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Mulligan: Wolf uses golf to regain consistency

September 16, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — A year ago, Randy Wolf put together a career-best season with the Dodgers. From start to finish, Wolf was one of the league’s most consistent pitchers as he posted a handful of career-best numbers, including 214 1/3 innings pitched and a 1.101 WHIP.

Opening the 2010 season with the Milwaukee Brewers, that consistency seemed to escape Wolf. He looked nothing like the pitcher he was for Los Angeles, stumbling out to a 4-6 record with a 5.31 ERA through 13 starts in the first two months of the season.

“I just knew something wasn’t right,” Wolf said of his struggles.

Over that stretch, Wolf mixed in impressive outings: He tossed six scoreless innings at Pittsburgh on April 20 and seven scoreless against the Astros on May 25. More frequently, however, Wolf struggled, as he did in allowing eight runs over 4 2/3 on June 9 to the Cubs.

As he watched his club’s newly acquired veteran left-hander struggle, Brewers pitching coach Rick Peterson struggled himself as he searched for an answer.

“You’re trying to pinpoint what exactly it is. Why exactly is he struggling? What’s different from the year before and this year?” Peterson said.

“So I went and I looked at all the Pitch-f/x information going back three years, taking a look at his vertical and horizontal movement on all his pitches, and the velocities on all his pitches. They were all the same. It was actually identical.”

If his stuff was the same early in 2010 as it was throughout the last three seasons, why were Wolf’s numbers so much more inconsistent?

Following his rough outing on June 9, Wolf bounced back, going 3-2 with a 3.25 ERA over his next seven starts. Wolf’s next start after that stretch, July 21 at Pittsburgh, was his worst yet. Entering with a 4.56 ERA, Wolf surrendered a career-high 12 runs on 13 hits over 5 2/3 innings pitched, causing his ERA to jump to 5.20.

While that Pittsburgh outing certainly was forgettable, the silver lining was that it marked the date Peterson and Wolf finally figured out what change was necessary.

“The difference from this year to the past, was that he just wasn’t making pitches,” Peterson said. “For whatever reason, he was missing location consistently. Everything else was the same, but that makes a huge difference.

“What I think had happened was that his slow tempo had worked for a long period of time, but now it was almost so slow that it was affecting his release point and his ability to execute pitches.”

But the question that remained was how to get Wolf, who told Peterson in Spring Training that he liked to keep his tempo slow, to speed things up with his delivery.

Recognizing that Wolf typically operates with a much more athletic, upbeat tempo when not pitching, Peterson used another sport to explain to Wolf the importance of tempo.

“We play some golf, so I said, ‘Show me the tempo in your golf swing,'” Peterson said. “I said, ‘See if you can put the same tempo into your delivery as you do your golf swing.'”

What did Wolf think of the comparison of the tempo in his delivery to his golf swing?

“I think that he thinks I’m a better golfer than I am,” Wolf quipped. “But it makes sense. Even as an amateur or beginning golfer … with anything you do a rhythm is very important.

“You don’t want to go so slow and then fast. You want to start slow and quicken up as you go, not just instantly. I think just talking to him about it, I became more aware of it and paid attention to it more so than usual.”

Since getting touched up for 12 runs in Pittsburgh two months ago, Wolf has quickened the tempo in his delivery, while paying closer attention to what a different rhythm can do to his pitches. At times, he has found the need to slow it down a bit, while speeding up at others.

In nine starts since that outing against the Pirates, Wolf has looked as good as he has all season. Wolf is 4-2 with a 3.07 ERA over that stretch, allowing just 20 runs in 58 2/3 innings of work.

Wolf also has put up his two most impressive performances of the season in the same stretch: He tossed 8 1/3 innings of three-hit, one-run ball in St. Louis on Aug. 18, and gave up just one run on four hits in eight innings in his last outing on Sunday.

It took nearly four months, but Wolf is finally pitching with the kind of consistency that the Brewers expected him to show when signing him to a three-year deal in the offseason.

“Is this what we expected? This is the kind of command and the kind of process we expected,” Peterson said. “If he can get that process, he’s going to pitch well every time. More importantly, that’s what Randy expects of himself.”

With four starts remaining this season, Wolf is still focused on what he can do in 2010, though he certainly hopes to put together a more consistent 2011 campaign.

After his last start, Wolf talked about wanting to start strong, stay strong and finish strong. While the first two months may have gotten away from him, it’s hard to argue against the way he’s closing out the season.

“It’s frustrating at times, but when you get 33-34 starts, you keep on learning and just get better. I look at those bad games as an opportunity to get better, learn from it and just move on,” Wolf said.

“There are times definitely where you don’t pitch well, but you’ve just got to get over it and put it behind you. If you dwell on it and feel sorry for yourself, it’s going to be a really long year.”

Brewers beat 6/25

June 25, 2010 Comments off

Zduriencik returns to Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE — For the first time since leaving to become general manager of the Seattle Mariners, former Brewers director of scouting Jack Zduriencik returned to Miller Park on Friday for the clubs’ Interleague series.

“It’s great walking back in here,” Zduriencik said. “It’s nice to see these guys doing so well. All the guys are great. We came in from the right-field line and a lot of the guys came over and said hello.

“It’s good to see so many of them doing so well.”

Zduriencik, who joined the organization in 1999, has been credited by many for putting together the talented young core that the Brewers have been built around for several years.

During his time in Milwaukee, Zduriencik was the first non-general manager to receive the Major League Executive of the Year Award from Baseball America in 2007.

Some notable selections during Zduriencik’s time with the Brewers include Corey Hart in 2000, Manny Parra in ’01, Prince Fielder in ’02, Rickie Weeks in ’03, Yovani Gallardo in ’04, Ryan Braun in ’05 and Jonathan Lucroy in ’07.

Since leaving the Brewers, however, Zduriencik has not enjoyed as much success in Seattle as he, or anyone else in the organization would have liked. In particular the club’s offense has struggled quite a bit

Of late, though, the team has been on a hot streak, winning six of its last seven.

“We’ve played well lately, unfortunately the club ahead of us has played a little bit better,” Zduriencik said. “[The Rangers] have won 11 in a row. We play good and we lose ground. So we’ll see what happens, though … there’s a lot of season to be played.”

While he’ll finally get to see his former club in person this weekend, Zduriencik said he keeps up on the Brewers quite a bit along with his duties as the Seattle general manager.

Zduriencik also said he hoped to face the Brewers again after this weekend.

“I watch the Brewers all the time,” Zduriencik said. “I told all these guys out here today that I’m proud of what they’ve done. I pull for them all the time. I’d love for them to win this division and go on.

“It would be a dream come true to be able to play this club in the World Series.”

Davis takes next step toward return

MILWAUKEE — While lefty Doug Davis made his second of two planned rehab starts on Thursday, the Brewers do not plan to make a decision on his next step until Saturday.

Pitching in his second rehab start for the Triple-A Nashville Sounds, Davis quieted the Memphis Redbirds over an impressive five-inning outing. Davis threw 82 pitches, giving up just two hits and one walk while striking out nine batters.

“Everything went well,” Davis said. “I don’t know what their plan for me is yet. All I know is, I’m ready, so it’s up to them now when they’re ready for me.”

Manager Ken Macha said that he planned to meet with pitching coach Rick Peterson, bullpen coach Stan Kyles and general manager Doug Melvin on Saturday to discuss the future of the pitching staff and in particular, their plan for Davis.

“We’re going to have a huge summit tomorrow,” Macha said. “Rick, Stan Kyles, myself and Doug will sit down and probably talk for five minutes. So it’ll be a huge summit. It’ll be along the lines of the Russian president and Obama, the meeting they just had.

“We’ll try to figure it out, it’s nice that he’s healthy and he threw the ball well last night.”

Macha added that he had his own idea for what might happen, but was unsure whether it would be the consensus opinion.

Additionally, he noted one part of the plan that he knew for certain.

“He pitched the same day that [Yovani Gallardo] pitched,” Macha said. “So I don’t think he’s going to pitch on Yo’s day.”

Gerut takes batting practice

MILWAUKEE — Nearly a month after going on the disabled list with a bruised right heel, outfielder Jody Gerut took batting practice on Friday for the first time since the injury.

Gerut, who went on the disabled list on June 7 — retroactive to May 27 — said everything felt fine in his first session at the plate in more a month.

“I’m finally making some improvements, I’d say I’m probably about halfway there,” Gerut said. “It was nice to be back on the field again and break a sweat.”

Despite the positives that came out of his session, Gerut remained unsure of when he would be able to return to the active roster.

“I really don’t know, I wish I could be more specific, but I can’t do it,” Gerut said. “It’s been a month and they were targeting two to three days. So with that wide of a range, how could I possibly put a date on it in the future?”

Brewers manager Ken Macha said that he too was unsure whether Gerut would return anytime soon, but seemed to think it would be later rather than sooner.

“I can’t tell you where he is,” Macha said. “I’m sure he’s going to have to go play some games. He’s going to have to run, too. I’d say he’s a while yet, but we’re all happy that he at least he took some BP today.”

After sitting for more than a month, Gerut certainly is eager to get back to game action.

“I’m bored, I find this whole thing uninteresting,” Gerut said. “I’m not having fun not playing. I’d rather be playing.”

Braun dines with fans at new restaurant

LAKE GENEVA — As Ryan Braun opened his second restaurant on Thursday, he was greeted by a huge crowd of fans who had traveled near and far to meet the left fielder.

One family drove more than 10 hours from their Michigan home to meet Braun. The reception was a bit of a shock for Braun.

“This is far more people than I expected to see come out here tonight,” Braun said. “I was expecting more of a low key, quiet, private gathering. But it’s great, I’m really impressed.”

Ryan Braun’s Tavern and Grill, located at 430 Broad Street in Lake Geneva, Wis., saw an impressive turnout as it opened its doors for the first time.

According to Tom Romano, who owns the restaurant along with Braun, the restaurant seated an estimated 400 customers, while an additional estimated 600 patrons were in attendance to see Braun throughout the night.

After arriving just after 7:30 p.m., Braun finally managed to get a bite to eat around 9 p.m. It was the first time Braun had tried anything on the menu, and the budding restaurateur was impressed once again.

“It was great, I got to take some time and try a few different appetizers and desserts along with my meal,” Braun said. “I had the filet, and everything I had was just great. Our chef does an excellent job.”

Braun, who said he used to get down to Lake Geneva on every Brewers off-day, expects to make more trips down to the city now that his restaurant has opened.

Though much of his night was filled with almost constant requests for autographs and photographs, Braun said one of the best parts of the night was getting to meet his fans.

“It’s awesome, the community here in Lake Geneva is great,” Braun said. “I’ve been here a lot, but I’ve never really met many of the people who live in the area. They’ve all been very nice and given a lot of feedback, both about the Brewers and the restaurant.”

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