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7492
MDR Blog - 5/22
05-22-2015
07:55 AM ET (US)
A week or so into the season, or even the last time the White Sox and Twins met, a matchup between the teams wouldn’t get too many people very excited.

Things have changed. This weekend’s series in Chicago pits two teams that have played much better in recent weeks. That’s why the MDR Blog is coming out on Friday, to advance the three games.

First, let’s get the pitching details out of the way. Matchups will be:

Friday - Twins Phil Hughes vs. White Sox Jeff Samardzija
Saturday - Twins Trevor May vs. White Sox Chris Sale.
Sunday - Twins Kyle Gibson vs. White Sox Jose Quintana

Now, on to why this series matters. The Twins have surprised a lot of people by playing over .500 baseball so far.

Their turnaround from a 1-6 start can be traced, in part, to a four-game sweep of the Sox on April 30 through May 3.

Manager Paul Molitor, as detailed in the MDR Blog last week, has done a fine job. He’s gotten contributions from veteran Torii Hunter, who has turned into a team leader, Joe Mauer, who has his average inching toward his usual .300, and Trevor Plouffe and Brian Dozier, who have provided some power.

Gibson and Mike Pelfrey have led the starting pitchers. Hughes has started to come around. Ricky Nolasco returned from the DL and has contributed. Glen Perkins was 13 for his first 13 save opportunities.

The White Sox, who made some big moves over the off-season, looked to be a real disappointment about the time they dropped that series to the Twins. People in Chicago were calling for manager Robin Ventura’s head.

But, the Sox have played much better, including a six-game win streak that ended Tuesday. Avisail Garcia has put up gaudy numbers and has shown people while he was often referred to as a younger Miguel Cabrera while with the Tigers.

Melky Cabrera and Jose Abreu have started to produce like they have shown they are capable of in the past. Adam La Roche’s average is still relatively low, but he has started to show his usual power.

Sale, Quintana and Samadzija seem to have shaken off slow starts and have improved on the mound. Don Robertson had an ERA barely over 1.00 and had been successful in 8 of 9 save opportunities.

Both the Twins and Sox are looking up at the Royals and Tigers in the AL Central. Their chances of contending for a division still are not great. But, they have played well enough to add interest to a May series in Chicago.

Look for results from the games to be posted on the MDR Facebook page.

Updated Notes

(Some of these notes come from www.mlbtraderumors.com.)

Brewers

** LHP Will Smith could face a suspension after he was ejected from Thursday’s game for having a foreign substance on his forearm.

** When Ryan Braun, Adam Lind and Aramis Ramirez hit consecutive home runs Tuesday, it was the first time the Brewers had done so since Aug. 26, 2012, when Braun Ramirez and Corey Hart did it at Wrigley Field.

** 2B Scooter Gennett was told to work on consistency at the plate and in the field, and he will be recalled from Triple A. Gennett was sent to the minors Monday. RHP Corey Knebel was called up.

Cubs

** RHP Kyle Hendricks threw his first career complete game and shutout Thursday as the Cubs defeated the Padres, 3-0.

** When the Cubs made three errors in Tuesday’s game, it broke a streak of eight consecutive errorless games.

** The Cubs made a flurry of moves early in the week. LHP Phil Coke was designated for assignment. Lefty Tsuyoshi Wada was called up and started Wednesday. LHP Travis Wood was sent to the bullpen. RHP Brian Schlitter was optioned to Triple A, and outfielder Junior Lake was recalled.

Twins

** OF Aaron Hicks had seven hits in his first seven games since being recalled from the minors.

** Mauer hit his first home of the season Wednesday. It broke a career-long homerless drought of 76 games and 286 at-bats.

** The Twins optioned designated hitter Kennys Vargas to Triple-A Rochester on Sunday. Utility man Eduardo Nunez was activated from the 15-day disabled list Tuesday.

White Sox

** LHP Carlos Rodon has issued 15 walks in 16 innings over first three starts.

** Sale and the Indians Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber combined to yield just nine hits over 17 innings pitched, while striking out 19 and walking three in a 2-1 Sox win on Monday. Each pitcher allowed only one inning where multiple hitters reached base, the fourth inning for both.

** The White Sox suffered their first home series loss of the 2015 season after five straight home series wins.

What’s Ahead

The NCAA Division III baseball tournament is underway at Fox Cities Stadium. First round matchups include: Frostburg State vs. Ramapo, SUNY Cortland vs. Webster,
Trinity (Texas) vs. Emory, UW.-La Crosse vs. Salisbury. The results of the championship game will be posted on the MDR page. You can follow the tourney at http://www.ncaa.com/sports/baseball/d3.

The Selig Experience will be unveiled at Miller Park next week. A special ceremony is scheduled for Thursday, and public access starts Friday. The Selig Experience is a state-of-the-art attraction at Miller Park to honor Commissioner Emeritus and former Brewers Owner Allan H. (Bud) Selig.

The exhibition space totals approximately 1,500 square feet, and will include authentic artifacts from Selig’s tenure as the Brewers owner. It celebrates the fans’ love of the game, as told through the story of the Brewers founder.

Highlighting the MDR big league teams schedule for the week will be a weekend series, May 29-31 between the Cubs and AL champions the Royals at Wrigley Field.

##

The MDR Blog can be found at the locations below.

** http://www.quicktopic.com/31/H/bcq8WpiTHm8eC
** http://midwestdiamondreport.mlblogs.com/
7491
Deleted by author 05-22-2015 07:53 AM
7490
MDR Blog - 5/17
05-16-2015
07:55 AM ET (US)
Going into this weekend, Paul Molitor had a young Twins team playing over .500 and the players believing in themselves.

Most “experts” -- including this writer -- were picking the Twins for last place in the AL Central before the season started. They could still end up there, but so far have played much better that that.

Molitor inherited a team with one proven star in Joe Mauer, two up-and-coming potential stars in Brian Dozier and Trevor Plouffe, a veteran who once was a star in Torii Hunter, a solid catcher and a group of talented young, relatively inexperienced players with potential, both on the field and the mound.

This group has shown timely hitting at times, pitched better than many expected and look to have bought into Molitor’s aggressive, team approach to the game.

Molitor has followed “the book” in some areas, such as platooning players to minimize their weaknesses against certain pitchers. But, he’s also deviated from that book at times in playing some matchups more by instinct, mixing his lineups depending on the opponents and changing strategies depending on game situations.

Along with all this has been big dozes of positive input from Molitor. After starting the season 1-6, Molitor kept emphasizing the positives while also making adjustments to his lineups.

A key series came in a four-game sweep of the White Sox. "I think everybody is pleased that after what happened in the beginning, we've been able to turn this thing around and win some games," Molitor said after that series. "You have to get greedy when things are going well. You have to try to ride this thing out as long as possible."

The Twins have had their share of injuries to deal with. Molitor has had to go to young players called up from the minors. Many have done well in filling in for regulars. Molitor believes leadership from Hunter, Mauer and some of the more experienced players has helped a great deal.

"When you have your veteran players showing you how to do it day in and day out, I think people are watching and paying attention to that," Molitor said.

It’s still a long season, but so far Molitor has shown the ability to inspire, lead and apply strategy -- all qualities he also showed as The Ignitor for the Brewers during his playing days.

Brewers’ fans have to wonder what it might have been like if Molitor had remained with Milwaukee to finish out his playing career and joined the organization in some capacity, perhaps eventually as manager. That often has been speculated about, but relationships became strained before Molitor went to Toronto as a free agent. Things eventually were patched up considerably, and Molitor went into the Hall of Fame as a Brewer.

But, after winning a World Series in Toronto, he returned to his home, the Twin Cities, instead of Milwaukee. He got his 3,000th hit there, and after retiring as a player worked for the Twins in a variety of positions before being named manager.

Molitor does know Craig Counsell, another former Brewers’ player who was recently named manager in Milwaukee. "He spent a lot of time at County Stadium back in the day," Molitor told FOX Sports. “I remember him around the clubhouse as a kid when his dad worked for the Brewers.

"I remember how excited his dad was when he went off to Notre Dame, because that's where he had went. And then kind of a proud father talking about his kid, I'd always ask him, 'How's he doing down there?' He said, 'He's doing well.' . . .I don't know if you'd call Craig an overachiever in the game, because I don't know if he was the most talented guy. But he was a winner everywhere he went. He’ll do well there.”

The two will match up June 5-7 in the Twin Cities and June 26-28 in Milwaukee.

Updated Notes

(Some of these notes come from www.mlbtraderumors.com.)

Brewers

** RF Ryan Braun homered twice and made a diving catch to lead the Brewers to a 7-0 win over the Mets on Friday. Kyle Lohse pitched shutout ball.

** 3B Aramis Ramirez returned to action this weekend after missing games with tightness in his lower back. SS Jean Segura was placed on the DL with a broken finger. Prospect Luis Sardinas, acquired from the Rangers in the Yovani Gallardo trade, has been recalled to fill Segura’s spot.

** From www.mlbtraderumors.com: In his latest piece at FOX Sports, Ken Rosenthal opines that the Reds and Brewers represent two of the teams that most desperately need to take a step back and sell some veteran pieces in order to improve for the future. However, Rosenthal notes that Brewers owner Mark Attanasio and Reds owner Bob Castellini are both exceptionally committed to winning, and either one could see enough misleading signs on the current roster to be persuaded into pushing for contention this season. (NOTE: That’s the same mistake Attanasio and GM Doug Melvin made over the off-season.)

Cubs

** The Cubs held off the Pirates on Friday for their fifth straight win, 11-10, in 12 innings. Matt Szczur singled off Radhames Liz to score Starlin Castro from third base for the winning run. Pittsburgh RF Gregory Polanco was running up for Szczur's very shallow fly when he tripped, letting the ball fall safe.

** Manager Joe Maddon got the 800th win of his career Thursday.

** The Cubs have signed RHP Felipe Paulino to a Minor League deal, Baseball America’s Matt Eddy reports.

Twins

** The Twins rallied late, keyed by a game-tying RBI triple from Danny Santana, and a go-ahead sacrifice fly from Brian Dozier in the seventh inning, in a 3-2 win over the Rays on Friday night at Target Field.

** The Tigers are 7-2 against the Twins this year, outscoring them by a 56-23 margin.

** Former Twins pitcher Boof Bonser says he has retired in an interview with Twinkie Town. (The news was initially reported in January on the blog Boston Sports For Life.) The 33-year-old Bonser last pitched competitively in 2014, when he made 12 appearances for Bridgeport in the independent Atlantic League. He last appeared in the big leagues in 2010.

White Sox

** A five-run seventh inning propelled the White Sox to a 7-6 victory over the A's on Friday night.

** The White Sox optioned second baseman Micah Johnson to Triple-A Charlotte on Thursday, allowing switch-hitter Carlos Sanchez to join the team and assume the starting role.

** White Sox RHP Javy Guerra has accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Charlotte, reports Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago (via Twitter).

NCAA DIII Tourney

The NCAA Division III baseball tournament will be held next weekend at Fox Cities Stadium near Appleton. Regional action was continuing this weekend. Check out the scores and more at http://d3baseball.com/playoffs/2015/playoff-central.

What’s Ahead

The Twins travel to Chicago to take on the White Sox next weekend. Pitching matchups will be posted later.

Tournament action will start in NCAA DI baseball, leading to the national tourney on June 23-24 in Omaha, Nebraska. Prep tournaments also are beginning around the Midwest. Look for links to the results in this blog.

##

The MDR Blog can be found at the locations below.

** http://www.quicktopic.com/31/H/bcq8WpiTHm8eC
** http://midwestdiamondreport.mlblogs.com/
7489
MDR Blog - 5/7
05-07-2015
08:34 AM ET (US)
When the Brewers chose Craig Counsell to replace Ron Roenicke last Monday, they were following a trend that is rather prevalent among MDR teams -- hiring guys with no previous managerial experience.

It started with the Cardinals, who while not one of the four MDR teams covered by the former web site and current blog are rivals of at least a couple of those teams. They chose Mike Matheny from their front office to take over on the field after Tony La Russa retired. It’s worked out well for them.

Then, the White Sox chose former third baseman and front office member Robin Ventura to take over their helm. The Sox struggled last season and so far this year, and some are calling for Ventura’s head. He was 85-77 in his first season as manager.

This past off-season, the Twins hired Paul Molitor to take over from Ron Gardenhire. Molitor had held various coaching and other positions with the Twins, but had never managed. He has a very young team playing over .500 baseball.

Some things are common among these three and Counsell. All four were considered savvy players, sort of coaches on the field. All four did have strong ties to their franchises, even though they did not serve as managers in the minors or big leagues.

Molitor was a Hall of Fame player. Ventura was an All Star. Matheny and Counsell were considered journeymen, but solid contributors. So, there was variety in their playing abilities, but they all knew the game well.

By the way, three of the four managers once played for the Brewers.

We’ll have to see how Counsell fits into the picture as far as winning or losing. Many think he will serve only for a while on the field and eventually take over for GM Doug Melvin. He served as a special assistant to Melvin before Monday. But, Counsell does have a three-year contract as manager.

What makes the hiring of Counsell, and the firing of Roenicke, somewhat odd is the timing. The change came only a little over a week after principal owner Mark Attanasio said he wasn’t blaming the manager or GM for the Brewers’ struggles. It came after the Brewers made very few moves during the off-season. It also came after Roenicke’s contract option was picked up through 2016. Finally, it came after the Brewers had just won their first series of the season, and won two straight for the first time this year.

Roenicke himself expressed surprise and disappointment at the decision, wrote MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. “I told Doug I wished it would have happened a week ago,” Roenicke said, referring to the club’s back-to-back weekend victories over the division-rival Cubs. “I would have understood it better then.” Melvin said that he feels he gave Roenicke every opportunity that he could to right the ship, but ultimately making a change felt like the right thing to do.

Whether the decision really was Melvin’s or Attanasio’s, Roenicke was almost a cinch to get canned somewhere along the way unless the Brewers staged a remarkable turnaround. But a month into the season, combined with these other circumstances, is rather odd. In fact, only 19 managers have been fired within a season’s first 25 games.

Attanasio told JSOnline.com and other media that Melvin approached him about firing Roenicke. “We did our evaluation in a short period of time to move forward with Craig," said Attanasio. "When I was here talking to everybody a few weeks ago, a management change was not on the table. But in sport and life sometimes, things can change. When they do change, you have to be able to react to them. From my standpoint, we had won five games in April and nine games in September. That's not what we're trying to do in Milwaukee. I was receptive to Doug approaching this with me."

Attanasio has raised eyebrows with some of his decisions before. Many thought he was the one who insisted on firing Ned Yost with a little over a week to go in 2008. Then, Yost’s interim replacement, Dale Sveum, was passed over for the manager’s spot in favor of Ken Macha.

These moves, including the latest with Roenicke, fly in the face of most conventional baseball logic. The moves also don’t really fit the style Melvin has established over a long career in the game. But, Attanasio and Melvin say the latter initiated the latest changes.

No matter who started the process, we’ll have to see how the latest move compares to some others made by the Brewers since 2008, and how Counsell ends up comparing to Matheny, Ventura and Molitor.

Cubs vs. Brewers

The MDR Blog is being distributed on Thursday, so we can advance the Cubs-Brewers series at Miller Park. Pitching matchups for that series will include:

Friday - Cubs’ Jason Hammel vs. Brewers’ Jimmy Nelson
Saturday - Cubs’ Travis Wood vs. Brewers’ Kyle Lohse
Sunday - Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks vs. Brewers’ Matt Garza

Results from the series will be posted on the Midwest Diamond Report Facebook page.

Updated Notes

(Some of these notes come from www.mlbtraderumors.com.)

Brewers

** Speculation started shortly after the Counsell press conference about the status of Melvin, who is in the last year of his contract. “I’m not worried about that,” Melvin said. “I just keep coming to work every day until I’m told not to.”

** Attanasio addressed Melvin’s role and possible rebuilding in a statement to JSOnline.com and other media. "I think Doug has done a good job in constructing the roster. We're all disappointed in the results, and we all need to do better. Over 11 years, I've made some pretty tough decisions and I'm ready to make them again. Whether it's remodel, retool, rebuild, whatever it takes to bring winning baseball to Milwaukee is what I'm going to do. The organization always comes first to me and for everybody….Doug has 22 years of experience and we're certainly going to try to lean on that as we figure this out."

** J.P. Breen of Baseball Prospectus examines Ryan Braun‘s lack of productivity, noting that Braun’s ability to handle pitches on the inner third of the plate has dramatically decreased over the past two seasons. That was understandable in 2014, Breen points out, due to a devastating nerve issue in Braun’s thumb that made it difficult for him to even shake hands with another person, let alone play baseball. Braun began starting his swing early in an effort to keep up with fastballs that he could once handle, leaving him susceptible to breaking pitches away. Breen wonders if Braun may still be working to correct some of those bad habits he developed last year.

Cubs

** Two sections of the bleachers at Wrigley Field opened this week.

** The Cubs announced they have selected the contract of LHP James Russell from Triple-A Iowa and designated right-hander Blake Parker for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster. Parker was later released.

** OF Chris Denorfia went back on the DL when he aggravated a hamstring injury. The Cubs also announced that they have designated right-hander Anthony Varvaro for assignment. His roster spot will go to fellow righty Justin Grimm, who was activated from the disabled list. Additionally, the Cubs have optioned Junior Lake to Triple-A Iowa and recalled outfielder Matt Szczur.

Twins

** Eddie Rosario crushed a first-pitch fastball from Scott Kazmir for a homer to become just the 29th player in Major League history to homer on the first pitch of a career. He also became the first Twins player to do it, and just the sixth in franchise history to homer in a first career at-bat.

** The Twins placed utility man Eduardo Nunez on the 15-day disabled list with a left oblique strain and purchased infielder Doug Bernier's contract from Triple-A Rochester.

** The Twins placed outfielder Oswaldo Arcia on the 15-day disabled list with a right hip flexor strain on Monday and recalled Rosario from Triple-A Rochester.

White Sox

** With public criticism mounting against Ventura, first baseman Jose Abreu came to the defense of his skipper, Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune tweets. “If the people want someone to blame, it’s the players, not Robin,” Abreu said.

** The White Sox will be without RHP Matt Albers longer than expected, tweets Scott Merkin of MLB.com. Albers injured a finger on his right hand in the Sox’ benches-clearing brawl with the Royals earlier this season, and the digit ultimately wound up requiring surgery which will keep him on the shelf for six to eight weeks.

** The White Sox announced that they’ve returned right-hander Javy Guerra from his rehab assignment at Triple-A, reinstated him from the disabled list and designated him for assignment.

What’s Ahead

After the Cubs leave town, the White Sox will come to Miller Park for a three-game series. Pitching matchups and results for that series will be posted on the Midwest Diamond Report Facebook page.

The Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Association baseball tournament will start Friday and run through Saturday at Whitewater. The Warhawks repeated as the regular season champ for the third straight year.

##

The MDR Blog can be found at the locations below.

** http://www.quicktopic.com/31/H/bcq8WpiTHm8eC
** http://midwestdiamondreport.mlblogs.com/
7488
MDR Blog - 5/2
05-02-2015
05:36 PM ET (US)
This is a MDR Rivalry weekend with the Cubs hosting the Brewers, and Twins meeting the White Sox.

Jon Lester held the Brewers to three hits in seven innings to earn his first win as a Cub, a 1-0 decision on Friday at Wrigley Field. Addison Russell homered for the only run of the game. It was his first big league homer. Wily Peralta took the loss after allowing only that one run.

On Saturday, Mike Fiers held the Cubs hitless for the first 4.1 innings, and the Brewers went on to a 6-1 win. Ryan Braun got the Milwaukee offense going with a two-run homer in the first inning. Jean Segura had four hits.

Jake Arrieta took the loss. Anthony Rizzo homered for the Cubs.

The teams will wrap up the series Sunday afternoon. Jason Hammel will face the Brewers’ Jimmy Nelson.

At Target Field, the Twins won the first three games of the series against the Sox.

In the series opener on Thursday, Brian Dozier hit a three-run homer as the Twins beat Chris Sale and the Sox, 12-2. The Twins scored seven runs in the third inning. Sale had given up just a combined eight earned runs in his previous four starts against the Twins for a 2.63 ERA, but matched that total in his start on Thursday.

On Friday, Kyle Gibson out-dueled the Sox’s Jose Quintana in a 1-0 win. Gibson gave up only four hits in eight innings. Quintana’s allowed the only run of the contest on a wild pitch.

Ricky Nolasco returned from the DL for the Twins on Saturday and got the win in a 5-3 decision. Torii Hunter and Trevor Plouffe homered for Minnesota. Melky Cabrera had three hits for the Sox. Hector Noesi took the loss.

Mike Pelfrey will face the Sox’s John Danks in the series finale on Sunday.

Results from the additional games in the Brewers-Cubs and Twins-Sox series will be posted on the Midwest Diamond Report Facebook page.

Updated Notes

(Some of these notes come from www.mlbtraderumors.com)

Brewers

** Teams are looking at the Brewers as the first team who could start selling, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. Rival executives are anxiously anticipating a Brewers fire sale following the club’s awful start to the season. One exec listed Gomez, Khris Davis, Segura, Gerardo Parra, Kyle Lohse and Francisco Rodriguez as players who will draw interest, noting that Jonathan Lucroy is probably untouchable, while Matt Garza and Braun are somewhat overpriced. The Brewers have let other teams know they’re willing to listen to trade proposals, ESPN’s Buster Olney tweets.

** Gomez returned from the DL for the Brewers Saturday and had a single and two stolen bases. Scooter Gennett could return from the DL next week. Aramis Ramirez was held out of the starting lineup for the second straight game because of hamstring tightness, but was expected to start on Sunday.

** INF Luis Jimenez was designated for assignment to make room on the roster for Gomez.

Cubs

** The Cubs survived a scary moment in the second inning Saturday when first baseman Rizzo and second baseman Russell collided in shallow right field chasing Carlos Gomez's bloop single. Both players remained in the game.

** Russell is the youngest player in the National League at 21, but he's not the youngest to hit a home run for the Cubs. Danny Murphy was 18 when he connected for the Cubs on Sept. 13, 1960. Murphy finished his brief career with four home runs. Starlin Castro was 20 years old when he hit his first home run in his first big league at-bat in May 2010. Russell was the youngest player to hit a home run in a 1-0 game since Eddie Mathews in 1952.

** “The Cubs have continued to touch base with the Phillies” about Cole Hamels, sources tell Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. The likes of Kris Bryant or Russell are “unquestionably off the table,” yet Chicago has enough prospect depth to get the Phillies’ attention. Whether it’s Hamels or another notable arm, Wittenmyer expects the Cubs to target starting pitching at the trade deadline.

Twins

** Manager Paul Molitor on Saturday explained the Twins' surprising decision to send LHP Tommy Milone to Triple-A Rochester. The Twins officially activated right-hander Ricky Nolasco (inflammation in right elbow) and left-hander Brian Duensing (strained right intercostal) from the 15-day disabled list before Saturday's game against the White Sox. To make room for them, the Twins optioned both Milone and left-handed reliever Caleb Thielbar to Triple-A after Friday's 1-0 win. Molitor believes it makes more sense to keep Milone stretched out as a starter than to use him in an unfamiliar role as a reliever.

** The Twins placed right-handed reliever Tim Stauffer on the 15-day disabled list with a right intercostal strain on Friday, and recalled right-handed reliever Ryan Pressly from Triple-A Rochester.

** The Twins placed right-handed reliever Casey Fien on the 15-day disabled list on Thursday with a right shoulder strain, and they recalled fellow right-handed reliever Michael Tonkin from Triple-A Rochester.

White Sox

** The Sox players, manager and broadcasters agreed it was “weird” playing the game Wednesday in Baltimore at which no fans were allowed because of the rioting in the city earlier in the week. "Any time a guy strikes out or gets a hit and you don't hear anything is unusual," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "Anything that happened in that game, there was no reaction to outside of what you heard on the bench. It really felt like one of those early morning Spring Training games."

** The two postponements in Baltimore on Monday and Tuesday gave the Sox three in one week.

** The revamped White Sox bullpen closed out the month of April with a 2.91 ERA, which stands sixth in Major League Baseball.

What’s Ahead

The Cubs and Brewers will do it all over again next weekend with a series at Miller Park. Game times are 7:10 p.m. on Friday, 6:10 on Saturday and 1:10 on Sunday. The White Sox will follow the Cubs into Miller Park the week after.

Before their series in Milwaukee, the Cubs will clash with the Cardinals for four games during the week. The two team are at the top of the NL Central standings.

The next meeting of the Ken Keltner Badger State Chapter of SABR will take place on Saturday, May 9 ,at 11 am at J&B's Blue Ribbon Bar located at 53rd and Bluemound Road in Milwaukee.

Guest Speaker will be Joe Niese, who has authored two books, "Burleigh Grimes: Baseball's Last Legal Spitballer," and "Handy Andy: The Andy Pafko Story."

There will also be presentations by Mary Shea on "Women in Baseball" and
Rick Schabowski on "Disco Demolition Night."

##

The MDR Blog can be found at the locations below.

** http://www.quicktopic.com/31/H/bcq8WpiTHm8eC
** http://midwestdiamondreport.mlblogs.com/
7487
MDR Blog - 4/25
04-25-2015
07:35 AM ET (US)
The Brewers’ principal owner Mark Attanasio said earlier this week he’s not looking at GM Doug Melvin or manager Ron Roenicke as the reasons for the team’s poor start.

"Right now, my examinations are focused on how to improve our performance on the field," Attanasio said. "Relative to me, I'm not looking at the manager or the general manager right now."

He’s right to do so at this point, but Attanasio himself might be guilty of a couple mistakes that have set up the Brewers for a tough season.

Emphasis should be put on the “right now” part of his statement. Melvin is the second best GM -- to Harry Dalton, who built the winners of the late 70s and early 80s -- in franchise history, in this writer’s estimate.

But, Melvin has batted around .500 on personnel moves in recent seasons. That’s great for a hitter, but not that hot for a GM. It might be time for him to retire or be replaced.

Yet, Attanasio has been quoted as saying that Melvin can name the number of years he wants on a contract extension. That might not be the brightest approach if the Brewers continue to struggle.

Attanasio might already have made a similar mistake by extending Roenicke’s contract through 2016. If the Brewers continue to struggle, Roenicke probably should be fired by the All Star break. If that happens, the Brewers will be paying him for a season and half for doing nothing.

In his statements last week, Attanasio appropriately said the players were the reason the club has not played well. That’s accurate. The old adage in baseball is that the players make management look like geniuses or dopes, but when the latter happens it’s easier to fire one guy than 25.

The flaw in Attanasio’s approach on this one can be seen in his following statement:

"First of all, what I find in business and investing is you make you decisions based on the facts that you have in front of you looking forward, rather than trying to go back and say, should you have done this or should you have done that," he said.

"We did a huge amount of analysis. We've got 25 players, virtually every one of them is an established major-leaguer, and by my count all but five are below their career norms. Maybe six if you want to count (Francisco Rodriguez) in the bullpen, which I count. Frankie is doing fine.

"But you have 20 of 25 guys below their career norms. That is not what you would expect, because the sport is so analyzable and predictable. What makes a major-league player special is he can perform pretty much the same level year in and year out. We've got a lot of really established major-league players here, with very few newbies at this point.

"So this was not something built on false hope. I believe (the team will be better) if these guys play the way they can, including with the injuries."

Certainly, most decisions should be based on fact gathering, but in baseball you have a human factor that might not be as present in Attanasio’s other business of investing. Players get older. They suffer nagging injuries. Events in their lives beyond baseball can affect their performance on the field. Confidence can peak and wane. Some get complacent when they are set for life financially, etc., etc., etc.

Certainly, these factors could help account for sub-par performances late last season and/or so far this year by Kyle Lohse, Matt Garza, Francisco Rodriguez, Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez, Jean Segura (who lost a child last season), Jonathan Lucroy (who has been injured twice since the start of spring training) and others.

Anybody who has followed baseball for a long time would definitely have to dispute Attanasio’s statement that the “sport is so analyzable and predictable.” Yes, stats can be gathered and averaged out, but that doesn’t mean the players get to those lifetime stats in a steady, predictable manner. The ups and downs of the game are many and often not predictable. The trick to good personnel management is to get players when they are up and get rid of them when they are down.

Somewhere in the process, Attanasio, Melvin and others apparently decided the Brewers were closer to the team that held first place in the NL Central for 150 days last season than they were to the team that collapsed the last month and a half. Consequently, they made few significant changes in the team over the off-season. At least for now, it looks like they were wrong.

Attanasio should be given credit for building the competitiveness of the Brewers since he took over as principal owner. He has shown his dedication to the franchise and Milwaukee.

But, he came to the game primarily as a fan, not an inside baseball man. He’s been smart enough to rely on Melvin and other baseball men within his organization for that part of the operation.

Ultimately though, he is responsible for the overall outcome. The buck stops at his desk, since he can fire Melvin and those other baseball men.

The Brewers might turn things around and make Attanasio, Melvin and others look like geniuses. If not, Attanasio will be faced with some tough decisions that won’t be analyzable by the models used in business investing.

Updated Notes

(Some of these notes come from www.mlbtraderumors.com.)

Brewers

** GM Doug Melvin might be thinking in similar terms to the thesis in the lede of this blog. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com quoted Melvin as saying: “It’s good we have 140 some games left. But we’ve got to see change here. We’ve got to see the arrow pointing in the other direction pretty soon. Maybe there’s a point you have to say, you have to reset, retool.”

** RHP Tyler Thornburg, who primarily has pitched in relief, was sent to Triple A this week to stretch himself out so he can be a starter.

** The Brewers have outrighted Brandon Kintzler to Triple-A after the right-hander cleared waivers, the team announced via Twitter. Kintzler was designated for assignment early this week.

Cubs

** The Cubs’ Jon Lester did not get a decision in the 7-3, 11-inning win over the Reds, but he had his best outing to date, striking out a season-high 10 batters over six innings.

** Kris Bryant switched from 3B to CF on Thursday, but returned to third Friday after Dexter Fowler was declared fit to play after a groin injury.

** Addison Russell‘s promotion to the Cubs‘ Major League roster could lead to even more whispers that Starlin Castro could (or even should) be traded, yet Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times disagrees. Castro is off to a strong start in 2015 and seems to be ever-improving, not to mention his youth (he’s still just 25) and team-friendly contract.

Twins

** RHP Phil Hughes struck out nine but missed out on his first win as Seattle’s Felix Hernandez shut out the Twins, 2-0, Friday.

** RHP Ricky Nolasco, who is on the 15-day disabled list with right elbow inflammation, progressed to throwing off a mound without any issues on Sunday and will start a rehab assignment with Class A Cedar Rapids on Saturday.

** Twins GM Terry Ryan again expressed disappointment when asked by Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press about Ervin Santana‘s suspension for PED use. “People are going to test positive because kids are kids and men are men,” said Ryan. “…You shouldn’t make that mistake. … If they take something, they ought to know what it is. That’s all, regardless of where you bought it or if it came from a reputable drug store or nutrition store or wherever. They’ve been educated pretty well about this program, and they know they’re going to get tested. They ought to know what’s going in (their bodies).”

White Sox

** RHP Jeff Samardzija and others could face suspensions for their involvement in a brawl with the Royals on Thursday.

** The Sox-Royals game, played during a steady rain Friday night at U.S. Cellular Field, was suspended due to unplayable field conditions. The score was tied at two after eight innings. This contest will be resumed prior to Saturday's regularly scheduled game, with the same 1:10 p.m. CT start. The regularly scheduled game will begin after Friday's completion.

** RHP Kyle Drabek has cleared waivers and been sent outright to Triple-A Charlotte, the team announced on Twitter. The former top prospect was designated for assignment on Monday in order to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for 2014 No. 3 overall pick Carlos Rodon.

What’s Ahead

Next weekend will be a MDR Rivalry matchup weekend. The Brewers travel to Wrigley Field Friday for a weekend series with the Cubs. It will be the first meeting of the I-94 and NL Central rivals this season.

The Twins will host the White Sox in an ALC matchup. Those teams played a series in early April.

##

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** http://midwestdiamondreport.mlblogs.com/
7486
MDR Blog - 4/18
04-19-2015
07:30 AM ET (US)
Kris Bryant received the attention of a rock star when he made his MLB debut Friday at Wrigley Field.

With regional and national media tripping over each other, Bryant went 0-for-4 -- with three strikeouts -- on Friday, but made a couple nice defensive plays at third base. On Saturday, he walked twice and had two hits, a game-tying single.

"I've been waiting for this moment my whole life, and I'm out there trying to do too much in those four at-bats," Bryant said of his big league debut. "It was a good day for me -- my first game and the guys were treating me great. I couldn't ask for a better day, honestly."

Bryant really started drawing attention this spring when he batted .425 and led the Major Leagues with nine home runs -- and hit two more in exhibition games that didn't count.

That would seem to merit the rookie heading north with the big league club to start the regular season, but instead he began the season in Triple A. By putting him there, the Cubs can control his contractual obligation for another season, until 2021.

Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein has maintained that the club wanted Bryant to open the season in the Minor Leagues so he could get into a good rhythm.

"His development is an important factor, and the needs of the big league team as well," Epstein said last week.

Mike Olt started the season at third, but was injured. The Cubs used Jonathan Herrera and Arismendy Alcantara at third while Olt heals, and even inserted left fielder Chris Coghlan. Chicago's third basemen were batting .148 (4-for-27), worst in the National League, with one home run and one RBI, plus a .233 on-base percentage.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon was impressed with how Bryant handled third base this spring.

"I see him as a third baseman," Maddon said Wednesday. "That's where I saw him, and I thought he could do that. Conversationally with him, he likes playing the outfield, which I thought was interesting.

“If you could play him at two spots, and injuries occur, things have to be moved around, maybe somebody is available who does better here than there, that's a nice thing to have -- a player that young amenable to doing more than one thing. It doesn't happen all the time."

It’s also nice to have a young player who isn’t star struck by all the attention being paid to him. Of course, Bryant’s performance over the long haul will serve as the true gauge of his ability to withstand big league pressure, and hit big league pitching.

Updated Notes

(Some of these notes came from www.mlbtraderumors.com.)

Brewers

** Gerardo Parra will start most games in center in place of the injured Carlos Gomez, with Logan Schafer providing backup.

** Jason Rogers was called up to take Gomez’s spot on the roster, and will see some time at first base, pinch-hitter and perhaps third.

** LHP Dontrelle Willis, who announced his retirement after injuring his neck before throwing a pitch in the Brewers' spring camp, was hired by Fox Sports 1 to be a studio analyst for its major-league baseball coverage.

Cubs

** Mike Olt could be in a cast for up to four weeks after breaking his right wrist.

** With Bryant at third base, Arismendy Alcantara and Jonathan Herrera will likely share second base.

** While Bryant received the bulk of the attention, Jorge Soler entered the weekend ranked among the NL rookie leaders in several offensive categories, including batting average (.310), home runs (two), RBIs (seven) and on-base percentage (.382).

Twins

** RHP Phil Hughes fell to 0-3 with the loss in Saturday’s game.

** The Twins placed LHP reliever Brian Duensing on the 15-day disabled list with a right intercostal strain on Friday, and recalled fellow LHP Caleb Thielbar from Triple-A Rochester to take his place on the roster.

** Trevor Plouffe hit a walk-off solo homer in the 11th inning to give the Twins their third straight win, a 3-2 decision over the Indians on Friday night. The streak was snapped Saturday.

White Sox

** The trio of Melky Cabrera, Jose Abreu and Adam LaRoche combined to go 10-for-15 with three doubles, two homers, 10 RBIs and six runs scored in a 12-3 win over the Tigers Saturday.

** LHP Chris Sale, who went 2-0 with the win Saturday, threw 28 pitches in the first inning, 23 of which went for strikes. He also threw 11 pitches in that opening frame that hit either 97 or 98 mph.

** The seven runs in the fourth inning Saturday were the most runs the White Sox scored in an inning since scoring seven in the seventh against the Tigers on July 29, 2014.

Brewers Rumors

Nothing starts the rumor bill quicker than a poor start to a season. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports opined, as reported by www.mlbtraderumors.com: The Brewers‘ poor start suggests that they could be sellers at the trade deadline, and Rosenthal notes that they could deal Kyle Lohse, Matt Garza, Gerardo Parra or even Aramis Ramirez (despite Ramirez’s plans to retire at the end of the season). A player who could bring a much greater return, though, is Carlos Gomez, who is signed to a bargain contract the next two years.

KKKKKKKKKKs

Freshman Mitchell Stalsberg, who starred at Viroqua High School, struck out 17 as he pitched Winona State’s first no-hitter since 2005 in a 11-0 win over Sioux Falls.

Stalsberg fanned the fourth-most batters in a single game in Warrior program history. The last time a WSU pitcher struck out more batters came more than 45 years ago, when Sam Shea sent down 18 batters on April 15, 1970. The record for strikeouts in a game is 21, set by Lee Paul in a 10-inning win over Saint Mary's in 1952.

What’s Ahead

All four MDR teams face division rivals early this week. The Cubs travel to Pittsburgh to meet the Pirates. The Brewers host the Reds at Miller Park.

In the AL, the White Sox host the Indians. The Twins travel to KC to play the Royals.

##

The MDR Blog can be found at the locations below.

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** http://midwestdiamondreport.mlblogs.com/
7485
MDR Blog - 4/11
04-11-2015
08:36 AM ET (US)
Newly-acquired Adam Lind has been the bright spot in the first week for the Brewers.

Lind was 6-for-10 with a home run in the first series against the Rockies. He went 2-for-3 Friday, giving him eight hits through the Brewers' first four games to tie a club record set in 1978 by Hall of Famer Paul Molitor and first tied by Damian Miller in 2005.

“I want to be an impact bat in the middle of the order and continue to do what I’ve done for the most part in my career,” Lind said. “Everybody has their ups and downs; hopefully this will be an up.”

A key for Lind is staying healthy. He had some back problems early in spring training, but has been healthy in recent weeks.

“My goal every year is to not go on the DL,” he said. “That’s my No. 1 goal. I want to produce and have a consistent season, and I think that can happen if I stay healthy.”

Lind also has shown he can handle first base. “I get the job done,” he said.

Raising Needed Questions

While Lind looked good, some questions have to be raised by the Brewers’ first week.
Ryan Braun lasted only one game before injuring himself.

Braun suffered a rib cage injury in the Brewers’ opener, left that game early and was out of the starting lineup Tuesday and Wednesday. He did pinch-hit in Wednesday’s game and returned to the lineup Friday.

After a 2014 season in which he was hampered by a hand injury, Braun had an encouraging spring training. But, his injury this week calls for the question to once again be asked: is this the post-steroid Ryan Braun?

You want to be fair and not jump to conclusions. By no means does raising the question connote that Braun is on the juice again. In fact, instead it is posed because you have to wonder if he can stay healthy without the aid of steroids, which he took for a similar side/rib cage injury.

You can point to other examples of steroid users who suffered numerous nagging injuries after going off the substances they were using -- Jason Giambi, Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, etc.

Some medical sources maintain that steroid users build muscle mass, but often tendons and connective tissue in the body do not keep up with that growth. Thus, users, even after they stop using, often have nerve problems (not unlike Braun had in his hand) and strains and tears in the connective support structure for muscles.

It should be said that a MRI on Braun did not show any major tears, but the injury does fit the connective support structure part of medical studies. “When it's in the ribcage, sometimes it's oblique, intercostal, ribcage -- they're all interconnected," Braun said. "If I had to guess, I would say it's more intercostal, which is the muscles in between the ribcage, than it is oblique.”

Let’s hope Braun gets through this injury and gets started on a good season. The Brewers desperately need his bat. You also hate to see a player with his talent be plagued by injuries at a still young age.

But, if he continues to be injury prone, you do have to ask if it is related to his big mistake a few years ago.

Question #2 - One start into the season is not enough to make judgments on any pitcher. But, you do have to ask if the first start struggles of the Brewers No. 1 and 2 starters, Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza, could be early indications that both are starting down the slippery slope of the backside of the age hill.

Lohse is 36. He has always kept himself in good shape, but has reached the age where many pitchers experience changes in their stuff.

Garza is 31. The latter should not be considered an over the hill age, but Garza has had a history of injuries that could age a pitcher and his arm earlier. In fact, he has been on the disabled list in each of the last four seasons, including last year with the Brewers when he had an oblique problem. He’s averaged almost 10 missed starts per season during that span.

The Brewers are paying Lohse a reported $11 million and Garza $10 million to be their Nos. 1 and 2 in their rotation.

Both pitchers might bounce back from their first starts and have fine seasons. But, if they don’t, the Brewers had better hope Wily Peralta develops into an ace and Mike Fiers and Jimmy Nelson take big steps in their respective development.

Updated Notes

(Some of these notes come from www.mlbtraderumors.com.)

Brewers

** Brewers starter Mike Fiers was on fire out of the gate Friday, striking out the side in the first on 12 pitches, but he took the loss.

** Another veteran pitcher, 33-year-old Francisco Rodriguez, blew his first save in a 5-4 loss to the Rockies.

** Owner Mark Attanasio says that he is still talking about a new deal with GM Doug Melvin, with the major question being how long the veteran executive wants to stay at the helm.

Cubs

** Starlin Castro and Javier Baez have been mentioned in trade rumors with the Padres, who are seeking a SS.

** RHP Jake Arrieta struck out seven in seven shutout innings of his season debut. Arrieta has held the Cardinals to three earned runs over 36 1/3 innings in six career starts.

** The Cubs have signed lefty James Russell, Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports on Twitter. Russell was released by the Braves earlier this spring. He spent much of last season (and all of his career before it) with Chicago.

Twins

** LHP Tommy Milone walked two in the first inning, but fanned seven over 7 2/3 innings as the Twins posted their first win Friday.

** The Twins will place RHP Ricky Nolasco on the disabled list and recall prospect Trevor May to join the rotation, reports Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
Nolasco had his right elbow examined after he experienced discomfort in his first start.

** The Twins became the first American League team to be shut out in back-to-back games to open the season since the 1977 Seattle Mariners. The Twins finally got on the board against the Tigers in the 7th inning Thursday. It was the first run of the year for the Twins, who nearly set the Major League record of consecutive scoreless innings to open a season with 24 innings. The 1943 St. Louis Cardinals still have the record of 26 straight innings.

White Sox

** The loss Friday was the first for the White Sox in their home opener since 2007 against the Indians, and marked the first time since 1996 that the club lost on Opening Day and in the home opener in the same season.

** Sox starting pitchers Jeff Samardzija, Jose Quintana and John Danks combined to allow 14 earned runs in 16 2/3 innings in the Sox’s first three games.

** Danks lost his first game to the Royals Thursday after going 7-0 against KC in his career.

What’s Ahead

The Twins and White Sox will continue their series on Saturday and Sunday. Mike Pelfrey will start for the Twins against the Sox’s Jeff Samardzija on Saturday. On Sunday, Phil Hughes will face the Sox’s Chris Sale, who has completed his rehab from an avulsion fracture.

In the first game of the series, the Twins‘ Tommy Malone blanked the Sox, 6-0. Joe Mauer reached base four times. Brian Dozier homered.

As part of the record setting “20-in-15” (20 items in 2015) All-Fan Giveaways, the Brewers will be distributing Rob Deer Bobbleheads presented by Toyota to everyone in attendance of the 1:10 p.m. Sunday contest against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

In addition, Deer will be on-hand to help celebrate the occasion. The former slugger will get the game underway as he throws out the ceremonial first pitch. He will also be available at 1:10 for autographs for 45 minutes on the Field Level concourse near Guest Relations at Miller Park.

A series between the Brewers and Cardinals will highlight the early part of the coming week. The series is part of a 22-game streak for the Brewers against NL Central opponents.

May 10 will conclude the fund-raising campaign for The Spirit of Badger Baseball 1870-1991 book. The date marks the 24th anniversary of the last Badger baseball game, played at Guy Lowman Field against the Purdue Boilermakers.

Those who wish to contribute to publishing costs of the book should send checks payable and mailed to: Steven D. Schmitt, 6017 Meadowood Dr., Madison, WI 53711.

##

The MDR Blog can be found at the locations below.

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** http://midwestdiamondreport.mlblogs.com/
7484
MDR Blog - 4/4
04-04-2015
08:04 AM ET (US)
With the season starting Sunday night, it’s time for the MDR Pompous Prognostications:

NL East

1. Nationals, 2. Marlins, 3. Braves, 4. Mets, 5. Phillies.

NL Central

1. Cardinals, 2. Cubs, 3. Pirates, 4. Brewers, 5. Reds.

NL West

1. Dodgers, 2. Giants, 3. Padres, 4. Rockies, 5. D-Backs.

AL East

1. Orioles, 2. Red Sox, 3. Blue Jays, 4. Rays, 5. Yankees.

AL Central

1. Indians, 2. White Sox, 3. Royals, 4. Tigers, 5. Twins.

AL West

1. Mariners, 2. Angels, 3. A’s, 4. Astros, 5. Rangers.

Wild Card teams

NL - Marlins. Giants, AL - White Sox, Angels.

NL Champ - Nationals, AL Champ - Mariners.

Nationals win championship.

Individual Award Winners

NL: MVP - Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins, Cy Young - Max Scherzer, Nationals, Rookie of the Year - Kris Bryant, Cubs, Manager of the Year - Matt Williams, Nationals.

AL: MVP - Mike Trout, Angels, Cy Young - Felix Hernandez, Mariners, Rookie of the Year - Daniel Norris, Blue Jays, Manager of the Year - Terry Francona, Indians.

Some might note that Bryant is starting the season in the minors for the Cubs, but so did Ryan Braun in the year he won ROY.

As for the MDR teams, in the NL Central, the Cubs need Bryant (who should be up with the club by the end of April), Jorge Soler and Asmendy Alcantara to turn out to be real, and Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo and the pitching staff to perform well. It would help if Javier Baez also worked out his problems in the minors and joined that group of young players who proved to be real. Joe Maddon should keep the Cubs in the mix.

The Brewers stood too pat, banking on Ryan Braun bouncing back and other players taking steps in their development. Their pitching also looks a little thin, especially if veterans like Kyle Lohse, Matt Garza, Francisco Rodriguez and others start showing their age.

In the AL Central, the White Sox might be the most improved team in baseball and should make a run at the division title or Wild Card spot.

Paul Molitor will make a young Twins team better, but not good enough to escape the cellar of what is a division with four solid teams.

Updated Notes

(Some of these notes come from www.mlbtraderumors.com.)

Brewers

** Schafer Logan made the 25-man roster as an extra outfielder.

** The Pirates have acquired first baseman Hunter Morris from the Brewers in exchange for a player to be named later, the clubs announced. The 26-year-old had already been outrighted over the offseason.

** Gerardo Parra and Luis Jimenez are versatile which could help the Brewers. Parra, who can play all three outfield positions, also has been working out at first base. Jimenez, a utility infielder, has been behind the plate and could serve as a third catcher.


Cubs

** Keeping Kris Bryant in the minors for even 12 days will leave him with 171 days of Major League service time this season, or one day shy of a full year. In other words, rather than controlling Bryant from 2015-20, the Cubs would gain an extra year of control and have the rights to Bryant through the 2021 season.

** With Javier Baez in the minors, the Cubs could start Tommy La Stella or Arismendy Alcantara at second base.

** The Cubs selected the contract of left-handed pitcher Phil Coke, who had signed a minor league contract with the team. By making the team, Coke will be paid $2.25 million. In nine relief appearances this spring, Coke, 32, has given up four hits and has not allowed a run.

Twins

** Twins RHP Ervin Santana has been suspended 80 games after testing positive for the performance enhancing drug Stanozolol, the league announced. Santana issued the following statement: “This is unexpected news for me and my family. I am issuing this statement so the public knows where I stand. First, my deepest apologies to my family, fans, colleagues, teammates and my current employer the Minnesota Twins. I am very disappointed that I tested positive for a performance enhancing drug. I am frustrated that I can’t pinpoint how the substance in question entered my body. I would never knowingly take anything illegal to enhance my performance. What I can guarantee is I never knowingly took anything illegal to enhance my performance. That’s just not me, never has been and never will.”

** RHP Mike Pelfrey will take Santana’s spot in the rotation.

** The Twins announced that they’ve selected the contract of outfielder Shane Robinson, who had been in camp on a minor league deal. The 30-year-old Robinson had previously spent his entire career in the Cardinals organization and will presumably serve as the right-handed half of a center field platoon with Jordan Schafer.
 
White Sox

** The Sox signed veteran LHP Matt Lindstrom to a minor league deal.

** LHP Chris Sale, coming back from an injury, appears on track to start for the White Sox on April 12 against the Twins at U.S. Cellular Field, meaning the White Sox won't need a replacement at the season's outset.

** LHP Carlos Rodon, who has been talked about as a Rookie of the Year possibility, will begin the 2015 campaign in the Minors as a starter for Triple-A Charlotte.

What’s Ahead.

The Cubs jump start the MLB season with a Sunday night game against the Cardinals.
Jon Lester will face the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright.

On Monday, the Brewers will send Kyle Lohse against the Rockies‘ Kyle Kendrick at Miller Park.

In the AL, on Monday, the White Sox will send Jeff Samardzija against the Royals’ Yordano Ventura in KC. The Twins’ Phil Hughes will start against the Tigers’ David Price in Detroit.

Brief summaries of the openers will be posted on the Midwest Diamond Report Facebook page.

The Milwaukee Braves Historical Association will hold a banquet at the Milwaukee Athletic Club on Thursday, April 9. Speakers include Dennis Menke who had a 13-year career with the Braves, Reds and Astros, and Ron Cardo and George Blanchard who served as batboys for the Braves. There will also be also be a pictorial tribute to Red Schoendienst who will be inducted into the Braves Wall of Honor at Miller Park earlier in the day.

##

The MDR Blog can be found at the locations below:

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** http://midwestdiamondreport.mlblogs.com/
7483
MDR Blog 3/28
03-28-2015
08:47 AM ET (US)
The Cubs have a set of the most highly-touted young prospects in baseball, but they have to produce for the team to climb into contention. How have some of the key youngsters performed this spring?

Kris Bryant, projected to be the third baseman eventually, was leading the Cactus League in home runs and hitting .406 coming into the weekend. He seems ready to take over at third now.

But, the Cubs might still send him to Triple A to start the season, primarily to delay the start of the MLB service clock on the rookie.

At the same time, manager Joe Maddon also has experimented with Bryant in the outfield. So, the Cubs might be thinking the “bat should play,” no matter when the service clock starts ticking.

Jorge Soler was hitting .333 going into the weekend and is penciled in as the starting right fielder on the Cubs’ depth chart. He demonstrated already last season he is ready.

Asmendy Alcantara was hitting .278 going into the weekend and has shown the versatility that brought him up to the big leagues last season as an outfielder and infielder. Maddon has said Alcantara has a chance to become another Ben Zobrist, the versatile star of the Rays.

Kyle Hendricks has had a nice spring on the mound and should end up part of the rotation.

Outfielder Albert Almora was hitting .364 this spring, but he and other prospects are likely a year away.

The one disappointment has been infielder Javier Baez, who up to last year was perhaps the most highly touted of the young players. Baez was hitting .159 and continuing the trend he showed last season to strike out better than a third of his times up with 16 Ks in 44 at-bats.

"Of course, there's a chance he doesn't make the team," Maddon said last week. "There's no lock in regard to that. The entitlement program doesn't exist -- everything has to be earned.

"He has things he has to learn how to do yet," Maddon added. "He shows signs of brilliance at times. To this point, he's had a lot of good at-bats and hit some balls hard. Then he'll show the out-of-control swing that bothers him a little bit, and I think it bothers the fans more than it bothers me.

"It's a young guy trying to figure this all out. [He has] sterling bat speed, incredible bat speed. He just needs plate appearances."

If Baez would start the season in the minors, Alcantara could play second base with Almora possibly sticking as a backup to Dexter Fowler in center.

Right now, it looks like Bryant (no matter when his clock starts), Soler, Alcantara and Hendricks have played well enough to make the club and could be contributors to a Cubs resurgence. Others could follow. Baez will remain the question mark.

Updated Notes

(Some of these notes come from www.mlbtraderumors.com)

Brewers

** RF Ryan Braun, who started the spring 0-for-13, carried a six game hitting streak into the weekend.

** RHP Mike Fiers made his first appearance since March 13 and gave up only one run in 3.2 innings.

** C Jonathan Lucroy saw his first action at first base.

Cubs

** Jorge Soler, Chris Coghlan, Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo homered in a 6-3 win Friday over former teammate Jeff Samardzija and the White Sox.

** Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein says the team is likely to start the season with three catchers, ESPNChicago.com’s Jesse Rogers writes. Having Miguel Montero, David Ross and Welington Castillo all start the season with the team does limit Joe Maddon’s tactical possibilities somewhat, but Epstein says that Maddon supports having three catchers.

** Cubs skipper Joe Maddon says he is talking with Epstein about a creative means to fit both Edwin Jackson and Travis Wood on the 25-man roster, MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat tweets.

Twins

** The Twins have gained cost certainty over a key piece of their lineup after announcing a four-year, $20MM extension for second baseman Brian Dozier. The deal will pay Dozier $2MM this season, $3MM in 2016, $6MM in 2017 and $9MM in 2018.

** The Twins might benefit from shipping RHP Mike Pelfrey to a team that needs starting depth in exchange for a lefty pen piece, tweets Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

** The Twins have inquired about watching free agent right-hander Rafael Soriano throw, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN reports (via Twitter). Minnesota is known to be looking for bullpen help, and Soriano is the most established relief arm left on the open market.

White Sox

** White Sox GM Rick Hahn announced a five-year, $23.5MM extension with center fielder Adam Eaton on CSN Chicago. The deal includes two club options, which give the team risk-free control over Eaton for 2020 and 2021.

** The last place on the Sox roster apparently belongs to J.B. Shuck, who added a double, single and a stolen base to his Cactus League resume on Friday.

** Jeff Samardzija has yielded seven home runs over his last two starts and eight overall this spring.

Hank Returns to Maryvale

Hank “The Ballpark Pup,” returns to his old grounds in Phoenix this weekend. He is making an appearance at Maryvale Baseball Park. The appearance will be tied to an “adopt-a-pet” event and fundraiser for the Arizona Humane Society.

“Brewers fans and dog lovers in Arizona made it clear that they wanted to have a chance to see Hank again, and we are happy to make this a reality,” said Brewers Chief Operating Officer Rick Schlesinger.

“We are very grateful to our friends at Southwest Airlines for giving Hank an opportunity to visit his old hometown and look forward to raising funds and awareness for the Arizona Humane Society.”

Hank wandered into the Brewers’ spring camp last year and was quickly taken in as a team member.

What’s Ahead

Next weekend, the Pompous Prognostications will be included in the MDR Blog.

Look for the four MDR teams to make their final cuts by that weekend. On April 1,the Brewers meet the Cubs in Mesa in the last spring training game between MDR teams.

On Friday, June 19, at 7:10 p.m., the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, Class-A affiliate of Milwaukee, and the Beloit Snappers, Class-A affiliate of Oakland, will square off at Miller Park.

##

The MDR Blog can be found at the locations below.
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** http://midwestdiamondreport.mlblogs.com/
** www.onwisconsinsports.com
7482
MDR Blog 3/21
03-21-2015
05:03 PM ET (US)
Have the Brewers really taken care of their first base problem?

The answer at this point of spring training would have to be “maybe,” as Adam Lind -- acquired from the Blue Jays -- has been unable to firmly take hold of the position.

Lind missed some early action with a sore back -- something that has hampered him in the past with Toronto. “The thing about it is it just pops up,” Lind said of his back problem.

“You never know. It can happen closing a toilet seat or shaving or anything where I bend over. That’s the problem.”

That hardly can be comfortable for Lind, or for Brewers fans who hope he is an improvement over last season’s platoon of Lyle Overbay and Mark Reynolds.

What is somewhat encouraging is the fact that as of Saturday, Lind was back playing in the field and was 5-for-12, with a home run, in Cactus League play.

“It felt pretty good,” Lind said upon his return. “We’ll just have to take it day-by-day.”

That leads you to ask what will be the Brewers do on the days Lind’s back doesn’t feel very well. Or, how about those days when the opponents start a tough lefty, who Lind has struggled against in the past?

Jonathan Lucroy might be an answer at times. Lucroy is coming back from a hamstring problem and might benefit, short and long term, by some breaks from crouching behind the plate and playing first instead.

Martin Maldonado, Lucroy’s backup at catcher, also can play first base. “I feel comfortable playing first and will go wherever they need me,“ Maldonado said.

And, Jason Rogers, who hit well in early spring games, can play first and third. Even, Gerardo Parra has been seen with a first base glove at times, although he is a lefty like Lind. Matt Clark, who showed glimpses late last season and is hitting this spring, also is a lefty.

It seems like Brewers’ management doesn’t want to even think about Ryan Braun playing first, which this writer thinks could end up the best solution.

So, for the time being, Brewers fans had just better hope Lind doesn’t have to close the toilet seat too often, and takes it easy shaving.

Updated Notes

** RHP Mike Fiers was expected to return to the mound this weekend after being scratched from a start Thursday because of shoulder fatigue.

** Rob Wooten, Tyler Thornburg and Chris Perez are competing for what could be the final bullpen spot. Jim Henderson, whose velocity was down, and Corey Knebel, acquired in the Yovani Gallardo trade, were sent to the minor league camp. RHP Francisco Rodriguez reported no problems after he threw his first bullpen session since reporting late to camp.

** The Brewers exercised the 2016 option for manager Ron Roenicke.

Cubs

** LHP Jon Lester skipped Saturday’s start with a tired arm.

** LHP Travis Wood and RHP Edwin Jackson are battling for one spot in the rotation.

** 2B Javier Baez was 3-for-30 with 11 strikeouts in his first 10 spring games.

Twins

** RHP Alex Meyer was sent to the minor league camp to work on his command. RHP Michael Tonkin was optioned to Triple A.

** LHP Glen Perkins felt fine after recent action. He had sat out since March 4 with a mild right oblique strain.

** RHP Mike Pelfrey and LHP Tommy Milone could be fighting it out for the final rotation spot.

White Sox

** Alexei Ramirez was tied for the Cactus League lead with 11 RBIs.

** CF Adam Eaton agreed to a five-year, $2.35 million extension this week.

** If Jeff Samardzija is the Sox’s Opening Day starter, he will join Jaime Navarro as the only pitcher to start back-to-back openers for both the Sox and Cubs. Navarro started for the Cubs in 1996 and the Sox in’97.

Cubs vs. White Sox

Arismendy Alcantara, Taylor Teagarden, David Ross and Anthony Giansati homered in the Cubs’ 10-7 win over the White Sox on Friday. Alexei Ramirez led the Sox with three hits. The game drew a sellout crowd at Camelback Ranch.

What’s Ahead

Look for the regulars for the four MDR teams to start playing more innings in spring games and start producing more. For example, after going 0-for-13, Ryan Braun had his first hit and his first home run on Friday.

The Brewers will play the White Sox on March 22. A brief summary will be added to the MDR Blog Facebook page.

Other meetings between MDR teams will take place on March 27 when the Sox travel to Mesa to play the Cubs and on April 1 when the Brewers meet the Cubs in Mesa.

##

The MDR Blog can be found at the locations below:

** http://www.quicktopic.com/31/H/bcq8WpiTHm8eC
** http://midwestdiamondreport.mlblogs.com/
** www.onwisconsinsports.com
7481
MDR Blog 3/14
03-14-2015
11:01 AM ET (US)
The Brewers top three in their starting rotation seem set with Wily Peralta, Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza.

With the departure of Yovani Gallardo and Marco Estrada, however, the club lacks the depth of recent seasons in starting pitching. That makes the roles of RHPs Mike Fiers and Jimmy Nelson that much more important.

“We still have some good arms in this organization, but I am aware that my situation is different this season,” said Fiers. “I’m not taking anything for granted, and am working like I have to earn a spot on the roster, but I am aware that there is a starting role there and they could use me to fill it.”

It’s the second time Fiers has been on the cusp of becoming a key contributor to the rotation. After he went 9-10 in 2012, the Brewers were optimistic about his role. But, Fiers ended back in the minors after struggling the following season. He also had to overcome the death of his mother and a broken forearm in 2013.

Last season, and again this spring, Fiers has had another obstacle to overcome. After he hit Giancarlo Stanton in the face with a pitch on Sept. 11, he had to battle psychological difficulties that have changed the careers of other pitchers involved in such hit-by-pitch incidents.

“When it happened, nobody, especially me, wanted him to get hurt,” Fiers said. “I communicated with him, and he responded by saying he knew it wasn’t intentional and things happen in the game.

“We were still in the race at the time, so I knew the team needed me to stay focused. Teammates and others with the team helped me a lot. You still have to be able to pitch inside to get guys out in this league. I know that.”

Nelson was called up last season and spent time in the No. 5 slot. He ended up going 2-9, but that hasn’t stopped the Brewers from giving him a shot at No. 5 again.

“I appreciate the confidence they are showing in me,” The 6-6, 245 pound Nelson said. “I never lost confidence in myself. I see last year as a learning experience. I think it can make me a better pitcher.”

Nelson said he learned you can never relax in the game. “I think all of us learned you have to play until the end,” he said. “You have to finish things. You can’t let yourself get ahead of things, because they can catch up quickly.”

In spring training, Nelson has been working on some additional pitches and other things. “I’m working the same as I did in previous spring training camps,” Nelson said. “It’s exciting to have this chance, but I know I have to earn it. Nobody is going to give anything to me.”

If Fiers and/or Nelson falter, the Brewers could turn to Tyler Thornburg, Will Smith, newly acquired Corey Knebel or even prospect Taylor Jungmann as starters. But, a couple of those guys already are slotted for the bullpen and Jungmann might be considered a year away.

Updated Notes

(Some of these notes come from www.mlbtraderumors.com.)

Brewers

** C. Jonathan Lucroy appeared in a minor league intra-squad game on Thursday and could appear soon in a regular Cactus League contest. Lucroy is coming back from a hamstring injury and also was suffering from pink eye, which has affected several players.

** RHP Francisco Rodriguez reported to camp Friday. K-Rod was delayed because of his relative late signing and visa issues.

** LHP Dontrelle Willis, who was in camp with the Brewers on a minor league deal, has informed the Brewers that he will retire, tweets MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. A neck injury has slowed him this spring.

Cubs

** Comedian Will Ferrell played for the Cubs and White Sox Thursday as part of a fund raiser. Ferrell played all 10 positions for 10 different clubs during a whirlwind single-day tour of several Arizona Spring Training camps. The event was dedicated to raise funds for the Stand Up To Cancer and Cancer For College charities. Ferrell’s day included two at-bats (both strikeouts), a helicopter landing in center field, serving as the Cubs’ third base coach and actually recording an out during his 1/3 inning of work on the mound.

** Prospect Kris Bryant hit two homers on Thursday.

** LHP Jon Lester, making his second spring start, needed just six pitches to get through the first inning. The Cubs' Opening Night starter, Lester threw first-pitch strikes to 10 of the 11 batters he faced, and gave up three hits while striking out two over three innings.

Twins

** The Twins and 2B Brian Dozier are talking about a possible contract extension.

** Chris Herrmann is showing versatility by playing catcher, first base and two outfield positions, but ultimately he’ll have to hit to make the team.

** RHP Mark Hamburger has thrown five scoreless innings, allowing just one hit, in his three appearances.

White Sox

** LHP Jose Quintana or RHP Jeff Samardzija could be the Opening Day starter after it was announced LHP Chris Sale will not be ready to come off the DL.

** Closer David Robertson discusses his decision to go to Chicago with ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick. “I’m here for a reason,” Robertson said. “I want to win some ballgames and get back to the postseason. Chicago likes a winner, and I want to be a part of it.”

** White Sox outfielder Michael Taylor retired from baseball, midway through his first spring training for the Sox. The Sox added outfielder Engel Beltre to major league camp to fill Taylor’s spot.

What’s Ahead

For a brief on the Brewers-Cubs game Saturday, see the MDR Facebook page on Sunday. The Brewers will take on the Cubs again on April 1 in Mesa. Milwaukee will play the White Sox on March 22.

Other meetings between MDR teams will take place on March 20 when the Cubs will play the White Sox in Glendale and March 27 when the Sox travel to Mesa to play the Cubs.

Some MDR teams could make cuts within the next week.

##

The MDR Blog can be found at the locations below.

** http://www.quicktopic.com/31/H/bcq8WpiTHm8eC
** http://midwestdiamondreport.mlblogs.com/
** www.onwisconsinsports.com
7480
MDR Blog 3/8
03-08-2015
09:56 AM ET (US)
Scooter Gennett knows second base is his to either grab on a daily basis or play his way out of the position.

Gone is Rickie Weeks, who platooned with Gennett last season. The Brewers do have a variety of infielders who could fill in at second in a pinch, but the position is Gennett’s at this point.

“It feels great,” Gennett said before a workout at the Maryvale spring training complex. “This is the first time I’ve been in camp knowing I can play every day. All you want is that kind of opportunity.

“At the same time, I’m not taking anything for granted. I’m going about by business in the same way as if I was fighting for a roster spot.”

Gennett hit .289 with nine homers and 54 RBIs in 440 at-bats last season. He hit .324 in 213 at-bats in 2013.

A lefthanded hitter, he faced primarily righthanded pitchers with Weeks playing against lefthanders. That’s raised some questions whether Gennett will hit against lefties.

“I think the main thing is to get the opportunity to hit against them,” Gennett said. “When your opportunities are limited, you probably won’t hit them as well. I played fulltime in the minors and hit lefties.”

Gennett hit .285 against lefties in the minors in 2011, the last time he played fulltime.

At 5-10, 170, Gennett, whose real name is Ryan, is a scrappy player, somewhat in the mold of former Brewer Jim Gantner.

He considers himself a “top of the lineup hitter,” but says he’ll bat anywhere in the order.

“I led off or hit near the top of the order in the minors,” he said. “I still consider myself a top of the order hitter, but I’ll go wherever the skipper (manager Ron Roenicke) needs me.

“I think he’s mixed it up, depending on matchups and our needs. When Carlos (Gomez) leads off, he can give you a 1-0 lead with one swing of the bat. We have other guys who could lead off. I’ll bat first, second, ninth, wherever they need me. As long as I can contribute.”

Gennett has been the leadoff hitters in early Cactus League games, but then many of the regulars have not appeared in those games.

“That’s in part what spring training is about,” Gennett said. “You try to work out those things here. Then, you make adjustments as the season goes on.”
“Updated Notes

(Some of these notes come from www.mlbtraderumors.com)

Brewers

** Catcher Jonathan Lucroy is on schedule in his rehab for a hamstring problem and expects to me ready by Opening Day.

** The Brewers committed five errors in their first 10 innings of Cactus League play.

** Luis Jimenez, who is out of options, is competing with Luis Sardinas and Hector Gomez for a utility infield role with the Brewers.


Cubs

** LHP Jon Lester struck out three in two scoreless innings in his spring debut as a Cub. 3B Kris Bryant hit his first home run of the spring Saturday.

** The Cubs set a record for the Cactus and Grapefruit leagues with a crowd of 15,331 on Friday.

** LHP Phil Coke underwent a physical Friday and will officially join the Cubs on a Minor League contract.

Twins

** Rule 5 pick J. R. Graham, a former top prospect who dealt with a right shoulder strain that caused him to miss most of the 2013 season, fared well in his Grapefruit League debut, tossing two scoreless innings while repeatedly hitting 96 mph on the radar gun.

** Twins catcher Josmil Pinto was held of action with tenderness in a hamstring and is day to day.

** RHP Phil Hughes labored through his first outing Saturday, allowing three hits in one inning of work, plus facing two hitters in the second. RHP Ervin Santana is scheduled to make his spring debut Sunday.

White Sox

** RHP Hector Noesi retired all six Seattle hitters faced at Camelback Ranch Saturday, throwing 18 strikes among his 28 pitches.

** Closer David Robertson could get in his first Cactus League game Monday at home against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

** Services were held Friday and Saturday for Minnie Minoso, the White Sox’s first black player, who died last Sunday.

Ernie’s Funeral Expenses

The Cubs are going to pay for the funeral of legendary infielder Ernie Banks after the company that handled the services filed a claim that it hadn't been paid amid a legal battle over the Hall of Famer's estate.

A report from the Associated Press (via the Chicago Tribune) states the $35,000 cost will be covered by the Cubs after they found out about the situation through the media. Team spokesman Julian Green said it will be handled early next week.

"We learned of the story through the news media, saw that the funeral home had filed a claim," Green said. "We weren't aware that the bill had not been handled. After that, we immediately called the funeral home and told them we would take care of it on Monday."

The Old College Try

The UWM Panthers opened the Brewers spring training schedule with an exhibition at Maryvale on Wednesday. It was the first game for the Brewers against a college team since 1983 when they played Arizona State, and the first time UWM met a big league club.

“This is very exciting for the guys and everybody involved,” UWM coach Scott Doffek said before his club dropped a 8-0 decision to the Brewers. “This is the level everybody wants to get to. To play here, against the hometown big league team is a real experience. The Brewers have been just great.”

What’s Ahead

The first MDR matchup in the Cactus League will take place this week when the Cubs travel to Maryvale to take on the Brewers March 14.

The Brewers will take on the Cubs again on April 1 in Mesa. Milwaukee will play the White Sox on March 22.

Other meetings between MDR teams will take place on March 20 when the Cubs will play the White Sox in Glendale and March 27 when the Sox travel to Mesa to play the Cubs.

##

The MDR Blog can be found at the locations below.

** http://www.quicktopic.com/31/H/bcq8WpiTHm8eC
** http://midwestdiamondreport.mlblogs.com/
** www.onwisconsinsports.com
7479
MDR Blog 2/28
02-28-2015
09:14 AM ET (US)
Francisco Rodriguez has spent most of the past four seasons with the Brewers. He’s also led the franchise in transactions in the last four-years.

It’s become an annual ritual for the Brewers to either trade K-Rod or allow him to declare free agency, only to end up signing him again.

Milwaukee acquired him in a trade with the Mets the night of the 2011 All-Star Game. He also accepted arbitration from the Brewers in December '11 and re-signed as a free agent in '13 and '14.

There is a sign that the Brewers might want to do it a little differently this time. They reached a two-year, $13MM deal with the 33-year-old reliever earlier this week. Milwaukee also holds a club option for the 2017 season over the Boras Corporation client.

While the annual breakdown is not yet fully reported, Rodriguez will earn just $3MM in 2015 and $6MM in 2016. The remainder will be deferred in some manner, though it is not clear how much is deferred salary and how much will go toward the option buyout.

Why go back again and again to K-Rod as the club’s possible closer? For one thing, he’s been pretty effective. He owns a 3.11 ERA over his 193 2/3 frames with the Brewers. He’s earned 67 saves and likes pitching with the Brewers for manager Ron Roenicke, who he knows from the days when both were with the Angels.

"Frankie had 44 saves for us last year and he fits well with our team," team principal owner Mark Attanasio told JSOnline. "One thing that Doug (Melvin) talks about a lot and is important to me too is players who want to be in Milwaukee, and it's always been clear that he wants to be here."

Rodriguez also has served in a setup role for the club and, while it’s likely he will start this season as the closer, the Brewers do have other options if he fades as the season goes on.

Before Rodriguez’s signing, Jonathan Broxton was being mentioned most often as the closer. He likely will start as a setup man, but could move into the closer role. If Jim Henderson comes back from some arm problems, he too could move into the closer role he once held.

Chris Perez, a former MLB closer, is in camp on a minor league contract. Jeremy Jeffress also is said to have closer stuff. There could be other young pitchers also work into that role, but that’s long range.

Jonathan Papelbon, who was rumored as a trade possibility, would have cost more than any of these guys.

So, bottom line is that K-Rod continues to be the Brewers’ best option.

Updated Notes

(Some of these notes come from www.mlbtraderumors.com)

Brewers

** Catcher Robinzon Diaz, 31, is joining the Brewers on a minor league deal. Diaz last saw MLB action back in 2008-09. He gives the club some additional depth behind the plate until regular catcher Jonathan Lucroy can come off the disabled list.

** With Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez expected to retire after the season, Milwaukee will need to implement their succession plan, as MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy writes. The need for a replacement is not a surprise to the club, but that doesn’t mean it has an immediately attractive option.

** After starter Jean Segura, the Brewers have three shortstops on the 40-man roster -- 26-year-old Hector Gomez, 22-year-old Yadiel Rivera and 21-year-old Luis Sardinas -- who have a chance to play in the Major Leagues. Top prospect Orlando Arcia (No. 88 on MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects list) who is not in big league camp, is also a shortstop.

Cubs

** The Cubs announced they have hired Manny Ramirez as a hitting consultant. Ramirez, who spent the 2014 season as a player-coach with Chicago’s Triple-A affiliate, will work with the Cubs’ Major League and Minor League players on the fundamental and mental aspects of hitting.

** The Cubs trading Welington Castillo is not a foregone conclusion, as President Theo Epstein says the team is considering keeping three catchers, tweets Bruce Levine of 670theScore.com.

** LHP Jon Lester’s first BP session went very well.

Twins

** Glen Perkins called the first day of Spring Training under new Twins manager Paul Molitor the most mentally intensive first day of camp he’s ever had in his career, writes Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN.

** Former Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has rejected a position within his old organization and will spend the year away from the game. Former manager Tom Kelly is in camp as an advisor to Molitor.

** Molitor said he still hasn't decided where Joe Mauer will bat in the lineup this season, but that he won't hit any lower than third in the order.

White Sox

** RHP Jesse Crain is already further along than he was in an injury-plagued 2014 season in which he spent the entire year on the disabled list. He’s already throwing off a mound with just one day between sessions, which is something he didn’t do at all last year.

** LHP Jose Quintana will get the start against the Dodgers on Wednesday at Camelback Ranch.

** Chris Sale, Jeff Samardzija and Jose Quintana will start the first three games of the regular season in Kansas City as things line up now, which was confirmed by manager Robin Ventura.

What’s Ahead

Gregg Hoffmann, author of the MDR Blog, will be making the rounds of the camps of the three MDR teams that train in Arizona this week and have reports for next week’s blog. Any big stories will be posted on the MDR Blog Facebook page.

Cactus League and Grapefruit League action starts next week. The White Sox play the Dodgers, with whom they share training facilities, on Wednesday, March 4.

The Cubs open against the Giants on Thursday, March 5. After playing an exhibition game against the UWM Panthers on Wednesday, the Brewers will meet the Angels on March 5.

In Florida, the Twins host the Minnesota Gophers on Wednesday and then open Grapefuit League action on March 6 against the Red Sox.

##

The MDR Blog can be found at the locations below.
** http://www.quicktopic.com/31/H/bcq8WpiTHm8eC
** http://midwestdiamondreport.mlblogs.com/
** www.onwisconsinsports.com
7478
MDR Blog 2/22
02-22-2015
08:15 AM ET (US)
Pitchers and catchers have reported for all four MDR teams. Let’s take a look at the catching situation for all four.

The Brewers will start with their starting catcher, Jonathan Lucroy, on the disabled list with a hamstring injury. Martin Maldonado will get extra work until Lucroy is ready to return. Juan Centeno is the other catcher on the big league roster.

Miguel Montero and David Ross have joined Welington Castillo in the Cubs catching corps. The time for Castillo with the Cubs is up, says Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Montero likely will move to the forefront in that competition, but the depth at the position can’t hurt.

The Twins no long automatically pencil in Joe Mauer at catcher. Instead, he’s at first base. Kurt Suzuki is coming off an All Star season for the Twins and will see most of the action. He’s backed up by Josmil Pinto, who has some offense potential, and Chris Herrmann.

You can pencil in Tyler Flowers as the starter behind the plate for the White Sox. But, the Sox also have Adrian Nieto, Ron Brantly and veteran George Kottaras, who signed a minor league contract with an invitation to the big league camp.

Catcher can be a key position for any team. No. 1 priority most times is defense. Handling pitchers is another important skill. Offense often is third.

Lucroy, once he gets healthy, adds the latter and has improved considerably in the other two areas. That’s why he’s an All Star.

Montero will add offense for the Cubs, but he and Ross were primarily brought aboard to improve the defense over Castillo’s performance.

Suzuki and Flowers provided offense in 2014 that was better than the major league average and are adequate in the other two areas.

Papelbon Rumors

The Phillies asked the Brewers for a “top prospect” in return for closer Jonathan Papelbon if the club was to pick up a big piece of the remainder of his deal, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. In response, Milwaukee offered to send Jonathan Broxton back to Philadelphia to help balance the cash.

Papelbon said from the Phillies camp that his agents have not contacted him about any specific deal. The talks are now dormant, says Rosenthal. That would appear to take the Brewers out of the picture for Papelbon at this point.

Updated Notes

(Some notes in this section came from www.mlbtraderumors.com.)

Brewers

** Manager Ron Roenicke told Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he is not concerned about being on the hot seat as he enters the final year of his contract. “I know I’ve got a contract this year and I’ll try to do the best I can. I can’t control what happens with that. I just plan to get the guys playing well, and hopefully we’ll get off to a good start again and we’ll see what happens.“

** The Brewers have signed right-hander Josh Roenicke to a minor league conract. The 32-year-old Roenicke — the nephew of Brewers manager Ron Roenicke — spent the 2014 season with the Triple-A affiliates for the Nationals and Rockies. Righty David Herndon has signed a minor league deal with the Brewers. The 29-year-old, who is trying to reach the bigs for the first time since 2012, has been significantly limited by injuries over the last several seasons.

** Pitching prospect Johnny Hellweg, who underwent Tommy John surgery last April, should be game-ready by the end of camp, but the Brewers are plotting a cautious approach.

Cubs

** Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant is baseball’s best prospect, according to Baseball America’s newly-released list of the top 100 prospects in the game.

** Recently-retired veteran Kevin Youkilis will be joining the Cubs as a special assistant, Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports on Twitter.

** Right-hander Gonzalez Germen has cleared outright waivers and been assigned to Triple-A Iowa by the Cubs, tweets Gonzales.

Twins

** The Twins will welcome number one prospect Byron Buxton to their major league camp for the second time, writes Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com. However, it’s 29th ranked prospect Alex Meyer who has the best chance to break camp with the club. The giant righty will compete for a spot in the rotation, although he’ll face competition from Tommy Milone, Mike Pelfrey, Tim Stauffer, and Trevor May.

** A Twins official told Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (Twitter links) not to put too much stock into the idea that the Twins are still after a right-handed bat. That’s something they could explore, but it probably wouldn’t come until late March.

** The Twins and Lee County in Florida will host a family open house and ribbon-cutting ceremony at the renovated CenturyLink Sports Complex Sunday.

White Sox

** The White Sox and right-hander Matt Albers are in agreement on a minor league contract, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link). Albers will earn $1.5MM if he makes the Major League roster, reports Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter links).

** The White Sox training camp in Glendale, Arizona, was invaded by scorpions Saturday. Crews were working on eradicating the bugs.

** Third baseman Nick Delmonico, who was released by the Brewers last week, has latched on with the White Sox on a minor league deal.

Honoring Mr. Cub

The Cubs announced the team’s plans to pay tribute to Hall of Famer Ernie Banks during Spring Training, Opening Night at Wrigley Field and throughout the course of the 2015 season. “Mr. Cub” passed away last month at the age of 83.

Beginning in Spring Training and continuing throughout the 2015 season, the team will wear a commemorative #14 patch on both its home and away jerseys. The Cubs will open their Spring Training schedule by wearing #14 hats during both split squad games March 5, with additional acknowledgments planned for that day’s opening game at Sloan Park.

Banks will be honored with a pre-game ceremony before Major League Baseball’s Cubs vs. Cardinals Season Opener at Wrigley Field, April 5, and each fan attending that night’s game will receive a commemorative pin in memoriam of the Hall of Famer. Fans will see many other tributes paying homage to Mr. Banks’ remarkable life and career throughout the evening.

A collection of videos, photos and articles have been posted to Cubs.com over the last several weeks, while the team’s Vine Line Magazine will publish a special feature edition honoring Mr. Cub in March. Additional tributes will be finalized and incorporated throughout the 2015 season.

“There is no level of recognition that can properly acknowledge how much Ernie Banks meant to this franchise and fan base,” said Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts. “Collectively, we must ensure Mr. Cub’s legacy rightfully lives on at the Friendly Confines and with future generations of baseball fans.”

What’s Ahead

Full squads will report for all four MDR teams in the next week. Cactus League and Grapefruit League action starts March 4-5.

With the start of spring training, the MDR Blog will now be distributed weekly through the regular season.

##

The MDR Blog can be found at the locations below.

** http://www.quicktopic.com/31/H/bcq8WpiTHm8eC
** http://midwestdiamondreport.mlblogs.com/
** www.onwisconsinsports.com
7477
MDR Blog - 2/1
02-01-2015
08:43 AM ET (US)
Spring training starts later this month, so let’s take a look at what the four MDR teams will be looking to do in their respective camps.

Brewers

After a very inactive winter, the Brewers picked it up in January, trading Yovani Gallardo for three players. With Marco Estrada also gone, their main priority will be to set up their pitching staff.
 
On paper, the rotation looks like Wily Peralta, Kyle Lohse, Matt Garza, Mike Fiers and Jimmy Nelson. But, where these five will end up in the rotation could be influenced by how they perform in spring training games. The rotation is not as deep without Gallardo and Estrada, who provided versatility in the rotation and in the bullpen. Tyler Thornburg could fill the Estrada role, if he has recovered from arm problems.

Others in the bullpen include Will Smith, Jeremy Jeffress, Brandon Kintzler and Rob Wooten. Jim Henderson also could end up in the mix if he is healthy. Jonathan Broxton likely will be the closer.

With Adam Lind taking over at first base, the position players seem rather set. Geraldo Parra’s role still is to be determined. He could also end up platooning with Khris Davis in left.

Scooter Gennett won’t have to platoon at second base with Rickie Weeks gone, but the Brewers might look to have a righthanded hitting backup, in case Gennett struggles against lefties.

Another priority for the club is to make sure Ryan Braun’s hand injury has been repaired, and he is ready to perform at a higher level than last season.

Reporting Dates: Pitchers and catchers - Feb. 20, Full squad - Feb. 25.

First Cactus League game: March 5 - Dodgers. An exhibition against UWM will be played March 4.

Cubs

There will be a real buzz in the Cubs camp this spring, with a big name manager in Joe Maddon, several of the young players seemingly ready to contribute and a couple veteran newcomers.

Jon Lester is in the latter category and will go to the top of the rotation. After Lester, Maddon has to determine who will fill out the rotation. Jason Hammel is back and could be No. 2. Back from last season are Jake Arrieta, Kyle Kendricks and Travis Wood among others.

The Cubs traded 3B Luis Valbuena, probably in part to make room for prospect Kris Bryant, but talk is he will start the season at Triple A. A red hot spring could change that.
Shortstop and first base seem set with Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo. Second base is open with Javier Baez the frontrunner for the position if he can cut down on his strikeouts.

Who ends up where in the outfield will be a question. Newly acquired Dexter Fowler likely will end up in center. Chris Coghlan and Jorge Soler are leading candidates for the corner outfield positions, but others could be in the mix.

The Cubs upgraded their catching with the acquisition of Miguel Montero and David Ross, who join returnee Welington Castillo. Both will have to work to get to know the pitching staff.

Reporting dates: Pitchers and catchers - Feb. 19, Full squad - Feb. 24

First Cactus League game: March 5 - A’s.

Twins

Paul Molitor takes over as manager of the Twins and will want to establish his style and a tone for the team as early in spring training as possible.

Molitor also will want to configure a pitching staff, which has added Ervin Santana to the rotation. Closer Glen Perkins will need some time to make sure he has recovered from an injury-plagued 2014, and the bullpen will have to be set up leading to Perkins.

The outfield looks to have Oswaldo Arcia in left and veteran Torri Hunter in right. Aaron Hicks will get another chance in center, but if he falls short that might be a spot where there will be some competition.

Joe Mauer at first base, Brian Dozier at second and Trevor Plouffe at third should get plenty of work in the spring to establish themselves as the offensive core of the team.

Molitor might have his most work in re-establishing a winning attitude among the Twins, after the club has struggled the last couple seasons.

Reporting Dates: Pitchers and catchers - Feb. 22, Full squad - Feb. 27.

First Grapefruit League game: March 5 - Red Sox. The Twins will play the University of Minnesota on March 4.

White Sox

The Sox will have several new faces in camp and will face the challenge of blending them with the holdovers.

Jeff Samardzija will join a rotation headed by Chris Sale. The bullpen looks to have added depth, but what roles individuals will play will have to be determined.

Melky Cabrera comes in to play left field. He won’t have to compete with Dayan Viciedo, since he was designated for assignment to make room for Gordon Beckham, who will join the mix at second base.

Adam La Roche, who spent most of his time at first base in the NL, will have to adjust to the DH role. He also might be worked into the first base situation, with Jose Abreu periodically serving as DH.

Tyler Flowers looks to start spring as the regular catcher, but the club has plenty of depth with Geovany Soto, George Kottaras, Rob Brantly, and Adrian Nieto.

Manager Robin Ventura has new pieces that should strengthen the Sox puzzle overall, but he will have to arrange those pieces in a way that keeps all the players happy and ready to contribute.

Reporting Dates: Pitchers and catchers - Feb. 20, Full squad - Feb. 24.

First Cactus League game: March 4 - Dodgers.

Mr. Cub

Many baseball fans will miss Ernie Banks, who died in late January. My own family has a longtime story about Ernie. When I was first starting my freelance business, I did writing and photography work for Al Rainovic’s Midwest Diamond Report.

I was taking photos during batting practice at Wrigley when Banks, then serving as sort of an ambassador for the Cubs, asked me if I could take a group photo of a bunch of fans from Peoria. I got 80 photo sales from that, a lot for somebody just starting.

My sister, an avid Cubs fan, saw Ernie talking with me and said to my wife, “Ernie is talking with Butch (my nickname in my family).” I later told her he was my business associate.

That remained a joke in our family until Ernie died. As I progressed in my business, I interviewed Banks several times and found him to be a great guy. He will be missed.

Updated Notes

(Some of these notes come from www.mlbtraderumors.com.)

Brewers

** LHP Neal Cotts was signed to a one-year deal and will join the bullpen.

** Principal owner Mark Attanasio said the Brewers roster is not yet set. The club reportedly is looking for another pitcher and more depth.

** Right-hander Hiram Burgos is heading back to the Brewers. Burgos was a 40-man casualty in September, but will remain in the only professional organization he has known. The 27-year-old made one brief, unsuccessful stint in the big leagues. He missed significant time last year due to shoulder surgery.

Cubs

** Javier Baez had a tough time in Puerto Rico winter ball, FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi reports, as the Cubs prospect is still plagued by strikeouts. It is starting to look like Baez could begin the 2015 season in Triple-A unless he enjoys a big Spring Training.

** The Cubs announced that they have claimed righty Gonzalez Germen off waivers from the Rangers.

** The Cubs and outfielder Dexter Fowler have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $9.5 million.

Twins

** Lefty reliever Brian Duensing and the Twins have agreed to terms for one year and $2.7 million.

** Despite some apparent suggestions, the Twins are not interested in free agent second baseman Rickie Weeks, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets.

** Alex Meyer, the Twins fourth best prospect and 27th overall per MLB.com, figures to compete to become the club’s fifth starter, reports Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com. Candidates for the back of the rotation include Mike Pelfrey, Tommy Milone, and Trevor May.

White Sox

** The White Sox rank at the very top of the list of off-season winners compiled by Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. GM Rick Hahn ticked through many of the team’s questions this winter and should have a competitive team to show for it, says Heyman.

** Right-handers Jairo Asencio and J.D. Martin were signed to minor league deals and invited them to Spring Training.

** The White Sox announced that they have signed right-handers Jesse Crain and Scott Carroll to minor league deals with invites to big league Spring Training.

Handy Andy Review

For a MDR Review of Joe Niese’s “Handy Andy” book on Andy Pafko, go to the Midwest Diamond Report Facebook page (you can find the link below). It’s a great read.

What’s Ahead

You could see teams make some last minute deals as they try to wrap up their spring training rosters.

The MDR Blog will be published again on Feb. 22 and will then run weekly through spring training and the regular season.

##

The MDR Blog can be found at the locations below.
** http://www.quicktopic.com/31/H/bcq8WpiTHm8eC
** http://midwestdiamondreport.mlblogs.com/
** www.onwisconsinsports.com
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