Rest for starters gives Crew a makeover
MILWAUKEE — One day after discussing potential rest for some of his everyday starters, Milwaukee Brewers manager Ron Roenicke came out with a lineup unlike he has all season on Sunday morning, resting three of his starters and emptying his bench into Sunday's lineup against the Phillies.
Second baseman Rickie Weeks did return to the lineup, after getting a much-needed off day on Saturday, but with Weeks' return came a day off for first baseman Corey Hart, right fielder Norichika Aoki, and third baseman Aramis Ramirez. The trio will be replaced in the lineup by Travis Ishikawa, Nyjer Morgan, and Cody Ransom, respectively.
Hart has played in all but two of Milwaukee's games this season, while Ramirez has played in 110 of the Brewers' 119 games in 2012.
"They've been playing hard, going at it," Roenicke said. "When I asked them, they said day games were the hardest for them to get out there. You hate to take both of them out, but the good thing is, we get both of them back tomorrow, so we'll see what happens."
Aoki's off day, Roenicke said, comes on the heels of a tough day at the plate in which Aoki's swing looked worse than normal. Still, Aoki has also had impressive longevity this season -- given his inexperience in the MLB -- missing just 10 games this season.
Those lineup moves mark a pretty significant blow to an offense looking to give the Brewers their first series win in four tries since their sweep of Cincinnati at the beginning of August. But with a 20-day stretch of games without an off day coming up soon, Roenicke wanted to ensure that his key starters would be well-rested for that stretch.
"We've got 20 in a row," Roenicke said on Saturday. "I need to think about that a little more and make sure the guys are good. They still feel fine."
Braun's slump no more: For nearly two weeks, Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun looked like a shell of his former MVP self.
Mired in a multi-game slump that saw him accumulate nearly twice as many strikeouts as hits, while his batting average dipped under .300 for the first time since May, Braun took early batting practice on Thursday -- a practice that he hasn't taken part in for most of his career.
But since that early BP, Braun has not only broken his slump, but also tallied one of the best weekend series of his already stellar 2012 campaign. In three games against the Phillies already, Braun has registered six hits -- he only had nine total in his 11-game skid -- four of which have been home runs. Before Thursday's game, in which he hit a pair of long balls, Braun hadn't homered since August 1 -- one of the longest homerless streaks of his career.
"I'm never surprised about it," Roenicke said. "Just from watching him last year and so far this season, he can do things that not a lot of guys in baseball can't do. He's one of the elite guys, as we all know, so when he does things, it really doesn't surprise me. This is a special guy. I've been with a few of them in my career -- Mike Schmidt, Tony Gwynn, guys like that -- and they're just different guys. I struggled to stay in the big leagues and tried to hit and watch everything I could on the great hitters and there's just a difference."
Personal catch no more: When former backup catcher George Kottaras was traded to Oakland at the deadline, Brewers pitcher Randy Wolf was left without his own personal catcher for the first time since coming to Milwaukee.
Roenicke said that the team planned to catch him the same way they would any of their other pitches, with Jonathan Lucroy and Martin Maldonado taking turns. But on Sunday, Roenicke said that the difference in catchers hasn't made much of a difference for Wolf, considering the struggles he's gone through with all three catchers this year.
"Randy hasn't been in the long groove that he wants to get into," Roenicke said. "So the difference in catchers, I don't think has been that important to him."
Roenicke did say that he and Wolf had a conversation earlier in the season about the veteran pitcher perhaps using a different catcher other than Kottaras, due to his inability to find a rhythm early on. But Roenicke opted to continue with Wolf and Kottaras as the Brewers' battery every fifth day.
"Randy does different things than other guys do," Roenicke said. "The catcher has to be very familiar with Randy. It's not as simple as just putting down numbers. There are some other things that come into play. You better be on top of it as a catcher to allow the game to go along smoothly."
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