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Brewers beat 9/22

September 22, 2010

McClendon causes stir with quick pitch

MILWAUKEE — As manager Ken Macha sees it, what Brewers reliever Mike McClendon does with two strikes absolutely is not an illegal quick pitch. The four Reds batters McClendon struck out on Tuesday night would likely disagree.

After he struck out third baseman Scott Rolen to end the seventh, home-plate umpire Dan Bellino told Macha he thought it was a quick pitch, though he didn’t make the call.

“He said the hitter wasn’t looking,” Macha said. “Go back and look at the tape, the hitter was looking. But sometimes what happens is the umpire gets caught off guard.”

In the eighth, McClendon continued to work with a shorter, quicker delivery after two strikes, and he struck out the side doing so.

The last of McClendon’s four strikeout victims was catcher Ramon Hernandez, who was noticeably upset afterward, pleading his case with Bellino.

“I don’t think in McClendon’s situation that it should even be in the conversation,” Macha said. “He takes a step back, he does his drop step, and then after he gets to his balance point, either he’s slow or he goes fast. There should not even be a question for that.”

McClendon’s manner of pitching in such situations is acceptable, so long as no runners are on base. With the bases empty, the requirement of coming set before pitching is not in play.

As far as Macha is concerned, pitching quickly is no different than switching up between a fastball and an offspeed pitch. It’s all designed to do the same thing to the hitter.

“The idea of pitching is to disrupt the hitter’s timing,” Macha said. “You do that by throwing changeups and fastballs and all that stuff. This is just a little variation of it, and I see absolutely nothing wrong with it.”

Another National League Central pitcher, Cardinals starter Jake Westbrook, pitches with a similar style to McClendon’s. When facing him, Brewers hitters made a concerted effort to call timeout to prevent any potential quick pitch.

So who’s at fault in the quick pitch issue?

“Is it on the hitter? He’s in the box,” Macha said. “If he knows the pitcher is going to do that, it’s up to him to call time.”

Cruz not seeing much playing time

MILWAUKEE — Since being recalled from Triple-A Nashville on Sept. 7, shortstop Luis Cruz has pinch-hit twice for the Brewers, once in Houston and again in San Francisco.

Cruz has yet to start a game for the Brewers, and though he started nearly 40 games in two years with the Pirates, his manager did not wish to start him against contenders like the Giants and Reds.

After playing in 129 games for the Sounds this year, sitting and watching from the bench is a new role for Cruz.

“I’m just working hard to see whenever they find a chance for me and let me play, that’s the only thing I can do,” Cruz said. “You want to play and help the team win, but the manager is the manager. He’s the one that sets the lineup, and he’s got to pick the guys that he thinks are going to help win games.”

With their official elimination from the playoff race on Sunday, though, the Brewers aren’t going anywhere, regardless of how many games they win. Add in the fact that they need to go 12-0 the rest of the way to finish at .500, and the need for winning games would not seem too high.

Learning what they can about September callups like Cruz, however, would seem like a priority. According to Macha, that’s likely to come in the next two series against the Marlins and Mets, both of whom are also on the outside looking in at the contenders.

“I had thrown a crazy idea out there this morning, I don’t know if I’ve got the nerve to do that,” Macha said without giving any additional details. “It’s a little further out of the box than playing Luis Cruz.”

Joining Cruz in watching from the dugout has been Mat Gamel, who also started one game at third base with Prince Fielder out of the lineup.

Any out-of-the-ordinary lineup against the Marlins would likely include Gamel as well, though what defensive position he would play is uncertain. Before Wednesday’s game, Macha had good things to say about Gamel’s outfield abilities.

“He was running them down in the outfield,” Macha said. “He was outstanding in right field. Watching him run balls down today, he was pretty good.”

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