Roenicke blames himself for bullpen miscommunication in Brewers’ loss

Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke attempted to make a pitching change in the seventh inning but, due to a miscommunication, there was no one warming up in the Brewers' bullpen. 

Brett Davis/Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

All losses certainly bother the manager, but Thursday night’s 5-4 loss to the Atlanta Braves is going to eat at Ron Roenicke just a bit more.

Milwaukee’s skipper took full responsibility for the bullpen mixup that ended up playing a big role in Atlanta’s decisive three-run seventh inning.

With the Brewers up 4-3 and runners at second and third, Roenicke went to the mound with intentions of bringing left-hander Will Smith in to replace right-hander Brandon Kintzler. The only problem was nobody was warming up in Milwaukee’s bullpen, so mass confusion rung out.

Left-hander Zach Duke initially ran onto the field and eventually retreated to the bullpen when Roenicke signaled for Smith. Rules allow for pitchers to get eight warmup pitches in between innings or when they first come in from the bullpen, leaving Smith not much of a chance to get warm.

A long delay ensued as home-plate umpire and crew chief Fieldin Culbreth went to the headset to review something that was unknown to Roenicke at the time. Smith, when finally allowed to pitch, allowed a base hit back up the middle to pinch hitter Ryan Doumit, giving the Braves the lead for good at 5-4.

Brewers pitching coach Rick Kranitz and bullpen coach Lee Tunnell were both away from the team Thursday to attend their children’s graduations and minor-league pitching coordinator Rick Tomlin was filling in as pitching coach.

Braves 5, Brewers 4

"It’s my fault. Miscommunication," Roenicke said. "There’s a certain way we do things. When Kranitz isn’t here — I didn’t go back and tell Rick Tomlin who to get up and to bring in. It’s my fault. You do things the same way every day and then when it changes, it changes what goes on."

FOX Sports Wisconsin’s Brian Anderson spoke with Culbreth after the game and said the umpire told him he went to the headset to try and ask the command center in New York if there was any way Smith could throw more than the allowed eight warmup pitches due to concern over a potential injury.

Culbreth also told Anderson that he went to Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez to ask if he would have any issue with Smith throwing a few extra pitches. Culbreth said Gonzalez admitted he didn’t want Smith to get hurt but preferred to stick with the rule.

"I don’t want to explain that," Gonzalez said. "I think we got the right situation there. I don’t think it’s my job to explain that."

Without Kranitz in the dugout, Roenicke wasn’t on the same page as Tomlin and thought both Kintzler and Smith were warming up when Matt Garza was on the mound to start the inning. Roenicke sent backup catcher Martin Maldonado down to the bullpen to help catch with two pitchers needing to warm up, but he didn’t tell Maldonado who was supposed to be getting loose because he thought Tomlin had made the call.

"You know something, I should be able to adjust to different things," Roenicke said. "We had Lee in there yesterday and that was a little bit different. Rick, when we talk, he’s always involved and I know he’s taking care of calling somebody. When you have somebody else in there and they don’t know what we usually do, it’s not his fault. I didn’t turn around and tell him to make the call. I assumed it, which I shouldn’t do."

After the Doumit single, Smith had to sit through another replay as a force play at second base was reviewed and eventually overturned to an infield single. Smith then walked B.J. Upton and struck out Freddie Freeman before coming out of the game.

"I feel bad about everything, but that, you just can’t do that to a player," Roenicke said of having Smith pitch without warming up. "It’s going to be hard on me. They’ll be fine. They’ll move on. But it is going to be hard on me."

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