Doug Melvin’s wacky pitching experiment deserves MLB consideration

Doug Melvin

Baseball decisions are often made based on percentages, and the sabermetric movement has fostered some unorthodox theories in the eyes of purists and the average fan.

By Jake McCormick [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…]

First Suppan is “Injured”, Could Now Be #5 Starter

By: Melissa S. Wollering

It was a genius idea. Come out of the locker room with an ice pack on your neck towards the end of Spring Training. Report pain, receive treatment. It opened the door for the Milwaukee Brewers to put Jeff Suppan on the 15-day Disabled List. Now, Manager Ken Macha says Suppan could be named the #5 starter just in time for next week’s Brewers/Cubs series at Wrigley. And just when we were all looking forward to seeing his name on the 60-day DL… [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…]

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 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.

Tom Crean Influences Brewers’ Top Draft Selection

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By Melissa S. Wollering

He always reminded me of Ben Sheets: a fair asset to his sport with leadership and command on the court/field, sprinkled with a little self-nullifying whining and a funny drawl. Turns out Tom Crean helped the Milwaukee Brewers’ draft their first college pitcher in the first-round Tuesday since Ben Sheets was selected as such back in 1999.

Down in Indiana, Eric Arnett became known for his hard throwin’, clocking fastballs in the mid-90’s, complementing them with Speedy Gonzales sliders. He’s the Jolly Green Giant—at 6’5”, 225 he basically throws downhill from the mound. In contrast to a Manny Parra, he also averages nearly eight innings per start.

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If you’ve ever questioned Tom Crean’s dedication to Wisconsin sports in general, now is a good time to eat your words. He’s got our back.

Call Crean the Milwaukee Brewers’ unofficial scout with a nose for multi-sport players (Arnett played football, basketball and baseball for his high school in Pataskala, Ohio).  Shortly after Tom Crean left Marquette to take over the Hoosier men’s basketball program, Crean had Eric Arnett work out with the team and travel as a practice player.

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Arnett never suited up for games, but made such an impression on Crean as an athlete that Crean vouched for him, calling Doug Melvin and Bruce Seid once he heard of the Brewers’ interest in Eric.

The Brewers were able to take a good look at Arnett last Saturday while the organization held a workout for several draft-eligible players. As Doug Melvin has stated before, it was important for Milwaukee to select a player with signability in addition to ability.

Bruce Seid says the Brewers didn’t draft for need but rather went with the ‘best player available’ mentality.  Yay for good arms.  Yay again for good Big 10 arms. The fact that Arnett seems keen on getting professional career going fast also helps.

“I’m looking forward to signing as soon as possible,” said Arnett, in an interview with Tom Hardricourt Tuesday. “I’m a fairly ‘signable’ guy. I don’t think it would take too long.”

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Which is a good thing.  The Crew’s previously solid farm system pitching prospect Jeremy Jeffress was recently demoted from Class AA Huntsville to Class A Brevard County due to a severe lack of command.

As for the rest of the draft, the Milwaukee Brewers picked up a nice mix of high school and college guys. University of Tennessee’s Kentrail Davis is a centerfielder who batted .308 with 9 homers and 30 RBI on a less-than-stellar team last year. He truly was the diamond in their rough, even though he’s only a sophomore.

The Crew also drafted RHP Kyle Heckathorn from Kennesaw (Georgia) State, who looks identical to Arnett.  He dons a fastball in the high 90’s, a hard slider and 6’6”/240 stature. Hmm…Melvy and Seid might have a “type” as narrow as Kate Hudson’s dating prototype. Wait…hers are much more self-absorbed, psychotic and overrated at baseball. 

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For the second of the two CC Sabathia picks, the Brewers’ took a high school outfielder named…wait for it…wait for it….Max Walla.  Arguably the BEST name in the entire draft. Out of Albuquerque (N.M.) Academy, he’s a left-handed-hitter with power, power, power.  51 homers during his junior year and summer ball. A lefty with those numbers probably made Melvin drool into his Total Bran w/Raisins Wednesday morning.

The Brewers also picked up prep catcher Cameron Garfield of Murietta, CA High School. In the third round, they found a Tulane shortstop named Josh Prince. Considering the Milwaukee Brewers’ entire foundation is built upon its farm system, players selected this week could make a huge difference in the organizations’ future.  I, for one, hope to be writing about them in this column in a few years. Walla, Walla, watch-out!

What Milwaukee’s Brewing: 30 in 50, Raw Relief & Fountain vs. Fist

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By: Melissa S. Wollering

Thirty W’s in 50 games—the Milwaukee Brewers make club history with that number.  It’s also just the second time the Crew has won 30 prior to June 1.  Unfortunately, the next day, Jorge Julio throws raw steak at the Fish, single-handedly loses a game and prompts Ken Macha to rethink his entire bullpen. Now that’s more like the Brewers we know and love. Ugh.
 
The bright side: the Milwaukee Brewers swept the Reds after an interleague interruption to the Twins and losses to the red birds. Also good: Trevor Hoffman is 13 for 13 in saves.  But the rest of the Milwaukee Brewers’ bullpen is now valued beneath Milli Vanilli’s Grammy award at any local pawn shop near you.

 

The Brewers were on top of the Florida Marlins 4-2 Monday, when Jorge Julio entered in the 6th inning to give up five runs, four earned. Coffey stepped in that inning because after all that, Julio still couldn’t record ONE OUT. If Julio were the piece of raw meat I saw travel towards the plate Monday night, I’d feed him to Siegfried & Roy’s tiger. I’d also make sure that tiger lived a happy, fulfilling life in the Brewers bullpen reminding relievers not to THROW CRAP.

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Ken Macha just might tear apart his bullpen. He released Julio 14 hours later and called up AAA Nashville’s Mike Burns. Burns has pitched for the Sounds, recording a 6-2 record, 2.98 ERA in 10 starts and one shutout game. He’s pitched in the majors for Houston, Cincinnati and Boston and will serve a middle-reliever role.

If Macha had wanted David Riske, forget it. On Tuesday, Brewers Asst. GM Gord Ash announced Riske will undergo elbow surgery immediately and it could be as serious as Tommy John’s. He’s done for the year after just one outing.

Mark DeFelice has recently been held out of games due to his ailing elbow and could be placed on the DL any day. The Crew has R.J. Swindle but kicks itself every time it calls the LHP up because he gives up runs every time he enters a game.

In the event Macha needs someone else who can cover several innings, he could call up Nick Green or Chase Wright. Seth McClung and Mitch Stetter were so overworked by Monday, they were unavailable. Coffey and Villaneuva aren’t seeing much rest lately either. Tim Dillard would have been another decent choice to bring up Tuesday, except he pitched 7 innings on Sunday for Nashville and needs rest. Dillard has transitioned from reliever to starter.

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Mike Cameron left Monday’s game with knee irritation and Ryan Braun was part of that double-switch because he fouled a ball into one of his shins. Maybe if Braun wasn’t so busy throwing Remetee promotions parties on Milwaukee’s northside, he wouldn’t foul the ball in that direction.  Nothing is said to be serious with either player. Braun’s back in the lineup Tuesday.  Cameron is not. Jody Gerut is in.

Can we talk about the positive? May showered the Milwaukee Brewers’ with 18 victories and the wins are saving fans money.  A line formed at Miller Park Monday morning as people purchased discounted tickets to the Rockies’ series next week. The team offered a dollar off of loge level seats for every victory in May. $28 seats became $10 seats. Windell Middlebrooks calls them ‘good seats at an honest price’.

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Contributors worth recognizing include Prince ‘Month of May’ Fielder. His OBP of .450 gives statisticians chills; he whacked 9 homers, 31 RBI’s and 20 runs; AND his reflective shades complement his .305 average for the month. That’s not bad considering he lost your friend and mine, Rickie Weeks.

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Craig Counsell’s performance has exceeded the worth of his contract and it’s only June. Yovani Gallardo is finally showing signs of Ace potential. And Trevor Hoffman is playing paramedic, performing CPR on the bullpen even though he was out the first month of the season.  He is already approaching the top of the list in saves in the NL. He also converted his 13th save on the day the Milwaukee Brewers released his first bobblehead figure.  Remember when the Derrick Turnbow bobblehead release signaled his demise? Oh, Turnblow.

derrick_turnbow_bobblehead_may_13th_2006_3__soul-amp

I understand Miller Park finally got it right for Hoffy on Friday, playing AC/DC’s ‘Hells Bells’ the correct way. As the Brewers secured the final out in the 8th, all graphics on the video board went out, cameras and lights went dark and music stopped. Then, Hoffman opened the door and BONG! As he started jogging, music blared and video of ‘Trevor Time’ appeared.  Someone from San Diego must have faxed a step-by-step procedure manual to Milwaukee.  Thanks, San Diego.

I’m glad they got it right just in time to welcome Francisco Cordero back to Milwaukee.  Are you still celebrating your dollar figure or scratching your head about last season’s record under .500? We’re over you like cheekless chaps on Cher, Coco.

As for the offense, Ken Macha is now making it clear that if you were waiting for the Brewers to play small ball, even during the hitting funk prior to the Reds’ series, you wasted your time. Macha still subscribes to the idea that home runs and walks win games; stolen bases and sac bunts do not. Macha also insists this philosophy isn’t a product of his time with the Oakland A’s.

sveum

During spring training, batting coach Dale Sveum spoke extensively about shifting offensive reliance on homers towards more of a manufacturing-friendly attitude. Macha just chucked that idea to the wolves this week.  He says that prior to sweeping the Reds, the Brewers’ only problem was passivity at the plate.  What is Macha’s solution should home-run bats become silent? Encourage hitters to be more aggressive on first-pitch strikes a.k.a. earlier in the count. I wonder if Sveum and Macha are clashing on philosophies this season.  It would appear they, are but no one’s talking about it.

In June, watch out for Corey Hart and Manny Parra. Hart has hit around .306 (20 points higher than his monthly average) and slugs .583 (100 point difference) in the month of June. Parra also loves the start to summer. He went 5-0 with a 2.59 ERA last June. However, Alcides Escobar will not start at second for the Brewers any time soon.  He’s back to shortshop down in Nashville.

In “Just a Bit Outside,” if the fan next to you at Miller Park is ticking you off, you can now text park personnel for someone to monitor and investigate the situation. As part of the organizations’ “Play Nice – Be a Friendly Fan”, you can now report misconduct by texting BREWERS, followed by a space and their seat or ballpark location to 41513. If a player punches a Gatorade dispenser, that’s a separate issue.

gatorade-dispenser

In “Friendly Fire With the Cubs,” I’m sure you’re shocked that I would take this opportunity to deluge Mr. Ryan Dempster and Mr. Carlos Zambrano for their two separate attacks on a defenseless hydration device. Dempster’s new book (to be released in the off-season), “Speaking With Your Fist”, recounts Ryan’s experience after walking in two runs in the 2nd inning to the Pirates on Memorial Day.  That’s when he ran into the dugout and punched the soda fountain to pieces. But friends, it lived on.

You see, the Cubs’ soda fountain for Gatorade is one you’d see at Hardees or the BK, with approximately six varieties of pressurized beverage for players’ electrolyte pleasure. Great Zeus’ beard—who would put this in their dugout?  It was only a matter of time before the oversized, bulky monstrosity, which splashed sticky liquid in players’ faces, would get on someone’s nerves.  Its refrigerated cooling device hums like a kazoo, driving men bonkers. zambrano

The dispenser’s epic tale ended once Los named his Nueva amiga Fontana de’ Gatora.  Unlike a nice, garden-variety wooden beverage barrel from the 50’s, this dispenser could not withstand such a blow.

Typical dispensers require service calls for maintenance if they happen to be blasted with 35 ounces of maple. Alas, in this economy, the Cubs decided they didn’t want to keep calling the repairman to put the thing back together every time Zambrano attacked it.  So it has been placed on waivers. Bless you, Gatorade dispenser. You aren’t the first victim of Z’s angry demeanor and you won’t be the last.

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: The Gag Rule & Spring Training

By Melissa S. Wollering

It’s time to redeem yourself, GagMe. A gag rule forbids discussion of a particular topic.  I instituted the gag rule when Eric Gagne ruined my life, namely when he used a plunger to push $10M down the drain while compiling a 5.44 ERA in 50 appearances.

Now he has a minor-league offer with big-league camp invite attached. If he makes the team, he gets $1.5M, possibly $3M in incentives. If that’s not enough to make you choke, here’s the arrogant son-of-a-jackal’s response:

“You look at your paycheck every two weeks and it’s like, ‘Man, that’s crazy what I get paid for,’ and you put pressure on yourself,” Gagne said. “I knew [Doug Melvin] took a chance on me last year…and it didn’t work out with me.”

You think?  You pitch 6.98 for two months, go on the DL for your shoulder, then give up two homers and four runs against the Reds on July 12th and you’re shocked at fans’ boos?  You’re the first EIGHT FIGURE reliever in the club’s history and still in utter befuddlement as to why we screamed like you murdered our mother?

There are only two open bullpen slots, so go duke it out with Jorge Julio, Todd Coffey, Eddie Morlan, Mark DiFelice and Tim Dillard.  See if I care whether they tear you up. Gagne says he’s looking forward to playing with Trevor Hoffman.  Funny, bet Hoffman’s not looking forward to playing with you. When Gagne retires, I’m throwing a gag party. That’s the new gag rule.

Darn, no more goggles jokes. Gagne and Bill Hall both got LASIK eye surgery in the off-season.  He says the goggles gave him a headache all the time. Welcome to my world, Eric.  Welcome to my world.

In a new update called “Ace’s Corner,” Yovani Gallardo will not be #1 in the rotation after all. Ken Macha wants him the middle of the rotation, which is fine with me. Dave Bush or Braden Looper in the #1 spot would be my wager, in that order.  Although, my buddy Jason Craig (nicknamed because his roommates found him on Craigslist) thinks the Soup’s On in Numero Uno. 

Manny Parra must sing Stevie Wonder in the shower. He changed his number from 43 to 26 this season because he’s very superstitious. He wore 26 in HS, was drafted in the 26th round, signed on the 26th day of the month and is 26 years old right now. Wow. At least he did it the right way, making it to the big leagues first Alshon Jeffrey, cough, Steve Spurrier. The number could pay off: our friends at Razzball think lucky 26 is a fantasy sleeper.

Last week Macha confirmed what I called three weeks ago; which was Wickie Reeks will top the batting order, J.J. Hardy will bat #2. As for our OF Corey Hart, he got more than he’s worth AND avoided arbitration, finally netting $3.25M for one year.

In Spring Training, 3B prospect Mat Gamel’s shoulder hurts. He didn’t tell anyone prior to camp because he thought it wasn’t serious enough. Yeah, right.  He was also a bit “late” to warm-up the first day because his wife is expecting, so his teammates gave him the Bronx cheer and told him they were none too happy. Then Macha and Gord Ash had a stern talking to the young man last Thursday. Tough crowd in Maryvale these days.

Gamel has the same shoulder problem as Lil’ TG (Tony Gwynn, Jr.), so no throwing for now.  This is coming at a time when he could have seen more action due to Bill Hall’s calf injury. Billy should be back in action in a little more than week.

In other ST news, the once-porky Prince is slimmer! He says he beefed up his cardio regimen, no pun intended.  You’ll also notice Prince has a new tat on the right side of his neck – angel wings to complement the Asian character on the other side. Sweet. Also sweet: fat kid pictures of Prince from the 80’s on this week’s Two Fisted Slopper Blog, courtesy of a Cecil interview.

You have too much time on your hands if you’re the group of Brewers fans who set up shop last Friday to wait for single-game tickets that go on sale this Saturday. Sales managers sent them home and told them they should come back to Saturday’s Arctic Tailgate after they’ve put down their crackpipes.

In another new update “What A-Rod’s Done For Me,” Ryan Braun is standing by A-Rod. He says no one’s perfect. Braun met A-Rod in 2001 on a recruiting trip to U of Miami, allegedly the same year Alex started taking banned substances. Alex later helped #8 transition from 3B to LF and Ryan still considers Alex a mentor. Btw, Braun started his own clothing line called Remetee and he’s the cover boy of this season’s media guide.

In “Friendly Fire With the Cubs,” former-Cub, now-Brewer Casey McGehee is prominently featured on the Cubs’ pocket schedule. Really? Who’s your Director of Marketing/Promotions?  That’s like featuring Gabe Kapler on Miller Park’s $2 Scorecard, which they only print once a year.

In “Just a Bit Outside,” it’s official.  Ueck will omit the word ‘Jimmy’ and insert the word ‘Cory’ into his two-bit comedy routine. Cory Provus of Cubs Radio replaces Jim Powell. FSWI’s Brian Anderson says Cory is low-maintenance, humble and a solid journalist. Good, because I would not categorize Bob Uecker as low-maintenance.

Meantime, blonde bombshell-lovers everywhere are mourning the loss of Trenni Kusnierek with the announcement that Telly Hughes is to replace her. Hughes is a DUDE, yes that’s right, a MAN who’s made some cameos as a studio host on FSWI. At least they didn’t promote Jeff Cirillo.  Dave, I’m convinced your interview would have impressed beyond Telly’s. The name reminds me of four dancing PBS characters.

Trying to redeem themselves, FOX Sports Wisconsin is making it up to me by televising 136 regular-season games in 2009 with WMLW also broadcasting 151 games over-the-air! When I worked for WMLW in 2003, we hired Pat McCurdy to write and sing our commercial jingle “WMLW means Milwaukee” and it’s still around. Thank you Pat and WMLW for helping me live life to the fullest between April and October.

And finally by request, more “Chart Magnificence.” Let us examine spray charts for Alcides Escobar’s ground balls, courtesy of a new feature at the Minor League Splits database. Here are all the balls Escobar hit that were classified as ground balls by minor league scorers. Green is a hit and red is an out.

Compare that to Huntsville 2B Mike Bell, who played in the same park, had about the same number of at-bats, and racked up a .220 BABIP on ground balls, though he hit far fewer of them overall than Alcides.

Look for more on spring training and Attanasio’s fear of reaching $90M with his payroll next week…