Notes: Fielder becoming more vocal
First baseman expresses displeasure after loss
MIAMI -- In his second full season with the Brewers, Prince Fielder on Monday night began showing signs of asserting himself more as a force within the clubhouse.
As the media entered following the 5-3 loss at Dolphin Stadium, Fielder sat in front of his stall facing many of his teammates, who had started eating their usual postgame meal.
Fielder's normally friendly face had turned into a scowl that could peel the paint off the clubhouse wall. Suddenly, the 262-pound first baseman shouted a word symbolizing frustration and anger. Almost everybody looked up.
Then he boomed, "We've got to gather ourselves."
After a pause, there was another shock word that reverberated through the clubhouse. Nobody else said a word, and a muted tone characterized the clubhouse until the last players left.
Manager Ned Yost was pleased to hear on Tuesday that Fielder had spoken out. He feels it is a natural evolution for Fielder, one of the team's anchors, to be more vocal among his teammates.
"I think he feels what we're all feeling," Yost said. "What we really need to do is stay focused and really try to limit the damage. We've been making mistakes. We're not firing on all cylinders and we're still only one game under .500. When we start firing on all cylinders, we're going to take off. But right now, we're kind of treading water."
Fielder smiled a little sheepishly on Tuesday when asked about his outburst. He thought the clubhouse might have been opened a tad soon to the media, exposing raw feelings.
But asked if he plans to become more assertive, he said, "I'm not trying to. I just want to win. All these guys are my friends. I want us to have fun, and the only way to have a good time is to win games. That's what we're all here for."
Yost said the mistakes for his team are still coming too frequently. Yet he added, "The signs are there. You see better at-bats. You see better baserunning. The mistakes we're making are aggressive mistakes."
Lest there be any doubt, Yost has not lost any faith in his players.
"The goods way outweigh the bads," he said. "These are things that every team goes through."
No stealing allowed: One nice statistic that has surfaced is that opposing teams have not stolen a base against the Brewers in seven games. Nor, for that matter, have they even attempted a steal. This is despite facing the Cubs, who have a premier stealer in Alfonso Soriano.
Yost knocked on wood at his clubhouse desk when he heard the news. The Brewers spent many Spring Training hours working with their pitchers on good slide-step and pickoff moves.
"We try to give ourselves every opportunity to be successful," he said. "We try not to take anything for granted."
Catcher Johnny Estrada was equally pleased to hear about the streak, for two reasons: it helps the Brewers and it might enable him to shake a reputation that he had in Atlanta of not throwing out many runners.
"We do a pretty good job of holding runners on base," Estrada said. "With all the work our pitchers have done using the slide-step, it's something we pride ourselves on -- keeping people close to the base."
Estrada said then-Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone did not believe that his pitchers should worry about holding runners on base. He wanted them concentrating on facing hitters.
"The word got around," Estrada said. "When other teams know you're not holding runners, they start taking advantage of it."
Estrada acknowledged that the strategy bothered him to a degree.
"It's a reflection on me," he said. "I'm the one with the throwing percentage."
Consequently, Estrada's percentage of throwing out runners improved last season when he played for Arizona, and he's hopeful that it will be even better this season.
Gross being patient: Despite showing some respectable power, Gabe Gross appears the early odd-man out in the outfield. The main problem is that the Brewers have five outfielders for three positions -- Tony Gwynn Jr. and Gross are the bench players.
Yost said frankly that Gross "is getting the short end of the stick" right now.
This is despite the fact Gross had nine home runs last season in just 208 at-bats and already has one this season in only three trips to the plate.
"It's frustrating, but at the same time I've got to be ready for every opportunity," Gross said. "I owe that to my teammates and myself."
Gross has come to realize that the only things he can control are when he's batting and when he's fielding a ball on defense.
At 27, he believes his chances of becoming a regular some day is still good.
"There's no doubt in my mind that some day I'll get a chance," Gross said. "But that's something I can't let myself dwell on too much. I've got to focus on what I can do right now when I get called upon and let the future take care of itself."
Up next: Right-hander Dave Bush will pitch Wednesday night's 6:05 p.m. CT finale of this three-game series. It'll be his second start of the season. Bush gave up six runs in six innings in a loss to the Cubs. The Marlins will use fellow right-hander Sergio Mitre, who lost his '07 debut against the Phillies, giving up five runs (one earned) in five innings.
Charlie Nobles is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.