Weeks won't be limited by leadoff label
Production has second baseman on pace for 35 homers
MILWAUKEE -- Looking at his statistics, you would probably never guess Rickie Weeks was the Brewers' leadoff hitter.
Weeks is tied with teammate Corey Hart for eighth in the National League with 22 home runs, while also ranking sixth in the NL with 67 RBIs and fourth with 204 total bases. Among his teammates, Weeks is tied with Hart for second in home runs and is second behind Hart in RBIs.
But with the personnel that makes up the Brewers' offense, Weeks remains in the leadoff spot.
"That's just the way things fit here right now," Brewers manager Ken Macha said. "Could it change? Yeah, if we had someone else to lead off. But not at this moment."
Although his numbers might not look like those of a typical leadoff hitter, Weeks gets on base more than anyone in the Major Leagues. Entering Wednesday's game, Weeks led the Majors with 483 plate appearances and 182 times on base.
Weeks' production has him on pace for 35 home runs and 106 RBIs on the season. The latter would make Weeks just the second player to drive in 100 or more runs from the leadoff spot, and the first in the National League.
In 2000, Darin Erstad collected 100 RBIs for the Angels batting at the top of the order. What would make Weeks' feat even more impressive is the lack of a designated hitter in the NL.
"I don't think he cares where he hits," Macha said. "He takes every at-bat as a challenge in itself. I don't think where guys are on base or any of that will affect anything he's doing.
"I said once, 'I'm going to drop you to two here. I'm thinking of leading [Joe] Inglett off someday.' He said, 'No problem. As long as I'm in the lineup.'"
Hoffman has some say on where he plays
MILWAUKEE -- Trevor Hoffman insists that he's not sweating Saturday's non-waiver Trade Deadline. But if the Brewers do get an offer for the all-time saves leader, it's very possible that Hoffman will have the final say.Hoffman has a limited no-trade clause in his contract that blocks the Brewers from trading him to all but five of the other Major League teams without his consent. Hoffman talked about the existence of that clause Wednesday morning, but said he didn't know any of the details. He could be attractive to a team seeking relief. Hoffman has posted a 1.69 ERA over his last 15 appearances, including six consecutive scoreless outings. He's signed through the end of this season, with a club option for 2011 that can be bought out for $500,000. "I haven't even really thought about it," Hoffman said. "I'm comfortable here. I think we're a good enough ballclub to scratch back in this thing. If your mind starts to drift any other way, then I don't think you're 'all-in' with what we're doing here. "I understand the adage from the time you're coming up, that as you're trying to make it with your particular club, there are 29 other teams scouting you. But if you have that kind of back-of-your-mind mentality, you're going to sabotage yourself." Hoffman was removed from the Brewers' closer role in May after suffering five blown saves in his first 10 opportunities, leaving him stuck at 596 career saves. A banner commemorating that record hangs over the bullpen at Miller Park, directly over the door through which the team's current closer, John Axford, enters games. Axford is 15-for-16 in save chances since taking over and has gotten tremendous support from Hoffman from the start.
Hoffman has been through this before, sort of. His older brother Glenn was the Red Sox's shortstop in 1984 when he was sidelined by an injury. Jackie Gutierrez stepped in and played well, and the elder Hoffman had a hard time reclaiming his spot when he returned to good health."I remember my brother going, 'Look, it does no good to root against a teammate,'" Trevor Hoffman said. "This is a family, and you don't root against anybody to do poorly. Ultimately, that's just being selfish. If I were to be bitter, then that becomes a cancer in the clubhouse." Hoffman pointed out that Saturday's 3 p.m. CT deadline to trade players without first exposing them to waivers doesn't necessarily mean the end of trade rumors. In August, teams can still acquire players and have them be eligible for postseason rosters, though the players must clear waivers first. Considering Hoffman's $7.5 million salary this season, plus the cost associated with the '11 option, he's the type of player who could clear. "For some people, [July 31] is an important deadline. For some others, it's soft," Hoffman said.
Villanueva to Triple-A; Hawkins to take spot
MILWAUKEE -- Carlos Villanueva's forgettable eighth inning on Wednesday will be his last appearance in a Brewers uniform for some time. He was optioned to Triple-A Nashville after the Brewers' 10-2 loss to the Reds to clear a path for fellow reliever LaTroy Hawkins to return from the disabled list Friday.Hawkins is on the 60-day DL with right shoulder weakness but will be back in uniform Friday night against the Astros. The Brewers will have to make another move to open a 40-man roster spot when they formally activate Hawkins, but that won't be a problem. Catcher Gregg Zaun, finished for the season after shoulder surgery, can be moved from the 15-day to the 60-day DL. Villanueva has not pitched in the Minors since 2007. He has a 4.96 ERA in 45 appearances this season, including a bad one Wednesday in which he surrendered five runs. Four of those runs scored on a booming, 450-foot grand slam by Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips that hit Bernie Brewer's slide high above left field. There were indications earlier Wednesday that the Brewers would wait until Saturday to activate Hawkins, just in case they trade one of their other relievers before that day's 3 p.m. CT non-waiver Trade Deadline. Instead, Vilanueva was informed of the move immediately after the game and left the clubhouse just as it opened to reporters. General manager Doug Melvin said things were "all quiet" on the trade front, making it even more likely that the two Brewers mentioned most often in rumors -- first baseman Prince Fielder and right fielder Corey Hart -- will stay put after Saturday's deadline. But it remains possible that the Brewers will find a taker for one of their relievers. Trevor Hoffman would make sense, because John Axford has claimed the closer's role and Hoffman is playing on a one-year contract with a club option for 2011. Todd Coffey (4.62 ERA in 43 appearances) could also be on the block, because he has one more year of arbitration-eligibility after this one before he reaches free agency.
Inglett's instructions on mound: Go slow
MILWAUKEE -- When called upon to pitch the ninth inning Tuesday, utility man Joe Inglett was instructed not to try to light up the radar gun.
In the past, Brewers manager Ken Macha has seen less than stellar results from position players who can reach the 90-mph range on the mound.
"I remember one back in Houston where Davey Martinez, who's the bench coach now for Tampa, center fielder, great arm -- he wanted to pitch," Macha said. "It was kind of like [Paul] Janish last year in Cincinnati, the guy's throwing 90-plus and just getting raked.
"We had to take him out. We brought in Junior Noboa. He was throwing 60 and went 1-2-3. It's below hitting speed."
Another reason for Inglett to throw in the 50-mph range has more to do with health than his performance on the mound.
Earlier this season, Cardinals infielder Felipe Lopez hit the disabled list with an elbow injury just days after he pitched a scoreless 18th inning in a 20-inning game against the Mets. It's unclear whether the injury was related to Lopez' appearance on the mound, but it certainly couldn't have helped.
While throwing slow could have helped prevent an injury to Inglett, choosing the utility man to pitch prevented another Brewers position player from developing an arm injury.
"You've got to have somebody that isn't going to want to try to air it out," third baseman Casey McGehee said. "You put [Alcides Escobar] up there, he might hit 100. But you've got to put somebody in that's not going to try to light up the radar gun.
"The worst thing you can do is have somebody go out there like that and get hurt."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.