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Fielder wants Kemp on NL’s Derby squad

July 3, 2011 Comments off

MINNEAPOLIS — Brewers All-Star slugger Prince Fielder is taking his job as National League captain for the State Farm Home Run Derby seriously, and so far, he has settled on just one of his three picks.

That pick is one of three NL starters in the outfield, but it’s not Brewers teammate Ryan Braun. Fielder wants Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp on his team.

“He’s guaranteed, I think,” Fielder said. “Yeah, he’s a guarantee, Kemp, if he wants to.”

Fielder said he had not talked to Kemp as of Sunday morning. But he has communicated with him through a mutual friend, Dodgers outfielder Tony Gwynn, a former Brewers teammate of Fielder’s.

Kemp, who entered Sunday leading the NL with 22 home runs, had indicated to reporters that he would be excited for the opportunity to swing for the fences in the Derby.

“I’m pretty sure if [Fielder] picks me, I’m in it,” said Kemp. “As a kid, everybody dreams of going up against the biggest home-run hitters in baseball. I remember seeing Frank Thomas in it and it’s been one of my dreams, definitely, if I get the chance to be in it.”

 

The Cardinals’ two All-Star outfielders, Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday, expressed interest Sunday in the Derby as well, and would bring plenty of experience to the NL squad. Berkman has been in the Derby four times, in 2002, ’04, ’06 and ’08. Holliday participated in ’07 and ’10.

“It would be hard to turn down an invitation,” Berkman said. “That would be tough to say no.”

All three Reds All-Stars also said they would be open to joining Fielder in the Derby.

“If they ask me to do it, I’ll probably do it,” said Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips. “I know the Reds probably don’t want me to do it. I feel like I could put a show on for the fans.”

As for Fielder’s teammates, Braun said before Sunday’s series finale against the Twins that he was officially out.

“Oh yeah, I’m out for sure,” Braun said. “I was leaning toward not doing it, but I’m definitely not doing it now.”

Something that may have added to Braun’s decision to not participate this year is the opportunity for another Brewers All-Star to take part in the Derby.

Second baseman Rickie Weeks, one of three Brewers starters in the All-Star Game along with Fielder and Braun, could be the fourth Milwaukee slugger to give the Derby a shot in the last five years. Fielder made his first appearance in 2007, Braun did it in ’08 in New York, Fielder won the ’09 contest in St. Louis, and right fielder Corey Hart participated last season in Anaheim.

So will Fielder add Weeks’ name to his lineup?

“Yeah, I think so,” Fielder said. “But I can’t let it out. I’ve got to narrow it down. He’s in my pool, so I don’t know yet.

“I can only pick a couple of my friends. Only my friends that hit the ball far.”

Weeks certainly fits that description, as Milwaukee’s leadoff hitter has 15 home runs, including a solo shot in Sunday’s game — seven back of Kemp, the NL leader — and is second among NL second basemen.

Of those 15 homers, Weeks has eight over 400 feet, including a 434-foot blast last month over the left-field bleachers at Wrigley Field and onto Waveland Ave.

Can Weeks’ name be penciled in for the Derby?

“I don’t know, I’ve got to be asked,” said Weeks, who was then asked if he would agree to participate if asked. “Oh yeah, I’ll say yes.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Hart’s walk-off HR lifts Brewers to sweep

July 11, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — It was the perfect ending to a great week for Corey Hart.

A week after being named to his second All-Star Game, the Brewers right fielder capped the first half of the season with his second walk-off home run on Sunday.

Hart, who had struggled through his first four at-bats of the game, crushed a 1-0 slider out to left off Pirates closer Octavio Dotel, giving the Brewers the 6-5 victory at Miller Park.

“I was trying to see something and get a hit,” Hart said. “When I hit it, I didn’t want to be one of those guys that put my hand way up in the air, so I gave it the half finger because I thought I got it.

“I knew it was going to be over his head, so I knew the run would score.”

Hart’s blast put an exclamation point on what is sure to be a memorable day for him, as he was named to the starting lineup of the National League All-Star squad as a replacement for injured Braves outfielder Jason Heyward.

Afterward, Hart was all smiles after his team-leading 21st home run saved the day for Milwaukee and sent the Brewers into the All-Star break on a positive note.

“They were giving Corey a lot of breaking balls,” Brewers manager Ken Macha said. “He finally got one up and didn’t miss it. That’s a nice ending to the first half.

“The climate in [the clubhouse] is a 180 [degrees different] from the end of the [previous] series.”

Not only did Hart give the Brewers the win, but the two-time All-Star also picked up the slack of closer John Axford.

With the Brewers having tied the score at 4 in the eighth on a pair of singles by Ryan Braun and Carlos Gomez, the game was placed in Axford’s hands with the expectation that he would give the home team a chance to win in the bottom half of the ninth.

Axford (5-1), who was pitching for the third straight game, gave up a pair of singles to open the inning, which was followed by a sacrifice fly to right, putting the Pirates ahead by a run.

The first single, which came on a bunt by Ronny Cedeno in which he narrowly avoided a tag by first baseman Prince Fielder, was a call which Axford did not agree with afterward.

“I thought Prince got him right on the heel, so did Prince,” Axford said. “I’m sure if you ask the umpires, they’ll say, ‘No,’ but if you ask them without a paper and pen and maybe a recorder, they might say that he was tagged.

“It was right there. I was standing right in front of it, and it looked pretty good. I even thought I heard it.”

Axford escaped the inning when he snagged a ball hit back through the middle and started a crucial inning-ending double play.

Though he was frustrated when he returned to the dugout, Axford reminded himself that his club was certainly capable of coming back again.

Three batters later, he was right.

Lefty starter Randy Wolf was not as sharp as he might have liked to have been, but he did just enough to keep the Brewers in the game. Wolf allowed four runs on seven hits over six innings while walking three and recording five strikeouts.

For the second straight outing, Wolf had a solid start except for one bad inning — a three-run second frame. The only other blemish was a solo homer in the sixth by rookie third baseman Pedro Alvarez.

“One rough inning,” Wolf said. “I left some balls over the plate, and they had a three-run inning. That last run. … I was successful all day with fastballs to Alvarez and he just finally caught up to one and he barreled it.

“I’m not happy with it, but I’m glad we ended up winning in the end.”

Despite his lack of success early on — Alvarez was 0-for-2 with two strikeouts going into the at-bat — he stuck with it and gave his team the 4-3 lead.

“You never know when you can get a big hit,” he said. “It’s a matter of not giving up, and I just kept with it. I was fortunate enough to put a good swing on the ball.”

Along with Hart’s big blast, the Brewers got two more homers, solo shots by Braun and George Kottaras.

For Braun, who continues to break out of a prolonged slump, the home run was his second in as many games as he went 5-for-8 with two home runs, five runs and three RBIs in the three-game sweep.

After dropping five straight with some of their worst performances of the season, the Brewers head into the All-Star break riding a wave of momentum.

“We feel better about ourselves, that’s a good thing,” Braun said. “It’s irrelevant to think about whether we’ve won four or five games in a row or lost four or five in a row.

“We just need to focus on the task at hand, go inning to inning, at-bat to at-bat, pitch to pitch and try to put ourselves in the best position to be successful.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Injured Gallardo won’t pitch in All-Star Game

July 5, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo will not pitch in the All-Star Game next week in Anaheim, manager Ken Macha said Monday.

After being named to the National League All-Star squad earlier in the day, Gallardo left Sunday’s game in the bottom of the third inning with a strained left oblique muscle.

Gallardo was still holding out hope of a quick return before a Monday visit with the team doctor, but Macha inserted a dose of reality. Macha said Gallardo would probably not make another first-half start and would definitely not pitch in next week’s All-Star Game.

“Throwing in the All-Star Game? No,” Macha said. “I’m saying that, best-case scenario, he’s probably going to be doing no baseball activities for at least 10 days. … He’s not going to pitch in the All-Star Game. You can’t have a guy walk off the mound one week and then put him in [All-Star] Game the next. No.”

The Brewers summoned outfielder Lorenzo Cain from Triple-A Nashville, and he was making his way to Milwaukee on Monday morning. According to Brewers general manager Doug Melvin, the idea behind bringing Cain to Milwaukee sooner rather than later was to avoid any potential logistical issues if Gallardo were to go on the 15-day disabled list.

Gallardo was evaluated by team physician William Raasch on Monday afternoon, and the strained left oblique muscle was confirmed. Officially, the team has listed Gallardo as day-to-day and the Brewers determined they would not make a roster move Monday.

If the doctors had determined that Gallardo would have to go to the DL, then the team would have activated Cain.

In that scenario, Gallardo would be eligible to return from the DL beginning July 20 and would miss a minimum of two starts.

“That’s the tough thing, whether to put him on the DL or not,” Melvin said. “If you don’t put him on the DL and you use the days, he could be ready the day after the All-Star break. But if you don’t pitch him this week, you’ve got seven days and you’ve got [three] days at the break, that’s [10] days.

Gallardo said he was feeling better Monday morning, though he described the oblique as still feeling tight. He described it Monday as feeling initially like a “cramping” sensation just before he exited the game Sunday.

Even if he’s unable to pitch, Gallardo said he planned to make the trip to Anaheim for All-Star festivities.

“He’s feeling decent, but this is something that’s [to be taken seriously],” Macha said. “I had Tim Hudson and he would get them every once in a while, and it’s a long process coming back if there is a tear in there.

“So [the doctors] have to figure out what’s going on in there [with Gallardo].”

Though he is sidelined by injury and may be forced to watch from the dugout, Gallardo remained enthusiastic about his first All-Star Game.

“I’m still excited about it,” Gallardo said. “It’s one of those things that we all look forward to. Hopefully I’m available, but we’ll see.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.