Cliff Lee a Must for Minnesota Twins

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In the last few weeks the Chicago White Sox have caught fire, the Detroit Tigers have continued their steady play to hang around the top of the AL Central, and one thing has become painfully clear for the team at the top of the division. [Read more…]

How Many Milwaukee Brewers are All-Stars?

Prince Fielder & Ryan Braun

Besides Ryan Braun, who on the Milwaukee Brewers team is All-Star material this year?  Is Yovani Gallardo deserving of a pitching spot?  Does Corey Hart have a chance?  What would it mean for the man whose rough March and April has all but been forgotten?

“Anytime you make the team it’s good, but to basically just point a finger at the Brewers and say ‘I told you so’ would be more gratifying than anything,” says Hart, in a good-natured way.

The Brewers have had at least three players on the All-Star roster in each of the last four years.  However, the Milwaukee Brewers were playing baseball above the .500 mark during all four seasons.

By: Melissa S. Wollering

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Brewers & Twins Trade Talent in the Offseason

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By: Andy Weise & Melissa S. Wollering
 
On Thursday, MLB players eligible for free agency started shopping with the same exuberance as your wife, set loose in a Target at 5 a.m. on Black Friday. The very next day, Milwaukee and Minnesota made an Interleague border swap by trading Twins CF Carlos Gomez for Brewers SS JJ Hardy.

Apparently, Doug Melvin couldn’t drum up any decent pitching in exchange for Hardy.  This now frees up at least $10M potentially needed to keep CF Mike Cameron around, who can now consider himself a free agent. Gomez began last season as the starting CF but batted only .195 through the first month and was moved to a reserve role. Funny, JJ’s stint in AAA for the promotion of Alcides Escobar mirrors the Gomez implosion.
 
The Sportsbank.net is proud to bring you this fictional exchange exclusive, captured between the two men Friday afternoon.
 
JJ: Hey, congratulations Carlos.  I think you’re going to like it in Milwaukee. The retractable roof is really nice in April, May and September.
 
CG: Good! I am happy. It is cold in Minnesota. You will have fun. Great players, Mauer, Morneau, all of them. I miss the place but my head says go have fun with my new team. I am so excited to meet my new teammates and hope they will like me.

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Hunt for Ken’s Machtober: Make or Break for 2010

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By: Melissa S. Wollering

 
Since 1954, only 56 starting rotations have sheepishly admitted finishing with a higher ERA than the Milwaukee Brewers hold this season. That’s the same season Jim “Dusty” Rhodes helped led the SF Giants to a World Series win, Marilyn Monroe married Joe DiMaggio and RCA manufactured the first color TV set. The first Burger King was opened in Miami that year, too; but that doesn’t mean the Milwaukee Brewers will let you “have it your way” when it comes to building a pitching staff for the 2010 roster.

 
Fans have been suffering through the drama of an injury-ridden ‘09 pitching staff.  They’re empathizing with the All-Star Braun & Fielder duo who have been getting far less support than a woman with a pair of queen-size control-top pantyhose.

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The Hunt for Ken’s Machtober: Mayday, Mayday!

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By: Melissa S. Wollering

 
The raging submarine has surfaced. The Man with the Mustache has parted the Milwaukee Brewers’ plagued sea from which coast guard officials were picking up distress signals. Adios to pitching coach Bill Castro. Enter Chris Bosio straight from country music land. Speaking of, if your tween wants to party with JJ Hardy, she’ll have to hitch a plane to Nashville. To top things off, Alcides Escobar will now take your questions from the infield. But we’re not done–Bill Hall was also designated for assignment and OF Jason Bourgeois is coming up the ranks.

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A pitching staff that ranks near the bottom of almost every category in the NL brings little job security.  So after 17 years as bullpen coach, it is sufficed to say Bill Castro was NOT cutting it during his first year as pitching coach.

 
I personally mourned the loss of Mike Maddux prior to this season, who was successfully courted by the Texas Rangers.  He was Milwaukee’s pitching coach from 2003-2008 and is largely credited with the Ben Sheets era of Brewers baseball. The organization knew it would be nearly impossible to fill his shoes and the appointment of Bill Castro, while welcomed, was not digested without some skepticism.

 
Tuesday’s 13-6 loss to San Diego was the nail in the coffin. If the Padres have one of the worst offenses in the league and the Crew can’t stop them from scoring, Doug Melvin and Ken Macha will go postal. 22 losses in 35 games often means a team is facing a meltdown on multiple levels.  No, this time it truly is JUST the pitching. When even Bill Hall is smacking homers and you still lose by 7 because of pitching that wreaks of limburger, adjustments are inevitable.

 
As for Castro’s interim replacement, Chris Bosio made his MLB debut in 1986 by pitching for the Milwaukee Brewers. He was a second-round draft pick for them back in 1982. Bosio came home to roost this year by taking the pitching coach position for Milwaukee’s AAA Nashville team. As of Wednesday, that team was tied for second in the Pacific Coast League in team ERA with a 4.05 and has allowed the fourth-fewest homers (83).

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Onto James Jerry Hardy—kids call him JJ (trademark David Kay)—the struggling shortshop is two years removed from All Star status and has been playing as such. His .229 batting, mere 11 homers and 45 RBI’s were dismal, essentially putting a black hole the Brewers’ lineup.

 
Hardy was sent down to AAA with little choice.  A player must have five full years in the majors before he is able to turn down such an assignment. Meantime, Aaron Harang just cleared waivers.  Are you thinking what I’m thinking?  Hardy and Hart or Hardy, prospect and Hall for Harang? We could hear more chatter on this in coming days.

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Alcides Escobar, who was brought up to the bigs last season and sent back down to work on his defensive consistency, will takeover for Hardy. He is considered the team’s top prospect, (see “Chart Magnificence” Above), batting .298 in Nashville with two dozen doubles, 6 triples, 4 homers and 34 RBI’s. His OBP is .353 and he could fill the void of stolen bases for the Crew, having tallied 42 himself this season. Perhaps you’ve forgotten, but Milwaukee’s stolen base record wasn’t half-bad until Rickie Weeks’ season-ending injury.

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Hall might as well erase the last two years of his life. 24 RBI in 214 at-bats screams gigantic waste of cash. The Brewers are paying him $6.8M in 2009 and $8.4M in 2010 to produce jack squat.  I apologize ahead of time to anyone named Jack.

 
Right now, the organization has ten days to trade Billy, cut him loose or stick him in the minors. Billy has already agreed to head to the minors but injuries forced the Crew to stick him back in the lineup. Don’t hold your breath. No one will want to pick up his salary, so Milwaukee appears to be stuck between a Hall and a hard place.

 
Onto the Brewers decision to go Bourghetto.  By the way, Bourghetto is a termed defined as bourgeois AND ghetto, commonly used by one Paul M. Banks.  Bless Paul’s fine vocabulary, which comes in quite handy here.

 
In 105 games with Nashville, Bourgeois was batting .316 with 18 doubles, six triples, two homers and 41 RBI, with a .354 OBP. Desperate times call for surprising measures. Another OF will be welcome. This could also indicate the Brewers have some level of comfort in considering dealing Hart.

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Wednesday’s decisions won’t fix the starting rotation or the bullpen fatigue, but it’s obvious the front office wants to send a signal to its coaches and players.  The Hunt for Ken’s Machtober isn’t over until the submarine has sunk. Or until Sean Connery says it is.

Blue Jays Don’t Migrate to Milwaukee

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By Melissa S. Wollering

Doug Melvin and I seem to share a media relations philosophy that I wish I could impress upon others. A trade or acquisition rumor is a waste of time UNLESS it becomes worth it to explain to you why the rumored possibility was silly, unbeneficial and not going to happen.  That doesn’t mean we can’t have fun and discuss the realistic price the Milwaukee Brewers would have paid if they were serious about Roy Halladay.  Which they are not.

 
Blue Jay migration to Milwaukee is historically less popular than Milwaukee migration north towards Canada. Sure birds fly south, but Milwaukee is hardly south of anything other than Minneapolis.

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A year and a half of Halladay is worth what? He likely commands a combination of no less than four players who all play in the bigs now or have received at least one call to the majors in the last season and a half.

 
In order to make a trade, the Milwaukee Brewers would almost certainly want to “off-load” a boil or two such as Bill Hall.  Maybe Jody Gerut, who has not exactly panned out. Here’s an eyebrow raiser: how about off-loading Jeff Suppan if his payroll goes with him?

 
Dangling Roy like a piece of meat in front of Siegfried’s tiger suggests shameless, overpriced self-promotion on the part of the Jays who certainly want an inflated return for Roy boy. If Doug Melvin had to put together potential options lists, perhaps they would look something like this.

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Alcides Escobar 2B, Mat Gamel 3B/DH, JJ Hardy SS & Angel Salome C 

 
Escobar has been called up and could be ready for everyday play in the next year. JJ may not be worth the future investment if Milwaukee tries to keep Prince Fielder. Gamel’s defense isn’t there yet, but he has no trouble fitting into a DH spot. Angel Salome is pretty close to the majors and the Jays are slightly short at the catcher spot.

 
Alcides Escobar SS/2B, Lorenzo Cain OF, Angel Salome C & Brett Lawrie

Lawrie sings O’ Canada in the shower and brushes his teeth with maple syrup.  He can also play anywhere on the diamond and could become a stud faster than it takes Celine Dion to get tipsy on Molson Ice. As many readers know, Lorenzo Cain is my boy and Toronto’s CF Vernon Wells is driving everyone up a wall with his lack of consistency.

 

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Manny Parra, SP, Jonathan Lucroy C, Brett Lawrie & JJ Hardy SS

 
At this point you realize we might as well deal either Escobar or Hardy in any of these hypothetical trade cocktails. Only one can play if the other sticks around forever. We also have two decent catching prospects in Lucroy and Salome, so one is expendable.  Manny Parra may have problems as long as he stays in Milwaukee. He wouldn’t be the first Milwaukee Brewer to find success north of the border.

 
Evan Anundsen, SP, Angel Salome C, Corey Hart RF & Alcides Escobar SS/2B

 
Evan is arguably the best minor league pitcher this season for Brevard County. He’s only in Brevard, I know. But he threw a no-hitter earlier this year and in contrast to the Blue Jays’ pitching prospects, he’s not injured. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend dealing Hart, but I can see it being an option.  Mat Gamel may eventually land in CF and with the success of Casey McGehee we could afford it. That is unless Toronto is drooling over Casey, too.

 
There is only one line of reasoning I agree upon with Halladay trade advocates. If the Milwaukee Brewers don’t go after him, the Cardinals or Cubs could. Does this look good to you?  Vomit in my mouth.

 
Wainwright – ERA+ – 135
Carpenter – 180
Pineiro – 123
Lohse – 104
Halladay – 154

 
The talent that Milwaukee would have to give up to bring Halladay is not likely worth the approximately $7M the organization would be liable for, plus another $15.75 due in 2010. Would it make Braun happy?  Oh, now my sarcasm is coming up.  Yes, let’s do it for Brauny. 

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I think the best written statement on this comes from none other than the St. Louis Dispatch:

 

Asked about the price tag for Halladay, a club source said: “Give Ricciardi all our minor-league rosters and let him circle any 5 names.”  –Joe Strauss, SL Post Dispatch

This is why Milwaukee would not have acquired Roy.  This is why Blue Jays don’t migrate south for the summer.

What’s Milwaukee Brewing? Pious Princes, Spare Parras & A Hint of Favre

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By Melissa S. Wollering

They were afterthoughts.  Surely Prince Fielder has hit a Grand Slam in his career.  Nope. Surely, the Milwaukee Brewers would never send Manny down to AAA and start a search for spare pitching parts. Nope. Alas, we relish in both this week.  We also take a look at why valuable players like Hardy and Cameron slump worse than aging scoliosis and what helps them bat upright again.

 
If there ever was a ‘stank’ face, it was the one Prince Fielder made right before he smacked the ball so fast into right-centerfield that Marty McFly could’ve used it as a mode of transportation in Back to the Future.
It truly was the Itchy & Scratchy—Brauny & Fieldy Show. Ryan and Prince drove in a combined 11 RBI’s Monday, prompting this: when your team is slumping, who lifts you up? Who restores the faith of the masses when the pitching is pitiful and your startling lineup is in despair?  More importantly, how do they do it?

 

Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder have provided long-term consistency, leadership and foundational strength for the Crew for some time now.  However, Monday was the first night I took a step back and admired them for rejuvenating the faith of a team who had just loss 6 of its last 7 and was now losing big-time on national television.

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Argue all you want, but isn’t that what gives Braun and Fielder each the “it” factor?  There was quite a bit of speculation in the off-season and in spring training that Fielder wouldn’t be worth the hassle of re-negotiating with Dr. Evil/Scott Boras. But combined, these two men seem to be able to alter their teammates’ emotional status, make game-winning plays and affect the entire course of a homestand or away series.

 
Example #1: JJ Hardy, Mike Cameron and Bill Hall epitomized slump before Monday.  On Tuesday, all three drove in key runs for a win. It was JJ’s first multi-RBI game since May 19th.  Cameron was 3-for-38 entering that game and Bill Hall has only 7—count them seven—hits in his last 71 AT BATS. Monday was great inspiration for fans, better inspiration for Prince & Braun’s teammates.

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Example #2: Prince has stated, “I want to do whatever I can to help the team win,” referencing the importance he places on his defensive contributions to the Milwaukee Brewers as well.  Earlier this month against Atlanta, he socked two homers and threw out a runner at the plate to keep the Braves off the board for a second consecutive game. He’s not the best first baseman in MLB, but he’s not the worst.

 
Example #3: When in doubt, Ryan and Prince make you believe ‘hey, we’re not that bad’.  It sounds simple but is easy to forget amidst a losing streak. The Brewers are one of only two teams in the National League with a winning record both on the road and at home. The Los Angeles Dodgers are the other.

 
Fielder and Braun physically hold their team together like Gorilla Glue. Is it applicable when Doug Melvin and Mark Attanasio consider keeping the dynamic duo together for the good of the team next year?  Multiple years? You bet your civil war references it does. Together we stand; divided we fall. Pretty deep for baseball, hey?

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In contrast, shallow is the level of skill Manny Parra has displayed so far this season.  In this week’s “Ace’s Corner,” if you take away the starts Manny made, the Brewers have a record of 33-21 as of Wednesday. Developmentally, the kid needs work. The team won’t need a 5th starter until June 27, but it rekindles the question that’s been burning all season.  Will the Milwaukee Brewers pick up another starter mid-season?

Don’t ask me if he’ll stack up to CC, you’re smart and know better. Peavy’s DL announcement made me smirk for this reason, too. I hate throwing out names, but Ken Macha has stated they are eyes wide open up to the trade deadline.  If you absolutely want to see the options, Right Field Bleachers has a great breakdown of who’s worth it and who’s not. Names include Cliff Lee, Tom Glavine, Dontrelle Willis and Nate Robertson and a host of injured.

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In “Just a Bit Outside,” I am relieved to hear he turned down an offer to appear on ABC’s “The Bachelor.” I’m sure it took some restraint, considering the Ken-Finds-Barbie concept works wonders for additional T-shirt sales. Check out Miller Park Drunk for an excellent re-creation of what ABC execs must have said to Braun. The hypothetical conversation includes offering Braun the grown-up version of Walt in LOST, who holds all the island’s mysteries.  Yes, Walt is black.  And in Grey’s Anatomy…they want him to play “McJewy.”

In “Friendly Fire With the Cubs,” someone has too much time on their hands but has managed to amuse me.

And finally, in this week’s Chart Magnificence,” I couldn’t resist a Terrell Owens vs. Brett Favre comparison checklist.  Don’t forget to use the handy comparison checklist at work when deciding between departmental budget needs vs. wants; who gets pink slip vs. who stays; and the ever-popular inappropriate vs. appropriate responses to your boss. Enjoy.

 

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Hold the Cheese: A Sox-Brewers Exchange

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By Soxman and Melissa S. Wollering

You have to reach back to years of California’s rolling blackouts, Mad Cow disease media-hype and the release of the very first Apple’s IPod for the last time the Chicago White Sox played the Milwaukee Brewers.  2001 was remarkable.  Fast-forward to 2009, as Soxman and Melissa cheese it up about the latest meeting between the two teams, sure to be as memorable as the smell of limburger left in a vehicle at 90 degrees for 8 hours.

(SM)  Nope, I’m not going to do it.  There will be absolutely no gloating by this White Sox super fan regarding our series sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers.  Why?  Well, I have two reasons.  One: our victories actually helped the Cubs in the standings.  Two: the Brewers are my second favorite team in the National League.  Yes, for Soxman, there are other teams in baseball beyond the boys who protect the diamond at 35th and Shields.

The Brewers franchise is the little engine that could.  The small market team, built from home-grown prospects and complemented, not defined by free agents. I love their park and their fans, so you will not hear me “drop a beat down” on this team.

That said, to quote the 70’s sensation Meatloaf, “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad.”  Any thoughts you would like to share overall on the competitive series that took place at Miller Park this weekend?

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(MW)  First off, I count a sweep as taking three of three.  Brewers won on Friday 7-2, so let’s say you ‘won the series’.  Your pitchers got it done when ours didn’t, your hardwood performance made our players appear to be using toothpicks, Pierzynski was ‘one to watch’ even though Paul M. Banks thought I was nuts for saying so last week.  To top it all off, you robbed Trevor Hoffman of a perfect ERA.  Robbing Hoffy made me feel as though the Sox had cursed death upon my future first-born child.  It left me that empty.

(SM) Okay, let’s look at each game in a little more detail.  The first game to me was not a loss by the White Sox as much as it was a loss to Ozzie Guillen.  He pulled Clayton Richard after pitching five solid innings and only giving up one earned run.  It  was also the start of a great series (and hopefully a hot streak) for Corey Hart.  A double, a triple, and 3 RBIs.  Our bullpen, which had been pretty automatic, gave up six earned runs.  For a final thought, where in the heck did former Cub, Casey McGehee come from?

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(MW) He came from Cubbie purgatory where if you vow to contribute to the Milwaukee Brewers after a life with the Cubs, then you reach heaven after your career is finished. Amen, brother! He got the leadoff spot in Sunday’s lineup and contributed to that game, too, before it took a Turnbow nosedive.

I also love pitchers that can get it done on both offense and defense. On Friday, Suppan retired the side in just 7 pitches in the 2nd inning. Then he stepped up to the plate in the 3rd and advanced Kendall to second with a nice Sac.   Richard doubled for his first major-league hit in the 5th, too. Ozzie pulled him for that error in the following inning, which I agree, wasn’t completely necessary. Still, Suppan and Richard impressed overall.

(SM) Game II.  Let’s just say your premonition regarding Manny Parra in last weeks exchange with Paul M. Banks was spot on.  Six earned runs in an inning and two-thirds pitched.  What is wrong with this guy?  With an ERA over seven, perhaps he’ll follow his opponent’s lead and figure everything out in the minors?  Did I mention that Jose Contreras appears to be back?  Eight innings of two-hit ball.  Bottom line, that was the story of this game.  Care to offer your perspective?

(MW) If you care to sweep Manny Parra’s glove and uniform under Miller Park’s bleachers, douse them with lighter fluid and start tailgating around them with a couple of Usinger’s famous bratwursts, then by all means SWEEP away. Let’s just say I awoke Sunday extremely unsurprised that he was sent down to AAA Nashville. 

What cracked me up though is that Macha is so disgusted, he currently does not give a rat’s rear-end about trying to replace him. We brought up the reliever Chris Narveson and will use Seth McClung to start if need be.  However, the next 8 games include two off days, so a 4-man rotation works until June 27th. Attanasio is probably doing some Father’s Day shopping in the starting pitching department, aisle better than a 7.52 ERA? You had to know this was coming.  It’s not IF, it’s WHEN with the Milwaukee Brewers and their pitching woes.

Contreras impressed with the number of innings pitched, copious amounts of strikeouts and no signs of returning ailments. That is a trifecta to me because those Achilles can take some time. Hey, come to think of it you know, we could use a starting pitcher…

(SM) Well, if we are going to tailgate, I’d prefer Johnsonville beer brats.  The series finale was like bizarro baseball world in my opinion.  Jim Thome attempts to bunt, Mark Buehrle homers and Trevor Hoffman gives up his first run of the season.  Corey Hart brought us back to reality by belting two homers and Casey McGehee appeared to be playing with Cubs ire as he went 3 for 4, falling a triple short of the cycle.  Thoughts ?

(MW) Hart does well in June, it’s his month.  It is the month of the harvest, when his ‘International Harvester’ as a batting song actually makes sense for 30 days.  JJ Hardy looked absolutely dismal.  He got shoved down the batting order to eighth on Monday as a direct result. He is something like 1 for 32 right now in at-bats.

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Buehrle surprised with his bat and I enjoyed watching White Sox fans cheer in utter shock!  I cheered with them.  Heck, who cares?  It was exciting. Looper didn’t deserve any cheering whatsoever, so…. 

Also, let’s describe how Melissa watched the 0.00 ERA on the gigantic wrap scoreboard flicker at status quo for the last time in Brewers history for Hoffman.  Let’s pause 30 seconds for silence.  Now let’s never speak of it again. I heard he was .8 innings away from making club history.  I said let’s never speak of it again! This is me, writing to myself in my alter ego.

(SM)  I actually did a Sox Exchange once with my alter ego Bruce Wayne Parker, so I know how these things go.  It will get better.  Earlier this season, I scouted the Brewers farm system, taking in Nashville Sounds game.  All the buzz surrounded super-prospect Mat Gamel and Alcides Escobar, yet most of the return on investment thus far seems to be coming from McGehee, who only hit .167 with the Cubs last year despite driving in 92 runs for AAA Iowa.  Former Brewer Scotty Podsednik has been that guy for us.  Left for dead by the Colorado Rockies, Pods was out of work until mid-April when the Sox took a chance on him.  The 2005 World Series hero has made the  most of his second chance with Sox, posting a .360 OBP, and hitting .311, 1 HR, 13 RBI, and 8 SB.  The Brewers and Sox both have a history of getting the most out of frugal signings.  Do you think its that Midwest mentality or dumb luck ?

(MW) It’s karma…we lose people like Richie Sexson and Geoff Jenkins who go on to semi-resurrect their careers with other organizations.  But we also give away people like Scott Linebrink to the White Sox and watch him implode on himself, like he did Saturday. 

You win some, you lose some.  So, somewhere smack in the middle of Midwest mentality and sheer dumb luck. That dances around your question like a circus performer on hot coals. Sorry, Soxman. But I agree, kudos to the Sox for picking up Scotty Po Po.  I cheered for him this weekend and I was in the vast majority!  You would have been proud of my Milwaukee Brethren.

(SM)  Finally, lets play Maybe or Mirage, where we hit 5 quick points on the White Sox (and Brewers) and offer our opinion whether it is a sign of things to come or something likely to fade quickly?  Remember, no answer can be longer than 20 words!  Let’s play ball… 

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White Sox pitching was good for Corey Hart.
 

(SM) Maybe, He was in a 2 for 23 slump on Wednesday, looks like Ryan Braun against the Sox. 

 

(MW) Mirage, it had nothing to do with the pitching. In June 2007, Hart batted .336 with nine home runs and 21 RBIs from the leadoff spot. June of ’08 was decent, too.

 Jose Contreras is back.
 

(SM) Maybe, 2 starts, 16 IP, zero ER, and three hits allowed.  Enough said. 

(MW) Maybe, watch his health, keep stretching that achilles and I don’t see why not.

The Brewers will be buyers at the trade deadline.

(SM) Maybe, they need another solid starting pitcher and perhaps a hitter hat can get on base. 

(MW)  Strong Maybe if not Definitely. For the first time in years, more MLB teams are looking to trade for bats. It may give us an advantage when seeking pitchers. Starting pitcher = happening for us.

 The Sox will be buyers at the trade deadline.

 (SM) Mirage, who are they going to give up on?  Sellers are a possibility. 

(MW:) Mirage, they’ll be selling to teams like the Brewers and salvaging the future. My sincere apologies, but…

The Brewers and the Sox will meet in the 2009 World Series.
 

(SM) Mirage.  Not unless we start scoring more runs. 

(MW)  I like your thinking!  But probably not, so mirage it is. Bless what we have in common until then–our hatred for the Cubs!

(SM) Great exchange Melissa!  Good luck to you guys down the stretch.

What’s Milwaukee Brewing: Interleague Interruption & Locker Room B-Line

By Melissa S. Wollering

Bill Hall hits a two-out RBI single in the bottom of the 10th Sunday to beat St. Louis 1-0 and what does he do? Pivots like a runway model at first, leads the entire team up the dugout stairs to the locker room at cheetah speed and signals to the whining Cardinals that they can take Milwaukee’s untucked jerseys and SHOVE THEM. No high-fives, no on-field celebration and no coincidence.

Apparently, the St. Louis Cardinals grumble the most about the Milwaukee Brewers untucking their shirts after victories. Complaints emerged again after the Brewers’ last sweep of the red birds at Busch Stadium on May 17. If you still haven’t heard the story, the tradition honors Mike Cameron’s father, who untucked his shirt after a hard day’s work.

It’s no surprise.  The Cardinals are bitter due to the fact the Brewers have dominated the NL Central rivalry as of late, winning 9 of the last 10 games in St. Louis and 14 of 19 overall since the start of last season.

The Milwaukee Brewers, however, are NOT dominating interleague play. Call it a mere interruption if you’re an optimist and a giant gaping black hole in play if you’re a pessimist, but the Minnesota Twinkies sat on the Crew like a fat kid on a Hostess cupcake.

Manny Parra and Braden Looper struggled as rookie Anthony Swarzak prompted umpteen texts/emails to my phone courtesy Palmer and Christian. Swarzak was so good, that during my drive to Green Bay that evening, I resorted to throwing in a book on tape rather than listen to the entire game. My hosts had a beer waiting for me as soon as I stepped in the door. It was THAT rough. They knew.

Let me preface the following with the fact I do not believe this was the case this weekend; however, do the Twins get THE most bloop hits of any MLB team? Is the Dome its own galaxy with an alternate centrifugal force affecting the gravitational pull of balls? With a shoutout to my most recent hosts Justin & Amy Z. in Green Bay, when Rickie Weeks’ rear-end orbit went in for surgery along with his wrist, did the energy shift to the Dome?

Ken Macha has some seriously negative energy focused on Adrian Johnson. The ump called foul when Mitch Stetter’s pitch hit Joe Mauer hear his hand with two runners on and two outs. Mauer started walking toward base, but Johnson called him back convinced it hit the bat. Then Ron Gardenhire stomps out of the dugout and successfully gets the call overturned, which leads to Morneau’s grand slam, which seals the sweep. You watch the replays. You decide.

At least Mike Cameron celebrated a home run that night—his 250th. He and 19 other players have hit at least 250 homers and stolen at least 250 bases. Cameron has 291 steals in his career to be exact. He also broke the 1,500 mark in hits earlier this season. I feel like untucking my shirt at work solely based on his achievement this week.


JJ Hardy should be back in the lineup Tuesday after dealing with back spasms over the weekend. I could make a horrible joke here by adding the same two words you can add to the end of those quotations that come out of fortune cookies, but I’ll save it. Meantime, in his absence, Craig Counsell has been filling in at SS.

In Rickie Weeks’ absence, Casey McGehee and Craig Counsell have been holding down the fort at second base. Counsell has also settled into the leadoff spot in the lineup.

Mat Gamel and Casey McGehee have seen some playing time at third and Frank Catalanotto was called up from AA Huntsville. The outfielder was signed to a minor-league deal a week ago and should help the Brewers’ bench. To make room for him, lefty reliever R.J. Swindle was sent down to AAA Nashville. Swindle was supposed to help the bullpen during the Twins match up but failed, by pitching twice and surrendering runs both times.

Jody Gerut is the Brewers’ newest acquisition and also a backup outfielder, courtesy of the San Diego Padres.  We actually got something for Lil’ TG (Tony Gwinn, Jr.) one month after we couldn’t pawn him for anything. Jody (a left-handed hitter, bonus) has seen some playing time in right field for Cory Hart already, but is used to being part of platoon in SD.  He’s probably a bit disappointed with the change, but seems to be upbeat about helping the Brewers. As a result of the Gerut trade, Chris Duffy was outrighted to AAA Nashville.

Speaking of the farm system, Milwaukee Brewers’ “top” pitching prospect and my personal fantasy league draft selection Jeremy Jeffress is performing so poorly, he was just demoted to Class A Brevard County last week. He was a first-round draft pick in ’06, but was struggling at AA Huntsville, going 1-3, with a 7.57 ERA in 8 starts. He’s being replaced with another first-round draft pick named Mike Jones, who is on a 4-0 start with 4.06 ERA this season.

Also in “Ace’s Corner,” Gallardo imploded on himself last week only to realize he suddenly needed to pitch the biggest game of the season so far (with the Brewers needing to snap their 3-game losing streak and maintain their lead in the NL Central on Monday). Sure enough, he and Chris Carpenter duked it out in a Memorial Day duel. Yo had a no-hitter going into the 6th inning and Carpenter a perfect game until Craig Counsell nixed it as he led off the 7th. Both pitchers worked 8 innings respectively and each gave up zero runs on dos hits.

Biggest hit this season for Bill Hall = Monday’s game-winner.  His slump is still terrible, but in his interview after the game, Billy held back tears as he described how badly he wants to break out of it.  Kudos, Billy. I don’t know if it’ll save your career with the Crew long-term, but I feel for you and respect the passion you have for the game.

Also impressive this week, the Brewers have recorded the second highest number of walks of any team in MLB and Prince Fielder is on par to annihilate the Crew’s team record for walks in a season. ‘Walk It Out’ can repurposed from Johnny Estrada’s batting song.

In “Just a Bit Outside,” Prince Fielder has a new theme song.  Really?  No clue, but someone took time to make this rap masterpiece.  Sheesh.

In “Friendly Fire With the Cubs,” they lost eight straight prior to Tuesday. David K. is about to quit on them for his 298,917th time.  I don’t blame you DK. On a brighter note, Mr. T. is the #*$@^#!  I know he can’t sing, but can he visit Wrigley more often?  This is entertainment at its finest.  As bad as Denise Richards was, is as good as Mr. T. IS.

In “Chart Magnificence,” we praise Lange’s blog at Sheffield’s House.  Lange wondered what positions our favorite Brewers would play if they were stuffed in pads and dropped onto a football field.  Enjoy!

What’s Brewing in ’09: Strong Coffey, Boring Bench & Trenni Talk

 
By: Melissa Wollering

 
When half your team is playing really well and the other half can’t stop itself from imploding, the losses are disgusting, the wins are both shocking and satisfying and the word consistency is foreign.

 

 
In this week’s “Good, Bad & Ugly,” Coffey is my favorite beverage, Looper my favorite pitcher and Bush my Most Improved.  In his last outing, Bush gave up 4 hits, 3 BB and 3 runs in the 1st inning alone. However, on Thursday, Bush had a no-hitter against Philly going into the 8th. Former Brewer Matt Stairs eventually ended that with a homer that hit the right field foul pole.


Looper continued his winning streak Wednesday pitching six scoreless innings. Word is he may move ahead of Manny Parra in the rotation. Coffey did give up his first run as a Brewer on Wednesday, but should be thanked for a gutsy two-and-two-thirds-inning save earlier in the week.  In that game, Coffey forced a double play with the bases loaded in the 7th, got out of a jam in the 8th AND plopped down a perfect sac bunt in the 9th to move Kendall to second.  That transformed into an insurance run. Sicko good.


Coffey is also drawing comparisons to Brewers 2003-2004 closer Dan Kolb. Kolb hadn’t made many waves before the Brewers picked him up in his late 20’s.  Same for Coffey. Both showcase mid-90’s sinking fastballs.

Also in this category: Mike Cameron.  At time of print, Cameron led the team with a .316 batting average and 4 homers. More impressive is his .422 on-base percentage, which is tops among Milwaukee regulars.

 
As for bad, we move Suppan up one category from ugly this week. The Mets seemed to hit quite a few hardballs off Supp in his last outing, but he held them off going 6 innings and giving up just two runs.  It’s progress. Now build on it like a kid with 4 hours in Legoland at Mall of America.


Brew Crew Haiku provides us with this thoughtful analysis of his last outing:
Suppan Effective
But story of this game is
Strong Coffey brewing

 
Hopefully the bullpen won’t be as bad once Trevor Hoffman returns.  He’s expected to return on Sunday.  Cue Hells Bells once we get back to Miller Park.

 
If you want a bad stomachache, buy any large Pizza Hut pizza until May 2 and get a free Brewers ticket. Or just buy a real ticket and opt for Palermo’s in your frozen section.

 
As for what’s ugly for the Brewers, avid reader Justin Z. and I both salute Rickie Weeks’ ass.  Have you ever seen the Family Guy episode where Peter’s midsection and backside actually have an orbit around them?  Brian the dog throws objects into the gravitational pull to demonstrate.


If you’ve ever mistaken Rickie’s face for his ass, then perhaps you’ve identified the reason for his tough month of April. Rickie collided with JJ Hardy’s shoulder and was removed from Tuesday’s game for dizziness.  A game or two prior, his face got nailed by a pitch. If it didn’t already, NOW his face looks like his… Fine, I’m done. But I was having so much fun!

What else is ugly?  The bench. I spent a great deal of time discussing Chris Duffy, Brad Nelson and Casey McGehee during Spring Training.  I also explained that one of Dale Sveum’s campaigns in Maryvale was to make the bench so solid that each member could step for the starters without anyone taking notice.  He wanted pinch hitters to be winning factors in games….uh…yeah. You should pinch yourself at this point.  Are you dreaming, Dale?


Since Opening Day, we’ve hardly seen the bench.  When we do, they suck. Duffy, Nelson and McGehee combined have stepped up to the plate less than 20 times in the first 14 games. To put this in context, Counsell alone has batted 15 times in the same number of games.


My final ugly thought is Jorge Julio.  I so badly wanted to chant, “Rufio, Rufio, Ru-fi-ohhhhhhhhhh” all season.  Now I would like to catch a glimpse of the crack addict who drew his strike zone and see if he knows that he paints the corners like Jackson Pollack.  Wow.  If you got my art reference, I will give you a shout out in the next What’s Brewing.

 
In “Just a Bit Outside,” Bob Uecker does not think highly of the Mets’ new CitiField ballpark. He gave a long rant about the design of the visitor’s booth. He says there are half-a-dozen seats in front of them.  When someone stands, they loose all visibility – batter, catcher AND home plate.

As for other problem areas with that park; you can’t see the playing field from the visitor’s bullpen. Here’s Coffey’s reaction: “It’s horrible. It’s awful. It’s the worst bullpen I’ve ever been in…It’s a bad design.”

 
Nice.  In “Friendly Fire with the Cubs,” your favorite board-game creator and mine, Milton Bradley, was ejected from last Thursday’s game after a K in a pinch-hit appearance. Apparently he made contact with the ump. He was suspended two games. If you’re groin still hurts and you’re on the bench though, why even bother, Milton? Of course, he’s appealing it on principle (says Lou).  Andy Paschen has bequeathed Milton with the nickname of “The Meth Bear.” Children, if an angry bear is chasing you with a syringe full of meth coursing through his veins, make sure you can run faster than your slowest friend.

 
In “Where Are They Now?” former Brewer Geoff Jenkins wants to play. I think he could find a spot on a bench somewhere in National League. He can pinch hit and always adds to the defensive depth in the outfield wherever he goes.

 

 “Around the NL,” Lance Berkman is reportedly in an “uncharacteristic slump.”  Time out.  So the slump he was in for the majority of 2007 makes this one uncharacteristic how?

 

Pirates may resort to kidnapping although these wouldn’t do it off coast of Africa.  The Pittsburgh Pirates are about to start kidnapping fans. Not only did the team sell just 8,700 tickets the other day, but they only counted 4,500 actually enter the turnstiles.  I smell the first MLB team bailout…

And finally, your friend and mine, Trenni Kusnierick is getting a little traction for her MLB Network makeover.  She’s been very open about it, saying they wanted to ‘girl her up’ for the NY market crowd.  She’s done some interviews this week on 1250 AM in Milwaukee and written into Right Field Bleachers about it. What do you think?  I think they gave her a Jenny McCarthy look.  Not bad…

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.”

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!