Notes: Coaching changes announced

Notes: Changes to staff

ST. LOUIS -- Brewers manager Ned Yost did not wait until the end of the season to start making those changes he has been hinting at.

The team announced Thursday that hitting coach Butch Wynegar and first-base, baserunning and outfield coach Dave Nelson will not be offered 2007 contracts. The team will also let go strength and conditioning specialist Rick Spenner. All three men will finish out the season, which ends Sunday.

"It wasn't because of their passion, and it wasn't because of their work ethic," Yost said. "It just boils down to production on the field. There are certain areas that, as hard as they worked and as hard as they tried, we did not improve in."

Those areas specifically related to Wynegar and to offensive production and, as Yost put it, "having a clue when we get up in the batter's box of what we're trying to accomplish." In Nelson's case, Yost did not feel the team was getting enough out of the little speed it had left after second baseman Rickie Weeks suffered a season-ending injury.

Both Nelson and Wynegar were hired in November 2002, soon after Yost was named manager.

"Sometimes, a different voice can get the point across," Yost said.

Both coaches were informed of the decision Thursday morning and were given the option of heading home. Both elected to finish the season, and both said they saw Thursday's news coming.

"I would be lying if I said I was totally shocked," Wynegar said. "You expect the worst and hope for the best, but even when you expect the worst, and get the worst, it's a little bit of a disappointment. It's a disappointment. There's no doubt."

At the plate: Wynegar's job status seemed to be in question in each of the last three Septembers. The Brewers entered their four-game series against the Cardinals on Thursday ranked near the bottom of the National League in runs scored (13th), walks (13th), slugging percentage (13th), on-base percentage (14th) and strikeouts (15th).

"The next guy that comes in here is going to have just as hard a job as Butch did to get them to understand what it takes to be a winner offensively," Yost said. "I still see approaches at the plate where I'm wondering, 'What in the world is he thinking about?'"

The Brewers' offense was hampered by injuries to key players like Weeks, Corey Koskie and J.J. Hardy. Right fielder Geoff Jenkins experienced a prolonged midseason slump that prompted Yost to drop him from the starting lineup. And All-Star slugger Carlos Lee was traded in late July and his replacement, Kevin Mench, has done little.

"You can sit back and make all kinds of excuses," Wynegar said. "The bottom line is that, with the players we did put out there, we just didn't get the job done."

Does he have any regrets?

"I've been around this game a long time, and I know how it works. I can honestly say that I can walk away with my head up and know I did everything I could possibly do," he said. "I lay in bed at night thinking, 'What am I not doing? If I got fired today and had to go home in the middle of the season, what would I have done more of?' I can't think of one thing."

Yost informed players of the moves during a pregame clubhouse meeting, though most knew about it beforehand.

"That's a thankless job," Jeff Cirillo said of Wynegar's post. "You work hard in the [batting] cage and you're constantly looking at video to prepare guys. You'll have 13 hitters going great, but when you go to bed, you're thinking about the one guy that's not hitting well.

"It's just thankless. When the hitters hit, that guy looks great. When they don't, he looks bad."

Jenkins was asked whether players feel responsible when coaches are let go.

"You always say that," Jenkins said. "But the organization felt like it needed to make a change, so, like anything else, you move on, I guess. It's tough, though, because they're good guys. Tremendous individuals."

On the bases: With just 69 stolen bases entering Thursday's game, the Brewers ranked 12th in the NL, and 31 of those belong to Lee and Weeks. Of the healthy players left, Bill Hall led the Brewers with eight steals.

But the reasons for Nelson's departure went beyond stolen bases, according to Yost.

"Like our approach at the plate, we still make far too many mistakes on the bases," Yost said. "Our stolen base percentage is way down. Stealing bases is not all about speed."

Said Nelson: "I know our baserunning wasn't the best, but it wasn't the worst, either. They felt they needed to make a change, and Butch and I were the ones to go. ... I thought we improved over last year in our baserunning, but there was certainly a lot more room for improvement in that area. We didn't do a good job."

Nelson was also the Brewers' bunting instructor, another area in which the team has struggled this season.

What next? The other coaches -- bench coach Robin Yount, pitching coach Mike Maddux, third-base coach Dale Sveum and bullpen coach Billy Castro -- all will be offered 2007 contracts. Yost expects all to return, though Yount said earlier this week that he will first bounce the idea off his wife, Michelle, before making a decision.

"Whatever it takes," Yost said. "We're not going to rush him into a decision."

Yost said he is in no hurry to fill the two vacancies and would consider internal candidates, though he would not name anyone as a possibility. Some notable options include Double-A manager Don Money, Triple-A manager Frank Kremblas and Triple-A hitting coach Gary Pettis.

As a four-time Gold Glove outfielder with five Major League seasons with at least 40 stolen bases, Pettis seems to fit the bill on a number of counts.

Last call: Right-hander Tomo Ohka and outfielder Gabe Gross ran in the outfield on Thursday afternoon, but remain sidelined by hamstring injuries. Gross could be used off the bench, Yost said. ... Dave Bush said he had been told to be ready in relief for Sunday. Bush made his final start on Wednesday in Chicago. ... Catcher Mike Rivera made his seventh consecutive start on Thursday. Damian Miller has been slowed by a sore back.

On deck: Lefty Chris Capuano needs a win Friday to finish his All-Star season with a personal record above .500. He started the year 10-4 but is 1-7 since the All-Star break despite leading the Majors in quality starts. Capuano will face Cardinals right-hander Jeff Weaver.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.