Reviewing a crazy week for the outfield and bullpen

By Nathan Petrashek (@npetrashek)

It’s been a interesting few days for the Brewers. Injuries to Ryan Braun (oblique), Aramis Ramirez (elbow), and Jean Segura (bat to the face) have left the team shorthanded on the bench, and heavy bullpen use has left it short on relievers, too.

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Mercifully, Martin Maldonado returned from a 5-game suspension on Monday, only to find himself pitching on Wednesday in the final inning of a blowout loss to the Cardinals.  After an abbreviated start from Matt Garza and another three-inning disaster for the seldom-used Wei-Chung Wang, there really weren’t many better options. Most of the high-leverage players had been used the previous two days, and it made no sense to toss them in for mop-up duty. The Wang story has been fun, but instinct tells me it won’t last the year.

Yesterday, the Brewers somewhat addressed their reliever crunch by adding Rob Wooten to the mix, but at the outfield’s expense. Utility man Elian Herrera was optioned to Nashville, leaving Carlos Gomez and Khris Davis as the Brewers’ only true outfielders. Mark Reynolds started in right field in the first game against Cincinnati. If you saw Herrera play right during the Cardinals series, you’ll probably agree he wasn’t missed much.

Wooten, for his part, was a mess yesterday. He inherited a bases-loaded jam from Jim Henderson, who also gave up a go-ahead two-run Great American shot before departing.  Wooten walked the first batter, allowed a two-run single, and hit a batter before recording the final out of the inning.  After the smoke cleared, the Reds had scored five in the frame.

Fortunately, Segura and Ramirez both returned to the lineup yesterday. Ramirez went 0-4, picking up right where he left off, but Segura had a pair of hits and a RBI.  Braun remains out indefinitely, and my strong suspicion is that he will wind up on the DL tomorrow, when Logan Schafer is likely to be activated.

That doesn’t help much for tonight, though, so this afternoon the Brewers placed Henderson on the DL with shoulder inflammation and called up OF Caleb Gindl, who is starting in right tonight. If that seems a little too convenient for you, Disciples of Uecker does note that Henderson was again struggling with his fastball velocity yesterday.

The outfield crunch won’t be entirely solved when Schafer returns, as Gomez’s appeal of his three-game suspension for the Pittsburgh brouhaha remains pending.  Word is that will be heard on or around next Monday (UPDATE: The Brewers say it’s Friday), so don’t expect lineup consistency any time soon.

Matt Erickson Becomes The Winningest Skipper In Timber Rattlers’ History

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by Kevin Kimmes

Cream City Cables would like to send a heartfelt congratulations out to Wisconsin Timber Rattlers’ manager Matt Erickson on the occasion of his 216th win as their skipper. The previous franchise wins mark by a manager (215) was held by former Rattlers’ skipper Gary Thurman who coached the Rattlers from 2000-2002.

Regarding the win, Erickson had this to say in his post-game interview:

“We have a young team and we talk about body language and trying to move onto the next pitch when negative things happen and trying to stay upbeat. I had to lose a lot of games to win 216, so we got a good chuckle out of that. I feel fortunate, obviously, to be in the situation that I’m in. To get to do this in my home town and for the Brewers, a team I grew up watching and got to play for. It’s a neat experience, humbling.”

Kevin Kimmes is a regular contributor to creamcitycables.com and a former MLB Fan Cave Top 52 Finalist. You can follow him on Twitter at @kevinkimmes.

Straight Outta Compton: An Interview With Timber Rattlers’ Speedster Johnny Davis

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by Kevin Kimmes

If I told you there was a player on this year’s Timber Rattlers roster with only one year of baseball experience, could you pick him out? While you might think it would be easy to spot, inexperience showing at the plate or in the field, the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. Meet Johnny Davis.

The Compton, CA native, who’s walkup is the apropos “Straight Outta Compton” by rap legends N.W.A., is a speed demon on the base paths and a hitter’s nightmare in center field. Drawing comparisons to current Brewers’ center fielder Carlos Gomez or the fictional Willie Mays Hayes, Davis was the fastest player in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft according to Baseball America.

Cream City Cables: Prior to 2013 you had never played organized baseball. You played football, you ran track, so what made you decide that baseball was the path you wanted to take?

Johnny Davis: I always knew when I was a kid that I wanted to be a professional athlete and a scout saw me working out baseball with my little brother and told me I could get drafted. So, I thought, might as well do it, might as well get it done.

He told me he wanted to sign me right then and there but by me being in college he couldn’t, he had to wait until the draft. So I went to college, played baseball and got drafted.

CCC: Your speed in the outfield and on the base paths has drawn comparisons to players like Carlos Gomez and the fictional Willy Mays Hayes. As you continue to learn the game, what has been your biggest focus thus far?

JD: My biggest focus is trying to learn to get good jumps, trying not to get picked off by pitchers. Those things are tough, especially when they know I’m running. Sometimes a pitcher will pick at me more times than he’ll throw pitches, so it’s really tough getting a jump, it’s really tough stealing bases. It’s easy for someone who’s an average runner to steal bases, but someone who’s a plus runner it’s very hard to steal bases, very hard.

CCC: From a hitting perspective, early in the season you were trying to kill every ball you saw, but lately we’re seeing more slap hitting from you. What kind of adjustments have you had to make to bring your average up to .300?

JD: Just thinking about knowing my role and putting the ball in play. That’s what I need to do and that’s why I changed my approach and started putting the ball in play.

CCC: From a defensive perspective in the outfield we’ve watched you lay out for some balls that frankly looked like “Top 10 Plays”. What’s your mental approach to playing defense?

JD: Taking base hits from the opponent and helping my pitchers anyway I can. That’s my main focus when I’m on defense. I want the ball hit to be hit to me, I want it to be hit in the gap. I pride myself on my defense and I want to layout for balls and things like that.

CCC: Anything else we should know about Johnny Davis?

JD: Toughest competitor you’ll ever meet…EVER!

Kevin Kimmes is a regular contributor to creamcitycables.com and a former MLB Fan Cave Top 52 Finalist. You can follow him on Twitter at @kevinkimmes.

Thinking of better days (Yovani Gallardo edition)

By Nathan Petrashek (@npetrashek)

yoYovani Gallardo is slated to toe the rubber today in St. Louis.  Gallardo has been nothing short of dazzling so far in 2014 and currently sports a 1.42 ERA over 31.2 innings.  He’s getting a groundball rate of over 50% and has done a spectacular job of keeping the ball in the park.  But the Cardinals, as any Brewers fan knows, present a different kind of challenge.

It’s not worth it to rehash how historically awful Gallardo has pitched against the Cardinals.  Don’t look, it’ll just depress you.  Especially the 2011 NLCS start where he gave up four runs in the first inning.  The Cardinals have pretty much destroyed him.  Let’s just leave it at that.

But we’re not going to dwell on those many, many, many terrible games.  Nope, today we’re thinking only positive thoughts, which brings me to Yovani’s start on May 25, 2009.

At Miller Park, before a crowd of 43,000, Gallardo spun eight shutout innings.  It took 126 pitches, the most Gallado threw in any single game that year, as he walked four batters.  Still, he allowed just two hits and fanned six, amazing considering Gallardo benefited from just nine swinging strikes the entire game.  It’s easy to look at the lineup and note the absence of Matt Holliday and Ryan Ludwick, but Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina were in there, so it wasn’t exactly a AAA squad.

Despite Yo’s brilliant start, the Brewers couldn’t muster even a single run in regulation.  They finally broke it open in the 10th on an RBI single from, of all people, Bill Hall.

It’s Brewers vs. Cardinals in St. Louis tonight at 7:15.  If you’re a Brewers fan, here’s hoping that made you slightly more optimistic.

Nothing happened yesterday

By Nathan Petrashek (@npetrashek)

Well, yesterday was pretty ho-hum around Milwaukee.  I mean, pretty much nothing of any significance at all happened, so I don’t know what all the fuss is about.

It’s not like suspensions from the Easter massacre were announced.  Martin Maldonado didn’t receive a five-game suspension and begin serving it immediately.  Carlos Gomez wasn’t slapped with three games pending his appeal.  On the Pirates side, it wasn’t two games for Travis Snider and one game for Russell Martin.  And Gerritt Cole, who instigated the fracas, didn’t get anything.  Wait a minute …

As for Johnny Hellweg, he’s going to be fine.  Sure, the Brewers’ number four prospect (Baseball America) has a torn ulnar collateral ligament, but who doesn’t now days?  I’m sure the second opinion he’s getting from noted Tommy John doc James Andrews will show he’ll be good as new with rest and Advil.

And the Brewers certainly didn’t play an extra-innings affair which they lost to the Padres, 2-1, in the 12th.  Hopefully tonight a stymied Brewers offense will be among other stuff that doesn’t happen.  It’s Kyle Lohse versus Tyson Ross at 7:10.

 

Podcast: Season 1, Episode 2

By Nathan Petrashek (@npetrashek)

Jason KendallEpisode 2 of the Cream City Cables podcast is now available! You can listen to it on this page or download using the links below.  It’s the only podcast I know of in which you’re likely to hear the names Angel Salome, Gregg Zaun, and Jason Kendall!  But we’re not just talking catchers of ages past, we’re also covering the Brewers hot start, the shutdown bullpen, and we’re previewing the remaining April schedule.  That and much, much more!

As always, we’re interested in any feedback you have, so find Ryan and I on Twitter at @ryanhenrysmith2 and @npetrashek, respectively.

NOTE: This podcast was recorded late last week.

S01E02 Podcast

Matt Erickson Post-Game Interview 4/19/2014

by Kevin Kimmes

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Cream City Cables: So, after dropping a close one last night…

Matt Erickson: The last two nights…

CCC: …you guys come back and put together a pretty nice win today. What were the keys to the game to get that win for you?

ME: Before the game we talked as a group, the position players, about how we haven’t been very good with runners in scoring position. We’ve done a nice job in setting the table and getting some of our leadoff guys on and creating some havoc on the bases, but just chasing out of the zone and trying to do a bit too much with runners in scoring position. Today we got a couple big knocks, the biggest one coming to mind being (Jose) Pena’s 2 out, 2 RBI single.

That was nice to see, but more importantly than that I think up and down the line we had 17 two strike at bats today. We put the ball in play on 15 of them and only struck out 2 times. When you can do that with the type of speed we have throughout our lineup, we can put some pressure on them.

CCC: Speaking of speed, let’s talk a little bit about Johnny Davis. We’re seeing it both on offense and on defense right now. He’s laying out for stuff in center field and he’s stealing bags for you on the base paths.

ME: Yeah, it’s fun to see him grow up. As far as a baseball player, he’s obviously a special talent when it comes to movement. He can fly and he’s learning the game day by day. There’s so much for him to learn that he doesn’t know, and he’ll tell you that himself. What’s fun about him is his passion to learn and to play and compete and when you have a guy like that’s willing to do those things, he can get better in a hurry and he can make some plays. Like you said, he not only creates some scoring opportunities with his feet on offense, but he also takes away runs on defense.

CCC: Today, we watched him get into the pitcher’s head, kind of shifting back and forth on 2nd. It has got to be outstanding knowing that you have that extra weapon there messing up the pitcher a little bit.

ME: Yeah, and it’s not just him. (Francisco) Castillo can run a little bit, (Chris) McFarland at the top of the lineup, (Omar) Garcia can run a little bit and some of our bigger guys. You know (Clint) Coulter and (David) Denson are looking to take extra bases. So, when it comes to Johnny he’s just, well I haven’t seen anybody quite that fast in a T-Rat uniform and he’s getting some decent swings.

I like his approach at the plate, he’s understanding who he is, not taking really big swings anymore, and if he does, he’s making the adjustment quicker and today he had some nice swings. You know, he brings them in with his short game and then he slaps the ball around hitting a line drive to the hole to left field. If he can do that consistantly, he’s going to be tough to deal with.

CCC: Switching over to the pitching for today, Harvey Martin had two really nice innings to end out the game for you. He had 4 strike outs. You’ve got to be happy with what you saw out there today.

ME: Yeah, he’s going to get more stop gap opportunities. Alvin and I were talking about how we need to get him, he’s got a little experience in this league, and he’s one of the nicest kids you’ll ever meet, but he’s got a little attitude to him when he steps on the mound, and it’s fun, another competitor and you can’t teach that stuff. Some of those things are inside people and he wants to compete, he wants the ball every day and he seems to have the arm to do that.

When you are running tandems and you’ve got developmental stuff, that’s usually not the case, but he’s a guy we’re not afraid to give the ball to in that situation.

CCC: With the off day tomorrow, you guys move on to Burlington starting on Monday, any adjustments you will be looking to make to the lineups heading into that series?

ME: No, not really. I like the lineup we threw out there today, some speed at the top and some of our thumpers in middle and then we have a little speed at the bottom of the lineup. As far as the lineup is conserned, we’ll mix them all in, nobody’s going to rot away on the bench here, everybody’s going to get an opportunity and whoever is performing is going to get a bit more opportunity.

Kevin Kimmes is a regular contributor to creamcitycables.com and a former MLB Fan Cave Top 52 Finalist. You can follow him on Twitter at @kevinkimmes.