Notes: Braun receives high praise
Hall of Famer Yount impressed by rookie's performance
PHOENIX -- "The Kid" has been watching the Brewers' new kid, and to say that Robin Yount is impressed with what rookie Ryan Braun has done so far is putting it lightly."He's walked in and made it look awful easy," Yount said last week in Milwaukee, when he was in town for a reunion of the 1982 World Series team. "He's certainly a big part of this equation, where he's hitting in the lineup. It doesn't seem like he's showing any signs of not thinking he can do it. He looks like the real deal from what I've seen so far." Yount was back with the team on Wednesday night for the finale of the Brewers-Diamondbacks series at Chase Field, visiting players and coaches before batting practice. And Braun was back in the cleanup hole, looking for a spark after going 0-for-6 in the first two games of the series, both Brewers wins. Braun, 23, entered Wednesday batting .337 overall with 24 home runs, 62 RBIs and 10 stolen bases in just 78 games. Promoted to the big leagues on May 24 to ignite a sluggish offense, Braun hit his 20th home run in his 64th Major League game, the fastest to reach that total since the Cardinals' Albert Pujols hit 20 in his first 63 games in 2001. Among National League rookies, only Arizona's Chris Young, who hit his 25th home run on Tuesday, has more homers than Braun and only Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki has more RBIs with 67. Braun leads NL rookies in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. And Braun has put up those gaudy numbers almost exclusively batting third or fourth. It is rare for a team to immediately install a highly touted rookie that high in the order, but it was pointed out to Yount that the Brewers did the same thing in 1974 with an 18-year-old shortstop. "But we weren't in any kind of pennant race," Yount said. "We weren't expected to be in a pennant race, either. This is a whole different animal that he's involved in." Yount returned to the organization as bench coach for 2006 but left the team after the season, explaining that he wanted to spend more time with family. He is occasionally in touch with Yost and current bench coach Dale Sveum. "They're fine without me," Yount said of the '07 Brewers. "They don't need my help." Holding patters: There was hope Wednesday that right-hander Ben Sheets (blister) will be able to rejoin the starting rotation on Saturday in San Francisco. And when he does return, Yost plans to keep Sheets on an every-five-day schedule. That means if Sheets pitches Saturday against the Giants, he would be available to pitch five days later against the Cubs in the finale of a series at Wrigley Field. "Benny doesn't need the rest," Yost said of Sheets, who has not pitched since July 14 because of torn tissue in his right middle finger. Sheets suffered the blister during a simulated game earlier this week that was supposed to be his final hurdle before returning to action. "It ain't better, but it's getting better," Sheets said Wednesday after getting treatment for the blister. Yost said he expects to make a decision by Friday. If Sheets is unable to start Saturday, right-hander Yovani Gallardo could pitch on regular rest, but Yost was just as interested in the longer term. "It just doesn't hinge on Saturday," Yost said. "Saturday changes a lot of things if Benny can pitch or if he can't pitch." Hair and there: Brewers reliever Derrick Turnbow is feeling the heat, and it was nothing to do with the 110 degree temperatures in the Valley. "The guys are on me pretty hard to shave my head," said Turnbow, one of the few Brewers who has not gotten a crew cut in the last week in an effort to spark morale for the previously-slumping team. "I'm trying to hold out." Turnbow went with the closesly cropped look when he first made his high school varsity baseball team and hated it. He cut his hair short again in 2004 when he pitched for the Angels, a team that regulated its players appearances. Now, Turnbow's wild, bushy hair has become a trademark, even immortalized in a bobblehead doll last season that had synthetic hair spilling out of the plastic baseball cap. "I can't do the short hair thing," Turnbow said. "I told some of the guys that I might compromise and shave some zigzags in the back like Rick Vaughn [the Charlie Sheen character in the baseball movie "Major League."] I'm not sure if that would satisfy them." Turnbow and closer Francisco Cordero are the only Brewers without a new haircut, though new reliever Seth McClung arrived Tuesday with long, red hair. Even Yost got into the act and got a buzz cut over the weekend. "There are other things you can do to boost camaraderie," Turnbow said. He can pitch, too: The Brewers knew Jeff Cirillo could hit. He is, after all, the franchise's all-time career batting average leader. But they have been raving since Monday about his ability to pitch. "I was highly impressed with that," Yost said. With the Brewers leading the D-backs, 9-0, Cirillo pitched a scoreless ninth inning on Monday night that began with a strikeout of Craig Counsell. "It was real fast, though," Cirillo said. "I was doing my warm-ups and I was like, OK, let's do this. I was kind of locked in. Then a hitter got in there, and you can't hear anything. I'm not hearing anything, I'm not seeing anything." Cirillo threw a fastball, curve, cut fastball, slider and knuckleball in the outing. He pitched three seasons for the University of Southern California before switching to third base for his senior season in an effort to get drafted. In his previous two seasons with Milwaukee, he had lobbied for opportunities to pitch. "I tried to beg [Yost] last year," Cirillo said. "Me and [Yount] were both working on it." On deck: Claudio Vargas will start Friday night's opener at AT&T Park against the Giants and left-hander Noah Lowry. The Brewers are 16-6 when Vargas starts including a pair of wins over the Giants. First pitch is set for 9:15 CT.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.