Pitchers and Catchers have reported to the Brewers spring
training home in Maryvale, Arizona and the Brewers spring training is
underway! Manager Ned Yost and GM Doug Melvin are happy with the players they
have in camp. Was it a productive off-season for the Brewers? Well let’s answer
some of the question marks from last year.
Let’s start with defense; the Brewers finished tied for 12th
in the NL with the Nationals. Defense has been a problem for the Brewers and GM
Doug Melvin felt he had to make a few moves to tighten up the defense.
Melvin felt the Brewers needed to be stronger in center,
third and catcher. Did he solve the problem in center? Bill Hall did an
adequate job in center, given more time I’m sure he would have been an above
average in center.
Centerfielder, Mike Cameron was available and that gave
Melvin and opportunity to sign a quality centerfielder. By signing Cameron, gave
Melvin a chance to solve what he thought was a problem at third.
Rookie of the Year Ryan Braun made an immediate impact when
he was brought up in late May. There was no question about his offense, it was
his defense at third that was troubling (35 errors). Most of his errors were on
throws. Melvin and Yost decided to move Braun to left and move Hall to third.
Hall a natural infielder had been the Brewers shortstop in 2005 and also played
quite a few games at third and second.
Melvin felt he needed to sign a catcher; Johnny Estrada was
basically an offensive catcher and had trouble throwing runners out. He had the
worst caught sealing percentage in the NL. In comes Jason Kendall; a better
defensive catcher whose offense has slipped the last couple of years. He also
has trouble throwing base stealers out. The majority of the Brewers pitchers do
not do a good job in holding runners and this is something that really needs to
be addressed in spring training. If it isn’t, we will see the same results as last year with
maybe a tad bit more success with Kendall behind the dish.
I believe with those changes the Brewers will be better
Now the pitching: Starting pitching is strong. It will
really help if Ben Sheets stays healthy all year, he anchors the starting
rotation along with Jeff Suppan, Dave Bush, and Yovani Gallardo. Chris Capuano, Claudio Vargas, Manny
Parra and Carlos Villanueva will be competing for the number five spot in the
rotation. The bullpen, which wore out in the second half,, will still have some
question marks. The Brewers lost closer Francisco Cordero to the Reds, Melvin
signed closer Eric Gagne along with relievers David Riske, Solomon Torres and
Guillermo Mota. The starters are the key
for the bullpen; the starters need to go deeper in the ballgame. Too many times
a starter only went 5, maybe 6, innings and not pitching deep into the games
will wear out your bullpen. The one good thing with Riske, Torres and Mota is
that you have arms that can throw more than one inning in relief and can be
used on back to back days.
The other question: Can Gagne come back to the form he has a
few years ago when he was one of the premier closers in baseball? If not,
Derrick Turnbow will do the closing.
All in all the Brewers did improve themselves for the
upcoming 2008 season. It should be a very competitive Central Division. The
Cubs, Reds and Astros all made improvements during the off season. There are
high expectations for the talented Brewers. With Prince Fielder, Bill Hall, Rickie
Weeks and JJ Hardy anchoring the infield, Ryan Braun and Corey Hart in the
outfield, you have the core of the team.
Now, the Brewers will have to stay healthy and play solid
defense along with solid pitching, to help out a strong offense. This could be
the year the fans have been waiting for since 1982!
I am back online and will be taking your questions.
Matt Wise seemed to have a problem with his control after hitting Pedro Lopez. When hitting someone in the face it can affect certain pitchers in different ways; It certainly did have a negative effect on Matt. It has taken him awhile to get over it and now he seems to be back on track.
According to The Brewers Director of Media Relations Mike Vassallo, Bill Hall was the last Brewer to steal home. It came on May 2nd against the St. Louis Cardinals. It was the back end of a double steal. Corey Hart was the runner at first. Manager Tony LaRussa told me he was caught off guard and blamed himself for letting that happen.
For all of the countless emails I received addressing Chris Capuano status in the rotation, that question has been answered after Chris’s last start against the Reds on August 19th at Miller Park. Although he did pitch a respectable 6 1/3 innings, leaving the game in a 5-5 tie. Manager Ned Yost decided it would be best for Chris to work out of the bullpen to try and regain his earlier form. I believe that Chris will come back to his All-Star form and be inserted back in the rotation down the stretch.
JJ certainly got off to a hot start and was on pace to hit 50 home runs this season. As of this posting, JJ is hitting .276 in 116 games with 23 home runs and 70 rbi’s. If the season was to end today, everyone would say thay JJ has had a great year. It’s not that he has gone "stone cold" or he has an injury, or even something psycological; JJ is where everyone in the Brewer front office and Major League Staff expected him to be.
I learned from a great Manager, Whitey Herzog, who told me to watch players who are in territory they have never ventured before and see where they are in August and September. He said that over the course of the season they will be at the level they have always been. This will be JJ’s first full season in the Majors, and maybe we’re starting to see where his level will always be.
Where is Matt LaPorta playing?
He has played in 3 games as of this posting; he is hitting .364 with 2 HR’s. He started late because of a slight quad muscle pull. He will probably go to West Virginia in the South Atlantic League after he has had a few more games under his belt.
Is Prince overswinging since the All-Star break?
I asked Prince if he felt he was overswinging and his answer was he did not think so. I asked hitting coach Jim Skaalen about Prince’s swing and he said that Prince was not overswinging, but felt he was trying to do too much and did not have good pitch selection.
The way Jeff Suppan has been struggling, do you think Ned will move him to the bullpen?
He has been working hard to correct his mechanics and it showed in his last start against the Mets on Tuesday. He pitched 6.1 innings, 6 hits, 2 runs both earned and 2 walks with no strikeouts.
Has Bill Hall’s ankle fully healed?
I asked Bill if his ankle is fully healed; he said it is sore at times but no pain at all. When he first came off the disabled list he was a little tenative. He is now showing no signs of the ankle sprain.
When a player is referred to as a five tool player; that simply means that he is well above average in all aspects of the game. So you look for a player that has speed, power, strong arm, hits for average and is a great fielder.
Why doesn’t Johnny Estrada take off his mask when catching a pop up?
Johnny says he feels he sees the ball better and it takes too much time to flip off his mask. He said he has always kept his mask on ever since becoming a professional baseball player.
No, it is not an unwritten rule! When a player is traded to a team in the same league he will share what knowledge he has with his current team. It may be sharing what his former team’s signs are or certain tendencies the manager has; for example the manager likes to hit and run on a certain count or the signs he gives to the third base coach,
Do you have any updates on Corey Koskie? He’s been on the disabled list for so long! -Ali
Corey is still recovering from post-traumatic concussion syndrome. When the team played in Minnesota this year he came to the park and had a nice visit with his teammates. He is far from being able to play and hopefully he will be over his concussion and will be ready for next year.
The Brewers will be honoring Sixto on Ceverceros Day July 15th at Miller Park prior to the game against the Colorado Rockies. He is currently working for the Atlanta Braves Organization.
I am not sure that Doug Melvin will be able to pull off a significant trade unless it involved one of our young players and I don’t think he wants to part with any of our young guns just yet. He may try to package players like Mench, Gross, Shouse or a Matt Wise. I think we need another lefty in the pen. You may not see much action until later in the season when teams determine if they have a shot at the play offs.
Pat Listach is managing the Cubs’ Double AA Team, the Tennessee Smokies in the Southern League. Pat edged out Kenny Lofton for Rookie of the Year, but his playing career ended a few years later.
Several seasons ago, I recall the Brewers bringing up a Class AA pitcher to face the Cardinals. He was effective, but was soon returned to the minors. I cant recall his name, but I am curious as to whatever happened to him. Can you help me out?
After beating the Cardinals, Chris Saenz was sent down to the Minors the next day. Shortly after that season, he developed arm problems and was never the same pitcher. He is currently pitching for the Angels’ Double AA team, the Arkanas Travelers. And he is 1-5 with a 7.29 ERA.
I’ve gotten a ton of e-mails asking about Yovanni, so I figured I’d answer them all at once.
At this point in time, the Brewers will not call up Yovanni, unless one of our starting pitchers goes down with an injury. Yovanni’s pitching lights out in Nashville with an 8-2 record, an ERA of 2.89 and 98 K’s in 71 1/3 innings.
Of course, the last time I answered a call-up questions, it was about Ryan Braun. I said he’d be called up after the All-Star break and he was, in fact, called up the next day– so who knows about Yovanni!
When Rickie returns to the lineup, I believe manager Ned Yost will insert Rickie back in the lead-off spot. The way our lineup shapes up, Rickie is best suited in the lead-off spot. Corey is so adaptable in the lineup, he can fit anywhere with great results.
Last time, I answered a question about former Brewer Dave Nilsson. He’s contacted me and had this to share:
"I am living on the Gold Coast in Queensland.
I’ve been appointed by MLB to run The MLB Academy in Australia. (June,July,August.)
Good to see The Brew Crew having success.
With so many outfielders what are the Brewers plans for Corey Hart?
Corey Hart is in the Brewers plans as a platoon outfielder. He is a very valuable player for the Brewers. One day he will be an everyday player in my opinion.
What is Dave Nilsson up to these days?
Dave Nilsson lives in Queensland, Australia and is developing real estate. In his last experience with baseball he was on the Australian Olympic baseball team. He also played for Australia during the World Baseball Classic.
Where is Sixto Lezcano and what is he up to now?
Sixto Lezcano lives in Orlando, Florida and is the hitting coach for the Atlanta Braves Gulf Coast League Rookie Team. We will be honoring Sixto on July 15Th, Cerveceros Day prior to the Brewers versus Rockies.
Thanks for the inquiries on the Brewers and former Brewers. I will try to answer as many questions as possible and I look forward to receiving more of your questions! I’ll post another round of responses on Monday.
Where did Robin Yount go?
Robin decided to retire and to devote more time to his family and his hobbies — such as motorsports. He is a passionate baseball man and was a great help to the players, but he decided to step down to spend more time with his family.
I received this question from more than one person:
Why doesn’t the team bring up Ryan Braun?
The reason the team hasn’t brought Ryan Braun up this year, so far, is not because of his defense. His defense has been pretty good. In my opinion, it is because he needs more experience. And basically, the team does not need him right now. They prefer for him to get the experience at AAA. If he continues his progress, we may see him after July.
In the past few years Gorman has been available to chat with fans at Brewer games. Is he still doing that this season?
Gorman is still available to chat with fans at Brewers games. Being as popular as he is, he has a tremendous number of speaking engagements and appearances. In the near future, he will be able to spend time and chat with the fans. Just remember, Gorman Thomas Bobblehead Day is July 20 at Miller Park!
The Brew Crew starts a difficult West Coast trip, May 21-27; playing the Dodgers for three games and the Padres for three. They do have an off day in San Deigo. The Brewers start this West Coast Trip in first place(27-17) 5 1/2 in front of Houston.
Sunday’s 6-5 win over Inter-league rival Minnesota was sparked by the bat of Geoff Jenkins; accounting for 5 RBI’S and hitting a 3 run homer. His homerun was career number 200 and puts him one behind Cecil Cooper on the Brewer all time list. Hall of Famer, Robin Yount is the Brewer career leader at 251.
If the Brewers come off this West Coast trip 3-3 it will be a success. The Brewers must do better on this trip than the last one when they were 2-5 losing 2 out of 3 to the Mets and 3 out 4 to the Phillies.