Notes: Braun on the defensive
Yost has consistently lifted slugger in late-inning situations
MILWAUKEE -- Ryan Braun apparently feels the same way about being subbed out for defensive purposes as some fans do.Braun, the Brewers' rookie third baseman with a potent bat and an inconsistent glove, has regularly been removed from games in favor of steady veteran Craig Counsell when the Brewers have late-inning leads. That was the case Friday night, when manager Ned Yost intended to make the switch after the Brewers rallied in the eighth to take a 3-1 edge over the Braves. "Braunie, before Dale [Sveum, bench coach] could get to him, had run out to third," Yost said. "Dale called him back and [Braun] goes, 'I knew I was coming out. I just wanted to beat you out there.'" There is a contingent that wishes Braun would succeed in that effort, believing his bat makes up for his defensive shortcomings. They would point out that Braun would have had an opportunity to bat with a runner on first in the 11th inning, ignoring the fact that Counsell made a spectacular defensive play in the bottom of the 10th that Braun may not have made. Yost is not budging in his plan. "That's just the way that I'm going to do it, and I don't really care what anybody says," the skipper said. Entering Sunday, Braun ranked last among National League third basemen with a .902 fielding percentage and had committed 22 errors, second only to Washington's Ryan Zimmerman, who had 23 but also had played the full season in the Majors. Braun did not debut until May 25. "I feel like I can make a lot of great plays," Braun has said more than once. "I have to get better at making the routine plays."
Braun would have made the Brewers' Opening Day roster had he not struggled so mightily in the field during Spring Training. While saying that Braun "still has a ways to go," Yost praised him for his improvements."The great thing about it is it doesn't involve throwing at all now," said Yost, referring to Braun's biggest issue in the spring. "It involves first-step quickness to the ball, which will increase his range. [He needs to] soften his hands a little bit. [His] hand-eye coordination to the ball needs to be a little better. That comes with repetition, repetition, repetition." If Tony Graffanino had not suffered a season-ending knee injury, Yost likely would be making similar defensive moves with second baseman Rickie Weeks, who has improved dramatically over the past three seasons but still is inconsistent. Weeks' error on a potential double-play grounder on Saturday set up Atlanta's Mark Texeira for a game-winning single. Weeks joined the team in 2003 and was much less proficient in the field than Braun is now. But because the Brewers were not competing for the division crown, Yost left Weeks in. "I wanted Rickie in there to make those plays," Yost said. "I don't remember ever taking Rickie out, and I got a lot of [heat] at times." The situation then was "hugely different," Yost said. "I wanted Rickie in there learning how to handle those situations. What were we going to win? You were setting yourself back taking Rickie out of those situations." Homer happy: With two home runs in a losing effort Saturday, the Brewers have hit 218 this season, a new franchise record and most in the Majors. The team has led the Major Leagues in homers three times: In 1978, '80 and '82. The previous club record for home runs was 216, set by "Harvey's Wallbangers" under manager Harvey Kuenn in 1982. Bullpen musings: With left-hander Chris Capuano making his first start Sunday in more than a month, Yost conferred with bullpen coach Bill Castro on Sunday -- as he does every game day -- to go over the team's relief options. Yost intended to give right-hander Derrick Turnbow a break because Turnbow's numbers say he is better when he has a day of rest. That meant the most likely eighth-inning option was righty Scott Linebrink, who was unavailable Saturday because of a recent heavy workload. Since joining the Brewers in a July 25 trade with San Diego, Linebrink is 2-3 with a 3.22 ERA in 24 appearances. "He's been really, really good," Yost said on Friday, before he gave Linebrink a breather. "The hard thing with him is I can't give him a day off. I haven't been able to give him a day off where he can just recoup since before that Pittsburgh series. He's been up every day, and if he's not coming in, he's been up, ready to come in. That takes a toll on you a little bit." Closer Francisco Cordero was also available to pitch after allowing a tying solo home run in the bottom of the ninth inning on Saturday. Cordero declined to address reporters after the game, and did not appear in the clubhouse during the final hour of media availability on Sunday morning. "CoCo is a pro and he understands," Yost said. "I don't think Coco needs consoling." On Sheets: Also unavailable late Sunday morning was right-hander Ben Sheets, who was scratched Saturday from Sunday's scheduled start because of lingering tightness in his strained left hamstring. Sheets played catch on Saturday afternoon but stopped after about five minutes. He conferred first with head athletic trainer Roger Caplinger and then with Yost, who bristled at the notion that anybody but the manager made the final call. "I make every call. No pitcher on my team makes any call," Yost said. "They are included in the decision, but I make every call. He doesn't make the call." What did Sheets say during the brief conference? "He said, 'I still feel it. I don't think I can go,'" Yost said. On deck: The Brewers return home Monday for a week-long, season-ending homestand that will determine whether they end a 25-year franchise postseason drought. Dave Bush will start the opener of a three-game series at 7:05 p.m. CT against the Cardinals, who are scheduled to start Adam Wainwright.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.