NEW YORK -- Brewers shortstop Alcides Escobar is not getting down about a rookie season at the plate that his manager has described often as "disappointing."Manager Ken Macha wants Escobar to spend the winter refining his swing, and hitting coach Dale Sveum recently spent a few days working overtime with Escobar on some fixes. Escobar entered the Brewers' doubleheader on Wednesday with a .234 batting average and a .284 on-base percentage. "I know I'm struggling, man," Escobar said. "The last two weeks, I'm struggling. Twenty days ago I was batting .250. Now I'm batting .230. "But I'm staying positive. That's what I want to do. I want to get out of the slump by hitting. Everybody knows I can hit. I don't know why this is happening, but I can hit." He's shown that in the Minor Leagues, where Escobar was a .293 hitter with a .333 on-base percentage in 647 games after the Brewers signed him out of Venezuela in July 2003. In a late-season call-up to the Brewers in '09, Escobar batted .304 with a .333 on-base mark in 125 at-bats. He was one plate appearance shy of losing his rookie eligibility, and entered 2010 as a contender for the National League Rookie of the Year Award. Instead, Escobar was far overshadowed by other upstarts, including Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro. With Sveum's tips in tow, Escobar will report for duty in the Venezuelan Winter League around Nov. 20. "I always want to come to Spring Training ready," Escobar said. "Everybody in baseball has a slump. I'm not frustrated for the season. I'm hitting .230 or something, but I'm trying, and I'm playing good [in the field]. "I'll try to finish strong and then next year is a new season, a new everything."
Macha calls Gamel's season a 'lost year'
NEW YORK -- Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun returned Wednesday from what a club described as a stomach virus and is expected to play the Brewers' remaining games even though he's already topped 100 RBIs. If Mat Gamel were still around, he would be in line to play much of the final week.But Gamel, one of the Brewers' top prospects, was sent home Tuesday and will undergo surgery on Thursday to relieve pain in his left big toe. The procedure was scheduled months ago, timed to fit Dr. Richard Marks' schedule and to allow Gamel ample time to heal before 2011 Spring Training. It fits Gamel's pattern of tough luck. He was ticketed for the Brewers' Opening Day roster before tearing a muscle behind his right shoulder in Spring Training. Gamel instead spent most of the year at Triple-A Nashville. "That's a lost year for him," manager Ken Macha said. "I mentioned that to Doug [Melvin, the Brewers' general manager], that he was slated to make the team and get some at-bats at different positions and work on stuff. It's kind of been a lost year for him." Gamel is a third baseman, but the Brewers tried him in the corner outfield spots and at first base in the second half of the season at Triple-A Nashville, as insurance against the big league club's uncertain offseason. Gamel made one start in left field on the Brewers' final homestand. So Braun, a late scratch from Tuesday's lineup because of his illness, will play on. He was the Brewers' first player to 100 RBIs with a two-homer performance on Sunday. "I kind of asked him the first day we were here [at Citi Field] how he was feeling, and he said he was feeling good," Macha said. "So if he's feeling good and he's ready to play, then we'll play him."
Brewers general manager Doug Melvin joined a traveling party on Wednesday that already included assistant general manager Gord Ash and assistant scouting director Ray Montgomery. He spent some time chatting with manager Ken Macha. "He said there was no baseball in Milwaukee so he figured he would come to New York," Macha said. ... Closer John Axford told Macha that he was available to pitch in Wednesday's doubleheader. Axford threw 19 pitches on Tuesday night in his third blown save. ... Wednesday marked the Brewers' 253rd doubleheader in franchise history and the fourth against the Mets. All three of the previous doubleheaders between the two teams ended in sweeps: The Mets won both games on July 22, 1998, at County Stadium and May 20, 1999, at Shea Stadium, and the Brewers won both games on June 5, 2003, at Shea.