Gomez striving to get on base for Crew
Macha wants center fielder setting table for sluggers
PHOENIX -- Brewers manager Ken Macha said he employed Rickie Weeks and Prince Fielder in addition to hitting coach Dale Sveum as part of a "full-force effort" this spring to encourage new center fielder Carlos Gomez to focus on improving his on-base percentage. The skipper was pleased on Tuesday to see Gomez leg out a pair of bunt singles."It goes back to what I told him, that I don't care if he hits zero home runs. I just want him to get on base for our [middle-of-the-order] guys," Macha said. "Those two bunts yesterday were pretty good. They know he's going to bunt, they're down his throat, and they still can't get him." Gomez entered an off-day Wednesday with a .313 Cactus League batting average and a .333 on-base percentage.
Crew's Suppan on board with DL stint
PHOENIX -- Brewers right-hander Jeff Suppan on Wednesday disputed the notion that his placement on the 15-day disabled list was just a convenient way for the team to solve its fifth starter quandary."No, absolutely not," said Suppan, whose neck injury was described by the team as cervical disk pain. "It wasn't something that I walked around talking about, but I was getting treatment every day, all spring, and I never was able to knock [the pain] out. "It wasn't a big deal. I got here and thought I had a stiff neck, and they did some tests and thought that it would just take some time to pitch through. But at some point it really plateaued. I still felt it. So we did the MRI and it was what they thought it was -- a disk problem. So it's a situation where we can let it heal." Suppan threw six simulated innings at Maryvale Baseball Park on Tuesday morning with no apparent trouble but met immediately afterward with assistant general manager Gord Ash, who explained the process of placing Suppan on the DL. It was not the first time that the DL was raised as a possibility this spring, and Suppan was on board with the move. He will remain in Phoenix while the rest of the team breaks camp Thursday and heads north to Milwaukee for exhibition games against the Tigers. He'll travel separately on Sunday afternoon and should be at Miller Park for Monday's season opener. "I feel it's very minor," he said. "I'm not overly concerned. This is the time, before the season starts, to get back where I need to be." Before 2008, Suppan had been on the DL only once in his Major League career, in 1996 for a strained right elbow. Now he's found his way to the DL in three straight seasons: in 2008 for an irritated elbow, in 2009 for a torn rib-cage muscle and now in 2010 for the neck. In five Cactus League starts, Suppan has allowed 21 hits including six home runs in 16 1/3 innings. He has a 7.71 ERA but cannot say whether the stiff neck affected him on the mound this spring. "I don't think so," Suppan said. "It definitely affected some throwing early in spring, because I was taking it easy and they were checking me every day. There were a lot of days when I felt really normal, but then the next day it would be stiff again. "I just want to get it right," Suppan said. "This is a situation where it's minor, but let's be sure it's better." Assuming he does not linger on the DL, Suppan could still be a fifth starter candidate. He's eligible for reinstatement beginning April 10, and the Brewers do not intend to use a No. 5 starter until April 14 or 15 in Chicago, manager Ken Macha said. They don't absolutely need a fifth starter until April 18 in Washington. Suppan, though, would have to edge one of the team's younger left-handers for that assignment. Manny Parra has more Major League experience than Chris Narveson, but Narveson did not allow a run in 12 Cactus League innings and looks to be the frontrunner for that assignment.
Brewers' Opening day lineup in flux
PHOENIX -- Brewers manager Ken Macha confirmed what general manager Doug Melvin hinted on Tuesday: That Jim Edmonds, and not Corey Hart, could very well be the team's Opening Day right fielder.
The choice will depend partly on whether Hart shows any signs of life at the plate in the Brewers' final three Spring Training games and partly on whether Edmonds can get ready in that span. Edmonds traveled home on Monday night to tend to an urgent family matter and was not scheduled to return to Maryvale Baseball Park until Thursday morning. He will probably start the team's Cactus League finale against the D-backs in right field.
It helps Edmonds' case that he is a left-handed hitter. Hart bats right-handed, and the Rockies' Opening Day starter is righty Ubaldo Jimenez. Edmonds is 3-for-5 lifetime against Jimenez with extra bases on all three hits. He's 9-for-16 with three home runs against Colorado's Game 3 starter, Aaron Cook.
Hart, meanwhile, has been working his way through a dismal spring. He went 0-for-3 against the Cubs on Wednesday and is batting .127 this spring with 17 strikeouts vs. only two walks. It's not for a lack of playing time; only three teammates entered play Wednesday with more at-bats than Hart.
"He really hasn't put together a game or two where he's had quality at-bats," Macha said Wednesday morning. After the game, Macha said: "I wish he would relax and just go play, let his ability come out. That's what I'd like him to do."
Hart won his arbitration case with the Brewers over the winter and will draw a $4.8 million salary in 2010.
The other position in flux is catcher, where Gregg Zaun missed another game Wednesday with a left quadriceps strain. If he cannot amass some at-bats before Opening Day, the backup option is George Kottaras. Left fielder Ryan Braun, who had missed the team's past four games because of a stiff back, returned to the lineup against the Cubs.
Brewers release righty Burns
PHOENIX -- The Brewers on Wednesday morning released Minor League right-hander Mike Burns, who made 15 appearances for the Major League club last season. Burns, 31, suffered a shoulder injury at the end of last season but was healthy this spring. He was not a part of big league camp.
With Burns out of the picture, the Triple-A Nashville starting rotation came into sharper focus with right-handers Marco Estrada and Kameron Loe and left-handers Chuck Lofgren and Chris Waters ticketed for four of the spots. Options for the No. 5 slot could include left-hander Chris Cody or right-handers Josh Butler and Mike Jones. Butler is a promising prospect, but he will begin the season on the disabled list with an elbow injury.
Burns' release came a day after the Brewers let go five other Minor League players: Catcher Derrick Alfonso, infielder Shane Justis and pitchers Rafael Lluberes, Brandon Rapoza and Juan Sandoval. Rapoza, the Brewers' 31st round Draft pick from 2008, is only 24 years old and posted a 2.13 ERA in 41 relief appearances at Class A Brevard County last season. He was pushed out by pitchers with higher upside, according to Milwaukee farm director Reid Nichols.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.