Results tagged ‘ Casey McGehee ’

Milwaukee Brewers Uniform Number History: #14

Wondering who wore a certain uniform number all-time for the Milwaukee Brewers?

The Brewer Nation has got you covered. If you found this list on its own, head back here for the full repository after checking out this one.

#14

John Feiske (’72)
Ollie Brown (’72-’73)
Felipe Alou (’74)
Bob Hansen (’74)
Jim Wohlford (’77-’79)
Dion James (’83-’85)
Jim Paciorek (’87)
Jim Adduci (’88)
Gus Polidor (’90)
Rick Dempsey (’91)
Dave Nilsson (’96-’99)
Jeff Juden (’98)
Charlie Hayes (’00)
Mike Coolbaugh (’01)
Gabe Gross (’08)
Russell Branyan (’08)
Casey McGehee (’09-’11)
Brooks Conrad (’12)
Jeff Bianchi (’12-Current)

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers: #1 Corey Hart

Ladies and gentlemen it has happened.

The Brewers flight from Arizona got back to town late yesterday evening. That’s right, to be a bit corny: “The boys are back in town!”

There’s no word whether the team boarded by jersey number, but if they had then today’s final profile subject would have been the first one on.

He is the starting right fielder and will bat fifth tomorrow at Miller Park, despite not exactly piling up the at-bats this spring.

He wears the number one on his back. He is:

Corey Hart.

Standing 6’6″ tall and weighing an official 235 pounds, Jon Corey Hart came to camp in 2011 poised to continue making good on an off-season contract extension negotiated with the club before the 2010 season.

Hart had posted career-worst numbers in 2010 in several categories but negotiated his way in an arbitration hearing to a $4.8 million contract. I blasted Hart in this space for that situation, and was happy to be proven wrong to a degree in 2010.

So when he got hurt in Spring Training however and started the year on the disabled list, people had cause for concern both about missing his production and whether his long-term outlook would be affected.

He only played 130 total games after beginning the season on the DL with an oblique strain and, he would later admit, it shouldn’t have been that many. Hart told members of the media that he rushed back because he felt he could help the team even at less than 100%. It didn’t work well, and Hart realized that he should have stayed in minor league rehab games longer than he did.

When he was on the field in 2011, Hart continued two recent trends: increased power and greatly decreased speed.

His final statistics totaled:

130 G, 492 AB, 80 R, 140 H, 25 doubles, 4 triples, 26 HR, 63 RBI, 51 BB, 114 K, 7 SB, 6 caught stealing, .285/.356/.510

Hart had played in 15 more games in 2010 than 2011, and had gotten 64 more at-bats which resulted in better counting stats, but the rates of certain stats were up and with better health, Hart probably would have at least equaled his 2010 in many categories.

Two numbers that were exactly the same were Hart’s steals and caught stealings. It continued to be disconcerting because despite his 6’6″ frame, Hart was always a benefit on the bases. Hart stole 23 bases in both 2007 and 2008 before falling to 11 in 2009 and just seven the next two years.

Hopefully his realization about carrying the extra weight and subsequently dropping that weight will help Hart regain some of that lost quickness.

But has it made a difference? In a Spring Training where Jonathan Lucroy was running wild on the basepaths, how many stolen bases did Hart attempt? And what was his success rate?

We don’t know if Hart’s speed was positively affected in game situations because he only played in two official Cactus League games. And therein lies the x-factor for the Brewers in 2012: health.

In any season where position players stay healthy and are able to answer the bell 150 times or more, there is a lot of luck involved. For the second straight spring, the only kind of luck Hart had was bad luck.

While hurrying to Ryan Braun’s press conference at Maryvale Baseball Park this spring, Hart was wearing his spikes and slipped on some cement, damaging his meniscus, requiring surgery. While he was rehabilitating his knee, Hart was injured again in the weight room when a metal bar hit him in head, requiring eight stitches.

Having a good sense of humor about it all, Hart hit the nail on the head when he stated that he needs to just report to camp with about a week to go in Spring Training so as to limit his exposure to the perils of Arizona.

Four weeks to the day following knee surgery, Hart was back on the field playing. It’s quite a remarkable recovery in some respects, but Hart worked hard at his rehab to get himself ready.

In the two official games he played this spring, Hart was 3-for-6 with a home run, two RBI and two runs scored. He also ran well in the outfield. Hopefully he can hit the ground running tomorrow afternoon.

Hart did have plenty of highlights in 2011 though.

He tied franchise records with a three-home run, seven-RBI  game against the Washington Nationals. Hart produced five lead-off home runs after moving up the lineup following Rickie Weeks’ ankle injury in July. He put together an 18-game hitting streak which started on August 18th, during a month for which Hart would later earn team Player of the Month honors.

Hart also recorded a pair of home runs in the postseason while batting .244 (10-for-41).

As for 2012, if Hart’s knee remains healthy, I’d like to project a solid year at the plate. And if his conditioning changes are a benefit he’ll increase his value to the team both on the basepaths and in right field.

With the departures of Prince Fielder and Casey McGehee in the off-season, all the talk has been of how the combination of Aramis Ramirez and Mat Gamel will need to be able to make up the lost production. But if Hart adds 20 games to his register this season, hitting in the fifth spot in the order and coming through in RBI situations, that will combine into those offensive totals and significantly affect the outcome of several games.

But it all finally starts tomorrow at Miller Park.

We’ll see you there if you’re going, and we’ll see 25 of the men who were previewed and reviewed throughout the weeks leading up to tomorrow.

I’ve had a fun ride with this series and hope that you learned something along the way.

Thanks so much for reading and stay tuned all season as the articles and analysis will be here.

Batted .285 with 26 HR and 63 RBI in 130 games…..made 123 starts, all in right field…Established a career high in walks (51)…Committed only 2 errors the entire season for the second consecutive season…Missed the first 22 games of the season after suffering a left oblique strain in spring training….. was on the 15-day disabled list from 3/30-4/25, retroactive to 3/22…Appeared in 5 games at Triple-A Nashville from 4/19-4/25 during a rehab assignment…Batted .324 (69-for-214, 13hr, 32rbi) over his last 53 games of the season, raising his overall batting average from .255 to .285…Batted leadoff in his last 62 starts (77-for-256, .301, 15hr, 36rbi)…..had previously not started a game in that spot in the order since 7/22/09 at Pittsburgh…Hit 5 leadoff home runs: 7/19 at Arizona, 7/30 vs. Houston, 8/3 vs. St. Louis, 8/22 at Pittsburgh and 8/31 vs. St. Louis…..now has 7 career leadoff homers…Produced 3 HR and 7 RBI on 5/23 vs. Washington, tying franchise records…..the 3 HR marked his first homers of the season (22nd game)…..became the 10th player (15 times) in franchise history to hit 3 HR in a game…..joined Ted Kubiak (1970), Jose Hernandez (2001), Richie Sexson (2002) and Damian Miller (2007) as the only Brewers with 7 RBI in a game…Tied his career high (3x) with 4 hits on 7/30 vs. Houston, including a leadoff homer in the 6-2 victory…Was named Brewers Player of the Month for August (.321, 8hr, 17rbi)…Recorded a season-high 18-game hitting streak from 8/18-9/6, batting .359 (28-for-78) with 5 HR and 9 RBI…Batted .244 (10-for-41) with 2 HR and 5 RBI in 10 games during the postseason.

 

http://brewernation.mlblogs.com/2010/01/30/ya-gotta-have-hart-right-but-does-milwaukee-need-him/

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers: #2 Nyjer Morgan

How many times in your life have you said that the quantity of something is “just a couple”? Too many to count?

A lot of people use “couple” to mean any relatively small quantity. It’s noon and the late football game starts at 3:15. How long until the game? “A couple of hours.”

I’m driving eastbound on I 94 toward Miller Park and am at mile marker 301. My exit is Exit 305B. How far away is it? “A couple of miles.”

In reality, “a couple” is two. No more, no less.

If you expect the Brewers to win a couple of games this weekend, you expect them to win two of three in the weekend series against the Cardinals.

It is with that in mind that I am so happy to say…

We’re a couple of day away from Opening Day!!

That’s it, that’s all! Two short days.

It is also with that number in mind that I present to you today’s profile on the man once thought to only have a couple of personalities (though we now know better, don’t we?):

Nyjer Morgan

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The many personalities which were on display at various times for Nyjer Jamid Morgan each have their own personality traits.

Tony Plush is the on-field entertainer which fans see the majority of days on the baseball field. Tony Hush was developed when Morgan needed to stay quiet to the media for a stretch after Tony Plush got Morgan into some verbal hot water. Tony Tombstone was credited for Morgan’s cowboy getup on the plane between Houston and St. Louis during a team dress up flight. Antonio Picante (or Tony Hots) is Morgan’s alter ego for his fans of Hispanic descent.

There are more (more than a couple more), but you get the idea.

What they all boiled down to in the end was a player who not only put smiles on the faces of fans throughout Brewer Nation, but also frustrated grimaces on those faces of his opponents.

More importantly, though, is that Morgan et al put numbers in the scorebooks and runs on the board.

Hitting primarily from the number two spot in the order and as part of a strict platoon with Carlos Gomez (Morgan started against right-handed pitchers and Gomez against lefties), Morgan ended up making 90 starts for the Brewers, playing in 119 games total, during the 2011 season. That’s despite the aforementioned platoon and two stints on the disabled list.

The first trip to the DL (4/18-5/2) was due to a right quadriceps (thigh muscle) contusion suffered when running into Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit on a play at the plate. The second injury cost him 21 days (5/6-5/21) as was caused when he tried to bunt a ball which struck his left middle finger, fracturing it.

Still, Morgan posted a season line of .304/.357/.421, 378 AB, 61 R, 115 H, 20 doubles, 6 triples, 4 HR, 37 RBI, 19 walks, 70 K and 13 steals (caught 4 times).

Those numbers were very solid for Morgan despite fluctuations from previous years in his steals (though you tend not to steal in front of Ryan Braun) and walk rate. Still, Morgan’s extrapolated numbers would’ve been some of the best of his career in multiple categories.

That was in large part to manager Ron Roenicke’s dedication to that centerfield platoon with Gomez. Morgan has never been able to hit left-handed pitching with any kind of success, let alone consistency. It made more sense to limit the exposure of Morgan’s main weakness while allowing Gomez’ superior defense to get some irregular but predetermined playing time.

Morgan responded again and again throughout the year, culminating with a couple of walk-off hits that might cement his place in on-field moments in Brewers history including his RBI single which scored his platoon partner Gomez from second base and sent the Brewers to their first League Champion Series in nearly 30 years.

Off the field, Morgan had a number of iconic moments as well in 2011.

From prematurely ending interviews to simply taking some of them over. From “Throwin’ up the T” to popularizing the team’s “beast mode” celebration. From jaw-jacking with Giants fans in his hometown of San Francisco, to calling out players on Twitter. From his “Usain Bolt” in the dugout to his keen sense of when and where the camera was on him. From being a “Jungle Correspondent” for the Jim Rome television show to heeding a fan’s advice when told to “go fly a kite” on a windy off day.

The list goes on and on.

He’s spawned t-shirts and websites and even taken to social media in a successful attempt to interact with fans. He’s got a rabid following here in Milwaukee and his hardnosed, gritty style of play has won over the Miller Park faithful while at the same time annoying the heck out of fans on the road all over the country.

But it almost never happened.

Spring Training 2011 was going along smoothly and everything seemed to be falling into place with the team. The roster was coming into focus and it appeared that the outfield depth chart was basically finalized with Jeremy Reed and Brandon Boggs getting the final two spots.

Then Doug Melvin talked on the phone.

On that phone call, the Brewers general manager traded minor league position player Cutter Dykstra and some cash to the Washington Nationals in exchange for the enigmatic and (by some accounts) apparent bad seed, Morgan.

The deal was made official on March 27, 2011 but the legend that is T-Plush didn’t begin immediately. He was subject to numerous naysayers and doubters who thought his “thuggish” attitude and caricature antics would be an unnecessary distraction and point of contention in the Brewers tight-knit clubhouse.

Not knowing how to react to this group of men to whom Morgan was presented following the trade, he infamously recalled later that he just said “What’s up, f******?” to the group and any possible tension was alleviated.

After all, Morgan said, he decided that if he was going to fit in, he’d have to do it as himself and not as something he wasn’t.

Good call, Mr. Plush.

As for 2012? It appears that things will begin much how they ended.

Morgan won’t start on Opening Day since the St. Louis Cardinals are throwing left-hander Jaime Garcia that day, though we can probably expect a pinch-hitting appearance on Friday should a situation call for one. Morgan should start the final two games of the series against righties Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn though.

Assuming Morgan can stay healthy, and Roenicke sticks to his platooning ways, Morgan still has the chance to post the best numbers of his career in 2012.

The main difference between this year and last, however, is that if he should fall into a Casey-McGehee-like slump, there are other options that can start and would probably perform capably in the role.

Import Nori Aoki is a centerfielder by trade and top prospect Logan Schafer will be staying ready as the starting centerfielder with the Triple-A Nashville Sounds. Both Aoki and Schafer hit left-handed, and can fly around from gap to gap.

And then there’s always the toolsy Gomez who could perhaps finally put it all together at the plate at some point.

But the role of primary centerfielder belongs to Morgan for now. And if 2011 proves to be any indication of what we can expect in 2012, it’ll remain Morgan’s job during and into another playoff run.

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers: #5 Taylor Green

This coming Friday is Opening Day.

Let that sink in.

In five excruciatingly long days, the teams will be lining up, coach by coach, player by player along the third and first base lines.

One player that won’t be joining the team on Opening Day this year is third baseman:

Taylor Green.

2011 was a banner year for Taylor William Andrew Green.

He began the year in the minors where he hit a total of .336/.412/.580, 431 AB, 76 R, 145 H, 37 doubles, 1 triple, 22 HR, 91 RBI, 55 BB, 75 K. He even stole a base in his only attempt.

Those numbers, and the fact that he played third base where Casey McGehee was struggling mightily all year, led to an outcry of “Free Taylor Green” epithets throughout Brewer Nation. Clearly, we opined, this was a guy that could be helping us. Why was he stuck at Triple-A?

The shouts would be answered eventually, though not soon enough nor completely enough to satisfy the masses.

Green ended the year as a member of the Brewers after getting called up and subsequently making his debut on August 31st. He got a hit in his first three Major League at-bats, and played well enough in September to be included as a member of the 25-man playoff roster, appearing in three post-season games.

It was a nice way to finish the year, from a career progression standpoint.

This off-season, the Brewers lost a few backups from the big league bench and there was thought that perhaps Green would break camp with the Brewers this spring. After all, McGehee hadn’t performed and both Craig Counsell (retirement) and Jerry Hairston, Jr. (free agency) were gone from the team.

Such would not prove to be the case.

The Brewers did end up trading McGehee away to Pittsburgh, but they immediately replaced him with Aramis Ramirez and then brought in extra competition for the bench. Both Cesar Izturis and Brooks Conrad can play third as well as second, two positions which Green primarily played in the minors during 2011. Conrad can also play first base and he is a switch-hitter, which proved to be a bit too much for Green to overcome.

Also working against Green was the fact that he’s still a youngish prospect-type and having him play everyday at Nashville (the Brewers Triple-A affiliate) is more beneficial to him than riding the bench in Milwaukee and only getting the occasional spot start.

Regardless, Green is still very much a part of the Brewers future plans. Conrad is older and may prove ineffective once the season rolls along, and it’s inevitable that someone will get injured during the season. So long as it’s not a shortstop type who goes down, Green is the likely recipient of any available playing time that comes up at the Major League level.

For now, however, Green must head to Nashville and do his best to repeat his 2011 season.

If he can do that, he’ll make a lot of front office types happy, a lot of fans upset he’s in Triple-A, and will be back up in Milwaukee sooner than later.

For all the things that could repeat themselves, that wouldn’t be the worst thing.

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers: #14 Brooks Conrad

Two weeks. 14 days.

So close and yet so far away.

But it is where we sit today and it is therefore which jersey number we profile.

But it is a newcomer who wears the number 14 this year; a veteran of parts of four big league seasons in camp on a minor-league deal after being dismissed by his previous organization.

He is a defender of several positions but a master of none:

Brooks Conrad.

The Milwaukee Brewers signed Brooks Litchfield Conrad, a 5’10”, 190 pound, switch-hitter who played collegiately at Arizona State, to compete for one of the openings on the Major League bench backing up in the infield.

Conrad, 32, is capable of standing at first base, second base and third base while wearing a glove on his left hand (I’m talking about fielding because he usually foregoes batting gloves), but he doesn’t play very good defense.

The most glaring example of that came in a playoff games while playing for the Atlanta Braves in 2010. He had three errors in the same game. If you don’t know what I’m referring to, look it up.

Ironically, his defensive versatility is an asset in his chances to make the club out of Spring Training as a non-roster invitee. While he wouldn’t be the primary choice to back up anywhere but first, and he absolutely cannot play shortstop, he’s able to be inserted into multiple situations and the occasional double-switch might have his name called as the insertion.

If Conrad makes the team though, it will be because of his bat. While not a world-beater by any stretch of the imagination, he is a switch-hitter which means that he has extra value as a pinch-hitter.

Conrad’s splits last year look like this…

Against a LHP as a RHH: .292/.393/.500 which comes from 7 hits, 2 doubles, 1 home run, 4 walks and 11 strikeouts in 24 at-bats.

Against a RHP as a LHH: .203/.304/.354 which is from 16 hits, 3 doubles, 3 home runs, 11 walks and 30 strikeouts in 79 at-bats.

Those statistics were accrued over the course of 92 games (12 starts). His final slash-line for 2011 is: .223/.325/.388.

All that aside, I never thought that Conrad had much chance to make the 25-man roster out of Spring Training when his signing was first announced. I felt that they already had a better, younger version of him on the 25-man roster from last year in Taylor Green.

Green plays better defense at the same positions, though only hits from the left side of the plate. Conrad has put together a more impressive Cactus League performance than has Green, but I figured that Conrad was a prime candidate to begin the year at Triple-A Nashville and be the first call up if they needed a different look off the bench or should someone get injured.

The other side of the argument though is that keeping Conrad and optioning Green down to Triple-A allows Green to play every day instead of having to adjust to being on the bench for the majority of his games.

Conrad has had some limited success in doing that job before whereas Green struggled once the moss started to gather during September after his 2011 promotion to Milwaukee.

If you go the other direction with it, and Conrad struggles, to get him to the minors takes a outrighting (assuming nobody claimed him off waivers first), one which I’d guess Conrad could refuse to become a free agent should he so desire.

Conrad though is making his case to be a part of the team, just like his numeric predecessor successfully did a few seasons ago.

Perhaps the best vote of confidence for Conrad came just the other day from manager Ron Roenicke. Though making it clear that nothing is set in stone yet, Roenicke said that “when you look at the needs and what we have on our bench” he felt Conrad looked like a fit. Conrad even took a few lessons behind the dish from Brewers bullpen catcher Marcus Hanel in an effort to increase his stock.

First, second, third and emergency catcher with a decent stick at times and okay defense on the routine, all while fighting for a job and perhaps winning it with a solid Spring Training?

Yeah, he certainly seems like a fit to me as well…at least in wearing that #14 which last year belonged to  another man who fit all of the above descriptions: Casey McGehee.

Then again, it’s certainly a much better idea to have all that coming off the bench then starting at third base for 100+ games. After all, McGehee had more than one pinch-hit home run late in a ballgame during his time with the Brewers.

We can only hope that Conrad provides similar fireworks a little bit more often during his.

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers: #16 Aramis Ramirez

We’re just over two weeks away from Opening Day.

Despite being a first-year Milwaukee Brewer, today’s subject is well-known to Brewers fans already by virtue of having spent his entire career in the National League Central.

The 33-year-old’s career began with the Pittsburgh Pirates the same year that the Brewers made the move to the senior circuit from the American League. That was 1998, of course.

Also, of course, the person that I’m talking about is:

Aramis Ramirez.

Coming to Milwaukee from Pittsburgh by way of Chicago for parts of nine seasons, Aramis Nin Ramirez was brought in to do two things. Both of those things are offense-related.

Before we get into that, I wanted to relate a quick story.

So many of these players are simply assigned a number when they’re first called up to the big leagues. They become a part of their identity, but they aren’t always their own choosing.

Ramirez is different.

When he came to Milwaukee the number he had worn his entire career (#16) was owned by backup catcher George Kottaras.

Former all-stars usually get what they want when pitted against a backup catcher, but this wasn’t a simple exchange of something for a number. Ramirez wanted to wear 16 not simply because he always had.

Instead, Ramirez first wore 16 when he joined the Pittsburgh Pirates at the behest of his father. Mr. Ramirez never told his son why he wanted him to wear the number, and unfortunately passed away a few years ago.

But the ballplayer honored his father’s request and continues to do so to this day.

No matter what you may think of the stories of Ramirez’ lackadaisical attitude or perceived laziness at times on the diamond…

That’s a pretty cool reason to prefer a number. Kudos to Mr. Kottaras for not standing in the way of Mr. Ramirez or his son.

Anyway, it’s no secret that Ramirez is an average-on-his-best-days defender at this stage of his career. He doesn’t have great range, even for the hot corner, and his while his throwing arm is still plenty strong enough, his throwing accuracy is at times found to be wanting.

Despite popular belief to the contrary, the starting third baseman last year wasn’t bad defensively. Casey McGehee had solid footwork, accuracy and got to his share of balls. Ramirez should handle the routine play fine, but it is likely that there will be plays this year which Ramirez won’t make that Brewers fans will be wondering “why not?” because last year they’d have been converted into outs.

And defensively, the most important thing you can do is to convert outs into outs.

That brings us back to the plate which is where Ramirez will look to earn the $36 million guaranteed over the life of the contract which he signed with Milwaukee this past December.

Ramirez is a notoriously slow starter at the plate, and he contributes a good portion of that to the weather he dealt with while playing his home games outside in the usually cold Aprils at Wrigley Field these last several years.

Hopefully the climate controlled environment of Miller Park will help to alleviate some of that and Ramirez will start off like he tends to finish seasons.

Regardless of his start, he stands to finish much better than Brewers third basemen did at the plate last year.

McGehee in 2011: 155 G, 546 AB, 46 R, 122 H, 24 doubles, 13 HR, 67 RBI, 45 BB, 104 K, .223/.280/.346, .626 OPS

Ramirez in 2011: 149 G, 565 AB, 80 R, 173 H, 35 doubles, 26 HR, 93 RBI, 43 BB, 69 K, .306/.361/.510, .871 OPS

Now, for the record, I fully believe that 2012 McGehee will also outperform 2011 McGehee, but I don’t think he’ll reach the numbers Ramirez has averaged over the course of this career.

But that’s how Ramirez compares to third base. McGehee batted fifth or lower in the lineup for manager Ron Roenicke last year. I mention that because the other thing Ramirez was brought here to do was to fill the cleanup spot in the lineup vacated by the departed Prince Fielder.

There are many analytical types who will tell you that lineup protection is a myth and that there is absolutely nothing that has been able to quantify the effect one player hitting behind another has on that first player.

Much the same, there are many baseball people who continually bring it up as a matter of fact.

Regardless to which side of that fence you’re on, it can be argued that a superstar player finds himself pitched around in certain situations when there isn’t somebody behind him that can make the opposing team pay for that tactic.

Let me put it this way, when Roenicke, principal owner Mark Attanasio and general manager Doug Melvin met this off-season to discuss Roenicke’s wants, several positions were presented as needs by Melvin.

Roenicke’s simple response: “Cleanup hitter.”

He didn’t know which position on the diamond that would necessarily come from at that point, but Roenicke was clear in his desire for someone to bat in the lineup behind Ryan Braun. There’s something to that.

I offer now a profile that was written by my Brewer Nation Podcast co-host, Cary Kostka.

This was originally posted at his Sport Profiles blog: http://sportprofiles.wordpress.com.

Career to Date

Aramis Ramirez, born on June 25th, 1978 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates on November 7, 1994 and made his major league debut on May 26th, 1998 with the Pirates. He was traded to the Chicago Cubs (with Kenny Lofton) on July 23rd, 2003, where he remained until he opted out of his contract with the Cubs and signed a three year, $36 million deal with the Milwaukee Brewers in December 2011.

Ramirez played in his first full season in 2001, finishing with a .300 BAV, 34 HR, 112 RBI. Over his major league career (6 years with the Pirates, 9 years with the Cubs) Ramirez has averaged .284-30-108. Ramirez was an All-Star in 2005 and 2008 and won the N.L. Silver Slugger award at third base in 2011. He has only once finished in the top 10 for MVP voting (2004) despite have 6-100 RBI seasons, 4-30 home run seasons, and 9-20 home run seasons. Although healthy for most of his career, Ramirez missed a large portion of the 2009 due to a dislocated shoulder suffered against his current team (Brewers) on May 8th. He has also suffered a number of calf and hamstring injuries that has led to him only being able to play 140 games twice since 2006, and only once (2011) since 2008.

At The Plate

Ramirez had a TPR (total player rating) of 77.2 in the hitting department during the 2011 campaign. As the numbers above show, he can flat out rake when at the plate.

Ramirez’s’ batting stance allows him to generate power by moving his back hip into the pitch. When he swings, his hips rotate ahead of his hands to give strength to his core muscles, increasing bat speed. The back shoulder rotates with the back leg and hips which increases the leverage of his swing.

He is able to keep his swing short by keeping his front knee bent forward when his back toes comes down, then straightening the front knee as he moves closer to the contact point of the bat with the incoming pitch. This has the added effect of increased bat control, allowing him to easily adjust in mid swing.

Base Running/Speed

Ramirez’s running TPR comes in at -12.2. He has below average speed and is not a base stealing or base running threat when he is out there. He is not very aggressive on the base paths, which while minimizing base running mistakes has drawn some frustration of both the organizations he has played for and the hometown fans when he fails to take an easy extra base.

Fielding

Defense is definitely Ramirez’s weak point, checking in with a fielding TPR of -35.2. As his career has progressed the number of mental mistakes he makes on the field have come down to almost zero which has improved his defense overall, according to the SABR zone rating. His biggest asset on the field is his arm; it is both strong and accurate.

He has an overall lack of range and seems out of position at times. The lack of range has led to speculation that the Brewers, should Mat Gamel fail at first and Taylor Green show he is ready for third, would entertain shifting Ramirez to first. The cause for Ramirez to appear of position could be more of a coaching/managerial call than Ramirez himself. I feel this will be proven this season, as Brewers skipper Ron Roenicke loves positioning his fielders to give them better chances of being successful with the glove.

Concerns

Early in his career Ramirez was seen as being a lazy, immature player but has worked his way towards shedding those early career observations, becoming a more humble, but competitive player. While he is not a gym rat, he has put forth more effort in recent years as he struggled with a number of injuries since 2008. The only incident I could find was a dugout fight with Cubs teammate Carlos Silva, during a spring training game on March 2nd, 2011 after Silva started blaming his teammates for their lack of defense.

As mentioned earlier, Ramirez has only once appeared in 140 games since 2008, making his recent injury history concern #1 for not only himself, but for his new team, Brewers fans, and fantasy baseball players.

Community

Most of Aramis Ramirez’s community works comes as a part of MLB-DDA (MLB Dominican Development Alliance) and USAID (United States Agency for International Development), which provides and supports for a number of programs, including “The Bank Of Hope”, “There Is Power In Learning”, Hope and Life”, and “Spaces To Grow”.

Baseball Outlook

Ramirez’s hitting method should allow him to remain a productive hitter into his 40’s, with an expected slow slippage of power. His defense at 3B will eventually make it necessary for him to move to first, or will send him to the A.L. as a DH. He will continue to be an above average player if he stays healthy.

Bottom line for Ramirez in 2012 is that he’ll hit cleanup, man the hot corner, and hopefully drive in plenty of runs.

The Brewers need his bat to perform to successfully defend their National League Central Division championship.

After spending his entire 14-year career in that same division, Ramirez has only been a part of three such teams (all with Chicago in 2003, 2007, 2008) but without a World Series appearance to show for it, let alone a ring.

He wants that chance and the Milwaukee Brewers would be more than happy to give it to him.

Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers: #24 Mat Gamel

Welcome back. Today begins a stretch of five consecutive days with new profiles for your reading pleasure. That streak will end courtesy of the greatest Milwaukee Brewer of all time, #19 Robin Yount.

Today, however, we’re at 24 in our countdown to Opening Day 2012.

The man who wears 24 is trying to make his first ever career Major League Opening Day 25-man roster at the age of 26.

He is the likely starting first baseman:

Mat Gamel.

Mathew Lawrence Gamel has been waiting for the day when he’d break camp and head north with the Brewers for years.

Originally drafted in the 4th round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, Gamel has been as highly-touted as anyone not named Ryan Braun or Prince Fielder as far as potential and tools and the ability to make an impact at the Major League Level.

This hasn’t happened yet for Gamel for a variety of reasons.

First of all is the fact that Gamel has been blocked a bit by players at third base during his time in the organization. First was when Ryan Braun was drafted and kept at the hot corner initially, but then afterward when the team acquired Casey McGehee.

In part because of Gamel’s inability to throw consistently enough while at third, and partly as a hedge against the likelihood of Prince Fielder’s foray into free agency, Gamel switched positions while at Triple-A Nashville.

While still only occasionally playing third base, especially when McGehee was virtually useless on offense throughout the majority of the 2011 season, Gamel focused on learning first base.

He’s done well enough by most accounts at learning the fundamentals, and despite his early assertions that he didn’t like the position when the change was first made, Gamel now seems to like it fine.

Still, many fans would continually bemoan Fielder’s departure and bring up names of veterans at the position who the Brewers should bring in to man the position instead until perhaps a Hunter Morris or Nick Ramirez (first baseman prospects in the Brewers minor leagues) would be ready for the job. They didn’t seem content to let the to-this-point-underwhelming Gamel try to fill some of the offensive void created.

I’ve been on record all off-season as saying that Gamel needs to get a legitimate chance at first base and it’s encouraging to see that all signs point to Ron Roenicke giving him that opportunity. It wouldn’t be enough to platoon him right away or have him be a bat off the bench. I’ve long been of the opinion that Gamel’s best (and perhaps only) chance to succeed at the big league level is to give him both a job and the consistent at-bats that come along with it.

The team seemed ready to do just that, but Gamel was unable to stay healthy. That brings me to my other point.

The reason that I chose to lead with the words that Gamel “has been waiting” to make an Opening Day roster is because up until this season it never seemed like Gamel was trying to make an Opening Day roster. It’s like he just figured that his natural ability would be enough to get him to The Show.

While it has gotten him there a couple of times as a short-term fill-in during Interleague play, it’s never been enough on its own to keep him in Milwaukee or even to perform well while he was up.

Gamel has torn up minor league hitting long enough that he should have been in Milwaukee sooner but his health and questionable conditioning, drive and determination have let him down and caused him to fall short of his goals. If you read the Manny Parra profile two days ago, you’ll know that sometimes those things are a necessity to succeed. Parra has demonstrated them for years. Gamel, not so much through the 2011 season.

In fact, it got to the point where despite his very good offensive season at Triple-A, Gamel was publicly blasted by Brewers minor league coach Don Money in comments to members of the media. Many fans have used that as fodder for tearing Gamel’s chances down.

Gamel used that as fodder for getting his ass in gear.

One of the most exciting moments of the spring was when we began to hear that Gamel had finally gotten the message that he needed to put in that extra work. He said he was in the “best shape of his life” and while that’s a cliché amongst sportswriters, it truly seemed to true in Gamel’s case.

He dropped some unnecessary weight by hiring a personal trainer for the first time. He worked hard to avoid the nagging and, quite frankly, annoying injuries of years past. He admitted that he hadn’t come to camp before in good enough shape to win a job. Muscle pulls and the like haven’t hampered Gamel at all this year.

Gamel has finally had a healthy Spring Training and the results of being up to speed on offense and in the field have begun to show themselves. He had a stretch recently where he hit a home run in three consecutive games, after the second of which Roenicke stated that he absolutely thinks that Gamel is capable of hitting 20+ home runs during the 2012 season.

It’s a far cry from Money’s comments last September.

As someone who has always believed in Gamel, perhaps I’m invested in his personal success more than most. Some only care about the Wins and Losses and don’t care how they are achieved. That’s fine, but that’s not me. I pay attention to the individual performances, trends, etc. That’s probably mostly caused by of my line of work, but so be it.

The bottom line is that I truly believe he’s capable of helping this team win, which is the most important thing after all.

You can follow Mat and his wife Julianne on Twitter: @JMGamel

Milwaukee Brewers 25-Man Roster Comes Into Focus…For Now

By: Big Rygg 

After a flurry of moves today the 25-man roster heading north with the parent club has become as clear as it’s been all spring. Justin James and Mike McClendon were optioned to the minor leagues and once GM Doug Melvin traded minor leaguer Cutter Dykstra for OF Nyjer Morgan, Brandon Boggs was placed on waivers.

teamhuddle.jpg

When those moves were completed, there were 27 players officially left in Major League camp though two of them (Jonathan Lucroy and Corey Hart) are expected to be officially placed on the DL shortly.
As for the current 25-man roster, it’ll break down like this:
Four (4) Starting Pitchers
  • Yovani Gallardo
  • Shaun Marcum
  • Randy Wolf
  • Chris Narveson
Eight (8) Relief Pitchers
  • John Axford
  • Takashi Saito
  • Kameron Loe
  • Sean Green
  • Zach Braddock
  • Mitch Stetter
  • Sergio Mitre
  • Brandon Kintzler
Two (2) Catchers
  • George Kottaras
  • Wil Nieves
Six (6) Infielders
  • 1B – Prince Fielder
  • 2B – Rickie Weeks
  • SS – Yuniesky Betancourt
  • 3B – Casey McGehee
  • Bench – Craig Counsell
  • Bench – Erick Almonte
Five (5) Outfielders
  • LF – Ryan Braun
  • CF – Carlos Gomez
  • RF – Mark Kotsay
  • Bench – Jeremy Reed
  • Bench – Nyjer Morgan
Now, obviously things will change throughout April quite a bit. Five expected roster members will be starting the season on the 15-day Disabled List. These are pitchers Zack Greinke, Manny Parra and LaTroy Hawkins, catcher Jonathan Lucroy, and right-fielder Corey Hart.
All of the DL placements will be retroactive to March 22nd (the earliest date allowed by league rule) which means that the men on it to start the year will be eligible to come back to the active roster as of April 6th. Not everyone will be ready by then, but two or more might be.
When Lucroy returns, one of the other catchers will be removed from the roster. Kottaras and Nieves are both out of options and, in reality, Lucroy’s injury is simply delaying the inevitable for one of them. With Martin Maldonado and Mike Rivera set to share the catching duties at Triple-A Nashville, one has to wonder whether the person Lucroy pushes out will even choose to remain with the organization should he clear waivers.
Hart’s situation is much the same though it seems much more clear who loses their job when he returns. Spring Training non-roster invitee Jeremy Reed made the club based on his performance over these past few weeks, but with the Brewers having recently traded for the younger, more talented, team-controlled (contract-wise) Nyjer Morgan, it appears fairly obvious that, barring injury, Reed will be the odd man out when Hart is deemed ready to go.
As for the pitchers, it’s a bit more muddled. The team is only taking four starters north because they don’t need a fifth one until April 6th. That being said, unless they choose to have recently acquired swingman Sergio Mitre make that first spot start, someone will have to be sent out to make room for the fifth starter. If someone is sent out, it’ll likely be Brandon Kintzler because not only does he have options remaining but they aren’t going to keep eight relief pitchers all year anyway.
If they choose to go with Mitre on the 6th of April, Kintzler will survive a while longer. A fifth starter isn’t need again after that until the 16th.
So if we go down the diverging paths another step, we get to the two relief pitchers, Hawkins and Parra. If Mitre makes the spot start, Kintzler will be optioned down as soon as Hawkins is ready to come back. When Parra is deemed healthy he’ll replace one of the other left-handed pitchers in the bullpen, either Braddock or Stetter. Who is sent down to Nashville due to his return will probably rely a great deal on performance over these first couple of weeks.
Of course the elephant in the room is the eventual return of Zack Greinke. When he is ready to contribute the bullpen shrinks back to seven members. No ifs ands or buts about that. If he’s somehow the first pitcher to return, Kintzler again goes. If he’s second behind Parra it could be Mitre who goes because they’d have their long-man back. If Hawkins is on the roster too it could be an interesting decision to say the least.
But for now the 25-man roster is very clear…for at least a week or so anyway.

What Has Happened to This Team?

By: Big Rygg

It has been a while since I’ve written anything in this space. The reason for that is two-fold.

First, I am the proud parent to a new baby boy (he’s a month old today, as a matter of fact)! Second, the team hasn’t exactly given me much in the way of motivation to sit down and really put forth any concerted effort.

To be fair, in all reality it is the former that has kept me away more than the latter. I can write about my favorite team in the dead of winter when they’re not even playing with no issue. Certainly I have had plenty on my mind during these recent lean days but diapers/bottles/baths/bonding/etc. really chew up my “free” time.

I was going to sit down and write a free-form rant (I even advertised it on my blog’s Twitter account – twitter.com/BrewerNation) but I got busy and calmed down while caring for my little boy that can’t care for himself yet.

That’s kind of a metaphor for the 2010 Milwaukee Brewers so far this year.

I know that the team will tell you that they are maturing and how they don’t want to be seen as the team that other teams love to beat, but if you ask me all they’ve accomplished by toning down their youthful exuberance is rip their own heart out.

They no longer seem to be having fun while playing a fun game. They no longer seem to be enjoying their days at the ballpark which is an enjoyable place. They no longer seem to have that swagger that carried them to a 90-72 record and a post-season playoff berth WAY back in 2008.

Yeah…2008. Remember when CC Sabathia couldn’t be stopped and this team was having fun all summer long? It doesn’t seem that long ago when you think about it outside of sports, but in Major League Baseball so much can change in two short years.

I could list things like that they’ve had three managers since then, or that they’ve burned through four pitching coaches but the main thing that’s changed from 2008 to 2010 isn’t tangible like that.

It’s the fun.

Let me break it down to you this way. They say that a group takes on the personality and characteristics of its leader. But has there ever been a seemingly more mismatched pairing than Ken Macha and the majority of this Brewers roster?

Macha is admittedly old school. Don’t get me wrong, I like a lot about old school baseball. I like (most of) the unwritten rules. I like drilling a guy for showing up the game. I like a good old-fashioned bench-clearing brawl.

The players, and perhaps it’s mostly as a by-product of their median age, is decidedly new school in a lot a ways. The earthquake celebration against San Francisco, Braun and Fielder’s boxing celebration after home runs, the untucking of their jerseys after victories…it all is about having fun.

They never were trying to show anybody up. They were simply trying to enjoy each other and each other’s successes on the field.

But apparently somebody got in the ears of the clubhouse leaders over the off-season and planted a distinctive “knock it off” somewhere in there.

Sure, Braun and Fielder still celebrate home runs and now Fielder and McGehee have even developed a little foot shake routine. And yes, if they were still untucking their jerseys with a 16-26 record, it might seem a touch out of place.

My argument, though, is that once this team stopped having fun this team stopped playing loose. They’ve been uptight, trying to be to too perfect (I’m looking at you, pitching staff) and generally almost seem to be playing scared.

Not that they’re afraid of the ball or anything, but they’ve got “What’s going to go wrong tonight?” syndrome.

When you arrive at the ballpark and expect to lose, you generally lose. I’m not saying that any players have told me that they feel this way, or that I’ve heard any of them say it or even imply it. It’s just my feeling as a very interested observer.

Maybe getting Trevor Hoffman fixed will be the spark that this team needs. It can’t be easy when the innings are getting late and you don’t have at least a four-run lead. Hoffman was so maddeningly inconsistent that you almost had to assume failure and be pleasantly surprised if he came through.

Maybe getting healthy will provide the boost that this team needs. When your Opening Day centerfielder and rightfielder have missed time and 40% of your starting rotation has replaced due to injury or ineffectiveness and your setup man is on the DL and now your starting catcher will miss at least two weeks…

Then again, maybe simply getting a few wins will be the ointment that heals the wounds of so many losses.

If you win, maybe you loosen up. If you loosen up, maybe you win some more. If you win some more, maybe you stay loose and go on a run.

So the question becomes: How do you win to start that chain of probabilities?

My answer to that question sounds simple. In fact, it sounds so simple that one might wonder why it isn’t already happening. It sounds so simple that one might question why it was ever abandoned in the first place.

That answer to the Milwaukee Brewers? Find a way to enjoy the game again.

Untuck those jerseys, watch a few home runs a little too long, pump your fist when you strike out a guy in a key situation on defense, hoot and holler and get the other guy’s dander up, put a target on your back again if you must.

In short…just relax and be yourselves.

You might find out that it’s what’s been missing this whole time.

Quick Hops: Non-Tenders, Counsell, Rumors

By: Big Rygg

Plenty to talk about as I roll out a new title here. When I have several things to discuss and I choose to put them in one post instead of several, it’ll be called “Quick Hops” as I hop from topic to topic. Oh, and if you don’t know, hops are an ingredient in beer…and the team is the Brewers…I hope you’re following me.

Anyway, let’s get to it!

Non-Tender Choices Add Intrigue to Spring Training

The Milwaukee Brewers chose not to tender contracts to injured relief pitcher Mark DiFelice, pitcher Seth McClung and catcher Mike Rivera. This makes the three men free agents, able to sign a contract with any team. Feel free to skip the next two paragraphs if you understand the arbitration system and what the meaning of the non-tender is.

The system that is in place in Major League Baseball allows for a team to “control” a player for six seasons of service time (in the majority of cases). During the first three years of team control (again, in most cases) the team has 100% control over what they pay a player provided that the salary is at least as much as the league-mandated minimum. Typically teams negotiate salaries with players on a year-to-year basis anyway in an effort to involve the player in their money-dealings, but the team has the final say if they and the player cannot reach an accord. If that happens, then the team “renews” the player’s contract at whatever number they deem fair. This can upset players greatly if they feel they outperformed a certain level of pay with their level of play. Prince Fielder is the Brewers’ most recent example of that situation when, after becoming the youngest player in the history of the league to slug 50 home runs in a single season, he felt he was deserving of much more than the contract that he was offered. The two sides couldn’t reach an agreement, so the team renewed Fielder’s contract at a rate that was in line with their team’s pay scale for non-arbitration eligible players.

Being eligible for arbitration is what leads to the non-tendering of contracts if it’s going to happen. When a player becomes eligible for arbitration, salary is no longer completely up to the team. There are a lot of details that I could bore you with, but the basics are that the team and player negotiate to reach a salary for the upcoming year. If the two sides cannot agree on a number by a certain, pre-determined date then they exchange figures. These figures are those that they will submit to a salary arbiter before the season begins. Arbitration hearings are scheduled over a few days in the spring. The team and player can continue to negotiate up to the beginning of the hearing to reach an agreement. If they do, great. The player signs the contract and plays under its terms. If they don’t, a three-member arbitration panel hears the case and chooses one of the figures the sides submitted several weeks prior. (To note: During Doug Melvin’s tenure as General Manager of the Brewers, no player has gone to a hearing.)

Now, the reason that arbitration eligibility can lead to a non-tender is because the contracts a player gets go up in value significantly during arbitration. The jump in salary in the first year of eligibility is often a multi-million dollar one. What’s more, is that arbitration salaries are often influenced simply by service time itself more so than performance. For example, former Brewer J.J. Hardy made around $4MM in 2009. His 2009 season was terrible. It was terrible statistically and it was terrible peripherally. Hardy is not worthy of even the same salary let alone an increase in salary. However, with the system that’s in place, it is an unbelievable rarity that a player’s salary goes lower.

To summarize this entire Hop, allow me to say this: While Mark DiFelice was non-tendered under the rare case where he wasn’t arbitration eligible (he had shoulder surgery which will most likely cost him his entire 2010 season), the increases in salary that McClung and Rivera (who is eligible for arbitration for the first time) stand to receive are more than the Brewers want to pay for those positions for next year. McClung might have been a combination of high-salary/low-performance with the adding of LaTroy Hawkins and needed a spot on the 40-man roster for him, but most likely they could’ve kept McClung anyway with the injury to DiFelice. As for Mike Rivera, the Brewers are finally able to move on from the career backup. Rivera has been a servicable backup backstop during his time with this franchise however he has never been the future at the catcher position. The Brewers knew this when Damian Miller retired and they brought in Jason Kendall for the last two years with Rivera backing him up. Finally, however, the Brewers feel that they have talent at the position in the minor leagues such that they can promote from within and, with a season or two of tutelage at the Major League level, have a home-grown starting catcher for the first time since Mike Matheny.

This should make for a fun battle to watch during Spring Training. The Brewers have two catchers that might be ready to make the jump. Angel Salome has been the most talked about catching prospect in the system for a couple of years now, especially when he put up such gaudy offensive numbers as part of that stacked AA Huntsville club from two seasons ago that included Alcides Escobar, Mat Gamel, Matt LaPorta and others. He was the starting catcher for AAA Nashville last year. The catching prospect that has gotten the most talk lately, howevere, has been Jonathan Lucroy who was the starting catcher for Huntsville in 2009. The consensus seems to be that Lucroy might be more ready for the big leagues now with his better plate discipline and what not, but that Salome’s ceiling might still be higher. The Brewers did also claim George Kottaras on waivers early in the off-season as well, so if both youngsters are unable to show anything in spring training that wins them the job, Kottaras might end up being the defacto big league backup while the kids get some more seasoning down on the farm.

Any way it ends up, it ought to be a fun ride. Stay tuned.

The Craigger Set to Stay Put, Announcement to Come Monday?

Monday is shaping up to be a big day for Doug Melvin’s staff. The reports from Indianapolis at the Winter Meetings this past Monday through Thursday were that free-agent pitcher Randy Wolf would be announced to the media as the Brewers’ latest acquisition this coming Monday after passing his required physical examination.

The Brewers, though, just might have two names to announce on Monday. While free-agent signee LaTroy Hawkins was rumored to be announced this coming Tuesday, veteran infielder and team leader Craig Counsell has reportedly agreed to stay in Milwaukee for what might be the balance of his career.

I couldn’t be happier about this move. Even if Counsell doesn’t duplicate his offensive production from 2009, his ability to play three infield positions very well defensively is a huge asset to this team. With inexperienced (at the major league level) starters at SS and 3B in Escobar and Casey McGehee respectively along with Rickie Weeks one bat waggle away from season-ending surgery, having Counsell to spell all three positions is as invaluable for 2010 as having him has proven to be over the past couple of years as well.

Welcome back, Craigger! The Brewer Nation is glad you never left.

Rumor Burner Stays Warm on Hot Stove

Doug Melvin has made no bones about his desire to add two starting pitchers during this off-season. Signing Randy Wolf to a free agent contract gives him one. Where the second one comes from has been a matter of some opinion.

There are still plenty of free agents on the market to be sure. Given the Brewers’ projected payroll, some of them are out of the team’s price range. However, there are several that can be had for a reasonable rate that have great chances to put up better numbers than most members of the Crew’s 2009 starting rotation. In this realm, names like Doug Davis, Jon Garland, Erik Bedard, Justin Duchscherer, Wisconsin-native Jarrod Washburn and the recently non-tendered Chien-Mien Wang to name a few.

Pulling off a trade is another possibility that is open to Melvin et al. The Brewers still have a handful of trade chips that they can deal to interested teams to get a starting pitcher in return. It’s all about making something work for all teams involved. The biggest rumor that has been floating around since the Winter Meetings is a trade involving the New York Mets which would send Corey Hart to the Big Apple in exchange for John Maine. This makes sense for a couple of different reasons for both teams, but the biggest thing for Milwaukee’s point of view is that it gets us another starting pitcher. It also relieves us of Corey Hart and his waning value. He performed poorly last year but has had recent success and could still have plenty of upside. Maine has worked with new Brewer pitching coach Rick Peterson before when Peterson was in the same role with the Mets. The pairing led to Maine’s best season as a pro so it’s reasonable that it could produce positive results should the two be reunited in Milwaukee.

The Brewers are rumored to be preparing for this possible trade by readying offers to a handful of right fielders. They haven’t offered contracts to any of them yet, of course, because Corey Hart is still on the roster and would start in right field is no move is made. However, I have been told that guys such as Austin Kearns, Xavier Nady and recent 2009 Brewer Frank Catalanotto (who has one of the best batter walkup tunes EVER!). It’ll be interesting to see if the Brewers need to make an offer to one of these players or to another outfielder altogether. Even if they keep Hart, they carried five outfielders for the majority of 2009 and they currently only have four on the 25-man roster in Carlos Gomez, Ryan Braun, Jody Gerut and Hart.

Whether a trade or signing is next on the horizon for this team remains to be seen, but the Hot Stove League shouldn’t cool down for Milwaukee for a bit yet.

Just an FYI here to finish things up, the next Brewer Nation podcast with yours truly and Cary Kostka should be recorded at some point this month, schedules permitting. We’ll definitely keep you posted though here at the blog so come back often and thanks for your continued (or brand new) readership!

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