Miller Park's outfield used to be "the worst field I've ever played on," according to veteran center fielder Mike Cameron, which was no fault of Vanden Berg's, but instead a result of the roof. Even when the fan-style convertible is open, huge swaths of the outfield don't get good sunlight, and over the years, portions of the turf have been torn out and replaced.
Last year, Vanden Berg suggested a more permanent fix. The team installed new "Lo-Mo" Kentucky bluegrass on the infield over the All-Star break to rave reviews, and Vanden Berg was authorized to replace the outfield after the season.
The new turf, common in other ballparks around baseball, is denser and has a sand base, instead of the sand and clay mix under the original grass. The result is truer hops and fewer instances in which the baseball skips under an outfielder's glove.
"That was the acid test for me -- was it going to play well?" said Vanden Berg, who is in his 29th year with the Brewers. "So far I haven't seen one bad hop. Everything has gone just the way we hoped it would. Now, for me, the question is how it's going to handle the wear and tear. That is yet to be seen."
So far, so good.
"It's nice," Cameron said. "The old field, I almost tore my ACL on it last year. You would break, and the whole surface would just give underneath you. The new stuff is real nice."
"Balls kick up nicely now," said first base and outfield coach Ed Sedar. "There are no more 'skips,' like there were last year, and I like the way the grass is thicker than it was. So far, no issues with it."
MIL: LHP Manny Parra (0-1, 10.38 ERA)
Parra looked superb through the first three innings of his first start of the season, and he looked just as dreadful the rest of the way of what turned out to be an ominous performance. He gave up all five of his runs in his final 1 1/3 innings and allowed seven of the final 10 hitters he faced to reach base. The Brewers have lost the last nine games, dating to last year, in which he's appeared, and Parra lost for the seventh time in his past eight decisions. If past numbers are any indication, he could be in for another tough day against the Reds, who scored 16 runs on 17 hits in 16 1/3 innings against him. There's some good news, though: Parra is a much better pitcher at home.
CIN: RHP Bronson Arroyo (1-0, 7.50 ERA)
Arroyo overcame a bumpy beginning and earned an 8-6 win over the Mets on Thursday. He gave up five earned runs and eight hits over six innings, with two walks and four strikeouts. Only a few days before the start, he received a cortisone shot to lessen the pain from carpal tunnel in his right arm. Arroyo reported no issues the day after the start, and he is expected to be fine. In four starts against the Brewers last season, he was 1-2 with a 3.65 ERA. He is 7-5 with a 3.59 ERA in 16 career games against Milwaukee.
Trevor Hoffman played catch again on Monday and has been cleared to throw off a mound prior to Wednesday's series finale against the Reds. It will be his first mound session since Hoffman strained a muscle in his right side in mid-March. "He said he felt great, and it looked like the ball was coming out real good," Milwaukee manager Ken Macha said. ... Jason Kendall singled in each of his first two plate appearances on Monday after an 0-for-15 start to the season. Macha was beginning to get concerned. "He's pulling, and that's a little bit of a concern. Him not having a hit yet, that's a concern, too," Macha said. "[Brewers hitting coach] Dale [Sveum] and Jason are very close, and Jason works at his job. That's another veteran guy with a track record, and he's going to get his hits." ... Third-base prospect Mat Gamel is on fire to start the season at Triple-A Nashville. He hit his second home run of the year on Monday night in a 4-3 Sounds win, and he is 10-for-18 (.556) with 10 RBIs on the young season. Gamel and fellow prospect Alcides Escobar have at least one hit in each of Nashville's first five games. ... Wilco front man Jeff Tweedy spent a half-inning in the Brewers TV booth on Monday night. The band is in town for a pair of shows at the Pabst Theater.
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Official game notes
Wednesday: Brewers (Braden Looper, 0-0, 1.80) vs. Reds (Micah Owings, 0-0, -.--), 7:05 p.m. CT
Friday: Brewers (Dave Bush 0-0. 6.14) at Mets (Livan Hernandez, 1-0, 2.70), 6:10 p.m. CT