Prince responded, “I don’t know. I just work here.”

 
In “Down on the Farm,” my 25-man fantasy roster, complete with minor-league player Jeremy Jeffress, continues to produce pigs for slaughtering. Jeffress was handed a 100-game suspension for testing positive for a “drug of abuse.” He wasn’t doing well anyway and was demoted earlier in the season. Once thought of as a potential legacy pitcher, his problem with Mary Jane appears to be giving Tom Petty a better shot of pitching for the Crew in the coming years.

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Speaking of the farm, don’t expect Manny Parra to return to the big leagues any time soon.  He took a huge step back Sunday giving up 5 hits, 5 BB’s and 7 runs (6 earned) in less than 5 innings.  Gross.

 
In “Around the NL Central,” dang you St. Louis for getting Mark DeRosa. I love DeRosa and believe he would’ve been a solid veteran investment. I’ve been saying it all season. At least Doug Melvin went after him.  The bad news is Cleveland wanted young pitching prospects, which by reading above you can see WE DON’T FRIGGIN HAVE.

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In “Friendly Fire With the Cubs,” whenever I’m feeling down, at least I’m not feeling Cubbie Blue over Milton Bradley. Consider this when you need a pick-me-up: this season Milt has been ejected, ticked-off an ump for a suspension, decided to flush his productivity down a toilet, threw a ball into the stand with two outs, blew up at his manager and prompted Pinella to ask Milt to physically remove his jersey. Feeling better? Wait…Bradley isn’t likely to go anywhere for two more years.  Oh, now you feel on the northside.

 
And finally in “Chart Magnificence,” I started watching the Live Win Probability Charts change before my eyes each inning on Fan Graphs.  I’m told that by taking the MLB data and plugging into some crazy html algorithms, you get auto-refresh graphs like this one. When they change before your eyes, you just FEEL smarter.
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What’s Brewing in ’09: Miller Park’s Holiest Holiday

By: Melissa Wollering

It’s only fitting that the Brewers’ home opener also happens to be the first I-94 season match up with the Chicago Cubs on the holiest of Catholic days – Good Friday. The only way to spend such a day: complete your stations of the cross in the tailgating parking lot and go drinkin’ for Jesus.

 
As season ticket holders, each and every year my brother and I arrive to await entry into the Miller Park lots about 4 hours prior to game time.  This is because despite the scheduled opening 3 hours prior, we know the traffic patterns around Miller Park Way do not allow for backup.  Therefore, like clockwork, officials are forced to open lots about 3 hours and 45 minutes prior. 


With front row parking achieved, not far from the Usinger’s Sausage Haus, we set up shop.  Last year we managed to fit a full-size portable Coleman gas grill, large Brewers’ table, 3 coolers of food, chairs, mini bar, tailgating games and a Brewers’ flag inside my compact Saturn Ion.  This year we add the handpainted Brewers cornhole game my Dad and brother built me as a gift for Christmas. Will it all fit?  Piety leads me to believe in religious miracles on holy weekends.


Better question: will there be enough Port-o-John’s in the Miller Park lots this year on Opening Day?  Much of the Milwaukee talk radio conversations day-of and the week following surrounded the controversy over the lack of relief spots. Fans with pickup trucks were strapping green or blue plastic toilets with limited privacy on their flatbeds, charging anywhere from 50 cents to $5.00 per use to strangers.  Friends got a discount and were likely charged a beer. No room for a John on the Ion, but it’s an interesting thought.  I even saw one guy put a bucket in a cardboard refrigerator box.  Now that’s both thrifty and MacGyver-like.


Compared to other stadiums across the country, Miller Park is still relatively new and an ideal destination for April games considering its retractable roof. Stadium management hopes to keep it desirable by continuously upgrading it each season, which is a smart investment considering Milwaukee loves its baseball. 

 
The organization says tickets sales are up by 10% from this time last year, surpassing a whopping 1.75 million. There are only a handful of teams that can say that.

 
New this year: a remodeled Team Store sponsored by Majestic. They took the existing store near TGI Friday’s in left-field and expanded it, complete with sentimental brick from County Stadium.

 
All Club Level suites have been redone with wood flooring, carpeting in Brewers’ colors, flat-panel hi-def TV’s, refrigerators and extra square footage. Many of the meeting rooms were redone for the corporates and a new party suite graces the right-field area. The new one is themed after the Brewers’ 2008 season, with the two existing party suites named for the 1957 and 1982 teams.

Sponsors aren’t completely shying away during these economic times. The Harley-Davidson deck makes its debut in the left-centerfield area. It’s elevated and can seat 42 fans with real Harley motorcycles built into the décor. It also overlooks the new outfield grass, the same grass the team installed in the infield last season. Even in March that stuff looked ready to play on.

 
Kalahari Resorts bought the naming rights to Bernie Brewer’s landing in left-field. Expect some mid-season changes to the look of that as plans are still in the formative stages. You can check out many of the new changes in this video.

 
On the field, the Brewers finished their Cactus League schedule at 20-10-3. They finished 14-3-1 in their final 18 and won 20 total Spring Training games for the first time since 1995. ST records mean little, but it can only bring momentum to regular season play.

 
Macha was toying with the two and five spots in the starting lineup and it looks as though there was a rhyme to his reason. Macha swapped JJ Hardy and Corey Hart, putting Hart #2 and Hardy #5.  It remains that way and we’ll see if it sticks.

 
Jason Kendall got a batting stance makeover and hopes some work with Dale Sveum in Spring Training pays off. Kendall says he wants to improve, even after all these years in majors, because he doesn’t want the outfielders playing just behind the infield when he steps up to the plate.

Kendall recently stated he wants to play at least six more seasons and he’d like them all to be in Milwaukee.  That’s just the sh*t. He says it’s one of the best cities he’s ever played in.  I think Bill Hall should take a cue from this guy’s PR mentality. Kendall’s now endeared himself to fans for the duration of his career if not much longer.

 
In “Ace’s Corner,” how about that Gallardo?  On Wednesday, Yovani pitched well AND hit a three-run homer against RANDY JOHNSON. Fact: Yo is the first pitcher to ever hit a homer off the Unit and Johnson’s been playing for something like 22 years. Fact: Johnson’s only homer in the majors came off former Brewer “Double-D” Doug Davis in 2003 at Miller Park. Fact: before this one, Gallardo had two MLB homers – one off Doug Davis, then pitching for Arizona in 2007.  Creepy…

Trevor Hoffman will need more than 15 days on the DL.  Vanillawafer, excuse me, Carlos Villanueva will fill in for the time being and he didn’t do all that bad Wednesday night to be honest.


Dave Bush is taking grooming tips from the Amish in northern Wisconsin. The Sportsbubbler is comparing Bush’s beard to Peter Griffin’s.


The Brewers are continuing the win-and-untuck your jersey tradition.  Started in honor of Mike Cameron’s father, who would come home from a tough day at work and never complain, just untuck his shirt to signal he wanted some alone time and was proud of his accomplishments that day. Or something sentimental like that.


Apparently, Alcides Escobar has made a big impression on Peter Gammons.  Not that you should say Peter’s name around Doug Melvin for a while. Peter’s talking Alcides up and he’s also fond of Yovani.  Then again, he picked Rickie Weeks as a breakout player, so I’ll let you judge Peter’s credibility as the season progresses.

 
In “Where Are They Now?” the Rays might be going with a Gabe sandwich platoon in the outfield.  Former Brewers Gabe Kapler AND Gabe Gross might both get starts there. I watched Gabe Kapler in Wednesday night’s Rays game against the Red Sox. The answer is yes, Kapler is still as attractive as the first day I laid eyes on him…


And in “Friendly Fire With the Cubs,” Carlos Zambrano recently stated the Cubs need a new stadium, then backed off his comments. Yes, Wrigley Field was made during a time when mass communication was pioneered with hieroglyphics, however it is sacrilegious on the Northside to suggest the stadium is anything but the Queen’s crown jewels. Funny, Zambrano made similar comments after a game at Miller Park last year.  Welcome back to Milwaukee, Zambrano!  Eat it.

 
In this week’s “Chart Magnificence,” we evaluate plate discipline.  Mike Cameron seems to be getting bashed for his assumed lack-thereof.  The conversations came up this week after Cameron’s 4 BB game on Tuesday, which were a contrast to last season. To prove the nay-sayers wrong, take a look at Tuesday’s at-bats by Pablo Sandoval, who I’ve watched in the last two Giants’ games. He’s really beefy, like Prince, by the way. This shows lack of discipline. 


Cameron strikes out a ton; however he does not swing at many pitches outside the zone and is generally patient.  He has a low Z-Swing percentage and below average contact percentage so he takes strikes, goes deep in the counts and tends to miss. Now you know. Don’t bash our gold-glover and never whack our wienies.

 
Finally, I feel it is an appropriate time of year to explain to all of you my baseball philosophy.  We all have a purpose in life and I hope you’ll share yours with me in due time.  Let us pray…

 
“Baseball is my religion.  Miller Park is my cathedral. Opening Day is a time for renewal, with worship taking place between the first pitch and the last. Holy is thy scorebook. Holy is thy bratwurst. Look to the heavens for the fly.  Know the grace of God is with your glove. The general manager is seated near the left-hand of the Father. Your starting lineup is comprised of the original apostles. Welcome your baseball brethren into your home.  Treat them as you wish to be treated. In this stadium, you will be at peace, one-in-being with the greats.  It is through them this game was made.  Amen.”