MILWAUKEE -- Sean Halton started at first base for the Brewers on Tuesday, giving slugging Juan Francisco a break amid a serious strikeout binge.
Francisco went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts Sunday against the Reds and Monday against the Cardinals, making him the third player this season to earn a so-called "golden sombrero" in consecutive games. Oakland's Seth Smith whiffed four times in consecutive games on May 1 and 3, and Detroit's Prince Fielder followed a four-strikeout game with a five-strikeout game (the rare "platinum sombrero") on April 16-17.
"I talked to him earlier, and he's fine," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said of Francisco. "It gets to you after a while, and I think it got to him the last couple of days. If I think he just needs one day, I'll get him back in there [Wednesday], and I'll try to look at matchups to see if I can help him out that way."
The Brewers have been assessing in recent weeks whether Francisco can play first base on a regular basis in the Majors. The Brewers have a big hole there, with Corey Hart due for free agency after missing all of 2013 with knee injuries, and Mat Gamel enduring a second straight season lost to a torn ACL.
Francisco's power has been encouraging (13 home runs and a .500 slugging percentage in his first 188 Brewers at-bats), but like many power hitters, he struggles with strikeouts. He struck out 117 times in 326 plate appearances with the Braves and Brewers entering Tuesday, the second-highest strikeout rate (35.7 percent) among Major Leaguers with at least 200 at-bats. The Astros' Chris Carter led that category with strikeouts in 36.8 percent of his plate appearances.
Still, this week's binge came as a surprise to Roenicke.
"He had been doing a really good job," Roenicke said. "He was having some good at-bats, he was walking a couple of times, and then he has those two days. Those are hard."
Brewers want power to gaps with Aramis back
MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers lost Monday's game, but Aramis Ramirez's go-ahead, two-run home run in the seventh inning was significant for a team and a player searching for positives in a disappointing season.
The homer off Cardinals reliever Michael Wacha briefly gave the Brewers a 5-4 lead. More importantly, it was Ramirez's first home run since June 26, two weeks before he succumbed to a second stint on the disabled list for a sprained left knee, and his first extra-base hit since returning to action on Aug. 13.
"My legs are a little stronger this time around," said Ramirez, who tried playing at far less than 100 percent after an earlier DL stint. "I can get a lot more behind the ball now."
Said manager Ron Roenicke: "That's what we need from him once in a while. Not so much the home run, but driving the ball in the gaps like he does. We need him there in that four-spot, and hopefully we can get him going."
Ramirez entered Tuesday's game with six home runs, 28 RBIs and a .398 slugging percentage in 60 games, way off pace for a player who hit at least 25 home runs in nine of the past 10 seasons. Ramirez said he would use the offseason to get healthy for 2014, when he will earn $16 million ($6 million of which is deferred) in the final season of his backloaded, three-year, $36 million contract. The deal includes a mutual option for '15.
For now, Ramirez said he feels "OK," an indication that the knee is still not completely healthy.
"I won't be 100 percent the rest of the year, but I'm good enough to be out there," said Ramirez, who has simple goals for the remainder of the season. "Just stay healthy and try to get as many doubles as I can."
Narveson's season may be over after Triple-A injury
MILWAUKEE -- Left-hander Chris Narveson will be placed on Triple-A Nashville's disabled list Thursday with a nerve issue near his throwing shoulder, Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash said.
The injury could end Narveson's season -- the Sounds' final game is Sept. 2 -- and Narveson's tenure with the Brewers, since he will be a six-year Minor League free agent at season's end. Narveson has been with the Brewers since signing a Minor League deal with the team in December 2007, and was 26-18 with a 4.65 ERA in 92 Brewers appearances, 62 starts.
Ash described the issue as a "scap nerve entrapment" and said Narveson was already receiving treatment.
Narveson's latest setback comes amid a trying two-year period for the 31-year-old, who missed most of last season after undergoing surgery for a torn labrum and rotator cuff in his shoulder. He made the Brewers' 2013 Opening Day roster as a reliever, a move to limit his innings early in the year, but was returned to the disabled list after a week and never returned to the Majors.
He was 4-7 with a 5.14 ERA in 15 Triple-A starts before being scratched from a scheduled outing on Saturday.
• Reports out of Japan on Tuesday suggested the Brewers were poised to sign right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka, who was granted his release earlier in the day by the Indians. Not so, said Brewers general manager Doug Melvin.
While it's true that agent Scott Boras reached out to the Brewers, "I told Boras I didn't have a spot for him," Melvin said. "We already have six starters for September."
The Brewers have Kyle Lohse, Yovani Gallardo and Wily Peralta entrenched in the rotation, and will use the remaining weeks of the season to evaluate right-hander Marco Estrada and left-hander Tom Gorzelanny. A sixth starter, right-handed prospect Johnny Hellweg, will join the club in September, and the Brewers are planning to employ a six-man rotation while finishing the season with 20 games in as many days.
Matsusaka, 32, who wants to pitch in the Major Leagues again, simply isn't a fit, Melvin said.
• The Brewers will place reliever Rob Wooten on the paternity list Wednesday morning and promote a pitcher from Triple-A Nashville. Wooten is scheduled to travel home to North Carolina, where wife Katie is being induced into labor, and hopes to rejoin the club Saturday in Cincinnati. Among the candidates to temporarily take his place is fellow right-hander Donovan Hand.
• The Brewers took the Miller Park field at 3:30 p.m. CT on Tuesday for their annual team photo. For the first time since 2006, Ryan Braun was not in the shot. He has stayed away from the team since accepting a season-ending suspension on July 22.