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MRI negative, Wolf eyes next start

August 3, 2010 Comments off

CHICAGO — When Hunter Pence ripped a liner back up the middle off Randy Wolf in the seventh inning of the Brewers’ 5-2 loss on Sunday in Houston, the Milwaukee left-hander couldn’t get out of the way.

Since that ball struck Wolf’s left wrist, though, he’s dodged quite a bullet with his health.

An MRI scan of Wolf’s wrist confirmed what an X-ray revealed Sunday, that Wolf had no fractures despite being struck with the line drive.

“I don’t think there was anybody around that area at the time that didn’t think it was a broken wrist,” Wolf said. “But I got lucky. I dodged a bullet.

“I guess I was lucky it hit me on that big bone instead of all those little bones.”

Wolf was diagnosed with a bruise and was scheduled to be reevaluated by the Brewers’ medical staff Monday after playing catch before the game to determine how much time, if any, he will miss.

His next scheduled start would be Saturday, again against the Astros, but this time at Miller Park. In Wolf’s opinion, he’s not likely to miss that start.

“It feels normal,” he said. “In my mind, I’m planning on pitching on Saturday.”

Brewers manager Ken Macha, on the other hand, may take a more cautious approach.

“We’ll see what’s happening with him,” Macha said. “Because of the off-day on Thursday, he doesn’t necessarily have to be on Saturday. I think Tuesday would be the night we need five [starters] again.”

Wolf, Crew hope fortunes turn around after 5th straight win

July 27, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — If the series opener against the Reds is any indication, the Brewers could make a major move this week toward getting back in the National League playoff race.

To do so, they’ll need more of what they got on Monday night: strong pitching and clutch hitting, which led to a thrilling victory, 3-2, over the Reds at Miller Park.

The winning formula has been pretty simple lately: Good pitching and big late-inning hits have delivered wins in each of the first four games of the Brewers’ current six-game homestand, and they’ve won seven in a row overall at home.

On Monday night, the stars of the show were Randy Wolf, Rickie Weeks and Jim Edmonds, the latter two playing big roles throughout a five-game winning streak.

Wolf bounced back in a big way from a rough outing in Pittsburgh to battle with Cincinnati right-hander Bronson Arroyo in what turned out to be an excellent pitchers’ duel. After giving up 12 runs on 13 hits last time out, Wolf went seven innings, giving up two runs on five hits while walking one and striking out five.

In his previous outing, Wolf kept himself in the game to help preserve the Brewers’ tired bullpen.

“It was a nightmare game,” Wolf said. “Those are the kind of games you try to put behind you. They’re the kind of games where you could go out there and tell [the hitters] what was coming, and it would be better than it was. You can’t lose sight of that.”

Wolf struggled a bit early again Monday, loading the bases with none out in the second, but he managed to escape with just two runs on the board for the Reds.

After giving up a two-run single that inning, Wolf retired 17 of the final 20 batters he faced.

“Those guys get us out of a lot of jams, and I understand that’s a tough job. … In my last game I said, ‘Put me back out there. I don’t care how many runs I give up. I can take the abuse today. I’ve already taken enough,’ ” Wolf said. “Today, I had a lot of pitches early, so I just tried to get deep enough in the game to where [the relievers] didn’t have to throw a lot of innings.”

In the third, following a Wolf single for the Brewers’ first hit, Weeks belted an 0-1 slider from Arroyo to dead center field.

The blast, which hit off the batters’ eye, was estimated at 447 feet.

“Rickie continues to be amazing,” said Brewers manager Ken Macha. “Coming into the game tonight, I think he was 2-for-20 against Arroyo. He got a ball up, I think it was a slider, and I haven’t seen too many balls hit that far here.”

Weeks’ homer allowed the Brewers to extend another streak, giving them at least one home run in 15 straight games, five shy of the franchise record set in 2008.

Arroyo did not allow another hit until the eighth, but the Brewers’ third hit proved costly for him.

After Edmonds crushed a 1-2 fastball home run distance but just foul down the right-field line, Arroyo came back with another fastball. Edmonds hit the second one even farther, and kept it fair for the eventual game-winning home run.

“The end of the game, I play a mental chess match,” Arroyo said. “That’s how I win ballgames. I threw the ball right where I wanted to. I didn’t think he could even swing at the pitch. He hits it out of the park. You tip your hat to somebody that comes off the bench and does that. They closed it out.”

While he might be thinking about retirement, the 40-year-old Edmonds has shown over the past few days that he can still play. What’s more, he can still lead his team to a win, even if he’s coming off the bench.

Having been a part of playoff races in the past with the Cardinals, the veteran center fielder offered his perspective on the significance of the Brewers’ current win streak and what they need to do if they’re going to make an improbable run at the playoffs.

“We’re a long ways from being close to first place, but in order to get close to first place, you’ve got to beat the best teams,” Edmonds said. “They’re obviously the best team in the league right now, and we’ve still got a long way to go, but it’s nice to get a win.

“It’s going to be an uphill battle. It’s a good start for us, but I don’t expect this to be something where you just go out there and win games. It’s going to be a battle, and we’ve got to really concentrate each and every day.

“We’ve got to play better in the last two months than we did in the first four.”

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.

Wolf, Brewers done in by home run balls

June 26, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — In baseball, momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher.

It’s a quote that’s been used several times this season by manager Ken Macha and it came true on Saturday for the Brewers as they lost, 5-4, to the Mariners at Miller Park.

Entering the game riding a season-high five-game winning streak, the Brewers looked to veteran lefty Randy Wolf to help guide them to a sixth consecutive win. Unfortunately for Wolf and the Brewers, the lefty fell victim to something that has plagued him much of the season.

“It was the home run ball again today for Wolfie,” Macha said. “Both those home runs were legit anywhere.”

Wolf (5-7) gave up a solo home run in the third to left fielder Milton Bradley, which put the Mariners on top 2-0 going into the bottom half of the frame.

Wolf answered with a one-out double, which sparked a four-run rally for the Brewers.

After Wolf, second baseman Rickie Weeks drew a walk and right fielder Corey Hart doubled to left, plating both Wolf and Weeks. It was after Weeks scored, though, when things got interesting.

Weeks leveled Mariners catcher Rob Johnson as Bradley’s throw reached the plate, allowing the ball to get away. On the throw, Hart advanced to third, forcing a throw from Mariners starter Doug Fister.

As Fister’s throw got away from third baseman Jose Lopez, an alert Hart scampered home just ahead of the throw, giving Milwaukee a 3-2 lead.

“I’m still tired; I wish there wouldn’t have been that many mistakes so I could’ve stayed there [at second],” Hart joked after the game. “I think my legs were giving out [approaching home plate] and I was going to fall down no matter what, so I just tried to look a little better than it would have been.

“[The ball] kicked back, but I think the third baseman was looking for the outfielder. So I took off because he was kind of in la la land.”

First baseman Prince Fielder followed with a blast deep to right-center field, making it 4-2 in the Brewers’ favor. With that, it appeared as though for the second consecutive game the offense had quickly turned around what looked like was headed for a Brewers loss.

Unfortunately for them, any momentum was quickly lost in the top of the fourth.

Wolf gave up a one-out walk to Chone Figgins, who scored one batter later on a Franklin Gutierrez double. Lopez came up next and belted a 1-0 fastball to left, putting the Mariners back on top, 5-4.

Afterward, the lefty saw a common theme with the two home runs.

“The first was a changeup I threw to Milton Bradley that just got too much of the plate,” Wolf said. “The next one was a fastball that got too much of the plate.”

Making matters worse for the Brewers was the Mariners’ ability to silence the bats of the home team from the fourth inning on. After putting up four runs on three hits in the third, the Crew managed just one hit and zero runs over the final five frames.

Much of the credit for that belonged to reliever Brian Sweeney, who was lights out in his first Major League appearance since Sept. 29, 2006. Sweeney (1-0) tossed four scoreless innings, giving up just the one hit while striking out four.

“It’s been a while,” Sweeney said with a smile. “This is what you grow up as a kid dreaming about. You want to pitch in the big leagues. To get back here again feels just as good as the first time around. It’s always satisfying, no matter what. Being here, being a part of this team. I felt today just as I did in 2003 when I got that call.”

Wolf’s performance was especially disappointing because both he and the Brewers pitching staff as a whole had been performing so well of late.

Entering the game, Milwaukee had gotten nine quality starts over its last 13 games with the starters posting a 3.06 ERA during the same stretch. Brewers starters had gone 7-4 over that period while the team was 8-5.

With Wolf’s performance included, Brewers starters have a 3.29 ERA, having given up 32 earned runs over their last 14 games.

Wolf personally had posted back-to-back quality starts, going seven strong innings in each while giving up a combined three runs on six hits with four strikeouts and seven walks. Perhaps more importantly, Wolf surrendered just one home run in his last two outings.

On Saturday, struggles with his fastball cost Wolf a third straight quality start.

“I didn’t locate my fastball as well as I have my last two starts,” Wolf said. “Pretty much everything rides off your fastball, and when you don’t have good fastball command it’s hard to be successful. That was the story today.”

Brewers beat 6/13

June 13, 2010 Comments off

Pair of hurlers on the mend

MILWAUKEE — After piling up a number of injuries near the end of May and beginning of June, the Brewers have a number of players working their way toward a return to the field.

In addition to lefty Doug Davis, who is set to make two rehab starts for Triple-A Nashville before rejoining the Brewers on June 29, right-hander Todd Coffey appears ready to return in the next week.

Manager Ken Macha noted that Coffey, who was placed on the disabled list with a right thumb injury on June 6 — retroactive to May 30 — played catch on Sunday and felt good afterward.

Coffey, who is eligible to return from the DL on Monday, will join the Brewers on the upcoming road trip, Macha said.

“He’s going on the road trip, and he will have one rehab assignment before he gets activated,” Macha said. “I watched him down in Florida do his long toss, and he had trouble with the grip. One ball would go over there and one ball would go over there, so we want to make sure he’s putting it right where he needs to put it.”

Fielder trying to find groove at plate

MILWAUKEE — While the Brewers went 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position on Saturday, first baseman Prince Fielder posted his own 0-for-4 mark.

It was another disappointing game for Fielder, who homered in the first inning on Sunday to push his totals to 11 home runs and 23 RBIs. Fielder slugged 46 homers and drove in 141 runs in 2009. Brewers manager Ken Macha said that he discussed Fielder with Rangers skipper Ron Washington, and both had a similar take.

“The guy’s trying too hard,” Macha said. “Your start is what it is. You’re not going to all of a sudden drive in 10 runs in one game to get your RBI total up. You’re not going to do that, you’ve got to chip away at it.”

In particular, Macha pointed at Fielder’s eighth-inning at-bat against Rangers reliever Frank Francisco as an example of what not to do.

Fielder swung at all five pitches he saw during the at-bat, including multiple pitches that were out of the strike zone.

“First-pitch curveball, swung at it; changeup, swung at it; couple balls up, swung at them; curveball in the dirt, swung at it,” Macha said. “He had five pitches and swung at all five of them.”

Macha acknowledged that he didn’t want to put too much pressure on one guy, however, despite Fielder’s extended early-season struggles.

He also noted what he hoped to get out of his left-handed slugging first baseman over the season’s final 100 games.

“We both had hopes of him having another great year, but you just don’t rack up 140 RBIs and assume it’s going to happen every year,” Macha said. “So for the next 100 games, if he can maybe drive in 70 runs or so, that would be a big help. And I think that’s a conservative number, I don’t expect him to drive in 120 runs the next 100 games.”

Wolf stays positive despite struggles

MILWAUKEE — After an impressive season with the Dodgers in 2009, lefty Randy Wolf hasn’t gotten off to the kind of start the Brewers would have liked so far in 2010. But it’s not a matter of the quality of his stuff, Wolf said.

“I think it’s all between my ears, to tell you the truth,” said Wolf. “I think I was trying to dictate the result before throwing the pitch and not just throwing it. You can’t control the result.

“You go up there, you throw the pitch. Whatever happens after that happens. I think I was just trying to control the result and be too perfect. When you do that, you make more mistakes than you would otherwise.”

Wolf, who signed a three-year, $29.75 million contract with the Brewers during the offseason, did not think he was trying to live up to his contract, however.

Through 13 starts, Wolf is 4-6 with a 5.31 ERA, giving up 46 earned runs on 88 hits through 78 innings of work. In his most recent outing, Wolf gave up a career-high five home runs against the Cubs.

Still, Wolf remains confident in his abilities.

“I think it’s just a matter of getting my mind in the right direction, because it’s not a matter of stuff,” Wolf said. “My stuff’s probably better this year than it was last year. It’s just a matter of being aggressive and having the right mind-set.”

Third-rounder highlights 24 signees

MILWAUKEE — The Brewers announced on Sunday that they signed 24 players from the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, as well well as one undrafted player.

Right-handers Tyler Thornburg and Matthew Miller, as well as third baseman Cody Hawn, selected in the third, fifth and sixth rounds, highlight the 24 signees for the Brewers.

Overall, the Brewers have signed 13 pitchers — one of which is Marques Kyles, son of bullpen coach Stan Kyles — and 12 position players.

Players will be reporting to either Helena, Mont., or Phoenix — a mini-camp will be held in each location, and it will begin Monday.

Below is a list of all 25 signees:

Tyler Thornburg, RHP, Charleston Southern, Round 3
Matthew Miller, RHP, Michigan, Round 5
Cody Hawn, 1B, Tennessee, Round 6
John Bivens, RF, Virginia State, Round 12
Mike Walker, 3B, Pacific, Round 14
Brian Garman, LHP, U of Cincinnati, Round 17
Shea Vucinich, SS, Washington State, Round 20
Kevin Berard, C, Barbe High School, Round 22
Ryan Bernal, RHP, Florida Atlantic, Round 23
Gregory Hopkins, 3B, St. John’s, Round 24
Nick Shaw, SS, Barry University, Round 25
Alex Jones, RHP, Jacksonville State, Round 27
Dane Amedee, LHP, LSU Eunice, Round 28
Daniel Britt, RHP, Elon University, Round 29
Eric Marzec, RHP, Youngstown State, Round 30
Mike Melillo, C, Elon University, Round 31
Jason Rogers, OF, Columbus State, Round 32
William Kankel, LHP, Houston University, Round 33
Seth Harvey, RHP, Washington State, Round 37
Michael Schaub, RHP, Loara High School, Round 38
Kenneth Allison, CF, Angelina JC, Round 39
John Dishon, CF, Louisiana State, Round 42
Thomas Mittelstaedt, RF, Long Beach State, Round 44
Marques Kyles, LHP, Limestone College, Round 48
Dexter Bobo, LHP, Georgia Southern, Undrafted

Worth noting

Brewers rookie catcher Jonathan Lucroy celebrated his 24th birthday on Saturday. … Brewers relievers have a 2.22 ERA over the past seven games.

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

Brewers recap 5/30

May 30, 2010 Comments off

Rickie fine, but pitching problematic for Crew

MILWAUKEE — So much positive energy had been built up over the first five days of the homestand, but it didn’t take long for the Brewers to lose it on Sunday.

With the game tied in the sixth, reliever Jeff Suppan gave up four runs on six hits in just 1 2/3 innings of work, walking three and striking out two.

Suppan (0-2) simply couldn’t execute, and it cost the Brewers the game, as they lost, 10-4, to the Mets.

“It’s as simple as making quality pitches,” pitching coach Rick Peterson said. “Any time a pitcher struggles, you’d like to say something really profound. But it was just an inability to consistently make quality pitches.”

Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey overcame some early struggles of his own to pick up the win. Dickey (2-0) pitched seven innings, giving up four runs on nine hits while striking out three.

But while Dickey gave up just two hits in keeping the Brewers off the board over a four-inning stretch from the third to the sixth, the Brewers saw an early one-run lead turn into a four-run deficit in the seventh.

After struggling early in the season and pitching his way out of the rotation, Suppan had been mostly relegated to working when a game was out of reach. But with four relievers having been used in Saturday’s 8-6 victory, manager Ken Macha called on Suppan with the score tied.

Afterward, Macha and Peterson both said they were confident in Suppan’s chances to succeed in that situation. With that in mind, it only made things more frustrating for Suppan when he was unable to get out of the seventh inning.

“I actually felt pretty good today,” Suppan said. “It was a matter of execution, I was just up in the zone. … It becomes frustrating, because I feel good, and I feel like I take a lot of steps forward. Then, in a game like this, it’s a situation where it’s my job to come in and keep it close, and I wasn’t able to do it.”

Suppan was called to pitch in the sixth inning after starter Randy Wolf needed 114 pitches to get through the first five.

Wolf did not want to point the finger at rookie catcher Jonathan Lucroy, but the two had communication issues with the signs for the second straight outing. The last time, the two battled through a similar problem but the left-hander had his best performance of the season, tossing eight scoreless innings against the Astros.

This time, however, the issues were coupled with a few pitches that just missed the zone and helped lead to Wolf’s high pitch count.

“They just couldn’t get on the same page with signs, and it was a constant battle,” Peterson said. “It’s hard to consistently make quality pitches when that happens. And then, when he did, he was just missing and had some calls that could have gone either way not go his way.”

Wolf allowed just two runs on five hits, but he walked five while striking out just three. Still, Macha was pleased with his starter’s performance.

“Wolfie wasn’t on his game,” Macha said. “[He was] missing a little bit with his fastball [and] wound up with some walks, yet he still had us in the game at the end of five.”

Suppan’s rough outing was even more frustrating for the club after the way the Brewers had begun the game against Dickey.

On a 1-2 knuckleball in the first, second baseman Rickie Weeks belted his 15th career leadoff home run, tying the score at 1.

After Alcides Escobar’s single plated another run in the second, Dickey cruised until the seventh, when Weeks hit another knuckleball out to left for a two-run blast, giving him his fourth career multi-homer game.

“Seems like Weeks likes that knuckleball a little bit,” Mets manager Jerry Manuel said.

But after Weeks’ two-run homer put the Brewers right back in the game, the Mets’ four-run ninth off lefty Zach Braddock put away the game.

Just as it was with Suppan, it was a matter of execution for Braddock.

“I left the ball up, and they hit the ball,” Braddock said. “But I had it toward the end, so I had it the whole time, I just didn’t execute early on. I wanted to come in and keep the team in the game as much as possible, but I just couldn’t get it done.”

But even after all that went wrong for the Brewers, they remained focused on the positives after their first winning homestand of the season.

“It just feels good to go out there and get two wins from a good team like that,” Weeks said. “All we can do is go out on the road and try to get some more wins out there. … We let one get away from us today, but I think tomorrow will be a good day for us.”

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