MILWAUKEE -- Brewers general manager Doug Melvin expressed a high degree of confidence in erstwhile closer John Axford on Wednesday, a day after the team removed Axford from the ninth-inning role.Axford did his job in the finale against the Cardinals, hurling 1 1/3 scoreless innings and allowing just one hit to pick up the victory in Milwaukee's 4-3 win.
The Brewers replaced Axford with Francisco Rodriguez, who saved both games in the series, both in harrowing ninth innings. After going 46-for-48 in save opportunities in his remarkable 2011 season, Axford is 16-for-22 this year."The reason you turn it over is because of the impatience of people -- the media, the fans, everybody else," Melvin said. "He's still got the best arm on the club." The Brewers have turned it over a lot in recent years. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel ran a terrific chart on Wednesday illustrating how since the end of Bob Wickman's tenure in 2000, no Brewers closer has held the job for two entire seasons, though Axford did hold the job for more than two calendar years, taking over in May 2010 before losing the job Tuesday. Since 2000, Wickman, Curtis Leskanic, Mike DeJean, Dan Kolb, Derrick Turnbow, Francisco Cordero, Eric Gagne, Salomon Torres, Trevor Hoffman, Axford and Rodriguez have all gotten opportunities to close. Illustrating the volatility of the job, Kolb, Turnbow, Cordero and Hoffman all represented the Brewers in the All-Star Game. Axford might have joined that list had the Brewers not gotten off to such a slow start in 2012. "You can say the same thing for a team's No. 3 starter -- how many teams have the same No. 3 starter back-to-back years?" Melvin argued. "You can say the same for a lot of things. It's just that the closer is looked at through the microscope." He added: "The idea is to get [Axford] straightened out pretty quick. ... We'll just let it play itself out. We still have confidence in his arm strength."
Braun expected back Friday from groin strain
MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers decided early Wednesday to rest left fielder Ryan Braun for the team's important series finale against the Cardinals, rather than risk further injury.
The slugger is expected back in the lineup Friday when the Brewers begin an equally-important three-game series in Cincinnati.Braun exited Tuesday's win in the seventh inning after aggravating a lingering right groin strain chasing a hit back in the third. Head athletic trainer Dan Wright exchanged messages with Braun early Wednesday morning. "He still felt it," manager Ron Roenicke said. "So, even though we need him in there against these guys, if he can't do it, with the off-day tomorrow, he should be good to go against Cincinnati." Braun, the National League leader with 26 home runs, has been dealing with groin and Achilles issues since Spring Training. Wright and his medical crew have managed both ailments, allowing Braun to start 84 of the Brewers' 91 games this season while playing at his usual high level -- a .309 average entering Wednesday, with 65 RBIs and 16 stolen bases. He had started every game since June 29 before taking Wednesday off. "It's just so easy to irritate something when it never has a chance to get back to 100 percent," Braun said. "It doesn't make sense to take the chance to make it a lot worse." Said Roenicke: "I don't think it's anything big."
Brewers net pick from Competitive Balance Lottery
MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers will get an extra selection between the second and third rounds of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft thanks to the first-ever Competitive Balance Lottery, an event staged Wednesday.The Brewers won the fifth pick in Compensation Round B, though the precise slot of that pick will not be determined until next spring because of another change, this one to the rules related to compensation-eligible free agents. It's complicated. But here's a primer on Wednesday's lottery: For Compensation Round A, the 10 smallest-market teams and 10 lowest-revenue teams were entered into a lottery, with odds of winning based on last year's regular-season record, for six picks after the first round and before the second round of next year's Draft. Because of crossover in those two groups, 13 teams were eligible this year. The Royals, Pirates, D-backs, Orioles, Reds and Marlins won those selections on Wednesday. Then, the eligible teams that did not win a Round A pick were added back into the hopper for Round B, along with any other team that received revenue sharing. This year, only one other team qualified -- the Tigers. The Round B winners were, in order, the Padres, Indians, Rockies, Athletics, Brewers and Tigers. The lottery is one of a slew of Draft-related changes introduced in Major League Baseball's new Collective Bargaining Agreement to increase parity in baseball. The tweaks included a slotting system that penalized teams for overspending on picks in the first 10 rounds, and dramatic changes to the system by which teams are compensated for top free agents who sign elsewhere. Executives around the game, including general manager Doug Melvin and his crew in Milwaukee, are still feeling their way through the changes, which in the big picture were designed to further level the playing field in the game. "I don't know if it's helped our [smaller] markets as much as people think," Melvin said, "but I'm not going to complain about it."
In one significant new wrinkle, picks won in the Competitive Balance Lottery may be traded, the first time Major League teams have been allowed to trade Draft selections. Such deals are restricted to the regular season -- for example, the Brewers could package their pick in a deal at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, or in a trade next May, but not at December's Winter Meetings.
Roenicke was extremely encouraged by left-hander Manny Parra's 15-pitch, two-strikeout performance in a clean eighth inning Tuesday night. Parra is one of the relievers expected to pitch in setup situations now that Rodriguez is the closer."Seeing that, that was really important for us, especially when we're making decisions about who to bring in in the eighth inning," Roenicke said. "When you see [Parra] come out and do that, I feel good about any matchup." So good, that Roenicke would consider using Parra against both left-handed hitters and righties. To start, Roenicke will try to match up Parra against lefties. "If he throws the ball like that, I don't care who it is -- he's going to be tough," Roenicke said.