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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.

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Capuano’s solid start undone by late homers

September 21, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — With every start, Chris Capuano continues to make progress in his return from a second Tommy John surgery. On Monday, the 100-pitch mark was his latest milestone.

Capuano delivered an impressive performance for his third straight quality start, but back-to-back Reds home runs in the eighth made the difference as the Brewers lost their second straight game, 5-2.

Tossing six innings, Capuano gave up two runs on four hits and three walks with seven strikeouts. Reaching the century mark for the first time this season, Capuano’s pitch count of 105 was his highest since throwing 113 pitches on Aug. 19, 2007.

“This was a huge step for him,” said Brewers manager Ken Macha. “Not only getting past 100 pitches, but the game pretty much on the line [in the sixth inning]. First and second with one out, he winds up getting two big outs there.”

Since his rough return to the rotation on Aug. 28 against the Pirates, Capuano has excelled, posting a 1-2 record with a 2.58 ERA in four September starts. Over that stretch, Capuano has allowed just seven earned runs on 17 hits in 24 1/3 innings of work.

In each of his five late-season starts, Capuano has progressed with his pitch count, going from 75 pitches to 80, 83, 90 and 105 on Monday. His best outing came Sept. 8 against the Cardinals when he tossed seven innings while giving up one run on four hits.

While he wasn’t quite as sharp against the Reds, he said he felt even better.

“Physically, this was the best I’ve felt,” Capuano said. “I really felt good out there physically, and got the pitch count up there close to 100. It felt good.”

But did Capuano feel the effects of tossing 100 pitches for the first time in three years?

“No, I feel good,” Capuano answered. “Like I said, I think this is the best I’ve felt so far.”

Unfortunately for Capuano and the Brewers, they were unable to keep the Reds from reducing their magic number even further. After their win Monday, coupled with a Cardinals loss, the number was down to six.

After leaving with the game tied at 2, Capuano handed the ball off to reliever Kameron Loe, who delivered a scoreless 1 1/3 innings before letting things get away from him. With one out in the eighth, Loe (3-5) surrendered a single and back-to-back home runs as the Reds took a 5-2 lead.

Following an Orlando Cabrera single, Joey Votto belted a 2-2 fastball into the second deck in left-center field, putting the Reds on top, 4-2. Afterward, Macha was asked if he considered anyone other than Loe against Votto.

“You’ve got a way to go yet in the game,” Macha said. “[Zach] Braddock really hasn’t been on his game, and [Manny] Parra needed a day off, he had 20-some pitches.”

With no left-handers available and apparently not wanting to use closer John Axford, Macha stuck with Loe, who he viewed as his best option at the time.

Votto had struggled through his first three at-bats, going 0-for-3 against Capuano while being called out on strikes twice. His night went from bad to great with one swing of the bat in the eighth.

“The more times you face him, the better chance he has,” said Reds manager Dusty Baker. “I always say you hate to see a good hitter cold. Sooner or later the law of averages is on his side and he’s going to get somebody. That was as long of a home run to the opposite field I’ve seen.”

Added Votto: “I try not to take previous at-bats into following at-bats. I didn’t have a very good game going into that point. That’s why we play all nine innings.”

Even after the two-run homer, Loe stayed in, and Scott Rolen drove his very next pitch over the fence in right. It was the Reds’ 11th set of back-to-back home runs this season.

Loe made himself unavailable for comment after the Brewers’ 5-2 loss.

With the loss, the Brewers dropped to 36-39 at Miller Park this season. As only six home games remain on the schedule, they’ll need to win four of six to finish at .500 on the year and five of six to secure a winning home record in 2010.

Milwaukee finished 40-41 at home last year after posting four consecutive winning home records. Lately, the bright spot has been the Brewers’ ability to compete with some of the league’s best — or hottest — teams in the Reds, Phillies, Cardinals, Giants and Astros.

Offensively, Ryan Braun and Rickie Weeks provided the only bright spots for the Brewers. Weeks went 2-for-3 with a double and two runs scored, while Braun drove in a pair of runs and doubled. Braun’s two RBIs moved him one behind third baseman Casey McGehee, who leads the Brewers with 94 runs batted in.

As it has been most of the season, the problem for the offense was delivering hits with runners in scoring position. The most obvious example came in the second inning, when Carlos Gomez led off with an infield single and reached third on a throwing error with none out. With three straight strikeouts, the Brewers left Gomez stranded at third.

“Gomez is on third, nobody out, we didn’t put the ball in play,” Macha said. “Little things like that hurt you when you’ve got tight games.”

Playoff return highlights 2000s turnaround

August 28, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — Along with the turn of the century and the start of a new millennium, the 2000s marked a new era of Brewers baseball, one that included a playoff appearance.

It began in 2001 with the opening of Miller Park, the Brewers’ new state-of-the-art, $400 million home. The changes continued in 2002, when Doug Melvin was named general manager of the club. In 2004, the Brewers had new ownership, as Mark Attanasio took over the club from Commissioner Allan H. “Bud” Selig.

All that set the stage for the team’s return to the playoffs, 26 years after losing the 1982 World Series.

Brewers alumni Geoff Jenkins and Bob Wickman are scheduled to participate Friday in a pregame autograph session to celebrate the 2000s as part of the Brewers’ 40th Anniversary season. On Sunday, all fans will receive a collectible Brewers Bobble Head doll, featuring CC Sabathia securing the final out of the regular-season finale, playoff-clinching game in 2008, compliments of Palermo’s Pizza and Piggly Wiggly.

Inaugural Season
After a one-year delay due to a fatal crane accident, Miller Park finally opened its doors to the public on April 6, 2001. Among those in attendance were President George W. Bush and Selig, both of whom threw out ceremonial first pitches.

With his 435-foot home run in the bottom of the eighth, first baseman Richie Sexson sent the crowd of 42,024 home happy, as the Brewers secured the first win at Miller Park, 5-4, over the Cincinnati Reds.

The Brewers’ new ballpark got rave reviews, to say the least.

“There’s no comparison,” said former Brewers infielder Jim Gantner. “This is an awesome building and a great place to play. You miss County Stadium, but when you see this, you forget about it real quick.”

“I did play in County Stadium and know what it was like to play there,” Sexson said. “This is definitely 10 times better than County Stadium.”

While much of the credit for getting the ballpark built goes to Selig, and deservedly so, the Milwaukee native, along with his daughter, credited the fans on Opening Day 2001.

“There are many people that played a role in building this magnificent park,” Selig told the fans. “But none are greater than all of you.”

“You’re the best fans in the world,” added then-team president Wendy Selig-Prieb. “Enjoy this wonderful ballpark. You deserve it.”

In their first season playing at Miller Park, the Brewers had high hopes, but weren’t any better than previous seasons. In fact, they were worse, finishing 2001 in fourth place in the National League Central with a 68-94 record as injuries decimated the team in the second half.

One year later, the ballpark, with its unique fan-shaped roof, was host to the first 100-loss season in Brewers history, as the Crew finished 56-106, good for last in the division. With that came more changes for the Brewers, this time in the front office.

Melvin gets a second chance
In April 2002, the Brewers fired manager Davey Lopes after just 15 games as Milwaukee skidded out to a 3-12 record in Lopes’ third season at the helm. Five months later, general manager Dean Taylor was cut loose as well, as the Brewers shook up their front office.

Doug Melvin was tabbed for the job, given a second chance to show what he could do running a Major League club. Melvin, the former Texas Rangers general manager who led that franchise to three division titles in four years during the 1990s, was named the eighth general manager in Brewers history on Sept. 25, 2002.

“I don’t believe in rebuilding plans,” Melvin said in a spirited press conference. “If there was a three-year plan, I would wait and buy a ticket in, what, 2005? I don’t believe in that, I want people to be a part of this process to get to where we want to go.

“We’ll enjoy it a lot more if we do it together.”

Melvin brought in former Jays general manager Gord Ash as his assistant GM and hired manager Ned Yost, who brought along with him a new coaching staff. But Melvin’s best move in his first days as general manager now appears to have been keeping amateur scouting director Jack Zduriencik in place.

Under Zduriencik, the Brewers put together some of the best Drafts in club history, restocking their system with top-level talent, and building one of the best cores of young players in the Major Leagues.

Among those draft during Zduriencik’s tenure are former first-round picks Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, second baseman Rickie Weeks, former Brewers shortstop J.J. Hardy, right fielder Corey Hart, staff ace Yovani Gallardo, catcher Jonathan Lucroy and center fielder Lorenzo Cain.

As well as building from within, one of Melvin’s best moves as general manager came in 2008, when he traded highly rated prospects Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley and Zach Jackson to the Indians for Sabathia, who would help carry the Brewers to the Wild Card.

New Ownership
Along with Melvin, Ash and Yost, the organization brought in another new face in 2004, as Mark Attanasio, a Los Angeles investment banker and New York native, took over the club from the previous ownership group, which included Selig-Prieb.

When introduced at a news conference on Oct. 4, 2004, as the Brewers’ owner-elect, Attanasio said he was “up to the challenge” of turning around the ballclub. He also admitted he had dreamed as a child of owning a Major League baseball club.

“As a kid, I lived, breathed and died with the Yankees forever,” Attanasio said. “Once I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to hit a curveball, I gave up dreams of playing Major League Baseball, and when I got a little older thought maybe one day I could own a team.”

One of Attanasio’s biggest impacts upon taking over as the team’s principal owner was a commitment to raising the payroll to make the Brewers more competitive, despite playing in the smallest market in baseball.

After the payroll dipped as low as $27.5 million in 2004, it was raised to $39.9 million in Attanasio’s first season as owner. A year later, the Brewers’ payroll was up to $57.6 million, and by Opening Day 2007, it reached $71 million. When the Brewers reached the playoffs in 2008, the payroll was up to $80.9 million, and in 2010, the Opening Day payroll was up to $90.4 million.

Even with the financial commitment of Attanasio’s ownership group, he acknowledged in his first news conference at Miller Park that he had a lot to do to match the legacy of the Selig family in Milwaukee.

“The Attanasio family feels it has big shoes to fill here,” Attanasio said. “But that being said, we know that we can be the stewards of baseball in Milwaukee for the next 35 years.”

With Melvin, Ash, Yost and Attanasio in place, the Brewers were just a few years away from ending their playoff drought.

The Wait Is Over
When the Brewers returned from St. Louis in 1982 having lost to the Cardinals in the World Series, no one could have guessed it would take 26 years for the club to return to the playoffs. After all, they were expected to be back the following season.

But time after time, the Brewers’ best ballclubs came up short in 1983, ’88, ’91 and ’92. Even in ’07, when the Brewers led the division for much of the season, they came up just two games behind the Chicago Cubs.

Finally, in 2008, it was the Brewers’ turn.

Milwaukee entered the 2008 campaign with high expectations after the ’07 season saw the Brewers post their first winning record since ’92. In an effort to bolster their playoff hopes, Melvin brought in Sabathia just before the All-Star break on July 7. Sabathia was so dominant over the final three months of the season for the Crew that he even garnered a few votes for the NL Cy Young Award.

In 17 starts for the Brewers in 2008, Sabathia went 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA, tossing seven complete games, including three shutouts. Aside from a near no-hitter against the Pirates in Pittsburgh, the most impressive of those seven complete games was Sabathia’s last.

On the final day of the regular season, Sabathia made his third consecutive start on three days’ rest and worked all nine innings in the most clutch pitching performance in Brewers history. In front of 45,299 fans, Sabathia threw 122 pitches, struck out seven, scattered four hits and allowed only one unearned run.

“It’s unbelievable what he has done for the guys on this team, this organization and this city,” left fielder Ryan Braun said. “He’s revived baseball in Milwaukee. He took whatever expectation we had and destroyed it.”

Braun played a pretty big role in the club’s run as well. On that night, Braun made the difference at the plate, as he blasted a tie-breaking, two-run home run with two outs in the eighth inning, which gave the Brewers the 3-1 win.

Just days earlier, Braun delivered a grand slam in the bottom of the 10th inning for a 5-1 Brewers win.

“It doesn’t get any better than that. It’s difficult to describe,” Braun said. “The grand slam the other night, that was pretty special, but this one was pretty meaningful.”

With the Brewers finally returning to the postseason, Miller Park hosted the first two playoff games in its history on Oct. 4-5, 2008. The first game, Game 3, was the Brewers’ first win in the postseason since that 1982 World Series. Game 4 was a different story, however, as the Phillies secured a trip to the NLCS with a 6-2 win.

They came up short of winning their first playoff series since 1982, but for fans in Milwaukee and across the state of Wisconsin, the ’08 season was one to remember, and one 26 years in the making.

For the first time since 1982, the Brewers played games in October that mattered.

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

Montero’s blast leads D-backs past Crew

August 12, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — Early on in the 2010 season, pitching was the problem for the D-backs. Now, it’s been the biggest reason they’ve put together a hot streak over the past two weeks.

Solid pitching was the key Tuesday as the D-backs beat the Brewers, 2-1, at Miller Park for just their seventh win when scoring three or fewer runs.

On May 29, the team ERA peaked at 5.95, the worst it has been all season for the D-backs. Since then, it’s been on a steady decline.

Pitching continued to be key on Tuesday. Since losing seven straight to the Giants and Phillies, the pitching staff has posted a 3.96 ERA over 108 2/3 innings pitched, more than a run below their season mark, which was lowered to 5.15 following Tuesday’s game.

Despite the improvement since late May, however, the offense has frequently been burdened this season with overcoming large deficits. As a result, the key for the D-backs this season has been getting to four runs.

When scoring four or more, they’re 38-24. Three or fewer runs, on the other hand, and the D-backs had just a 6-45 record entering the second of four games with the Brewers.

“Those guys have been throwing the ball pretty good lately,” said catcher Miguel Montero. “Finally our bullpen is starting to put it all together.

“I think we’re going to have a good run the rest of the season.”

Montero, who has been hot himself lately, came up with the game-winner in the eighth, blasting a solo home run off the batter’s eye in center field.

Rookie right-hander Barry Enright was impressive once again, but settled for the no-decision as he tossed six strong innings, giving up just one run on three hits. He also walked two while recording a pair of strikeouts.

Making his eighth career start, Enright extended his streak of consecutive starts of five innings or more with three or fewer runs allowed.

Enright has reached that mark in each of his first eight Major League starts, joining the Angels’ Jared Weaver as the only active players to do so.

“Their pitcher, his command was tremendous,” said Brewers manager Ken Macha of Enright. “He got Strike 1, and I thought he was commanding the outside corner very well. After he got Strike 1, he didn’t give you many pitches to hit.”

After struggling a bit in the first two innings, Enright settled in, much like Ian Kennedy did on Monday night. Enright gave up a single to center fielder Lorenzo Cain to lead off the game before retiring five straight batters. With two out in the second, Alcides Escobar homered to left, accounting for the Brewers’ only run.

Enright retired 13 of the last 16 batters he faced after the Escobar home run, though, giving the 24-year-old rookie his fifth consecutive quality start.

“He did his job. Six innings, and he totally controlled the game,” D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. “It’s obvious he was getting tired, but he found a way to get through it. Real good job.”

Arizona’s offense was limited much of the night, but the D-backs managed their first run in the fifth. The run was generated nearly completely by the speed of Chris Young, who doubled, stole third and scored on a shallow fly to second baseman Rickie Weeks.

Weeks’ throw easily beat Young, but catcher Jonathan Lucroy was up the first base line a bit when he caught it. As the rookie turned back to make the tag, Young slid in just ahead of Lucroy, tying the game at one run apiece.

“Right there, you take a chance,” Young said. “If the right fielder catches that ball, I probably don’t run. But it was the second baseman. He’s running back and if he catches it he still has to stop, pivot, turn around and make an accurate throw to get the out.

“It was pretty much a gamble. I could been out just as easily as I was safe, but it was definitely time to take a gamble.”

Behind Enright, who left after tossing 93 pitches, the bullpen was dominant for the second straight night, shutting the Brewers down over the final three frames. Entering in the seventh with the game tied, Blaine Boyer pitched two scoreless innings, giving up just one hit as he picked up his third win of the season.

In the ninth, Gibson handed the ball to Sam Demel, giving the rookie his first career save opportunity. One night after securing his first Major League win, Demel gave up two hits, but got a huge double play in the inning to pick up his first career save.

“It’s been kind of a whirlwind,” Demel said. “It’s been nice getting in those situations and coming through. … It’s still the same game, just a different inning.”

As the D-backs won for the fifth time in their last six games and the eighth time in 12 games, there’s a definite sense of optimism in the visitor’s clubhouse this week in Milwaukee.

While they’re well out of the playoff race, the D-backs look like a team that could put together an impressive run over the season’s final eight weeks.

“The pieces are here. We have great teammates and we have great guys around here,” Enright said. “It’s all trusting each other and we kind of have that team chemistry. We’re all starting to mesh with the new guys in the locker room.

“Having that come, it’s done a great job and it’s pretty exciting.”

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

Frustrating sixth continues Myers’ streak

August 8, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — Five pitches into the game, Brett Myers had given up a leadoff inside-the-park homer and a sharp double to the gap in left.

Those turned out to be the hardest hit balls of the night off Myers, but four soft singles did the Astros right-hander in Saturday at Miller Park.

Myers settled down after the Brewers’ first two batters, retiring 15 of the next 17 hitters he faced. With one out in the sixth, Myers surrendered four straight singles, which led to two more Brewers runs and the Astros’ 5-2 loss.

Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks led off the bottom of the first with a bang, driving an 0-2 fastball off the wall in left-center field. Weeks hustled around for an inside-the-park home run and his seventh career leadoff homer, a franchise record.

Center fielder Jason Bourgeois looked to have a play on the Weeks fly ball, but it got by him and caromed off the wall away from him.

“I thought I had a bead on it. I got a good jump, it just happened to get over my glove,” Bourgeois said. “I thought everything was going right, but it’s a game of inches. It got over.

“A little off line. That’s what I think it was when I looked at the replay. I wish I could have another try at it, but it’s the way the game goes.”

Bourgeois tracked the ball down quickly, but was too late to catch Weeks.

“I knew I had to get it, because I know Rickie can run a little bit,” Bourgeois said. “It just happened to get a little bit away from me. Hats off to him, he was hustling the whole time.”

Corey Hart followed with a double to the gap in left and came around to score after a pair of groundouts, giving Milwaukee the early 2-0 lead.

In the sixth, four straight singles by Hart, Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and Casey McGehee brought home two more runs, and eventually ended Myers’ night after just 78 pitches.

“The first inning, I made some mistakes,” Myers said. “That first inning I’m fine with. The sixth inning, those are the frustrating ones, when you make good pitches and they end up finding holes. That’s baseball. That’s the way things go for you.”

Tossing six innings in the loss, Myers’ streak of consecutive starts of six or more innings continued Saturday.

Extending his franchise record streak to 23 straight starts to open the season, Myers gave up four runs on seven hits in those six innings while walking one and striking out two.

In the second through fifth innings, Myers faced only one over the minimum as he gave up just one hit — which was followed by a double play — and a walk.

“Brett threw the ball extremely well again,” manager Brad Mills said. “I say it every time, he’s been unbelievable all year long. Tonight he gave us a chance again.”

Myers was outdueled by former Phillies teammate Randy Wolf, though, who effectively shut down the Astros’ bats over 6 2/3 innings in his first start since being hit with a Hunter Pence line drive on Sunday.

Wolf kept the Astros hitters off balance all night, walking just one batter while recording four strikeouts. Although he did give up nine hits, Wolf stranded seven runners over the first five innings.

As if Wolf’s strong outing on the mound weren’t enough, he made a tremendous defensive play in the seventh, tossing out shortstop Angel Sanchez at first on a bunt between the mound and the third-base line.

“He made a lot of big pitches to get out of those innings,” Brewers manager Ken Macha said. “In the seventh inning, when Sanchez laid that bunt down, I thought he made a tremendous play. That was a huge help there.”

With the loss, Houston finds itself having dropped three straight on the heels of a season-high seven-game winning streak. In each of the three games, the pitching — Wandy Rodriguez’s start on Friday aside — has not been as sharp as it had been of late.

But the offense hasn’t helped either.

Astros hitters went just 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position Saturday night, with the only hits being the back-to-back doubles in the seventh that plated both Houston runs. Add a 3-for-15 night on Friday, and the Astros have gone 5-for-26 (.192) with runners in scoring position for the series.

“Any time that you go for a long string and leave a lot of runners on, it is going to catch up with you, if not that night, eventually,” Mills said. “We’re having some good at-bats, it’s just that it didn’t string together through the whole lineup tonight.

“They were able to put some hits back-to-back-to-back, even if they weren’t hit hard. Where we might have had quite a few hits, we weren’t able to string them all together.”

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

Weeks won’t be limited by leadoff label

July 28, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — Looking at his statistics, you would probably never guess Rickie Weeks was the Brewers’ leadoff hitter.

Weeks is tied with teammate Corey Hart for eighth in the National League with 22 home runs, while also ranking sixth in the NL with 67 RBIs and fourth with 204 total bases. Among his teammates, Weeks is tied with Hart for second in home runs and is second behind Hart in RBIs.

But with the personnel that makes up the Brewers’ offense, Weeks remains in the leadoff spot.

“That’s just the way things fit here right now,” Brewers manager Ken Macha said. “Could it change? Yeah, if we had someone else to lead off. But not at this moment.”

Although his numbers might not look like those of a typical leadoff hitter, Weeks gets on base more than anyone in the Major Leagues. Entering Wednesday’s game, Weeks led the Majors with 483 plate appearances and 182 times on base.

Weeks’ production has him on pace for 35 home runs and 106 RBIs on the season. The latter would make Weeks just the second player to drive in 100 or more runs from the leadoff spot, and the first in the National League.

In 2000, Darin Erstad collected 100 RBIs for the Angels batting at the top of the order. What would make Weeks’ feat even more impressive is the lack of a designated hitter in the NL.

“I don’t think he cares where he hits,” Macha said. “He takes every at-bat as a challenge in itself. I don’t think where guys are on base or any of that will affect anything he’s doing.

“I said once, ‘I’m going to drop you to two here. I’m thinking of leading [Joe] Inglett off someday.’ He said, ‘No problem. As long as I’m in the lineup.'”

Brewers beat 7/27

July 28, 2010 Comments off

Hart likely to remain with Brewers

MILWAUKEE — Right fielder Corey Hart said all along that he wanted to remain with the Brewers. This isn’t exactly the scenario he had in mind.

Hart missed his fourth consecutive start on Tuesday with a sore right thumb and said he’s hoping to return to Milwaukee’s lineup on Friday in Houston.

“I felt better throwing today than I did yesterday,” Hart said. “I took some dry swings today because it was feeling better. I’m not quite ready, but it’s a lot of progress from the past couple days.

“I probably still won’t play tomorrow, but I might be able to hit tomorrow. … Then I’m sure I’ll do stuff on the off-day in Houston, and then I’d imagine I can do everything on Friday. I think I’ll be ready on Friday.”

The ill-timed injury has likely cost the Brewers any chance to shop their All-Star right fielder in trade talks ahead of Saturday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Before he was hurt in a collision with the outfield wall last weekend against the Nationals, Hart was reportedly drawing some interest from a number of teams, including the Giants, Padres, Braves and Rays, all of whom possess the kind of young pitching that Brewers general manager Doug Melvin would seek in return for one of his established hitters.

But as the Brewers continue to win, carrying a five-game winning streak into Tuesday night’s contest, manager Ken Macha and the club would like to get Hart back on the field as soon as they can, provided he remains in a Brewers uniform.

“I spoke with him today. He still has some discomfort, but he says it’s getting better every day,” Macha said. “I asked him about the Houston series and he’s feeling good about that.

“He’s still a ways off. I asked him about Houston, he said he hopes so.”

Hawkins eyeing weekend return

MILWAUKEE — After more than 2 1/2 months on the disabled list, veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins finally has a set date for his expected return to the Brewers.

“He’ll probably be activated during the Houston series,” manager Ken Macha said.

Hawkins, who went on the DL with right shoulder weakness on May 9, pitched two scoreless innings on Monday night for the Nashville Sounds, allowing just two hits, while tossing 21 strikes in 28 pitches.

Most important for Hawkins, a 37-year-old right-hander, he has not had any setbacks since beginning his rehab assignment, and he felt as good on Monday night as he has since going on the DL.

“When you’re injured, you always have to think about, ‘Am I ever going to feel like I felt before I got injured?'” Hawkins said.

Since starting his rehab assignment on July 15, Hawkins has pitched for the Brewers’ Rookie League team in Arizona, as well as the club’s Triple-A affiliate in Nashville.

Hawkins, who is in his 16th season in the Major Leagues, learned a lot during his time away from the field.

“You kind of find yourself when you’re on the DL. You’ve got a lot of time to think and reflect and do a lot of other things that make you not take this game for granted,” Hawkins said. “Going back to the Minor Leagues is definitely a humbling experience, seeing those guys and how hard they work.

“It makes you appreciate where you are and what you have.”

With his return expected this weekend in Houston, Hawkins will be joining the club on the road trip, something that hasn’t happened in quite a while.

How does Hawkins feel to be getting back on the road with the club?

“Good,” Hawkins said, “especially going on the road in the big leagues.”

Brewers take part in community work

MILWAUKEE — The Brewers Community Foundation gave itself a well-deserved pat on the back Tuesday and announced it had raised $1.5 million so far in 2010 for nonprofit groups in Wisconsin.

Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, Craig Counsell and Doug Davis attended a press conference at Rainbow Park in West Allis, Wis., to highlight the contributions of 15 Brewers players to various community causes. Those players then took part in mini-clinics with kids at Harvey Kuenn Field, which received assistance from the Brewers’ charitable arm last summer after sustaining flood damage.

Other Brewers were active in the community on Tuesday, too. John Axford, Zach Braddock, Chris Capuano, Kameron Loe and Dave Riske joined a group of former big leaguers that included Jim Gantner and Larry Hisle for a clinic hosted by the Major League Baseball Players Association Players’ Trust. More than 250 local Little Leaguers and members of the Boys and Girls Club took part.

A few hours later, Capuano, Counsell, Weeks, Corey Hart and Trevor Hoffman hosted the Players Association’s “Buses for Baseball” event. The players welcomed 50 students from Our Next Generation, an organization that provides academic support and other services to urban children.

Worth noting

Brewers prospects will be part of the Surprise Rafters in this year’s Arizona Fall League, and Double-A Huntsville manager Mike Guerrero will serve as the team’s skipper. The league announced its club and staff assignments on Tuesday, and the Brewers were paired with the Tigers, Royals, Cardinals and Rangers at Surprise Stadium, the Spring Training home of the Royals and Rangers. Rosters are typically finalized in late August and play begins this year on Oct. 12.

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