Archive for the ‘ Players ’ Category

Breaking News: Return of the K-Rod

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Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com broke the news via Twitter, so you know it’s good.

Francisco Rodriguez has agreed to a two-year deal with the Milwaukee Brewers with a team option for a third year. (Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that Scott Boras agreed to a deal with Mark Attanasio, but that’s an argument for a different time.)

Rodriguez closed games for the Brewers last year, stepping in (after stepping on a cactus) for the injured Jim Henderson. He posted 44 saves and pitched mostly effectively, but he was hammered by the long ball at a frightening clip. He was a streaky performer, with his struggles coming in bunches for the most part (confirmation bias alert!), but still can be an effective pitcher. He needs to maintain his fastball command more consistently though to aid him in avoiding posting another career-worst home runs allowed total. For the record, it was 14 last year in just 68.0 innings pitched. That’s a 1.9 HR/9, math majors.

The ISO against his fastball in 2014 was .301. That’s terrifying. Still, Rodriguez did post a career best WHIP at 0.985 and struck out more than a batter an inning en route to a 3.04 ERA across 69 games.

But for this multi-year marriage to work out, the home run ball needs to exit from Rodriguez’s repertoire.

***UPDATE***

Tom Haudricourt tweeted full contract details.

Rumor: Francisco Rodriguez “Agrees to Sign”…Somewhere

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According to Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald, free agent relief pitcher Francisco Rodriguez won’t be a free agent much longer.

Spencer tweeted out the following blurb Thursday morning.

With the word that Rodriguez isn’t headed to Miami, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports checked in on whether the Blue Jays were the team who had successfully wooed the man they call K-Rod.

So combine those reports with what FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal revealed the other day…

…and it certainly seems as though the Brewers could be reconciling with their most recent closer.

Stay tuned.

Wily Peralta Bobblehead Revealed

This came out Monday on the Brewers social media channels, but in case you missed it…

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Interview: Brewers 2013 Top Draft Pick – Devin Williams

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When the Milwaukee Brewers entered the 2013 season with Kyle Lohse on the team, it came with a sacrifice. That sacrifice was their first-round draft pick and with it the potential to pluck a talented player who scouts and talent evaluators agree is in the upper tier of what is available. Or at least, that’s what they assumed.

Fortunately for the Brewers, a player with a first-round grade in their opinion (as well as the opinion of some respected voices in the prospect game), inexplicably fell to them in the second round. Harvey Kuenn, Jr, who works that area of the country for the Brewers, identified this player as someone who he felt was worth even that lost first-round pick. The Brewers graded him highly enough that they didn’t think he’d get to them but when their turn was coming and it was getting closer, you could almost feel the anticipation in the room.

Don’t misunderstand. I wasn’t there. But 2013 was when the Brewers allowed FoxSports Wisconsin (their TV affiliate) to enter the draft room and prepare a 30-minute show to give fans a taste of what it was like. As that drama unfolded, it made for compelling TV. It was fun to watch the decision makers get their guy.

So who is he? Well, the information on the internet can tell us that he’s a 6’3″ right-handed pitcher out of Hazelwood West High School in Hazelwood, Missouri. He’s 20 years old and was listed at 165 pounds. I could give you stats and tell you how he performed on the field in his one and a half professional seasons.

But who is he? I wanted to find out more so Devin and I, with an assist from his agency the Beverly Hills Sports Council (@BHSCouncil), traded emails. Below are my questions and his responses.

Enjoy.

BrewerNation: What or who first got you into playing baseball?

My grandpa was the first person to introduce me to the game. We were always in the backyard playing catch or at the batting cages. He definitely played a big part in my love for the game. I owe him a lot. 

BN: When did you first realize that baseball could be a career for you?

DW: Probably the summer after my sophomore year of high school. I started focusing on strictly pitching & I started to get some attention from pro scouts after all of the showcases and tournaments I had done over the summer. 

BN: Leading up to draft day, what were your expectations both in terms of when you might go in the draft and who had shown interest in drafting you?

DW: I was expecting to be picked in the first two rounds based on what I had heard. I had in-home meetings with all but four MLB teams so I knew there was some high interest. I actually wasn’t expecting to be picked by the Brewers since I hadn’t really heard much from them throughout the whole process.

BN: What was it like when your phone rang with the news that you had been drafted? Who did you speak to and what was the conversation like?

DW: It was the best feeling in the world up to that point in my life. I just felt like all those bullpens and training sessions had finally paid off. I was with my whole family and some of my close friends when I got the call telling me that the Brewers were going to take me, but I didn’t let any of them know because I didn’t want to jinx it. When it came up on TV that the Brewers had picked me they all started screaming and ran over to hug me. My mom hugged me and was crying when she told me how proud she was. I’ll never forget that moment.

BN: Any initial thoughts on it being the Brewers as a lifelong Cardinals fan?

DW: I get this question a lot. I didn’t even think twice about it. I was just happy to get a chance to play professionally, no matter who it was. The fact that the Cardinals had two chances to pick me & passed on me both times is just a little more motivation for me to beat them when I get my opportunity, maybe steal a couple division titles from them.

BN: What went into making the decision to sign after being drafted instead of attending college?

DW: I knew that day that I was going to sign, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity that was in front of me. I was really close with coach Kerrick Jackson at Mizzou and still am to this day, when he called me the next day he just congratulated me and wished me luck in my first season. He also made sure to let me know that it was only the beginning of the road & to not stop improving on my game.

BN: With a full professional season under your belt, what have you improved on in your game and as a person?

DW: I think the biggest improvements have come with the command of my pitches, I can spot up a lot better now compared to when I first signed. As a person, I would say my mental game has taken a big step, not focusing on the things that are out of my control & staying focused on what I need to do to get the next batter out. 

BN: Do you still think going pro was the right choice?

DW: Definitely, I have no regrets. I got to start my career a few years earlier than most and I think that will help me in the long haul. 

BN: What have you been focusing on this off-season?

DW: I’ve mostly been working on the overall strength of my body, trying to gain some weight. Also, trying to strengthen my shoulder to be ready for my first year with a full season team.

BN: What are your professional goals, if any specific, for 2015?

DW: My first goal is to make our Low-A team out of spring training. After that my hope is to pitch well enough to make the All-Star game for the Midwest League. That’d be pretty cool. Most importantly I want to finish this season healthy.

BN: Give us a baseball scouting report on Devin Williams. What pitches do you throw? Velo? What’s your best? What are you still developing?

DW: I throw a four-seam fastball, circle changeup, and a slider. On a good day my fastball will sit in the low 90’s possibly touching some mid 90’s. Your fastball is always suppose to be your best pitch but my favorite is the changeup. That’s definitely my best weapon. I’ve been working on a curve a little bit this off-season just to add a little something extra to my repertoire. 

BN: Give a personal scouting report on Devin Williams. What makes you tick? What are your off-the-field interests?

DW: I just like to relax and hang out with friends & family, and play some video games (FIFA to be specific). 

BN: What is a typical day like as a minor leaguer when it’s not your day to pitch?

DW: Lots of working out & conditioning, along with throwing your side pen in between starts, & doing the game charts before you pitch. Other than that there’s a lot of sitting around and watching the game, which can be helpful if you pay attention because you get to study the hitters and their tendencies before you face them. That’s a big thing for me because at the lower levels of the minor leagues you don’t really get much of a scouting report on the hitters.

It certainly sounds like Devin Williams is poised to take the next step in his career development which would be a great thing for the Brewers. I’m personally looking forward to heading up to Appleton this year to catch one of his starts in person.

Hopefully you got to know a little more about one of the Brewers’ consensus top prospects. I know I did.

Thank you again, Devin, for taking time out of your schedule to answer my questions.

Be sure you follow Devin on Twitter as well: @DTrainn_23

Injury News: Lucroy Expected to Miss 4-6 Weeks

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(Forgive the relative tardiness of this, but I was busy at Truck Day and finally am at a keyboard.)

The Brewers sent out the following tweet this morning, which worried fans.

The injury — a partial tear of his right hamstring tendon near the top of the muscle — flared up when Lucroy began running drills about two weeks ago. Apparently the area bothered Lucroy as early as August of last year, but the Brewer backstop played through the discomfort. The strain is classified as “mild” and both the Brewers medical staff and Lucroy himself feel that the All-Star will be just fine for Opening Day on April 6.

Brewers COO Rick Schlesinger met with the media during “Truck Day” at Miller Park and said that 4-6 weeks is a range and that there’s a good chance that someone as dedicated and diligent as Lucroy could come in on the short side of the same. Schlesinger said that the club won’t rush one of it’s most important players back before he’s healthy. He also chuckled and said that the biggest thing might be slowing Lucroy down so that the catcher doesn’t go too hard too quickly and suffer a setback.

It was revealed to the media that, to aid in his recovery, Lucroy received a PRP injection as well.

The silver lining, according to Gord Ash who met with the media about Lucroy’s injury earlier on Wednesday, is that he won’t be completely shut down from Spring Training activities. He can still field, throw, catch, and do anything that won’t stress the injured tendon. Running is out for the time being and I can’t imagine squatting behind home plate at all is a good thing for him at this point.

From an overall team preparation standpoint, Lucroy missing this time behind the dish won’t be too large of a negative. He’s worked with all the starting pitchers in the past and unless the team does acquire Jonathan Papelbon from the Philadelphia Phillies, there are only a handful of new relief pitchers (Cotts, Knebel, Pérez) to get to know. That can be done with side work or even late in camp as there’s more work to go around for the big league guys.

As for Lucroy’s scheduled defensive work at first base, it sounds like he might be slowed, but he won’t be stopped. If he is to get some starts over there against left-handed pitching, he’ll want to get better quickly. Colorado, the Brewers season-opening opponent, could potentially start southpaws in two of the three games of the opening series at Miller Park.

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers ’15 – #62 Luis Sardiñas

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To say that an addition to my “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers” countdown to Opening Day column series was a surprise has never been truer than in the case of today’s subject…

Luis Sardiñas.

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Luis Alexander Sardiñas was one of the pieces received by the Brewers when they traded Yovani Gallardo to the Texas Rangers last month. The others — a very green, painfully young, fireballing starter and a young reliever with MLB experience and a late-inning relief profile — came as no surprise. The starter is a standard get in deals moving a veteran starter like Gallardo.  The reliever is something that Brewers general manager Doug Melvin covets, and could potentially fill a 25-man roster need this year.

Even the trade itself wasn’t that much of a surprise. I had caught wind that the Brewers were on the verge of trading a starting pitcher early in January and then in what I thought might have been an unrelated tidbit, I had heard that something “big” was on the verge of going down with the Brewers. Turned out it was the same thing as Gallardo was on the move.

And despite the speculation that Sardiñas could be coming to Milwaukee since the Rangers had offered him in other deals this off-season, it was still a pleasant surprise. I was concerned when Gallardo was moved that the return wouldn’t be much to speak of. I was pleased when Marcus Diplan and Corey Knebel (the two pieces respectively referred to above) were announced. Not knowing anything about the Rangers’ farm system beyond a couple of guys, when I didn’t see Sardiñas on any current prospect lists, I was disappointed. I thought “The Brewers already have light-hitting utility guy a couple of times over in the system.”

Then, I started proper vetting and became more and more pleased as I found piece after piece about Sardiñas’ defensive skills, his contact rate, that he’s a switch-hitter, that he’s a true shortstop, and that he’s just 21 years young and already spent some time in the big leagues with Texas. More over, when I read that the reason Sardiñas wasn’t on those top prospect lists was because he no longer qualifies as a rookie, I was sufficiently sated.

Sardiñas was signed as an international free agent in 2009 when he was just 16 years old. He received a $1.2 million signing bonus. He came over to the states as soon as he was able to in 2010 playing in 26 games for the Rangers’ Arizona League team. He hit .304/.363/.350 and was squarely on the prospect radar of Baseball America who billed him as the Rangers’ #13 prospect after 2009 and #8 after 2010. Injury shortened his 2010 season and limited his 2011 season as well with Sardiñas playing in just 14 games in the Arizona League. For what it’s worth, he improved his slash lines over 2010.

2012 really proved to be the breakout year for Sardiñas as a minor leaguer. Despite playing in just 96 games at Class-A Hickory, and still being only 19, Sardiñas took his .291/.346/.356/.702, 32-of-41 stolen bases, and his silky smooth defense to the Arizona Fall League. In the AFL, Sardiñas played in 11 games and hit .318/.375/.455/.830 in 44 at-bats. Baseball America jumped him back up to #7 on Texas’ prospects list after dropping to #17 after 2011. MLB.com listed him as the #84 prospect in all of baseball with BaseballProspectus.com holding him in the #86 spot.

Just 20 years old in 2013, Sardiñas split time with Class-A Advanced Myrtle Beach and Class-AA Frisco. He combined to hit .288/.340/.347 that season with the bulk of his plate appearances (432-to-141) coming at High-A. The numbers were significantly different between the levels but an adjustment period is often a necessity. Baseball America was up to #6 in Texas’ system, MLB.com checked in with Sardiñas at #76 overall in baseball and Baseball Prospectus actually moved ahead of MLB to list him as their #72 overall prospect in the game.

Then in 2014, Sardiñas’ time had come. Injuries to Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar resulted in promotions for both Sardiñas and eventually Rougned Odor. Sardiñas would make his MLB debut on April 20th. He would make his first start on May 10th. He ended up going back to the minors at the end of June but in 26 career games he was sitting at .288/.329/.318 and still playing quality defense.

Speaking of his defense, Sardiñas proved to be quite versatile in his time with the parent club in Texas. He played 19 games (15 starts) at second base, 13 games (eight starts) at shortstop, and appeared in seven games (four starts) as a third baseman. In fact, Sardiñas was even called upon to be the Designated Hitter on five occasions. In total, Sardiñas has logged 260.1 innings in a Major League infield and committed four errors. His Range Factor per 9 is comfortably above league average as a shortstop, for what it’s worth.

For 2015, Sardiñas has a position in front of him to win in Spring Training. Melvin and others under him in the Brewers front office have implied that Sardiñas is likely ticketed for Colorado Springs to begin the season, but given his versatility and his true nature as a shortstop first, Sardiñas could position himself atop the bench depth chart if he’s outstanding and someone like Hector Gomez underwhelms in camp. That said, Hector Gomez is out of minor league options so it’d have to be a significant difference for the Brewers to not give Gomez the first chance come April 6.

Still, with a solid stint in the Cactus League this year, Sardiñas could easily situate himself atop manager Ron Roenicke’s short list for call-ups should someone get hurt or underperform over a long stretch. After that? Keep your eye on how well not only Gomez plays, but Scooter Gennett’s job at second base is hardly set in stone long-term. If Gennett struggles against left-handed pitching and demonstrates an inability to be an everyday second baseman at the dish, in the field, or even both, Sardiñas could have a starting job with Milwaukee before 2015 is over.

(Then again, there were rumors of Sardiñas being of specific interest to the San Diego Padres, so perhaps he’ll be flipped and this entire diatribe will be for naught.)

Catch up on the countdown!

Broken News: Cotts Contracts With Crew

OFFICIAL RELEASE

The Milwaukee Brewers have signed free agent left-handed reliever Neal Cotts to a one-year contract. The announcement was made by President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Doug Melvin.

To make room for Cotts on the 40-man roster, the team designated infielder/outfielder Elian Herrera for assignment.

Cotts, 34, went 2-9 with a 4.32 ERA and 2 saves in a career-high 73 relief appearances last season with the Texas Rangers. He owns a career record of 20-24 with a 4.05 ERA and 4 saves in 415 games (5 starts) with the White Sox (2003-06), Cubs (2007-09) and Rangers (2013-14).

Over the past two seasons, he is holding opponents to a .223 batting average with 128 strikeouts in just 123.2 innings pitched.

Cotts enjoyed his best Major League season just two years ago as he went 8-3 with a 1.11 ERA and 1 save in 58 relief appearances with Texas. His ERA in 2013 was the second lowest in the Major Leagues among relievers and marked the lowest by a reliever in Rangers franchise history. His win total that season tied for the most among Major League relievers, and opponents batted just .180.

A member of the 2005 world champion Chicago White Sox, Cotts appeared in each game of the 2005 World Series (4 games), earning the
victory Game 2 against Houston.

Brewers On Deck 2015 – The Interviews

Here is a boatload of audio recorded on Sunday, January 25, 2015 at Brewers On Deck in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Enjoy!!

Right fielder Ryan Braun

Relief pitcher Jim Henderson

Manager Ron Roenicke

New Brewers first baseman Adam Lind

Starting pitcher Wily Peralta

Newest member of the starting rotation Jimmy Nelson

All-Star outfielder Carlos Gomez

Second baseman Scooter Gennett

All-Star starting catcher Jonathan Lucroy

General Manager Doug Melvin met with the assembled media

EXCLUSIVE with 40-man pitcher Michael Blazek

Prinicpal Owner Mark Attanasio addressed the media

This is the full audio from one of the Main Stage events, a panel discussion (with fan questions!) featuring Mark Attanasio, Doug Melvin, Gord Ash, Adam Lind, Corey Knebel, and Luis Sardinas

Rumor: Brewers Sign MLB Veteran Willis to MiLB Deal

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ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick tweeted this a few minutes ago…

Willis, 33, hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2011 as a member of the Cincinnati Reds, though he has spent time in the minor leagues of the Orioles, Angels, and Giants over the past three years. He infamously lost his control at a relatively young age after being dynamic and electric early in his career with the Florida Marlins.

This brings the group of Brewers non-roster invitees up to six when camp opens in February.

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers ’15 – #76 Mike Strong

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It’s been 76 days away from Opening Day all day today, Tuesday, January 20. Unfortunately, sometimes life gets you backed up and you can’t get your release until late in the day. Innuendo aside, let’s dispense with the typically lengthy open and drop right into my profile of the player who will wear #76 in spring training this year…

Mike Strong.

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Michael Joseph Strong is a 26-year-old left-handed pitcher from Minnesota, by way of Oklahoma State University. He was drafted three times as an amateur in three consecutive years. The Chicago White Sox drafted him in 2009 in the 25th round. The Oakland Athletics chose Strong in the 22nd round in 2010. Finally, the Brewers selected as signed the southpaw as a 10th round selection in 2011.

Strong pitched as a rookie in 2011 and had a rough go of things. In six of this 15 appearances, Strong allowed at least 4 ER, with his worst being an 8 ER outing on August 31st of that year with the rookie ball affiliate Helena Brewers. Strong made 13 starts in those 15 games in 2011 and finished with a combined 6.10 ERA.

The next season would find Strong pitching for the Class-A affiliate Wisconsin Timber Rattlers of the Midwest League. 21 regular season games, zero starts, 2.76 ERA. Strong didn’t get going in 2012 until May, but it was enough to earn himself a ring as the Timber Rattlers won the Midwest League Championship! Perhaps the limited games is partly why he repeated Class-A in 2013. 25 games, eight starts and 87.0 IP for Strong in 2013 earned him an off-season promotion to the Class-A Advanced Brevard County Manatees.

It’s 2014 that really paved the way for the situation Strong finds himself in today. That situation, of course, is having been added to the 40-man roster and attending his first legitimate big league spring training. In 2014, as mentioned, Strong began his season by breaking camp with the Manatees. There he pitched in 30 games including six starts, compiling a 2.50 ERA in 75.2 IP. He would strike out 78 hitters while walking 23 and allowing 56 hits. Strong was used in a variety of roles as has been his M.O. to this point in his career. It was a good season for Strong in the Florida State League.

With an eye on sending him to the Arizona Fall League (a proving ground of sorts for up-and-coming players), the Brewers promoted Strong to Class-AA Huntsville for one appearance. He would pitch 4.0 hitless and scoreless innings in relief, allowing one walk while striking out six. After that, Strong would be ticketed for Arizona where he made 11 more appearances, totaling an additional 13.2 IP. Strong was quite good in the AFL, pitching to a 1.98 ERA (3 ER) while striking out 14 and walking three.

Then it became decision time on the lefty. Was he to a point in his development where it made sense to protect him from Rule 5 exposure? The Brewers lost another left-hander recently in Lucas Luetge when the Seattle Mariners plucked him in a Rule 5 Draft. Strong’s case was solid that he deserved at the very least another season of minor league ball in the Brewers system to see what they really have.

Looking ahead to 2015, Strong has an outside chance to impact the big league bullpen out of camp. After carrying four southpaws in their 2014 bullpen at different times, the Brewers currently only have setup man Will Smith coming back in a similar role. And despite Ron Roenicke saying in previous years that he doesn’t feel it a necessity to have even one lefty, I think he enjoyed being able to play matchups when situations warranted. Strong probably isn’t ready for primetime just yet as it relates to full innings of work for Milwaukee, but as a situational lefty who could pitch his way to more responsibility, there’s opportunity.

Still, all likelihood has Strong starting 2014 with the now-based-in-Biloxi Class-AA affiliate, the Biloxi Shuckers. Give him time there, move him up to Class-AAA Colorado Springs when he’s ready, and just maybe Strong ends up contributing down the stretch in September when the Brewers are hopefully looking to save some innings on Smith’s arm.

Bottom line though, Mike Strong is one to watch in 2015. If the Brewers front office thinks he’s worthy of a 40-man roster spot, he’s worthy of our attention.

(I just did that whole thing without one pun on his name. That’s a strong effort on my part.)

(Dang it.)

You can follow Mike Strong on Twitter (so you should): @Strong_Mike1188

Catch up on the countdown!

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