Brewers look for consistency in batter's box in 2015

Associated Press

March 27, 2015

Milwaukee Brewers right fielder Ryan Braun hits an RBI double in the second inning against the Oakland Athletics during a spring training baseball game on Wednesday, March 25, 2015, in Phoenix.

MILWAUKEE Success for the Brewers this season may hinge on Milwaukee's consistency in the batter's box.

September swoons can prove costly as can prolonged slumps any other time of year, for that matter.

A lineup filled with accomplished hitters like Ryan Braun, Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Gomez has the potential to score runs. To break into the playoffs from the competitive NL Central, the Brewers must eliminate team-wide slumps.

"Last year we kind of grinded it to a point where instead of just playing day to day and for that game and to win, we looked like we were forcing things," manager Ron Roenicke said. "We were trying to hold on to what we had, and that's not the way we go about it."

The Brewers spent 150 days in first place before a stunning, late-season collapse left them out of the playoffs for a third straight year.

"We've got a good club, and when we're playing the type of baseball I think we can play every night ... if we just worry about that game today, at the end of the season, good things will happen," the skipper added from the team's spring training complex in Phoenix.

Milwaukee Brewers' Jonathan Lucroy, right, celebrates his two-run home run with teammate Scooter Gennett during the fifth inning of a spring training baseball exhibition game against the Chicago White Sox in Phoenix, Sunday, March 22, 2015.

The lineup is bashing again this spring.

After a slow start, Braun has been hitting much better following an unusual offseason medical procedure. Extreme cold was applied to his right hand in hopes of fixing a lingering nerve problem near the thumb.

Lucroy also looks like he is over a hamstring injury that limited him for the first few weeks of spring training. The upbeat, energetic Gomez had three homers three weeks into spring ball.

"Every day you learn something new ... you learn from that," Gomez said about the 2014 season. "The first step we have to do is make the playoffs. We take it game by game."

The regular season begins on April 6 against Colorado at Miller Park. Some things to watch with the Brewers:

PITCHING: The Brewers don't have a true ace, but they do have solid veterans atop the rotation in Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza. Wily Peralta won 17 games last year in his second full season in the majors, and Mike Fiers impressed down the stretch. But Milwaukee traded Yovani Gallardo and Marco Estrada, so there is no experienced starting depth. Young right-hander Jimmy Nelson must prove he can be a consistent fifth starter. A long-term injury to any of the starting five could leave the Brewers scrambling.

Milwaukee Brewers manager Ron Roenicke signs autographs before a spring training baseball exhibition game against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix, on Friday, March 20, 2015.

In the bullpen, veteran Francisco Rodriguez figures to return to the closer's role after re-signing with the club more than two weeks into spring training. He bounced back with 44 saves in 49 chances last season.

AGGRESSIVENESS: Roenicke likes his team to take chances on the base paths, and he's sticking with that philosophy. That puts the Brewers in attack mode, and when working at its best, the strategy forces the defense to rush and possibly make mistakes. But rally-killing outs on the bases can make fans at Miller Park groan. Perhaps of more concern is the approach at the plate, where the Brewers led the majors by swinging at 33 percent of first pitches, according to STATS. Darnell Coles is the new hitting coach. The team wants to stay aggressive while having more plate discipline.

KEYSTONE COMBO: While Braun, Lucroy and Gomez draw much of the attention in the lineup, the Brewers' keystone combination of second baseman Scooter Gennett and shortstop Jean Segura will be just as vital to the team's success. Gennett, a left-hander, will play every day and must prove he can hit lefties consistently. The speedy Segura is a top defender, though he is looking to bounce back from a slump that dropped his average nearly 50 points to .246.

RAMMY OUT: It is probably one more and done for third baseman Aramis Ramirez, who turns 36 in June. He has said he likely will retire after this season to spend more time with his family. Ramirez's production has waned over the last two seasons, though he remains one of the best in the league in fielding bunts and slow rollers to third.


Davis, Jimenez hit grand slams as Brewers beat Mariners 15-1

PHOENIX  Khris Davis and Luis Jimenez hit grand slams and the Milwaukee Brewers had another big offensive day in a 15-1 win over a Seattle Mariners split-squad on Thursday.

"It's pretty contagious right now," said Davis, whose 420-foot shot bounced off a walking path and completely out of Maryvale Baseball Park. "You don't want to waste them here but everyone looks like they're pretty ready."

Scooter Gennett and Jonathan Lucroy each had three of Milwaukee's 22 hits and Matt Clark, Jean Segura and Logan Shafer had two each. The Brewers have outscored opponents 83-35 over the last 10 games, going 7-2-1 in that stretch.

"This run of double-digit runs and double-digit hits, I don't care where you are doing it ... it's still an impressive stretch," said Milwaukee's Ryan Braun, had an RBI double in the fourth. "We're putting together some really quality at-bats and there's a lot of depth to our lineup. It's encouraging, but you want to keep it in perspective."

Mike Fiers, coming back from a minor shoulder issue made his start in two weeks and allow three hits in 3 2-3 innings.

Seattle starter Roenis Elias allowed eight hits and six earned runs in three-plus innings and didn't retire a batter until Milwaukee led 4-0. Jesus Sucre brought home Willie Bloomquist with an RBI single in the third inning one of four Mariners hits.

Jimenez ended the scoring with his slam in the eighth his second home run in two games.

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STARTING TIME

Mariners: Elias, who slipping out of the running for a rotation spot, allowed singles to Gennett and Lucroy and walked Ryan Braun, loading the bases to open the game. Davis cleared them on the first pitch he saw. "He flipped me a get-me-over pitch and I didn't miss it," Davis said. "I wasn't going to give him one pitch in that AB."

Brewers: Fiers looked sharp in his 3 2/3 innings before he ran out of pitches. "It was a great day. I upped my pitch count to 68 and things felt good," Fiers said. "I like the curveball and change today, jammed a couple of guys, working in and out. I left a few pitches up but I was throwing strikes and trying to get back to where I was."

TRAINER'S ROOM

Mariners: None.

Brewers: More than week after the Brewers washed away the last case of pink eye in their clubhouse, OF Shane Peterson came to work Thursday with two pink eyes. The Brewers are somewhat baffled as to how the annoying malady returned, and the anti-bacterial dispensers and reminders to wash your hands frequently have returned. "We can't figure out why it's coming back," Roenicke said. "We've already (disinfected the clubhouse). We don't know where it's coming up from. And really, no one really knows how you get it. Is it the dirt? Where does it originate from? We know how contagious it is once you get it, but why is it coming up again?"

It was a doubly bad day for Peterson, who was also optioned to Triple-A Colorado Springs.

ROSTER MOVES

The Brewers trimmed their roster to 37 on Thursday, optioning Peterson and INF Luis Sardinas to Triple-A Colorado Springs. Sardinas hit .294 in the spring and had three hits and scored three times on Wednesday. He turns 22 in May and will be the regular shortstop for the Sky Sox.

UP NEXT

Brewers: RHP Matt Garza will try to improve on his 5.40 ERA this spring when he pitches against the Cincinnati Reds at Goodyear Ballpark.