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Notes: Linebrink ready for fresh start

Notes: Linebrink joins Brewers

ST. LOUIS -- Newly-acquired reliever Scott Linebrink joined the Brewers at Busch Stadium on Friday and hinted that the upcoming non-waiver trade deadline may have been affecting his recent mound work.

The Brewers acquired the right-handed Linebrink for three pitching prospects on Wednesday, a day after he was demoted from the San Diego Padres' eighth-inning setup role.

"Ever since the All-Star break, I haven't hit that groove," said Linebrink, 30. "Leading up to this trade deadline, I realized that July 31 was looming out there somewhere.

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"I think getting that behind me and knowing that I'll be here is going to help me relax a little bit and go out there and do what I know I can do. I know that I'm healthy. I know that the ability is still here to get outs, and that's what I plan on doing."

Linebrink surrendered three runs on June 18 against the Mets, came back two days later for a scoreless inning against the Phillies in a 9-0 Padres loss, but then surrendered four more runs in 2/3 of an inning at Colorado on Monday. The most recent outing prompted the Padres to install Heath Bell as the setup man.

Linebrink conceded it was tough to leave his Padres teammates after five years in San Diego. But after hearing his name in trade rumors for more than a year, he was just as happy to land with Milwaukee.

"It's nice to be a little bit more than a poker chip to be dealt, which is how I've been viewed over there for the last year," said Linebrink, a free agent at the end of the season. "My name has come up in several trades, and [the Padres] realized that was my most valuable [asset], to be traded. To get that behind me will help me go on with the rest of my year."

He was quick to say that Padres management was always good to him, that he loved his time in San Diego and that he has no negative feelings about what he called "a first-class organization."

Linebrink did not join the Brewers until hours before the start of their series against the Cardinals. He had been at home in Taylor, Tex., near Austin, where his wife is due to give birth to the couple's first child. Unless the baby comes earlier, doctors will induce on Monday's off-day, and Linebrink could miss games against the Mets on Tuesday and Wednesday.

"I guess when it rains, it pours," he said.

To make room on the roster for Linebrink, the Brewers designated reliever Grant Balfour for assignment. A few hours later, the team traded Balfour to Tampa Bay for right-hander Seth McClung, who will report to Triple-A Nashville.

Home sweet home: Make no mistake about it, Yost said. The Brewers cannot continue to struggle so badly on the road and win the National League Central.

"We cannot continue to play like this on the road," Yost said.

Entering Friday's game, the team was 36-17 at Miller Park, but 20-29 everywhere else. Last year, the Brewers were 48-33 at home and 27-54 on the road.

"Why would our whole team -- our whole record and everything we do -- be so much different on the road?" Yost said. "It's not one guy. You can say that of everybody. Do we have one player that outperforms his home splits on the road?"

Johnny Estrada entered Friday with an .801 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) on the road versus .626 at home. On the pitching side, Carlos Villanueva was 3-0 with a 2.68 ERA in road games and 3-2 with a 4.78 ERA at home, and Chris Spurling had a 2.37 ERA on the road and 6.92 at home.

Most other Brewers had performed dramatically better at Miller Park.

"They do not have the same comfort level on the road that they do at home, and I don't know why," Yost said. "You see them fighting more on the road. They're fighting it more. They're not as relaxed on the road as they are at home. It's a bit of a different feeling.

"But nothing changes. I think with younger teams, they need to feel that same relaxed feeling on the road as they do at home, and they're going to be great, because they're not two different teams."

He's back: Estrada returned to the lineup Friday after missing three games with a tight left hamstring, but was not 100 percent.

"It just is not getting that much better," Yost said. "I was hoping that three days was going to make it feel a little better. He's not going to be a speed burner, [but] Johnny could play like that all year long."

On deck: The Brewers face a key test on Saturday, when they play a day-night doubleheader against the Cardinals. Left-hander Manny Parra will make his first Major League start in the noon CT game against right-hander Brad Thompson, and Brewers lefty Chris Capuano will start the nightcap against righty Anthony Reyes.

Adam McCalvy 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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