Notes: Cooper returns to Milwaukee

Notes: Cooper returns to Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE -- Cecil Cooper, one of the best players to ever wear a Brewers uniform, returned to Miller Park on Monday -- this time as interim manager of the Houston Astros.

Cooper, a Brewers first baseman from 1977-87 during the franchise's best years, received a loud "Cooooop!" from the Miller Park crowd when pregame introductions were done Monday.

"It's great to be back in my city," Cooper said at a pregame news conference. He was named to his current post on Aug. 27 when former manager Phil Garner was dismissed.

Cooper batted .302 with Milwaukee, hitting 201 home runs and earning two Gold Gloves. He also got the biggest hit in franchise history, a dramatic two-run single in the seventh inning of the 1982 American League Championship Series that propelled the Brewers to a 4-3 victory over the California Angels and into their only World Series.

"Biggest hit in my life," Cooper said.

The team's No. 3 hitter during most of his time in Milwaukee, Cooper played in five All-Star games.

"I think about all those days, it was a lot of fun," he said. "If you think back now, most of those guys are still involved. A pretty special team right there."

One of his teammates was current Brewers manager Ned Yost.

"Somebody that I admire and always liked," Yost said of Cooper. "He's somebody I always thought was a great baseball man."

Cooper retired following the 1987 season and became a sports agent, but returned to baseball in the mid-1990s with the Brewers organization from 1997-2004. He served in a variety of capacities as a bench coach for the Brewers, a Minor League manager, a hitting instructor and as director of player development.

Thanks, dad: Ryan Braun enters Monday's action batting .448 (43-for-96) against left-handers and gives a lot of the credit for his success to his father, Joe.

"I see the ball pretty well off lefties," he said. "My dad is left-handed, so growing up, the majority of time, I took batting practice off of him."

Braun has 12 home runs and 29 RBIs against left-handers, an on-base percentage of .518 and a slugging percentage of .938.

"I have a lot of experience seeing the ball coming from that arm angle," he said.

Suppan on leadership: Jeff Suppan was on the World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals a year ago and realizes that he might be looked upon for veteran leadership during the last month of the season.

"This experience that we've went through all year, the ups and downs, staying together is crucial for later victories," he said. "I feel the same way about this team in Spring Training as I do now, I enjoy playing with these guys."

The Brewers had an extended slump after the All-Star Game, but went into Monday's game with a three-game winning streak and only 1 1/2 games behind the Chicago Cubs in the National League Central.

"In this game, you have to have a short memory," Suppan said of the team's second-half struggles. "You can't get to high and you can't get too low. 'Stay on an even keel' is a cliché, but the reason it's a cliché is because it's true."

Minor success: Five of the Brewers Minor League teams made the playoffs, which begin this week.

Triple-A Nashville, Double-A Huntsville, Class A teams Brevard County and West Virginia and rookie-level team Helena all are in the postseason. The Brewers' Minor League system has an overall record of 380-297, and at .561, the third-best winning percentage in baseball.

Brewers bits: When Francisco Cordero earned his 39th save Sunday, it tied the single-season franchise record shared by Dan Kolb (2004) and Derrick Turnbow (2005). ... Rickie Weeks has eight errors in 92 games this year. Last year, he had 22 errors in 95 games.

On deck: The Astros' Brandon Backe makes his first start in more than a year Tuesday night in the middle game of this three-game series. Backe underwent Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery on Sept. 7, 2006, and went 3-2 with a 4.32 ERA in five Minor League rehab starts. Carlos Villanueva (6-3, 4.68 ERA) takes the hill for the Brewers at 7:05 p.m. CT.

Joe DiGiovanni is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.