Several Royals have strong ties to Brewers

Cain, Escobar, Aoki and Yost called Miller Park home before heading to K.C.

Several Royals have strong ties to Brewers

MILWAUKEE -- The Twitterverse is a perilous source for these matters, but it shows there exists a segment of local fans who regret that the World Series -- which begins Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET air time on FOX, first pitch at 8:07) -- will be dotted with former Brewers. Some expressed annoyance when it was Travis Ishikawa, briefly a Brewer in 2012, who hit the National League pennant-winning home run for the Giants on Thursday night. Others lament that a full third of the Royals' starting lineup once called Miller Park home, not to mention former manager Ned Yost.

Those 140-character takes conveniently ignore that Ishikawa is on his fourth team since he left Milwaukee, and that the trades which sent players to Kansas City produced positive results. Or that Yost was never particularly popular in Milwaukee in the first place.

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Brewers president of baseball operations and general manager Doug Melvin does not share the negative outlook. To the contrary, when the Royals finished their sweep of the Orioles in the American League Championship Series, Melvin was glued to the game as a fan.

  Date Air time First pitch Matchup Network
Gm 1 Oct. 21 7:30 ET 8:07 ET SF vs. KC FOX
Gm 2 Oct. 22 7:30 ET 8:07 ET SF vs. KC FOX
Gm 3 Oct. 24 7:30 ET 8:07 ET KC vs. SF FOX
Gm 4 Oct. 25 7:30 ET 8:07 ET KC vs. SF FOX
Gm 5* Oct. 26 7:30 ET 8:07 ET KC vs. SF FOX
Gm 6* Oct. 28 7 ET 8:07 ET SF vs. KC FOX
Gm 7* Oct. 29 7:30 ET 8:07 ET SF vs. KC FOX

"I've been rooting for them," Melvin said. "I think it's just a credit to our farm system and player development, when you take two raw kids like [Alcides] Escobar and [Lorenzo] Cain and they spend most of their time in our system. It shows that it can be done. Those are the stories that I love to see."

Melvin has played a part in both World Series teams' stories. As Yankees farm director, Melvin gave Brian Sabean his first job in baseball. Sabean is now the Giants' senior vice president and GM, with a team that is in the World Series for the third time in five years.

But Melvin's stronger ties are to the Royals. He made the trades that sent outfielder Cain and shortstop Escobar in a package for Zack Greinke in 2010 that also included right-hander Jake Odorizzi, whom the Royals flipped in a later trade with the Rays for World Series Game 1 starter James Shields and lights-out setup man Wade Davis.

Three years after the Grienke swap, Melvin and Royals senior vice president of baseball operations and GM Dayton Moore came together again for a swap that sent outfielder Nori Aoki to Kansas City for left-hander Will Smith last winter.

"Us and Kansas City, we kind of mirrored each other," Melvin said. "We were just a few years ahead of them at the time. They traded Greinke for young players, and then they traded young players for Shields. I think they looked at what we did and said, 'When you have an opportunity, you have to try to capitalize on it.'

"I don't think we would [second guess] any of those trades, and I don't think they should look back on trading Wil Myers and Odorizzi [for Shields and Davis], either. It's very similar. I'm happy for them."

Melvin is particularly happy for Cain and Escobar, who were unproven commodities at the time of the Greinke trade.

Escobar has started at least 155 regular-season games in four straight years with the Royals, and Cain broke through this season, batting .301 with 28 stolen bases during the regular season before winning the AL Championship Series MVP Award.

"They weren't on anybody's prospect lists their first couple of years," Melvin said. "I don't know if Cain ever hit the lists, really. I think Escobar did once he got to Triple-A.

"But I look at them, and then I look at [the Indians' Michael] Brantley getting 200 hits and I look at Brett Lawrie and the way he's played for Toronto, and Odorizzi and the way he's pitched for Tampa. Our farm system -- we've got a very talented player development staff. We've put a couple players every year on our big league club. As much as anything, I think it's proof that we can identify talent and we can develop it. It's just that some of them will play for other teams, because of our philosophy that we want to win [now]. Once we [made the playoffs] in '08, it kind of spoiled you and made you want to do it the next few years.

"That's the challenge of small-market teams -- sustaining it."

Melvin is equally pleased for Yost, who managed the Brewers to the brink of the 2008 postseason but was dismissed with 12 regular season games to go and the team fighting an early-September slump. He was replaced by Dale Sveum, who saw the Brewers clinch the NL Wild Card on the final day of the season, snapping Milwaukee's 26-year playoff drought.

Sveum is now Yost's hitting coach in Kansas City. Together, they helped snap the Royals' 29-year playoff drought.

"The comment [from Yost] that stood out for me and will always stand out for me was when Rickie [Weeks] was making errors and J.J. [Hardy] wasn't hitting and we were getting fan letters and emails demanding we send guys back to the Minor Leagues, Ned told me, 'I'll take losses on my back right now so those kids can win in the future.'

"I don't even know if those players know he said that. That comment was pretty strong, because J.J. was hitting about .170 at one time, and Ned said, 'No, if they're our future, they're going to make their mistakes here. If they're our future, I'm fine with it. I'll take the losses on my back for their wins in the future.' Not too many first-year managers would say that.

"Now it's sort of the same thing there [in Kansas City]. I know they've had [Mike] Moustakas sent down, and Cain had injuries, and Ned had to have a world of patience there, too. I think Ned saw it in Atlanta with players like David Justice and Chipper Jones, all the younger players, and had a vision and a patience. He didn't have patience with writers, I don't think, but he sure had it with players."

The patience will pay off Tuesday, when the World Series gets underway.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Braun feels good in first activity since thumb surgery

Braun feels good in first activity since thumb surgery

Ryan Braun's comeback from right thumb surgery has officially begun.

Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash reported that Braun swung a bat Sunday, and Braun told club officials he felt "pretty good." It was Braun's first baseball activity since he underwent a cryotherapy procedure on Oct. 2, when specialists at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Los Angeles inserted a needle at the base of Braun's right thumb to freeze a troublesome nerve that has caused him problems for the past two seasons.

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Pain from the nerve forced Braun to alter the mechanics of his swing and sapped his power in 2014, when he played 135 games and posted career lows across the board, with a .266 batting average, .324 on-base percentage, .453 slugging percentage and .777 OPS.

Since there is no apparent Plan B, Braun and the Brewers have a lot riding on the results of this month's procedure. Braun will earn $12 million in 2015 before a five-year, $105 million extension kicks in beginning with the 2016 season.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Roenicke returning, but Brewers staff undergoes changes

Hitting coach Narron, first-base coach Iorg dismissed

Roenicke returning, but Brewers staff undergoes changes

ST. LOUIS -- Brewers manager Ron Roenicke will be back for the final year of his contract in 2015, but he will oversee an altered coaching staff.

The team on Friday dismissed hitting coach Johnny Narron after three seasons in the role, and first-base coach Garth Iorg after four seasons. The rest of the staff, including Roenicke, will return.

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The decisions were delivered after a week of conversations between Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio, general manager Doug Melvin and Roenicke, who met for eight hours at a Los Angeles restaurant on Wednesday and followed-up with telephone talks Thursday and Friday, all aimed at identifying areas of improvement for a club coming off an historic collapse. The '14 Brewers became only the fifth team in the divisional era (since 1969) to spend 150 days in first place but miss the postseason.

"The plan was to take a week and let those emotions get out of the way," Melvin said. "And to take the week to analyze the ballclub offensively, defensively, baserunning, leadership -- all the things that go into our decision-making. It came down to two areas we talked about a lot: We had to have better at-bats, and we talked about some mistakes we make on the infield. We have two young infielders [shortstop Jean Segura and second baseman Scooter Gennett] we want to see continue to develop.

"That said, it's not all the responsibility of the two coaches. They're both good people, and they work hard at it. It's unfortunate that sometimes when these things happen, it affects coaches as much as anybody else."

Said Roenicke: "I like the guys we let go, and I'm never going to say it's their fault. It's all of our fault. It's the players, it's myself, and it's the coaches. When you don't perform in different areas, sometimes that falls on a coach or the manager. Johnny worked hard at what he did and the guys liked him, and we didn't get it done the way we wanted to. Garth worked hard at his job, and I liked what he did also."

Melvin declined to say when he and Attanasio reached this conclusion, but at some point they decided Roenicke remains the right man to lead the coaching staff. The Brewers reached the National League Championship Series in Roenicke's first season ('11), but have fallen short of the postseason each year since.

In three of Roenicke's four years, Melvin noted, the Brewers have produced a winning record. The one losing season was '13, when Ryan Braun was suspended for the team's final 65 games.

Brewers' offense by half (NL rank)
Through June 30 Category Since July 1
4.56 (2nd) Runs per game 3.42 (13th)
1.05 (2nd) Home runs per game 0.79 (7th)
.261 (2nd) Batting average .238 (13th)
.739 (2nd) On-base-plus- slugging pct. .673 (9th)
3.66 (15th) Pitches per plate appearance 3.65 (15th)

"[Roenicke] is only in his fourth year of managing, and he does have a reputation for winning," Melvin said. "If you look at managers' winning percentages, there's 13 managers that have managed less than five years and [Roenicke] has the fourth-best winning percentage. Then look at managers [overall] -- Buck Showalter has a .520 winning percentage. Roenicke, .517. Joe Maddon, .517. Bob Melvin, .516. Bruce Bochy, .502. Those are pretty good managers that he's in company with when it comes to winning percentage, and that's early in his career.

"He knows our organization, he's won with our organization. The one thing that comes out of this year is winning is no longer acceptable anymore. It's playoffs. We have to get to the playoffs."

A vanishing offense was largely to blame for the Brewers missing that mark in '14. After running second among National League clubs to the high-altitude Rockies in every major offensive category during the first three months of the season, the Brewers struggled to score from July onward. They fell from 4.56 runs per game in the first three months to 3.42 runs per game in the final three. Among the 30 Major League teams, only the Reds struggled more to score down the stretch.

But rather than make snap decisions in the midst of the slide -- the Brewers lost 22 of their final 31 games -- Attanasio and Melvin opted to spend the first two weeks of the offseason analyzing what happened.

"We talked about what we can do as a leadership team," Melvin said. "We talked about meeting a little bit more during the season, whether we're winning or losing. And then we talked about changes. I addressed some areas I think I can get better at to help us. I think we can be more accountable to the players if guys aren't performing. Maybe we give them a little too much rope. Some of that is my responsibility. We talked about things we all can do -- Ron, specifically, addressed a number of issues, some things he feels he can do better as a manager."

"Anything that we discuss as a team, obviously it relates to me and what I can do better," Roenicke said. "They had some points they wanted to run by me, and wanted my thoughts on, and to see how we can get better in those areas."

Did it feel like he was fighting for his job?

"No, I didn't feel like I was fighting for my job," Roenicke said. "They wanted me back, and if they didn't want me back, I wouldn't have been in that meeting."

One of Melvin's top lieutenants, Craig Counsell, will play a prominent role in the Brewers' search for a new hitting coach but is not a candidate for the job himself at this time. Roenicke already submitted a list of names to Counsell for review. The Brewers could actually discuss hiring two new hitting coaches if they opt to move Mike Guerrero, who joined the staff for '14 as an extra coach, to the first-base role.

Asked to identify the qualities he will seek in a new hitting coach, Melvin said, "I think you have to have someone that can adapt to the personnel that you have. You'd like to get someone who can get hitters to work the count a little bit, but sometimes that's up to the hitter."

"We're dealing with a very strong-minded athlete who gets to this level," Roenicke said, "and you have to have a personality that can get to these guys and they'll trust and listen to you. A lot of them have made it on their own by raw ability, and they need to make changes."

Returning to the staff will be bench coach Jerry Narron, pitching coach Rick Kranitz, third-base coach Ed Sedar, outfield coach John Shelby, bullpen coach Lee Tunnell and Guerrero.

Roenicke's contractual status did not change. His deal runs through '15 with a club option for '16.

"We're comfortable with this, and I talked to Ron about that, too," Melvin said.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Coulter leads Desert Dogs' homer spree in AFL

Coulter leads Desert Dogs' homer spree in AFL

GLENDALE -- The Glendale Desert Dogs improved to .500 with a 7-5 win against the Salt River Rafters on Wednesday night.

The victory, which halted the Rafters win streak at six, can be credited to the long ball as Glendale hit three balls out of the park en route to the win.

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Clint Coulter, the No. 7 prospect in the Brewers organization according to MLBpipeline.com, began the scoring with a two-run homer in the second.

"First pitch he busted me inside, then I got three sliders after that and a couple of other pitches," Coulter said. "So, when it came back to full count, I thought he might come in again. I was looking in and luckily he didn't throw another slider -- I would have been in trouble."

Coulter, the 27th overall pick in the 2012 Draft and the Brewers' Minor League Player of the Year this season, hit .287 with 22 homers in Class-A Wisconsin in 2014.

Offense has always been Coulter's strength, but the prospect has spent the bulk of his career catching and, due to some defensive struggles, the Brewers opted to move him to right field during the AFL.

"It's good," Coulter said of the transition thus far. "[I've just been] working in BP, getting my breaks and jumps, staying back on balls and [on] my territory with the center fielder. It's been fun."

Coulter couldn't remember playing anywhere besides catcher for an extended period of time since his high school days, but he's open to the move and looking forward to it for a number of reasons.

"It's definitely going to free up my legs a bit as far as the grind of the whole season so I can focus on hitting, but that being said, you're expected to produce once you're out there," Coulter said. "I enjoy the pressure and am looking forward to next year."

An inning after Coulter's homer, fellow Milwaukee prospect Hector Gomez added to the lead with a three-run shot of his own.

Gomez hit .282 with 15 homers in 121 games with Triple-A Nashville this season, but was off to a slow start in the AFL as he entered Wednesday's game with just one hit in 12 at-bats.

However, that may have changed when Gomez lined an 0-2 pitch over the left field wall for a three-run homer in the third.

The long balls from Coulter and Gomez were backed by a solid start from White Sox No. 3 prospect Francellis Montas. Despite allowing four hits and two walks in three innings, Montas kept the Rafters off the scorebard, earning a win and fanning three in the process.

Montas, who went 5-0 with a 1.44 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 81 innings across three levels this season, has allowed one earned run while striking out six over 6 1/3 innings in his first two AFL starts.

The Chicago hurler is pitching in the Fall League to make up for the time he lost while sidelined with injury in the regular season. Montas missed April following meniscus surgery on his left knee, and then missed another month when he needed the same operation on his right knee in late June.

The Rafters fought back into the game with a three-run seventh inning -- highlighted by Rockies prospect Taylor Featherston's solo homer.

But, in the bottom of the frame, Tim Anderson, the No. 82 prospect on MLBpipeline.com, continued the home run barrage with a two-run blast of his own in the seventh, that ultimately proved to be the decisive blow.

William Boor is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @wboor. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Coulter working on transition to right field in AFL

Crew aiming to maximize former catcher's bat with change in position

Coulter working on transition to right field in AFL

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers Minor League Player of the Year Clint Coulter will continue his transition to a new position in the prestigious Arizona Fall League.

Coulter this week joined the roster of the Glendale Desert Dogs as a taxi squad player, but he is not expected to see much game action, according to Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash. Rather, Coulter will continue working on the transition from catcher to right field during the team's workouts, a project he began in the Brewers' instructional league program.

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The Brewers are moving Coulter, 21 and a first-round Draft pick in 2012, off catcher to maximize his offensive potential. He hit 22 home runs with 89 RBIs in 126 games at Class A Wisconsin in 2014 while starting at catcher and designated hitter. His 22 homers tied Wisconsin's single-season record and tied for the Midwest League lead. 

First base and third base were also considered for Coulter, but it is becoming more evident that right field is the best fit.

"He has adapted well," Ash said.

Coulter is No. 7 on MLB.com's list of the Top 20 Brewers prospects.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Milwaukee BBWAA names Lucroy team MVP

Peralta gets Outstanding Pitcher nod; Duke honored as Top Newcomer, Unsung Hero

Milwaukee BBWAA names Lucroy team MVP

Jonathan Lucroy was named the Most Valuable Player and Wily Peralta was recognized as the Most Outstanding Pitcher when the Brewers announced the Milwaukee Baseball Writers' Association of America award winners on Monday afternoon. Along with being recognized as the team's top performer, Lucroy also received the Good Guy Award for the second straight season. Left-handed reliever Zach Duke was honored with two awards -- Top Newcomer and Unsung Hero.

Lucroy won the MVP Award in unanimous fashion, receiving each of the seven first-place votes cast by members of the Milwaukee chapter of the BBWAA. Carlos Gomez received each of the second-place votes.

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Along with further proving his ability to handle a pitching staff, Lucroy spent this year cementing his place as one of the game's top catchers. He led the Brewers in games played (153), batting average (.301), hits (176) and extra-base hits (68). Lucroy's team-high 53 doubles distinguished him as the first primary catcher to lead his league in this category. He also set a Major League record by hitting 46 of his doubles as a catcher.

This was a breakthrough season for Peralta, who went 17-11 with a 3.53 ERA in 32 starts. The 25-year-old right-hander led the team in wins, innings pitched (198 2/3), quality starts (22) and strikeouts (154). Peralta received six of the seven first-place votes. Mike Fiers received the other.

Duke posted a 2.45 ERA in the 74 relief appearances he made after being the only non-roster invitee to make the Opening Day roster. The southpaw received just one first place vote, but was included on each of the seven ballots cast for the Top Newcomer Award. Francisco Rodriguez received three first-place votes, but finished a close second. Duke's competition in the Unsung Hero category came from Fiers, Will Smith and Scooter Gennett, who each received one first-place vote.

A total of seven players received votes in the balloting for the Good Guy Award. Lucroy and Kyle Lohse were the only members of this group with first-place votes.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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After late-season stumble, Brewers look for fixes for '15

After late-season stumble, Brewers look for fixes for '15

MILWAUKEE -- When the Brewers limped into the All-Star break with a 2-11 stretch, general manager Doug Melvin gathered his baseball men for a debate.

Were the Brewers a good team that stumbled to the break with a bad two weeks? Or were they not as good as their early-season record seemed to indicate?

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Two and a half months later, those questions are still being asked. Amid a brutal second-half collapse, principal owner Mark Attanasio promised a fundamental review of all aspects of the organization, including manager Ron Roenicke and his coaches, the disappearing Brewers offense and whether significant changes are necessary before 2015 to ensure a better result.

"There were some good things this season, too, so we're going to try not to forget those," Attanasio said. "When you have a 162-game season, it's a marathon, so at Mile 21 we were in the lead and looked strong. So we want to make sure we want to embrace what got us through those first 21 miles and change out what happened the last five."

He made it clear he was disappointed, to say the least.

"Frankly, even into mid-September I believed in this team and thought they were going to turn it around," Attanasio said. "They just didn't. And, so, you can pick the adjectives -- frustrated, disappointed, catatonic. Very disappointed.

"In fact, I'm disappointed in the team, disappointed in the guys. They're better than this and they didn't show it."

Here is a look at where the Brewers stood heading toward 2015:

Arbitration-eligible: Marco Estrada, Brandon Kintzler, Martin Maldonado, Gerardo Parra

Free agents: Zach Duke, Tom Gorzelanny, Francisco Rodriguez, Lyle Overbay, Mark Reynolds

Options: Yovani Gallardo ($13 million club option), Aramis Ramirez ($14 million mutual option, $4 million buyout), Rickie Weeks (Brewers may void vesting option).

Rotation: If the Brewers could take solace in one area of the team during the second half of the season, it was a starting rotation that performed well outside of one stretch during which Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza were injured. Assuming the Brewers exercise Gallardo's option -- which is all but certain to happen -- then everybody will be back in 2014, starting with the experienced top three of Gallardo, Garza and Lohse. Wily Peralta took a big step forward in his second Major League season, lowering his ERA and walk rate while becoming the Brewers' third 17-game winner since 1992. Then the Brewers could decide between Jimmy Nelson, who had a great first half in Triple-A, and Mike Fiers, who had a great finish in the Majors, for the fifth spot. With Tyler Thornburg a wild card coming back from an elbow injury, there is depth and talent here. If it helps them solve other issues, including first base, the Brewers might even consider trading someone from this group.

Bullpen: The team answered one significant question -- who'll be the closer -- when it acquired Jonathan Broxton from the Reds at the end of August. Broxton is due $9 million in 2015, and with Rodriguez heading into free agency, Broxton is by far the leading candidate to take over. The other key returning arms are left-hander Will Smith and right-hander Jeremy Jeffress, power pitchers who had some terrific moments in 2014. After that, Melvin & Co. will have to do the usual offseason bullpen reassembly. They will spend a lot of time examining relief workloads from early in the season, which may have contributed to Thornburg getting hurt and Smith wearing down.

"You have to trust everybody on your roster, and that's something I think we can do a better job of," Melvin said. "You can't just wear everybody down. Early in the year, we were on a roll and things were working. When things work, you use them."

Catcher: It was obvious to Brewers coaches and everybody else around the team that no player was more devastated by the team's collapse than its All-Star catcher, Jonathan Lucroy, who played virtually every day and remained Milwaukee's most consistent hitter until a late-September slide. An All-Star Game start gave one of baseball's premier all-around catchers some national notice. In Martin Maldonado, the Brewers also have a premium defensive backup.

First base: The Brewers knew they'd have a hard time replacing larger-than-life Prince Fielder, and three years in, they're still searching. In 2011, Fielder's final season in Milwaukee, the Brewers led the National League in OPS at first base. In 2012, when Corey Hart filled in, the Brewers fell to ninth. In 2013, with Yuniesky Betancourt & Co., the Brewers fell to dead last. And in 2014, with veterans Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay, they were last again. Reynolds and Overbay are free agents, so the Brewers will spend another winter seeking a long-term solution to this problem. The leading internal candidate is Matt Clark, who was in Japan in 2013 and began 2014 with the Mets' Double-A club.

Second base: Scooter Gennett batted .103 in very limited chances (39 at-bats) against left-handed pitching in 2014, but will probably get an opportunity to play every day next year with the departure of former second overall Draft pick Rickie Weeks. Gennett batted .235 in the Minor Leagues in 2013 against lefties, and .241 in 2012.

Third base: With no clear candidates in the Minor Leagues at this position, there is a possibility Ramirez returns for another year with the Brewers. He is finishing the final season of a three-year deal that includes a mutual option for 2015. It would pay $14 million if both sides agree, a $4 million buyout if the Brewers decline and nothing if the Brewers exercise their half but Ramirez declines in order to seek one more multi-year deal on the free agent market. Ramirez admitted feeling a bit weary at the end of the least productive full season of his long career, and posted his lowest home run and RBI totals of any season in which he has played at least 100 games.

Shortstop: Jean Segura was an All-Star during the first half of 2013 but has not been the same hitter since. He was already on the way to a tough sophomore season when personal tragedy struck; on July 12, Segura learned that his infant son had passed away unexpectedly in the Dominican Republic. The Brewers believe some offseason downtime and perhaps some changes to his swing will help rejuvenate the 24-year-old. If not, Hector Gomez could see an opportunity next season after a productive Triple-A season.

Outfield: If the Brewers go through arbitration to bring back Gerardo Parra, they will have a solid backup to starting left fielder Khris Davis, center fielder Carlos Gomez and right fielder Ryan Braun. On paper, that is a solid group, though Davis could be more consistent and the electric Gomez is prone to mistakes at the plate and on the bases. The key piece is Braun, who has not been an MVP-caliber player since 2012, and hopes a surgical fix will relieve the thumb pain that limited his production in 2014. Braun is still a year away from entering a five-year, $105 million extension, so there is a lot riding on that surgery.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Brewers' finish doesn't match strong start

Brewers' finish doesn't match strong start

MILWAUKEE -- The cliché is uttered in every clubhouse, every season, usually with a healthy dose of hope: It's not how you start, it's how you finish.

There are many more original ways to describe the Milwaukee Brewers' 2014 season, but none would come close to matching the accuracy of that old adage. A team that charged to the top of the standings in April with a 20-7 start and held first place in the National League Central for 150 consecutive days all the way into September crashed down the stretch. The Brewers were eliminated from the division race on Sept. 21, though their slim postseason hopes extended into the final week of the season.

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Two losing streaks doomed the Brewers' season, one in each half. They went 1-11 from June 29-July 12, needing a win in the final game before the All-Star break to avoid falling out of first. They held onto that position until a brutal 3-16 stretch from Aug. 20-Sept. 9 dropped the team from 2 1/2 games ahead of the rest of the NL Central to four games out of first.

"Our meetings are all about the dips, and how we can avoid those," general manager Doug Melvin said. "And last year we had a 6-22. I want to know why. Mark [Attanasio, the Brewers' principal owner] wants to know why."

Record: 82-80, third in the National League Central

Defining moment: If there was one turning point game during the Brewers' August and September slide, it was the Aug. 27 affair at Petco Park, where the Brewers lost a heartbreaker to the Padres that prompted a rare outburst against the umpires from manager Ron Roenicke. He was furious about a couple of ball/strike calls from Triple-A callup Mark Ripperger that contributed to Francisco Rodriguez surrendering a tying home run in the ninth inning of an eventual 10-inning loss. Instead of adding a game to their lead over the rest of the division and enjoying an off-day following a road series victory, the Brewers absorbed the second of what would become nine consecutive losses.

"This one definitely hurts," said Rodriguez that night, speaking prophetic words. "There's no question about it."

What went right: The most maddening thing about the Brewers' finish was the way they started, with a 7-0 opening road trip during a nine-game winning streak. The Brewers had the best record in baseball when they took a day off on April 24, and still owned the National League's best record all the way through July 11, which happened to be the same night the Brewers learned of the tragic death of shortstop Jean Segura's infant son. Getting off to a good start was a major focus of Melvin and his staff, after the Brewers endured difficulties in recent Aprils and Mays.

"Everybody said, 'You've got to get off to a good start [but] you've got a tough schedule," Melvin said. "Well, we did. So what are we going to say next year -- 'Let's not worry about a good start; let's have a good finish?' Did we grind our guys too much? Play them too much? I don't know. Braun, Gomez, Ramirez all spent time on the DL, right? That's 15 games [each]."

What went wrong: While all phases of the team went sour during the second losing streak, the common denominator throughout the second half was the Brewers' disappearing offense. Only the Reds and Braves scored fewer runs per game after the All-Star break. During the final road trip, Roenicke suggested the Brewers may have to insist on a more patient approach from their aggressive hitters, but Melvin wondered about the wider suppression of scoring around baseball."

"One of the things that's down is hitting," Melvin said. "[On Sept. 22] there were six shutouts in baseball, in 12 games. Fourteen of the 24 teams scored three runs or less. So we're looking at, 'if offense is down 10 percent and a player's performance is down 10 percent, is that a coaching thing? Is that a player thing?'"

The Brewers will spend the winter trying to figure it out.

Biggest surprise: When the bullpen door swung open on Opening Day, it was Rodriguez, not Jim Henderson, who emerged for a ninth-inning save. Henderson, who had assumed the job amid John Axford's rough opening week in 2012, had a poor Spring Training, and as part of their bid to start hot, the Brewers made a change that surprised even players on the field. Rodriguez responded with an All-Star-caliber campaign, moving into baseball's all-time top 10 in saves. He will be a free agent after the season.

Hitter of the Year: Jonathan Lucroy put together what will likely be a top-five NL MVP season, breaking Ivan Rodriguez's record for doubles by a catcher and emerging as the Brewers' most professional hitter. He joined Lyle Overbay and Aramis Ramirez as the only Brewers to log at least 50 doubles in a season, and added a pair of run-scoring doubles during an All-Star Game start for good measure. Ted Simmons is the only other Brewers catcher ever to start an All-Star Game.

Pitcher of the Year: Tough call. Kyle Lohse was victimized by a team-high seven blown saves, but struggled in August after spraining his ankle. Matt Garza was good when healthy, but spent a month on the disabled list. We'll give Wily Peralta the nod for taking a big step forward in his second full season. When the Brewers reached their emotional high point of the season on Aug. 17, finishing a sweep of the Dodgers, it was Peralta leading the way. He was tied for the Major League lead in victories at that point, and while Peralta fell of that pace when the Brewers started sliding as a team, he still turned in a quality season, upping his strikeout rate and lowering his walks and ERA.

Rookie of the Year: Jimmy Nelson was the only rookie to play a significant amount of time for the Brewers. He didn't fare particularly well in the Major Leagues, but his first half at Triple-A Nashville offers hope of future success. Nelson, 25 and Milwaukee's Minor League Pitcher of the Year, was 10-2 with a 1.46 ERA in 17 games (16 starts) at Triple-A Nashville, with 114 strikeouts and 32 walks in 111 innings. At the time of his promotion to Milwaukee on July 11, Nelson led the Minor Leagues in ERA, ranked third in the Minors in strikeouts and he tied for the Pacific Coast League lead in wins.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Stars of tomorrow ready to shine as '14 AFL season begins

Stars of tomorrow ready to shine as '14 AFL season begins

Over its 23-year history, the Arizona Fall League has developed a reputation as a finishing school for baseball's top prospects. This year, once again, many of the game's best young players will gather in the desert, hoping to prove themselves in the same league that helped catapult Derek Jeter, Dustin Pedroia and Mike Trout to stardom.

When the AFL opens play Tuesday, the concentration of talent will again be readily apparent. Two of the three Opening Day games feature premium pitching matchups, and the third game is highlighted by two of the best shortstops in the Minor Leagues.

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The action begins at 3:35 p.m. ET when Peoria and right-hander Kyle Zimmer, the Royals' No. 2 prospect, visits Surprise and right-hander Taijuan Walker, whose last start was a complete game for the Mariners in the midst of their pennant race.

At the same time Tuesday afternoon, Glendale and shortstop Corey Seager, the Dodgers' No. 1 prospect, will host Mesa and shortstop Addison Russell, the Cubs' No. 2 prospect. The day ends with another pitchers' duel, as right-hander Tyler Glasnow, the Pirates' No. 1 prospect, will take the mound for Scottsdale at 9:35 p.m. ET at Salt River, facing right-hander Archie Bradley, the D-backs' No. 1 prospect.

Games with that level of talent are commonplace in the AFL, where 23 players ranked on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list will play this season.

For the second year in a row, Byron Buxton, baseball's top ranked prospect, is among the top prospects playing in the desert this fall. Last year, the Twins' No. 1 prospect hit .212/.288/.404 in 12 games as a 19-year-old for Glendale. This year, he will be playing for Salt River as he tries to make up for lost time after missing most of the regular season due to injuries.

Buxton played in just 31 games during the regular season. A wrist injury he suffered during Spring Training delayed his start to the season and continued to hamper him throughout the first half with Class A Advanced Fort Myers. Then, in his first game after being promoted to Double-A New Britain in August, he suffered a concussion in a harrowing outfield collision and was sidelined for the final three weeks of the season.

Now healthy again, Buxton will be one of the most-watched players in the AFL. But his is far from the only storyline to watch over the next six weeks.

Making up for lost time
Like Buxton, several other players are headed to Arizona to make up for time they lost to injury during the regular season. Others who are taking advantage of the extra developmental time include outfielder Jesse Winker, the Reds' No. 2 prospect, and shortstop Tim Anderson, the White Sox's No. 2 prospect.

Many of the starting pitchers in the AFL are there because injuries prevented them from reaching their innings caps during the regular season. Bradley, Glasnow, Zimmer and Walker all spent part of this season on the disabled list, as did right-handers C.J. Edwards, the Cubs' No. 5 prospect, and Roberto Osuna, the Blue Jays' No. 5 prospect.

Recent Draft picks
Last year, just four months after he was selected second overall in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, the Cubs sent third baseman Kris Bryant to the AFL. He hit .364/.457/.727 with six home runs in 20 games. He was named MVP and helped Mesa to the league championship game. That performance helped serve as a springboard for his historic '14 season, when he hit 43 home runs and reached Triple-A.

It is unlikely any player will be able to repeat Bryant's spectacular performance this season. But three members of the '14 Draft class will play in the AFL, led by shortstop Trea Turner, the Padres' No. 5 prospect. He was selected 13th overall in June and hit .323/.406/.448 with five home runs and 23 stolen bases in 69 games between short-season Eugene and Class A Fort Wayne.

In addition to the small group of '14 draftees, several members of the '13 Draft class will play in the AFL. Right-hander Mark Appel, the first overall pick last year, headlines the group. The Astros' No. 2 prospect had a rocky start to his first full professional season, but pitched much better after his promotion to Double-A Corpus Christi in July. He will try to build on that progress while pitching with Salt River this fall, where he joins Bradley and Buxton to form one of the most star-studded rosters in the league.

Pace of play
Major League Baseball announced last week a set of experimental rules designed to speed up the pace of play would be used in the AFL this year.

• A hitter must keep one foot inside the batter's box throughout his plate appearance, unless one of a few exceptions, such as a foul ball, occurs.

• Intentional walks will be called for by the manager and the batter will automatically take first base.

• There will be a maximum break of two minutes, five seconds between innings, with hitters required to be in the batter's box by the one-minute, 45-second mark. If either team doesn't comply, a ball or strike will be assessed accordingly.

• There will be a maximum of two minutes, 30 seconds allowed for pitching changes, including those that occur during an inning break. A ball will be called if a team takes too long.

• Each team will be permitted three "timeout" conferences covering any meeting involving pitchers and catchers, managers, coaches and batters. Timeouts during pitching changes and those that result from an injury or other emergency will not be counted toward the limit. Additionally, at Salt River home games, a 20-second pitch clock will be used. Those games will also include instant replay, as MLB continues to study potential modifications to the review system.

The experimental pace of play initiatives continue the AFL's tradition of being a testing lab for MLB's potential rule changes. Last year, the instant replay system was debuted in the AFL.

Defensive moves
Position changes often happen in a less-competitive environment than the AFL, but the league gives players who are moving around the diamond another chance to get experience.

This year, Josh Bell, the Pirates' No. 3 prospect, will be the most prominent player learning a new position. He has exclusively played the outfield in the Minor Leagues, but the Pirates already have a star-studded trio of young outfielders in the big leagues. So, this fall, Bell will try out first base, where he began taking ground balls during the regular season.

Although Peter O'Brien, the D-backs' No. 7 prospect, won't be changing positions when he catches for Salt River this fall, his progress defensively will be closely watched by evaluators. The 24-year old was a catcher in college, but has played four positions since the Yankees drafted him in the second round in '12.

The D-backs acquired O'Brien at the non-waiver Trade Deadline in exchange for Martin Prado, but injuries limited him to four games with his new club. The D-backs are sending him to the AFL as a catcher, and how he performs behind the plate over the next six weeks could inform his ultimate defensive home.

No matter where O'Brien ends up defensively, his offensive prowess gives him a chance to reach the Major Leagues. He hit 34 home runs in 106 games this season, ranking fifth among Minor Leaguers.

MLB.com's Top Prospects in AFL
1. Byron Buxton, OF, Twins
4. Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians
5. Addison Russell, SS, Cubs
9. Archie Bradley, RHP, D-backs
13. Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers
16. Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pirates
29. Josh Bell, 1B, Pirates
38. Raul Mondesi, SS, Royals
40. Jesse Winker, OF, Reds
41. Mark Appel, RHP, Astros
47. Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Royals
49. D.J. Peterson, 3B, Mariners
53. C.J. Edwards, RHP, Cubs
60. Brandon Nimmo, OF, Mets
71. Hunter Renfroe, OF, Padres
82. Tim Anderson, SS, White Sox
84. Nick Williams, OF, Rangers
85. Daniel Robertson, SS, A's
86. Hunter Dozier, 3B, Royals
87. Miguel Almonte, RHP, Royals
88. Dalton Pompey, OF, Blue Jays
96. Trea Turner, SS, Padres
98. Matt Olson, 1B, A's

Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Braun has cryotherapy performed on right hand

Brewers optimistic procedure will relieve right fielder's nerve pain

Braun has cryotherapy performed on right hand

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers and right fielder Ryan Braun expressed optimism about the surgical procedure both sides hope will relieve Braun from the painful nerve issue that compromised his production for the past two seasons.

Braun underwent a cryotherapy procedure on his right hand Thursday morning at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Los Angeles. A specialist, Dr. Vernon Williams, inserted a needle at the base of Braun's right thumb to essentially freeze a troublesome nerve that forced Braun to alter his mechanics, rendering him to swing, as Braun put it, "one-handed."

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"This is a technique they have done with other athletes, but not with a baseball player," Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash said. "So I wouldn't call it experimental, but we are obviously breaking some new ground here."

Asked to assess the procedure's likelihood of success, Ash said, "I don't think anybody can tell us that."

Braun will meet again with Dr. Williams on Monday. If there is no adverse reaction to the treatment, Braun will begin swinging a bat to determine the effect of the procedure on his swing and his pain tolerance.

The Brewers and Braun spent the past two years examining solutions -- everything from rest to physically padding the area to a variety of surgical options, one of which would have removed completely the troublesome nerve. Braun viewed that option as extremely risky, and characterized Thursday's procedure as much less so.

"Originally, this was considered when we were in L.A. [in late August, when the Brewers swept the Dodgers], but we didn't like the sounds of doing something that experts weren't certain about during the season," Ash said. "So that's why we waited until after the season. Everybody is optimistic. Hopefully this works, but I can't really tell you."

Is there a Plan B if cryotherapy doesn't work?

"No, there really isn't a Plan B," Ash said.

Much rides on finding a fix. Braun won the National League MVP Award in 2011, when he admittedly took a banned substance to speed his recovery from an injury he has declined to disclose. After winning an appeal of a 50-game suspension, Braun finished runner-up to the Giants' Buster Posey for 2012 NL MVP honors.

But Braun has not been the same since then. With his thumb hurting, his slugging percentage slipped to a career-low .498 in 61 games in 2013 before he was suspended for the Brewers' final 65 games. In 2014, Braun played 135 games and posted career-lows across the board, with a .266 batting average, .324 on-base percentage, .453 slugging percentage and .777 OPS.

Braun will earn $12 million in 2015 before a five-year, $105 million extension kicks in beginning with the 2016 season.

"I've kind of known [that he would have an offseason procedure] the whole time, but based on where the team was at, I thought I had a chance to succeed and hopefully find a way to get through it," Braun said before departing for the season. "It's not like I can't play. I can play. I think the longer I've dealt with it I've learned to deal with it. The pain, physically, is not so much the issue -- it's the body's reaction to not being able to use the top hand in my swing for the majority of the year.

"It impacts my bat speed, it impacts my bat path, it impacts everything I'm trying to do as a hitter. And then mentally, knowing where I'm at physically is difficult, too. I have to change my swing, I have to start my swing earlier, I have to do a lot of things that I'm not used to doing.

"None of these things are an excuse. We play a results-oriented game, and at the end of the day, I didn't perform up to the level I expected to perform, regardless of where I'm at physically."

Brewers reliever Brandon Kintzler also underwent left knee surgery this week to correct an issue that dated to last season. Ash said the procedure went as expected.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Melvin mulling Roenicke's status as manager

Brewers GM is taking his time to evaluate the entire coaching staff after disappointing finish

Melvin mulling Roenicke's status as manager

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers general manager Doug Melvin made the local sports radio rounds on Tuesday to explain why he will wait at least a week to make decisions about the status of manager Ron Roenicke and his coaching staff.

"We just want to take some time here and let the emotions -- as you can tell from everybody, the emotions of not a bad season, but a bad ending, takes charge here," Melvin said on 620-AM WTMJ, the Brewers' flagship. "You've got to wait until the emotions calm down on a lot of things. Then, you sit down and look at some of the issues with the club, and we'll determine [Roenicke's status] at that particular time. A lot of things will be determined over the next week or so. Like I say, I have to take a step back and look at a number of things."

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Roenicke is under contract through the end of next season with an option for 2016, but he is on the hot seat after overseeing a six-week collapse at the end of the season. The Brewers lost 22 of their final 31 games and, according to STATS LLC, became only the fifth team in the last 44 seasons to spend at least 150 days in first place and miss the postseason.

Melvin declined to share a specific timeline for a decision on the field staff, but he said on Saturday that he had previous plans to visit the Brewers' new Triple-A affiliate in Colorado Springs this week, followed by a check-in with the instructional league operation in Phoenix. After that, he will travel to Los Angeles for meetings next week with principal owner Mark Attanasio.

Roenicke also lives in Southern California. He had conversations with Melvin on Sunday and again on Monday. Melvin also spoke to the coaching staff as a group at Miller Park before Sunday's season finale.

"I know sports is all about the blame game," Melvin said later on 1250-AM WSSP. "Everybody is looking to blame people, everybody is looking to fire people. I don't look at it that way. I try to look at it and identify the problems. There's enough numbers out there, statistics, you could blame anybody you want. I think there were some performance issues with our players this year."

In both appearances, Melvin distanced himself somewhat from a comment on Saturday related to the motivation of certain players, when he said, "I want to find out who cares about winning and losing in the clubhouse. If there are guys in there that don't care about winning then they probably won't be there."

Asked on WSSP whether he really believed some players didn't care, Melvin said, "That goes back to emotions. You get ticked off at certain times when you see how your team is playing, and you sometimes wonder that. I made an emotional comment. I don't doubt the work that our players put in, and Ron and our coaching staff worked extremely hard. Working hard is the one thing; getting the message through to guys where they accept it is another thing. ... I need to look at [player motivation], and it may be a small issue, but I don't think it was a major issue."

If Melvin broke new ground on the radio on Tuesday, it was in response to a WTMJ question about Roenicke's super-aggressive style on the basepaths.

"He did pull back," Melvin told WTMJ. "We had discussions about not being as aggressive if we were having players make too many mistakes, and that did happen. The biggest flaw in what we went through here at the end was our offense. Our Nos. 3 and 4 hitters had one home run and five RBIs the entire month of September. You're not going to score a lot of runs if your 3-4 hitters have that kind of offensive production for an entire month. Matt Clark, a September callup, had three home runs, which was the most in the month of September from our ballclub. There were a lot of offensive issues there. The mistakes stand out more when you're not scoring runs.

"But Ron did pull back a little bit as we sat down and talked about it over the course of the year. So we weren't quite as aggressive as we had been earlier on, and the reason for that was we were struggling to score runs. If we were struggling to score runs, then we couldn't afford to make mistakes on the bases."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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MLB.com Columnist

Mike Bauman

Blame for Brewers' collapse might fall on Roenicke

While it wasn't the fault of the manager, club struggled to close out season

Blame for Brewers' collapse might fall on Roenicke

MILWAUKEE -- It is not Ron Roenicke's fault that the Brewers went 9-22 in their last 31 games of this season. But when blamed is placed, the manager is often the first in line.

The 2014 Brewers are a particularly painful case since they were in first place for 149 consecutive days, but then, starting Aug. 26, they lost nine in a row and 13 of 14. For two weeks, the entire team slumped. After that, the pitching recovered, but the offense continued heading south. What happens next?

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Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio has said that general manager Doug Melvin would return, but that the status of Roenicke and the coaching staff are under review. Roenicke has one year left on his contract.

Attanasio left little doubt about his dissatisfaction with the Brewers' late-season performance.

"You can pick the adjectives -- frustrated, disappointed, catatonic," Attanasio said. "Very disappointed. In fact, I'm disappointed in the team, disappointed in the guys. They're better than this and they didn't show it. ... It started with not hitting.

"We have to identify what went wrong, we have to have a good explanation for how we're fixing it, and if we're not making any changes, we'd better have a damn good reason for why."

That doesn't sound much like a prediction in favor of the status quo. Roenicke said Sunday that he had no idea what his status was, and that it wasn't a comfortable situation. But he was not at all consumed by self-pity.

"It's always uncomfortable when you're not sure what's going to happen," Roenicke said. When asked for a self-evaluation, he replied:

"I worked my tail off; I did the best that I thought I could do. I'm always wanting to do things better and get better at what I do. So you do the best that you can do, and you know that as a manager, sometimes if it doesn't go well you're the guy that's going to get blamed for it."

As Roenicke said, everybody knows what happened, but the trick is to uncover the causes. "You can point to what happened, but the 'why' is what we really need to figure out," the manager said.

There are a couple of obvious "whys" and they have nothing to do with the manager. Going into the season the Brewers had an obvious shortcoming in their offense at first base. They never fixed it. At what must be a run-producing position, the Brewers couldn't produce runs. Brewers first basemen combined for a .642 OPS, by far the worst among NL teams. (The next-highest club, Pittsburgh, got a .689 OPS from the position.)

And right fielder Ryan Braun was a shadow of himself offensively. Braun hit .226 with eight home runs after the All-Star break. He had been better, although still beneath his career norms, in the first half of the season. Braun has been bothered by a damaged nerve in his right thumb. He will undergo a procedure this week in which the nerve will be deadened.

After the season finale Sunday, a 5-2 loss to the Cubs, Braun indicated that his limitations were an important factor in the team not succeeding.

"If I was relatively healthy, if I was performing up to the standards that I set for myself, we'd be in a different place," Braun said.

Asked if Braun's return to his previous productivity could be in itself an answer to the Brewers' offensive woes, Roenicke responded:

"Oh, absolutely. You know, when you have your three-four hitters with the capability of doing the things that he can do, along with [Carlos] Gomez, we know what [Jonathan Lucroy] is and his numbers this year. It fits in with a package that I think can be a pretty exciting package."

The unanswered question relates to Braun's suspension for the final 65 games of the 2013 season for violation of Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Can he be the player he was before the suspension?

Roenicke would be satisfied if Braun merely got back to the numbers he put up in the first half of this season (.298/.348/.515).

"If we get back to that, we still have a really nice player," Roenicke said. "But we need to get back to that. I know he's been disappointed in what's happened here the second half and I think he feels if he can get this thumb issue behind him that he can be that same player again. Hopefully, there's some things that he's going to do that will get him back to being that player that has a chance to be that same guy that I saw my first couple of years [in Milwaukee]."

In Roenicke's first year in Milwaukee, 2011, Braun was the National League Most Valuable Player. The Brewers won the NL Central, had their best regular season in franchise history (96-66) and advanced to the NL Championship Series. At that point, Roenicke was praised as a solid tactician, an aggressive in-game manager and a leader of men.

Roenicke didn't become somebody less in the next three seasons. He is not a charismatic personality, but he is an honest, diligent, fundamentally decent man. Even with all that, if someone has to take the fall for what happened to the Milwaukee club the last five weeks, the manager would be first in line. It wouldn't be fair, but it would be business as usual in this line of work.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Disappointing season ends with loss to Cubs

Fiers allows four runs, three earned; Lucroy lifts average above .300

Disappointing season ends with loss to Cubs

MILWAUKEE -- A 5-2 loss to the Cubs in Sunday's season finale gave the Brewers 22 losses in their final 31 games, and launched what could be Milwaukee's most compelling offseason in memory.

On one hand, a team that spent 150 days in first place has its starting rotation returning intact for 2015, a closer under contract and controllable talent at six of the eight defensive positions -- all six aged 31 or younger on Opening Day, including four former All-Stars. On the other hand, the Brewers are coming off a second-half collapse that bounced them from postseason contention and so disappointed principal owner Mark Attanasio that, for the first time in his tenure, he did not address the team Sunday before players scattered for the winter.

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With a top-down review already underway, the Brewers appear at a crossroads.

"As far as shakeup, it could be," general manager Doug Melvin said. "We might turn the roster over a little bit. We might have to do that. It's too early to say that."

Sunday's loss, with starter Mike Fiers allowing four runs (three earned) on six hits in six innings, catcher Jonathan Lucroy collecting the two hits he needed to finish with a batting average above .300, and reliever Will Smith tying for the National League lead with his 78th appearance, left the Brewers with an 82-80 record for the year, good for third place in the NL Central. They finished eight games behind the division-champion Cardinals and six games behind the Pirates, who secured the top NL Wild Card spot.

It was a modest finish for a team that went 20-7 to start the season, climbed as high as 19 games over .500 before the end of June, and still stood 15 games over .500 and in first place on the morning of Aug. 26, when an extra-inning loss in San Diego began the Brewers' slide.

"I would trade all the hits I had this season just to be in the postseason," said Lucroy, who singled in the sixth inning and again in the eighth to push his average to .301 for the season (or more precisely, .30085). "I don't know how other guys feel, but guys worked hard, played hard, and it didn't go our way. We just slumped a few times this year. Two long losing streaks, that's what beat us."

The cause of those losing streaks -- a 1-11 stretch in June and July, and a 3-16 stretch in August and September -- will be investigated in the weeks to come.

During a long media session on Sunday morning, manager Ron Roenicke responded with surprising candor when asked whether he believed the pressure of playing in first place got to his players.

"Yes, I do," Roenicke said. "I think, especially for some younger guys, I think it's very difficult. It may be [the answer]. It's a grind to be in first and having teams trying to catch you all the time and trying to maintain that. If you go into a slump, you think, 'We have to hold on and get it back again.' It's a grind.

"That's part of it, though: Do you have grinders on your team to get through that part? Do you have grinders on your staff making sure guys are doing the right things and staying positive? A lot goes into that."

The Brewers' review will include an assessment of Roenicke, who is under contract through next season with a club option for 2015, and his coaches, whose contracts expire next month.

Roenicke told reporters "I did the best that I thought I could do," and said he was operating with the assumption he would return for a fifth season.

"If they think I'm not doing the job that I should be doing, then you try to make an improvement. And same thing goes for the coaches. Same thing goes for the players," Roenicke said. "If there are some things we can do different with the players in improving this, then we need to do it. If it's taking the same personnel, players, and working with them and trying to get them better, then that's what we have to do.

"And we do have to do something. We can't fall in a skid this long offensively and not figure that we need to try to do something a little different."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Weeks wraps up time with Brewers on bench

Second baseman, who was drafted by Milwaukee, doesn't appear in finale

Weeks wraps up time with Brewers on bench

MILWAUKEE -- Rickie Weeks' 10-year tenure with the Brewers ended quietly Sunday, with the former All-Star second baseman remaining on the bench for all nine innings of the Brewers' season-ending loss to the Cubs.

Weeks might not have lived up to the hype he generated when the Brewers drafted him second overall in 2003, but he was part of the wave of prospects, with Prince Fielder, J.J Hardy, Ryan Braun and others, who lifted the Brewers back to respectability beginning a decade ago. Weeks is 11th in Brewers history with 1,009 hits and sixth with 684 runs scored.

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He was in the last season of a four-year contract that included a vesting option for 2015 based on appearance criteria Weeks did not meet because he platooned at second base with Scooter Gennett. Weeks, 32, will be a free agent for the first time.

"I asked him yesterday if he wanted to get an at-bat, or whatever he wanted to do -- start, get one [at-bat]," manager Ron Roenicke said, "and he didn't want to."

After the game, Weeks shed little light on that decision.

"I mean, it was some other things. It wasn't a big deal," he said. "It was just one of those things where what's done is done. I had a good conversation earlier this morning with Doug [Melvin, the Brewers' general manager]. Life still goes on. It's not like it's the end of all things. I'm the type of person, I just move on. That's the way it is."

He also said, "I told the manager that if the time permitted itself during the game, put me out there, and if not, so be it."

Starting against left-handed pitchers and playing off the bench, Weeks batted .274 with a .357 on-base percentage in 252 at-bats this season, with eight home runs and 29 RBIs. When the Brewers earlier this season floated the idea of trying some left field, where Khris Davis was struggling, Weeks declined, and he made no secret throughout the season about his belief he could still perform as a starting second baseman in the Major Leagues.

"I don't think I'm going to be here next year," he said. "It's just for me to just move forward with my life. … I mean, I hate to say this, but I'm the type of person that keeps looking forward. There's nothing bad about the city or anything like that. That's just the way I work, really. Obviously, very grateful for the opportunities I had to play here all this time and the fan support and things like that. It's all a great thing."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Brewers pleased with season attendance

Brewers pleased with season attendance

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers' sensational April did not propel them to the postseason as they had hoped, but it did help at the box office. A crowd of 33,837 for Sunday's season finale pushed the season attendance at Miller Park to 2,797,384 -- the seventh-best total in franchise history, and within 14,000 fans of the inaugural season at Miller Park in 2001.

"My wish was a good start, and that was delivered, so that adjusted all of our thinking," said COO Rick Schlesinger. "I knew that we wouldn't be able to get to three million, no matter how well the team played, but I thought 2.8 million was attainable, and we're basically there.

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"So overall, I'm very pleased. If you look at the support we're getting compared to other teams in bigger markets, this is a pretty great success story."

To be clear, Schlesinger was talking about the Brewers' success in terms of attendance. In terms of on-field performance, Schlesinger was just as disappointed as principal owner Mark Attanasio, who promised this weekend to review all aspects of the baseball operation.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Brewers top Cubs to secure winning season

Peralta strikes out career-high 13; Lucroy delivers go-ahead double

Brewers top Cubs to secure winning season

MILWAUKEE -- For all their stumbles down the stretch, at least the 2014 Brewers will finish with a winning record.

Victory No. 82 was a 2-1 triumph over the Cubs on a Saturday night at sold-out Miller Park that was packed with Milwaukee milestones. Carlos Gomez broke a three-way tie with his team-best 23rd home run and Wily Peralta set a career high with 13 strikeouts in a game decided by Jonathan Lucroy's record-setting RBI double, and sealed when Francisco Rodriguez took sole possession of 10th place on baseball's all-time saves list with save No. 348.

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The Brewers, losers of 21 of their previous 29 games, needed the victory to secure their third winning season in four years under manager Ron Roenicke. The franchise had not played above .500 in three of four years since its heyday in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when George Bamberger, Buck Rodgers and Harvey Kuenn skippered the way to six straight winning seasons.

"I feel a lot better with that than not doing it," said Roenicke. "The big thing is just playing the way we did today. Seeing Wily go out there and pitch and then the two guys after him [Jonathan Broxton and Rodriguez]. Seeing Luc finally have a good day offensively. He's been grinding pretty hard. That's nice to see."

Gomez had tied the game in the third inning when he homered off Cubs left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada, and he scored from third when Lucroy banged his go-ahead double off the left-field wall. Lucroy's fifth-inning, tie-breaking hit was his 53rd double overall, matching Lyle Overbay's Brewers record, and Lucroy's 46th double this season as a catcher, breaking a Major League mark set by Ivan Rodriguez.

"I'm just happy to contribute to the win tonight," said Lucroy, who entered the night in an 0-for-18 funk. "I wish I could have done that more often during the season. It's one of those things that's kind of bittersweet, I guess."

The hit made a winner of Peralta, who had already matched his previous career high for strikeouts (nine) by the end of the fourth inning, and went on to allow only one run on five hits in seven innings, with one walk.

Peralta is only the eighth Brewers pitcher to strike out 13 or more batters in a game, a feat that has been accomplished 12 times, including twice in 2014. Mike Fiers whiffed 14 Cubs at Wrigley Field on Aug. 14.

"He threw some two-strike sliders today that were really unhittable," Roenicke said.

And with five quality starts to finish his second full season in the Major Leagues, Peralta went 17-11 with a 3.53 ERA for only the 11th season of 17-plus victories in Brewers history, and the third since 1992. Before Peralta, the last was Yovani Gallardo, who went 17-10 in 2011.

"I can see how he's chalked up all those victories," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "His fastball was explosive, his secondary pitches had some bite. He used them to get out of some innings. He had good stuff."

"Wily was awesome tonight," Lucroy said. "He was determined, he competed his butt off, and I tell you what, that guy, he's going to throw a couple of no-hitters before his career is over with, for sure, if not a perfect game. Because he's got the best nasty stuff around. If he continues to get better as he has, year to year, man, he's going to be really, really, really good."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Attanasio vows to fix what's wrong with Brewers

Attanasio vows to fix what's wrong with Brewers

MILWAUKEE -- Vowing a top-down review of the entire organization, Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio on Saturday expressed extreme displeasure about his team's collapse, and he vowed to find answers for it.

"I think we need to give the fans a reason to come back," Attanasio said. "That means we have to identify what went wrong, we have to have a good explanation for how we're fixing it, and if we're not making any changes, we'd better have a damn good reason for why. And I mean changes broadly speaking -- [if the team retains the] same roster, same manager and coaches, same everything, we'd better say, 'Well, it was this, and that's why we're not changing.' And that's an option.

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"I wouldn't say we're quite at a crossroads, but we're at [the point] where you can take a path in the woods, and you take one direction or the other. We do have a lot of talent, we have experienced players. We need to identify what's missing. Is it more power hitters? Is it more players with an edge? Is it -- I don't know. Whatever it was, it worked like gangbusters the first half of the year, and didn't work in the second half."

The Brewers began the season 20-7, were 19 games over .500 through June 28, and were still 15 games over .500 and 1 1/2 games ahead of their closest National League Central competitor on Aug. 25 before falling apart. A nine-game losing streak amid a 3-16 stretch dropped the Brewers out of first place after 150 days there.

"On Aug. 25, I was in San Diego," Attanasio said. "We won the game, 10-1. The clubhouse was buoyant; the team had an unmistakable swagger on the field. So much so that the Padres owners were coming by and saying, 'You guys are so big, so strong. Everybody can hit the ball out of the park. How did you guys put this team together?' From that day, we've kind of gone backwards.

"The short answer is I haven't handled it well. Honestly, I haven't slept. Going into September, [general manager] Doug [Melvin] and I were still working on everything we could to get the team to the playoffs. We [traded for] Jonathan Broxton. That was upwards of an $11 million commitment at the time, if you look at increasing the buyout with his trade option with what he's owed this year and next year. We thought we were making the playoffs at that point in time. Frankly, even into mid-September I believed in this team and thought they were going to turn it around. They just didn't. And, so, you can pick the adjectives -- frustrated, disappointed, catatonic. Very disappointed.

"In fact, I'm disappointed in the team, disappointed in the guys. They're better than this and they didn't show it." 

What would he say to the team?

"This is going to be the first year I don't address the team as a team at the end of the year," Attanasio said. "This will be the first time I don't because I'm just too unhappy, and what's the point of another meeting to dwell on things? I'm going to talk to some players individually. I've started that already and I'll finish that today."

The very nature of Saturday's question-and-answer session was a departure from tradition. The Brewers typically hold a pre-planned, well-publicized news conference a few days after the season, during which Melvin, sometimes Attanasio and sometimes the field manager spent an hour or more dissecting the season that was and the offseason ahead.

Before the collapse, it appeared the Brewers would be in for a relatively stable offseason. Closer Francisco Rodriguez is the team's most notable free agent, and that spot already appears set with Broxton. If the Brewers exercise Yovani Gallardo's club option, and both sides exercise third baseman Aramis Ramirez's mutual option, the only uncertain position would be first base.

But the tone of Saturday's session left room for a greater shake up.

"First off, I want to find out who cares about winning and losing in the clubhouse," Melvin said. "If there are guys in there that don't care about winning then they probably won't be there. As far as shakeup, it could be. We might turn the roster over a little bit. We might have to do that. It's too early to say that. We haven't even finished the season."

Melvin's organizational review is already underway. He had a series of meetings during the Brewers' final road trip with members of his baseball operations department and manager Ron Roenicke to begin brainstorming where things went wrong.

Attanasio appeared ready to give that process time.

"It's not that easy to really understand what happened here," Attanasio said. "If it were, we would have a quick response today. It's not like we're delaying the decision because it's uncomfortable. We are delaying the decision because we need to do the work to sort through what happened. … We are going to look at everything. We are going to look at players and their performance. We are going to look at players' motivations. We are going to look at field staff. Doug is going to examine what he's done.

"And frankly, there's nothing to do about it this season, but if you go back to the four things that I've always stressed since I bought the team, No. 1 is being perennially competitive. … I always said, 'We gotta win, we gotta win, we gotta win.' And we've got 2.8 million fans here supporting the team, we better damn well win. Maybe that wasn't the right approach. Maybe I should have directed that we take a step back here, which we never have. I am certainly not looking to do that now, by the way. But I do have to examine from the top, is it the right thing? 

"Is the right thing to always try to compete? Again, I think the answer is always going to be yes, because we have 2.8 million reasons to say that. We have 2.8 million reasons to spend $110 million. But you see teams that occasionally retrench, and they seem to be doing a little better right now. We'll look at all of that." 

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Brewers sticking with GM, to evaluate coaches

Owner Attanasio says Melvin's job is safe; Roenicke, staff to be interviewed

Brewers sticking with GM, to evaluate coaches

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio said Saturday that general manager Doug Melvin's job was safe, but he could not offer the same assurance to Ron Roenicke or his coaches.

Roenicke is under contract through the end of 2015 with a club option for '16. When Attanasio was asked about Roenicke's performance this season, he deferred to Melvin, who said, "I think he's disappointed. We're all disappointed in a lot of our responsibilities to the club.

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"I can look back at myself and say with some of the decisions we made, did we make the right ones? We played very well for a period of time. I would hope that Ron and the coaches, and would hope the players also feel there's a responsibility for them, because we thought we had a good enough team to go to the postseason. When we started out the way we did, we thought we did."

The Brewers made it to the postseason in 2011, Roenicke's first year at the helm, and beat the D-backs in a thrilling National League Division Series for Milwaukee's first postseason series win in 29 years. But they fell to 83-79 in 2012, 74-88 in '13 and entered Saturday having lost 21 of their last 29 games to fall to 81-79 in 2014 with two games to play.

Asked about Melvin's job status, Attanasio said, "Doug's standing here so obviously he's coming back." 

The Brewers do not make public the contractual status of their coaches, but most typically have year-to-year deals that expire at the end of October. That gives Attanasio and Melvin some time to make decisions.

The staff consists of bench coach Jerry Narron, hitting coach Johnny Narron, pitching coach Rick Kranitz, third-base coach Ed Sedar, first-base coach Garth Iorg, bullpen coach Lee Tunnell and coaches Mike Guerrero and John Shelby.

"We have a process of going through that at the end of the year," Melvin said. "This year has been a little different because of us playing the way we have here, and hoping to get in the playoffs late. Those are coming a little bit later, our interviews."

The Brewers' slide has been marked by a dramatic drop in offensive production. They were second in the NL to Colorado in several major offensive categories through the end of June, but only the Braves and Reds have scored fewer runs per game since then. A poor stretch of starting pitching contributed to a 3-16 stretch in late August and early September, and the Brewers have suffered defensive lapses, too.

Yet Roenicke has maintained a calm public demeanor throughout, refusing to publicly criticize players even on nights like Sept. 18, when first baseman Mark Reynolds forgot the number of outs in the eighth inning of what became a loss to the Cardinals, or Friday, when the Brewers went 2-for-18 with runners in scoring position in a loss to the Cubs.

"If [the players] know how frustrated I am and we are, as a staff, they get a little tighter," Roenicke said. "I know you guys will say, 'They can't get much worse,' but I think when they know the staff is fed up with things and we're tired of it, it doesn't help. …

"For one thing, it's not my style to just 'blow' on people. I have before and it hasn't gone well when I've done it. I see what the players are like. It doesn't mean that I don't have a forceful way. I've had enough meetings with them to let them know how I feel and we as a staff feel."

He added: "I'm frustrated with what's going on and if I thought it would be better for us to [blow up], I would do things that are out of my style because my job is to get these guys to perform. So if I thought it would help, I would do it. Even though it's not really what I want to do, I would still do it if I thought it would help."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Lucroy sets season mark for doubles as catcher

Brewers backstop also ties franchise record for two-baggers in a season

Lucroy sets season mark for doubles as catcher

MILWAUKEE -- After tying a club record and setting a Major League record with one swing Saturday, Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy's only regret was that he didn't do more.

Lucroy's fifth-inning double sent the Brewers to a 2-1 win over the Cubs and gave Lucroy 53 doubles this season, matching Lyle Overbay's Brewers record, and 46 doubles while playing catcher, breaking the Major League mark Lucroy had shared with Ivan Rodriguez for the past 1 1/2 weeks. Lucroy suggested he'd trade them all for a chance to play into October.

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"I've said it all year, individual stuff is great, but whenever it doesn't work out for the team, obviously it's bittersweet," Lucroy said. "It's something I wish could have been a little different. I wish I would have had a bad year and we went all the way to the World Series. That's the kind of guy I am. That's what I wish could have happened. Obviously, it didn't happen that way. You've got to move forward."

Manager Ron Roenicke plans to start Lucroy again Sunday for a chance to push his batting average back to .300 for the season. Only 48 times in 46 seasons of Brewers history has a player qualified for a batting title and hit at least .300.

With his three hits Saturday coming off an 0-for-18 slide, Lucroy is 174-for-581 this season. He must go 1-for-3 or better in Sunday's season finale.

"I kind of got out of my approach a little bit since that last game in Pittsburgh," Lucroy said, referring to the middle stop in the team's three-city trip. "I started trying to do a little too much, especially considering the situation, where we're trying to win at the same time. But got back in the cage today and got back to where I usually am, and it worked out. I was able to get some good pitches to hit."

His regular-season totals don't include the two RBI doubles Lucroy logged at the All-Star Game in July, part of a workmanlike season for the 28-year-old. He has started 149 games, including 133 behind the plate.

When the Milwaukee chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America announces its team awards during the offseason, Lucroy is all but a lock to be the first catcher to win club MVP honors since Dave Nilsson and B.J. Surhoff won in back-to-back seasons in 1994-95. Because the Brewers were in the American League then, both saw only limited time behind the plate.

That award would provide little solace for the Brewers' lost season.

"I take a lot of the blame on myself, because I think there's things I could have done different for the season," Lucroy said. "The other day when I told you we got complacent, I was talking about really myself, and taking things for granted that we were going to be good all year. That's what I was talking about.

"I took for granted that, hey, we're going to be there all year, we're going to compete and be good all year, and then all of a sudden we hit a rough spot. I remember the series, that Toronto series the first time. I took for granted we would turn it around quick, but we never did. I blame myself for not getting in here, getting it turned around, getting some guys going again. It's one of those things that you have to learn from, I guess."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Brewers to honor Selig by retiring uniform No. 1

Brewers to honor Selig by retiring uniform No. 1

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers are retiring uniform No. 1 next season to honor their founder, Allan H. "Bud" Selig, the man who brought big league baseball back to Milwaukee in 1970 and later rose to the top of the game as the ninth Commissioner of Major League Baseball.

Selig's 22-year tenure as Commissioner will come to an end when he retires in January. Selig visited Miller Park on Friday as part of his farewell tour, and he will return next season for a ceremony to lift No. 1 to the rafters alongside Paul Molitor's No 4, Robin Yount's No. 19, Rollie Fingers' No. 34, Hank Aaron's No. 44 and Jackie Robinson's No. 42, which is retired throughout baseball.

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"I'm never at a loss for words," Selig said, "but I am right now."

The Brewers said the number retirement was the first in a series of planned measures to honor Selig in his hometown, more of which will be announced at a later date.

"We've looked for ways to honor him, because but for his blood, sweat and tears, as well as his daughter Wendy's, we wouldn't be sitting here," said Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio. "We did a statue out front, but it didn't seem to be enough, frankly."

One night earlier this season, Attanasio gazed up at the ring of retired numbers above center field at Miller Park, and the idea of retiring another for Selig was put in motion.

Selig, 80, was born and raised in Milwaukee, following the old Milwaukee Brewers Minor League team and the Chicago Cubs before falling in love with the Milwaukee Braves, who called the Brew City home from 1953-65 before leaving for Atlanta.

One of many Milwaukee baseball fans heartbroken by the Braves' departure, Selig formed an organization set on bringing Major League Baseball back to the city. He succeeded on March 31, 1970, when a bankruptcy court awarded the Seattle Pilots franchise to Selig and his investors. Eight days later, they arrived in Milwaukee and became the Brewers.

"A student of mine at Marquette [where Selig lectures on sports law and policy] asked me this year what am I most proud of," he said. "And when all is said and done, it's bringing the Brewers to Milwaukee. The thing people don't understand is the really unbelievable odds. We got passed over in National League expansion, American League expansion. Thought we had the White Sox bought. Seattle, [then-Commissioner] Bowie Kuhn tried to keep them there, and I don't blame him. I would have done the same thing.

"On the night of March 31, five and a half years later, we became the Milwaukee Brewers. So this [the number retirement] means a great deal to me. I'm proud of everything that has happened."

Selig reminisced about some of those happenings on Friday, including the difficult years that preceded the Pilots' arrival. One of the worst nights was in May 1968, when Selig thought he had the votes to acquire a National League expansion franchise.

Instead, Montreal and San Diego won those teams.

"In fact, I can still remember Walker O'Malley saying, 'And the winners are,' and I could see the 'M' forming," Selig said. "He said, 'Montreal and San Diego.' I walked the streets of Chicago all night. It was so painful. … But I came back the next day and, I don't know, I was young. I wasn't going to give up.

"Then we had the White Sox bought. It was done. Done. I'm going to write all this in my book. Then the day after Labor Day, Arthur Allen called, who was then the owner of the White Sox, and said his brother, John, had bought it. There was a lot of family history there. That day, I read in the paper, 'Save the Pilots.'"

It was a newspaper story about unrest about the Pilots' unstable situation in Seattle. Selig said he went to Baltimore for the 1969 World Series and arranged to buy the franchise. Two days later, Kuhn heard about the deal and intervened. Selig eventually prevailed.

"It taught me a lot about persistence and tenacity," Selig said.

Notable Milwaukee Brewers who have worn uniform No. 1 include their first Opening Day shortstop, Ted Kubiak. Through the years, Del Crandall, Gary Sheffield, Fernando Vina and Corey Hart have all worn the number. Outfielder Logan Schafer, who had it this season, will be the last.

Selig has already been honored with a statue on the home plate plaza outside Miller Park, the ballpark he helped bring to fruition. He is also a member of the team's Walk of Fame and Wall of Honor.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Brewers' bats unable to pick up Nelson

Rookie righty allows five runs; offense goes 2-for-18 with RISP

Brewers' bats unable to pick up Nelson

MILWAUKEE -- Before he was the ninth Commissioner of Major League Baseball, Allan H. "Bud" Selig ran the Brewers, so he was uniquely positioned to understand how current owner Mark Attanasio felt as his team's six-week slide stretched to Friday's 6-4 loss to the Cubs.

"My friend Bart Giamatti had it right when he wrote that brilliant ode on baseball: 'It breaks your heart. It is designed to,'" Selig told a gathering before the game, with Attanasio sitting at his side. "You have to understand when you get into this sport that you're going to have years like that. You learn to adjust to that."

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Attanasio smiled and subtly nodded. Eventually the men parted ways, and Attanasio took his usual seats next to the dugout to watch the Brewers' first game since they were mathematically eliminated from postseason contention. It became Milwaukee's 21st loss in 29 games.

The Cubs beat rookie right-hander Jimmy Nelson with equal parts broken bats, bloops and blasts, while the Brewers' offense remained in its late-summer slumber. Brewers batters went hitless in their first 13 at-bats with runners in scoring position and finished the game 2-for-18 in the clutch. They stranded eight men in scoring position.

At 81-79, the Brewers are back to within two games of .500 for the first time since they were 4-2, and they must win one of their remaining two games to finish with a winning record. It is a stunning conclusion for a club that was 19 games over .500 on June 28.

Selig remembered a comparable collapse.

"It's a somewhat similar situation to 1983," he said. "We had won [the American League pennant] in '82, and I think we led most of the summer, and we thought we were well on the way. We had a wonderful club; [Paul] Molitor, [Robin] Yount, [Cecil] Cooper and so on.

"And we had a very bad September. I still remember in New York, we were there and had to listen to George Steinbrenner. My mother-in-law tried to talk me into getting out of it right then. She thought it was a horrible business. But you know … Bart also convinced me that baseball is a metaphor for life. That means you have your ups and your downs, you have your happy moments and you have the others. You have to adjust."

Nelson was forced to adjust quickly after he was named to start Friday in place of Matt Garza, who has a stiff shoulder. Nelson finished his rookie season by allowing five runs on six hits in 4 1/3 innings, with one walk, four strikeouts, two wild pitches and a Chris Coghlan home run that put the Brewers in a 1-0 hole before Nelson record his first out.

The Cubs tacked on two runs with a flurry of hits off shattered bats in the third inning, and two more runs in the fifth, one of which scored after long man Marco Estrada took over for Nelson.

"Obviously, it's a tale of two seasons for me," said Nelson, who was 10-2 with a 1.46 ERA in the first half at Triple-A Nashville, and 2-9 with a 4.93 ERA for the Brewers. "I had a great first half, I know what I'm doing mechanically, physically, mentally, and that's something I'm going to get back to. I've had the most frustrating and disappointing second half of the season I've ever had."

Unable to cobble together any significant rallies against Cubs rookie left-hander Eric Jokisch and the relievers who followed, the Brewers scored a run apiece in four different innings beginning with shortstop Jean Segura's home run in the second. It was Segura's first home run since he belted two on June 20 at Colorado, snapping a homerless drought that spanned 255 plate appearances.

Since the start of July, the Brewers are batting .238 overall, 26th of the 30 Major League teams, and .240 with runners in scoring position, good for 25th. Only the Braves and Reds have scored fewer runs per game.

"Can't answer it," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "We watch it and keep hoping they're going to bust out. Just, I don't know."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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With Brewers eliminated, Garza shut down

Right-hander felt stiffness in shoulder while throwing during 'pen session

With Brewers eliminated, Garza shut down

MILWAUKEE -- After the Brewers were formally eliminated from postseason contention with Thursday's loss to the Reds, team officials decided it was wise for Matt Garza to call it a season.

Rookie right-hander Jimmy Nelson started instead on Friday night against the Cubs. The Brewers said Garza had a stiff shoulder.

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"He'd be pitching today if we were still in it," said manager Ron Roenicke, who visited with Garza on Thursday. "But he felt a little stiffness in there the other day when he was throwing his bullpen, and was asking me what I thought. If we wanted him to pitch, he would have pitched."

In the first season of the richest free-agent contract in Brewers history (four years, $50 million), Garza was effective when he was healthy. He went 8-8 with a 3.64 ERA in 27 starts and 163 1/3 innings, missing most of August with a rib-cage strain.

He led the Brewers' regular starting pitchers in strikeouts per nine innings (6.94), fielding independent pitching (3.53) and wins above replacement (2.5).

He also landed on the disabled list for the fourth consecutive season.

"I talked to him today. We need to get him to where he's going to be good for a whole season," Roenicke said. "It's not the part when you're missing him for the month; when he got hurt this year, he was really good and he was on a roll that, if he continued that pace, we wouldn't have gone through all that funky stuff that we did. So [the team has] to keep him on a good pace that helps him get locked in and then maintain that longer. Any time you have an injury, it's hard when you miss a month to come back and be that same guy again.

"They're going to address some things physically, but he's in great shape. How do you keep him away from an oblique [injury]? I don't know how you do that. The good thing was, his elbow held up good this year, his shoulder -- really, everything in his arm held up really well."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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MLB.com Columnist

Mike Bauman

Selig has been No. 1 for Milwaukee

Commissioner brought Major League Baseball back to city in 1970

Selig has been No. 1 for Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE -- Commissioner Allan H. "Bud" Selig said that he was made speechless by the honor. So you knew that this was truly an historic occasion.

The Milwaukee Brewers announced Friday that they would retire uniform No. 1 in Selig's honor at a ceremony next season. Selig, who previously owned the Brewers, will retire in January after more than 22 years as Commissioner.

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"It is a great honor," Selig said. "I'm usually not speechless, but [this is] more than I can articulate. It's a wonderful honor. ... I'm never at a loss for words, but I am right now, I guess."

As someone who has covered Selig for more than 30 years, I can safely say that he has never before referred to himself as "speechless" on any public occasion. So, yes, he was genuinely moved by this honor.

Selig, of course, eventually found additional words. But the underlying theme of this honor was the recognition on the part of Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio of the indispensable role Selig played in restoring Major League Baseball to Milwaukee and then maintaining baseball in Milwaukee.

Selig led the movement to bring baseball back to Milwaukee after the Braves departed for Atlanta following the 1965 season. After several disappointments, Selig landed the Seattle Pilots out of bankruptcy court and Milwaukee had a big league team again in 1970.

Later, Selig led the charge on behalf of Miller Park and its retractable roof. This required what turned into a statewide political battle. Selig persevered and the ballpark was built. Without it, baseball in Milwaukee could not have succeeded. With it, the Brewers will draw 2.8 million fans this season.

Attanasio, as Brewers owner, understands this better than anyone, and his gratitude to Selig is both genuine and understandable.

"We've looked for ways to honor him, because but for his blood, sweat and tears, as well as his daughter Wendy's, we wouldn't be sitting here," said Attanasio. "We did a statue out front, but it didn't seem to be enough, frankly.

"So when I sit in the ballpark every night and I look up at our wall of honor, our ring of honor, I see names like [Henry] Aaron, [Robin] Yount, [Bob] Uecker, actually, and Jackie Robinson, No. 42, we had the idea to retire a number in Commissioner Selig's honor. And the No. 1 seemed most fitting to our founder."

The Brewers, like other small-market franchises, have benefited from Selig's economic reformation of baseball, which has led to increased competitive balance. Under Attanasio's ownership, the Brewers returned to the postseason for the first time in 26 years in 2008 and won a division title in '11, with the best regular-season record in franchise history.

Selig, in turn, referred to Attanasio as "the ideal owner for this franchise."

Bringing baseball back to Milwaukee in 1970, "against really unbelievable odds," remains his proudest accomplishment in the game, Selig said Friday.

The Commissioner told a story from April 7, 1970, the first Brewers game at County Stadium, a one-sided loss to the California Angels. Selig was still glowing over the fact that the team, acquired just days before, was actually playing in Milwaukee.

"We lost to Andy Messersmith, 12-0," Selig said. "I was walking down the ramp, still feeling pretty good but beginning to understand that this was all going to change. A man stopped me and said: 'You wanted a team in the worst way and that's what you got.' And I knew then that the honeymoon was not going to last very long."

It was a long way from that moment to 22-plus years as Commissioner. But as far as No 1 in the history of the Milwaukee Brewers, that's a very reasonable estimate of what Bud Selig has meant to this franchise.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Braun reaches on HBP after call overturned

Braun reaches on HBP after call overturned

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers right fielder Ryan Braun had to wait out a review before taking first base on his sixth hit by pitch this season during Friday night's game against the Cubs.

Plate umpire Ben May initially ruled the Justin Grimm pitch to Braun a foul ball, but replays showed it actually hit Braun on the right forearm. After the Brewers challenged, the call was overturned.

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It loaded the bases for Jonathan Lucroy, who grounded out to end the inning with the Brewers trailing, 5-3.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Brewers' playoff hopes end with loss in Cincinnati

Gallardo struggles; miscues, continued offensive woes front and center

Brewers' playoff hopes end with loss in Cincinnati

CINCINNATI -- It was with all of their warts on public display Thursday that the Brewers completed a six-week collapse and bowed out of the postseason picture with a 5-3 loss to the Reds at Great American Ball Park.

In the field, a pair of Brewers errors helped the Reds mount the go-ahead rally in the fifth inning. On the mound, Yovani Gallardo surrendered 10 hits in five-plus innings. And compounding the problem which most scuttled Milwaukee's chances in the second half, Brewers hitters again were held to three or fewer runs. The outcome sealed a National League Wild Card berth for the San Francisco Giants and ensured the Brewers would miss the postseason for a third consecutive season.

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The Brewers will scatter following Sunday's season finale against the Cubs, despite spending 150 days atop the NL Central -- including 149 consecutive days from April 5-Aug. 31.

"These games are the killers," manager Ron Roenicke said of Thursday's sloppy affair. "They're just hard to watch when you know you can win a game and you give it away."

Rickie Weeks hit a second-inning home run and had two hits, but committed two of the Brewers' three errors -- including one of two during Cincinnati's decisive rally in the fifth. The other was committed by rookie first baseman Jason Rogers, who, in his first Major League start, dropped an on-target throw from Weeks to thwart a would-be double play. After Jay Bruce doubled past Rogers down the right-field line, Weeks dropped a playable popup in shallow right field for a run-scoring error that tied the game at 2. Yorman Rodriguez followed with an RBI single to make it 3-2.

The Reds tacked on two sixth-inning runs on Brandon Phillips' homer off Gallardo, who did not distinguish himself in his final 2014 start. In five-plus innings, Gallardo surrendered 10 hits and five runs (three earned), with one walk, a wild pitch and four strikeouts.

"The only thing I would change is that one pitch [to Phillips]," said Gallardo, referring to an inside fastball he wished he'd thrown higher.

Brewers hitters couldn't bail Gallardo out. Against Reds left-hander David Holmberg and three relievers, the Brewers mustered six hits and went 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position, the biggest of those at-bats being pinch-hitter Scooter Gennett's double-play grounder with the bases loaded and nobody out in the seventh inning against Sam LeCure. It scored a run, but short-circuited a budding Brewers rally.

Gallardo finished the final guaranteed season of his contract 8-11 with a career-best (for a full season) 3.51 ERA. With 146 strikeouts in 192 1/3 innings, he became the Brewers' all-time strikeout leader, and his WHIP and strikeout-to-walk ratio were Gallardo's best since 2011, when he finished seventh in NL Cy Young Award balloting. But he finished with a losing record for the first time in his career.

The Brewers won't have to make an official decision until after the World Series, but they are likely to exercise a $13 million option to bring back Gallardo for another season. He will turn 29 during Spring Training.

How long will the Brewers' late-season collapse stick with him into the offseason?

"It better not stick very long, I'll tell you that," Gallardo said. "It's obviously -- I mean, I hate to say it, but there's nothing you can do now. Coming into this road trip, we knew it wasn't going to be easy, that's for sure, starting off in St. Louis and then going to Pittsburgh and here. We had that chance. We just didn't play the way we wanted to. We have to finish off strong and prepare for next year."

The 81-78 Brewers must win one of their three games against the Cubs this weekend at Miller Park to secure a winning season.

"I think it's important to do that," Roenicke said. "I'm sure most of the guys will want to play, the pitchers will want to pitch, so I'll have a discussion with [general manager] Doug [Melvin] to see if there's anything he wants to do differently."

The Brewers announced one change while they were on the way to the airport Thursday afternoon, saying Friday's scheduled starter, Matt Garza, had come down with a stiff shoulder. Rookie right-hander Jimmy Nelson will start in Garza's place against the Cubs.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Second-half woes cost Brewers shot at playoffs

Second-half woes cost Brewers shot at playoffs

CINCINNATI -- The Brewers' increasingly likely fate became an assured one on Thursday, when a 5-3 loss to the Reds eliminated Milwaukee from postseason contention and completed an historically significant collapse.

According to STATS LLC, the Brewers are only the fifth team since the divisional era began in 1969 to spend at least 150 days in first place, yet miss the playoffs. The others were the '69 Cubs, 2007 Mets, '08 D-backs and '09 Tigers. Those other four teams finished in second place, but the Brewers -- who spent exactly 150 days atop the National League Central, including every day from April 5-Aug. 31 before falling with a Labor Day loss at Wrigley Field -- will finish third behind the postseason-bound Cardinals and Pirates.

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"We kind of did it to ourselves," said catcher Jonathan Lucroy. "We were in the driver's seat for a while, and then we got complacent, and now this is where we're at. So, you know, we got what we deserved. We've got to play better."

Asked to explain what he meant by the team getting "complacent," Lucroy shrugged.

"I don't know what happened," he said. "Just, we had a lot of things go wrong at the same time. Guys started slumping all at the same time, and we couldn't quite get it back rolling again. Those prolonged slumps are what beat us."

The Brewers fell to 8-20 since Aug. 26 and saw their faint hopes dashed during a dud of a final road trip, during which the team dropped two of three games in consecutive series at St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Milwaukee scored three or fewer runs in eight of those nine games, including two or fewer runs in six in a row.

It continued a larger trend. Since the start of July, the Brewers have scored three or fewer runs in 43 of 75 games while playing 15 games under .500, falling from 6 1/2 games ahead of the rest of the division to seven games behind the first-place Cardinals on Thursday.

"You know, we kind of gave it away," said right-hander Mike Fiers, who pitched admirably after joining the Brewers' rotation in early August. "We had a lot of opportunities. I mean, it was in our hands, and just, we couldn't put it all together.

"Sometimes the pitching wasn't there, the defense, or the hitting. It's been all scattered out. We didn't put it all together for a good stretch of time. We were in first place for a while, but the last month and a half has been pretty rough."

Said Kyle Lohse, whose two-hit shutout of the Reds on Wednesday kept the Brewers' hopes alive for one final day: "It's been tough on everybody. It just felt like we were climbing uphill the whole time, and couldn't get anything going."

The Brewers will post their second-best ERA in their 14 seasons at Miller Park, but much of that quality pitching was wasted by an offensive funk that covered the entire second half. After ranking second in the NL in nearly every offensive category through June 30 -- including runs per game -- only the Reds have struggled worse to score since then.

"I mean, things were going our way," second baseman Scooter Gennett said. "We were playing good baseball, but at the same time there, there were some games that we should have lost that we found a way to win. That's the thing now -- we're not finding ways to win games that we haven't played solid in.

"That, and I think guys just making adjustments on us. ... I think in certain situations, they're executing better pitches on us. During the year, you have to play that chess game with guys. They're winning the chess game. We need to be smarter."

The Brewers still have three games remaining against the Cubs at Miller Park. Manager Ron Roenicke said he would discuss with general manager Doug Melvin and some veteran players how to approach those games.

Center fielder Carlos Gomez was among those who indicated he would play through.

"We have to come and continue to finish the season," Gomez said. "It's not time to get frustrated. You can get frustrated after the season, when you're home. Now you have to continue playing and finish the season strong."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Aramis to address future after season concludes

Aramis to address future after season concludes

CINCINNATI -- Aramis Ramirez's agent, Paul Kinzer, will be in Milwaukee this weekend for an annual season-ending sit-down with his client, and the two have a lot to talk about.

Ramirez is finishing the final season of a three-year deal with the Brewers, but he has a mutual option for 2015. It would pay Ramirez $14 million if both sides agree, $4 million via buyout if Milwaukee declines and nothing if the club exercises its half but Ramirez declines in order to seek one more multiyear deal on the free-agent market.

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"We haven't talked about anything yet," said Ramirez, who insisted his focus has been on trying to help the Brewers remain in the postseason hunt. "We don't know what we're going to do, they don't know what they're going to do, I think, so far. I'd like to come back here, but I don't know."

Asked whether that meant he is not tempted by the chance to seek a longer contract on the open market, Ramirez said, "I don't really know right now what I'm going to do. I have to go home and talk to my family. I don't know how much longer I want to play. We'll see after this season."

Ramirez admitted feeling a bit weary at the end of the least productive full season of his long career, one that saw the Brewers tumble from the top of the National League Central during a brutal stretch in late August and into September.

Ramirez, who went into Thursday's start in Cincinnati with 15 home runs and a .768 OPS, is on pace for his lowest marks in those categories of any season in which he has played at least 100 games. He had made clear in previous comments that he intends to play in 2015, so does that mean next season could be Ramirez's last?

"Maybe, but I don't want to make any calls right now," Ramirez said. "I don't want to say I'm going to play one more year and end up playing three. I do know it's not going to be five."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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