Brewers seek answers to pitching slump

Answers sought to pitching slump

PITTSBURGH -- Brewers manager Ken Macha and general manager Doug Melvin spoke via telephone Monday night and again Tuesday morning. The topic, Macha said, was finding ways to get more from the team's slumping pitching staff.

Using staff ace Yovani Gallardo every day is not one of the options, though the 23-year-old righty will be on the mound for Wednesday's Brewers-Pirates finale at PNC Park. Gallardo has been Milwaukee's steadiest pitcher, with 15 quality starts and a 13-11 team record in his games.

The rest of the bunch has not been as good. As a staff, the Brewers rank 15th in the 16-team National League with a 4.89 ERA. With two more home runs allowed Tuesday, Brewers pitchers have surrendered 161 this season, most in the Majors.

Hence, the late-night and early-morning conversations between the GM and the manager.

"Let's scour all the avenues of getting our game plan across to the pitchers so they can carry it out when they get out there," Macha said. "We're trying to figure out why this is happening, and how to fix it.

"Is it the way we're presenting out game plan? Is it the way the game plan is being put into action by the catcher and pitcher? Is it the execution of pitches? Are we getting the most out of pitchers' deliveries?"

Brewers officials have considered going to a 13-man pitching staff -- they have used a more conventional 12-man staff all season -- and have also discussed whether another trade is in order. Melvin already picked up relievers Jesus Colome and Claudio Vargas, and said Tuesday that he was "working on something" involving Bill Hall, the infielder designated for assignment last week. Perhaps Hall could be traded in a swap of bulky contracts.

Melvin has drawn criticism from some fans for not being able to replicate last summer's CC Sabathia blockbuster. This year, Vargas was the Brewers' only pre-Trade Deadline pitching pickup.

"I defend Doug 100 percent because he was actively seeking to get pitching," Macha said. "He thought, at one point in time, that we were going to get a starter. Our deal got put on the back burner because the team we were dealing with had another deal going."

The Brewers remain hopeful about adding injured right-handers Dave Bush and Jeff Suppan back to the rotation. Bush made the first of two scheduled rehabilitation starts on Tuesday at Class A Wisconsin, and Suppan was scheduled to pitch for Triple-A Nashville on Thursday in his second rehab start.

Pitching matchup
MIL: RHP Yovani Gallardo (11-9, 3.52 ERA)
Gallardo got a bunch of run support -- eight first-inning runs -- in his previous start, against the Astros, to earn his 11th win of the season. The Brewers' ace allowed two runs on three hits in six innings, throwing 105 pitches. In his past start against the Pirates, on April 29, Gallardo became just the third pitcher in Major League history to win, 1-0, while recording at least 10 strikeouts and hitting a home run. He tossed eight scoreless innings, holding Pittsburgh to two hits while striking out 11.

PIT: LHP Paul Maholm (6-7, 4.93 ERA)
Maholm struggled in his past start against the Rockies on Thursday as he surrendered seven runs -- six earned -- on 11 hits, which includes two home runs, in 6 1/3 innings. Even though he was sharper than his past four starts, Maholm either left pitches out over the plate or couldn't finish off hitters. In a broader view, Maholm is 0-3 with a 7.42 ERA in his past five outings. In his career, Maholm is 2-5 with a 4.91 ERA against the Brewers.

Bush was sharp in his start at Wisconsin, where he walked one and struck out four in three hitless, scoreless innings. His next outing will be at Double-A Huntsville on Saturday. ... Casey McGehee started at third base on Tuesday and should start again Wednesday against Maholm, but he continues to play with a right knee that could require surgery at the end of the season, Macha said. "They said he's fine to play with it, but ... he'll be much better off if they go in there and clean it up." ... Felipe Lopez's 12-game hitting streak ended Tuesday. It tied for the longest streak by a Brewer this season (Ryan Braun hit in 12 straight games from June 25 to July 5 and Craig Counsell did it from July 17 to 30).

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On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• FS Wisconsin-HD

On radio
• WTMJ 620

Up next
• Thursday: Off-day
• Friday: Brewers (Braden Looper, 10-6, 5.03) at Nationals (J.D. Martin, 2-2, 4.61), 6:05 p.m. CT
• Saturday: Brewers (Carlos Villanueva, 2-10, 6.25) at Nationals (John Lannan, 8-9, 3.68), 6:05 p.m. CT

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