Stetter joins Nashville staff off to stellar start
Club tied for Pacific Coast League lead with 2.14 ERA
CHICAGO -- The Brewers made one tough call when they optioned left-handed relief specialist Mitch Stetter to Triple-A Nashville on Thursday. They'll face another when Stetter actually reports, likely on Saturday.Stetter first traveled back to Milwaukee to gather his belongings and planned to drive to Nashville. When he arrives, he will join a pitching staff that through Wednesday was tied for the Pacific Coast League lead with a 2.14 ERA. Sounds starters combined for a 2.89 ERA in the team's first seven games, and the relievers owned a minuscule 0.47 ERA (one earned run in 19 1/3 innings). Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said the team had yet to decide on a move to free a spot for Stetter. There are already two lefty relievers there in promising prospect Zach Braddock and former big leaguer A.J. Murray. The Sounds were 6-1 after their win Wednesday and were scheduled to play the Omaha Royals on Thursday night.
Hoffman gets save in rough conditions
CHICAGO -- It wasn't exactly easy, but Trevor Hoffman finally notched career save No. 594.Hoffman worked through a wild, wind-blown ninth inning at Wrigley Field on Thursday but came away with his third save this season when Aramis Ramirez hit a dangerously deep flyout to end an 8-6 Brewers win over the Cubs. Hoffman essentially recorded five outs; right fielder Corey Hart lost one fly ball in the sun and couldn't close on another that dropped between Hart and second baseman Rickie Weeks. "In Corey's defense, I've played right field here," Brewers manager Ken Macha said. "I held my breath the whole game. That's a terrible sun field out there, so it's tough." Hoffman finally retired Ramirez, who represented the tying run, on his 29th pitch of the afternoon. It has been that kind of a stretch for the all-time saves leader, who suffered blown saves against the Cardinals on Friday and Sunday while allowing three home runs. Those games were at climate-controlled Miller Park. Thursday's game against the Cubs was at Wrigley Field, with an 18-mph breeze blowing out to right field. "You just have to battle a little bit harder," Hoffman said. "The guys are playing their butts off out there, and things happen. Balls found a little spot to land. ... It's not necessarily, 'Oh, no!' You just have to continue to make pitches."
Parra likely to get call when lefty is needed
CHICAGO -- With Wednesday's somewhat surprising demotion of left-hander Mitch Stetter, the Brewers will go with a lefty specialist by committee for at least the next 10 days, the minimum Stetter must remain at Triple-A Nashville before he's eligible for a recall. Starter-turned-reliever Manny Parra figures to be the committee chairman.
Parra is not as lethal as the side-arming Stetter against left-handed hitters, but he's the best the Brewers have. Entering Thursday's series finale at Wrigley Field, left-handed batters owned a .252 batting average against Parra, with a .709 OPS and 78 strikeouts in 303 plate appearances.
That's not nearly as good as Stetter (.173, .594, 54 strikeouts in 165 plate appearances), but much better than the other lefty remaining in the Brewers' bullpen, Chris Narveson (.274, .771, 17 strikeouts in 73 plate appearances).
"I would assume that I'll see some more lefties in spots where it would have been Stetter," Parra said. "It's not something I've got accustomed to ... but I'm going to prepare the same way. There's only so much we can do, and you just throw to your strengths."
The Brewers announced Wednesday evening that they intended to option Stetter to Triple-A Nashville to clear a 25-man roster spot for Jeff Suppan, who returned from the disabled list to start against the Cubs. The roster move was formally executed Thursday morning.
Manager Ken Macha stressed that it was not a sign of displeasure with Stetter, who retired the only two batters he faced in separate appearances since Opening Day, but a move to preserve organizational depth. Only two Brewers pitchers had options remaining -- Stetter and right-hander Carlos Villanueva -- and Villanueva provides more flexibility.
"The way we've been using our bullpen, we thought it was best to keep someone who can give us multiple innings," Macha said. "Two weeks from now, after he spends his 10 days down there, we're going to take a look at the teams we're playing and the left-handed hitters they present. Mitch was extremely professional about it."
At Nashville, Stetter will also get opportunities to work against right-handed hitters. To be effective against them, he will have to alter his arm angle from batter to batter, depending on whether the opponent is left-handed or right-handed.
Escobar returns to scene of first homer
CHICAGO -- The Brewers wrapped up a series at Wrigley Field on Thursday and then headed off to Washington, where rookie shortstop Alcides Escobar hit his first career home run last Aug. 23 against the Nationals. Brewers manager Ken Macha would be just fine if Escobar doesn't equal the feat this weekend.After his homer, Escobar went into a 1-for-15 slump, and Macha was convinced the youngster was swinging for the fences. Escobar corrected that aggressiveness and finished with a .304 batting average in 34 late-season games, but he is still reminded often by hitting coach Dale Sveum to focus on using the whole field. "Home runs can be deadly," Macha said. "That's part of the maturing process." Escobar has yet to hit his first home run in 2010.
Robinson inspires Hawkins as mentor
CHICAGO -- All of the Brewers' players and coaches wore No. 42 on Thursday as part of leaguewide Jackie Robinson Day festivities on the 63rd anniversary of Robinson breaking baseball's color barrier. It was especially meaningful for Brewers reliever LaTroy Hawkins, who took special care in Spring Training to bring some of the team's African-American prospects under his wing.Hawkins gathered some of those players for a dinner. The group included outfielder Lorenzo Cain, who owned a locker next to Hawkins at Maryvale Baseball Park, plus infielders Eric Farris and Zelous Wheeler. "I wish we could get more black kids into the game," Hawkins said. "I heard yesterday that there are 71 African-American ballplayers in the Major Leagues and three teams without any. In 2010? Jeez. "I think kids are drawn to other sports that they see as more exciting than baseball. And baseball can be expensive to play, too." The Brewers are an exception, with four African-Americans on the Opening Day roster -- Prince Fielder, Jody Gerut, Hawkins and Rickie Weeks -- plus bench coach Willie Randolph and bullpen coach Stan Kyles. "It's awesome," Hawkins said.
Reliever Claudio Vargas played catch again Thursday and said he is over the back stiffness that had bothered him since a cross-country flight from Phoenix to New York late last month. Brewers manager Ken Macha said the team never considered sending Vargas to the disabled list. ... General manager Doug Melvin had not heard any concerns about right-hander Eric Arnett, the first-round Draft pick whose velocity was reportedly down in his Class A Wisconsin debut earlier this week. Melvin cautioned against putting too much stock in predraft reports of velocity. ... Ten players have worn No. 42 in franchise history: pitchers Skip Lockwood, Tom Murphy, Willie Mieller, Jaime Cocanower, Tom Tellmann, James Austin and Scott Karl; catchers Dave Huppert and Rick Wrona; and manager Tom Trebelhorn. ... The Brewers have used a different lineup for all nine games this season.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.