Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘injury update

September 16, 2012 — Brewers Back in Wild Card Chase; Corey Hart Status

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Folks, after all but writing the Milwaukee Brewers off a few months ago due to their bullpen meltdowns, the Brewers have quietly managed to get back into wild card contention.

Now, there are some qualifiers to consider, the first being that the Brewers are only contending for the second wild card spot, not the first — that is, if this were last year, the Brewers would not be in contention at this point as there was only one wild card available last year — and the second being that at 74-72, the Brewers are still two games over .500, which isn’t exactly a world-beating record.

However, this is much better than I thought the Brewers would be at considering it’s September 16, 2012 — they’re still in contention, they’re playing good baseball, and they’ve even taken the lead in strikeouts with 1,261 (by pitchers, not how many times the batters have struck out).  This is because rookies like Mark Rogers, Mike Fiers, and the recently-called up Wily Peralta have done their jobs in addition to veteran and de facto ace Yovani Gallardo (who’s had a brilliant second half; his record is 15-8 with a 3.72 ERA and 188 Ks), and because the much-maligned relievers have quietly pulled it together, with John Axford in particular pitching much better in the past thirty-five days or so, converting on all eleven of his last save attempts (he now has 29 saves out of 38 attempts, a 5-7 record, and his ERA has fallen to 4.76).  Without all of these pitchers doing their best, the Brewers would still be way under .500 and have no chance of the second wild card spot.

Better yet, Ryan Braun’s outstanding year has continued apace, even though Corey Hart has been out of the line-up and Aramis Ramirez’s year took a while to get started (as Ramirez is a notoriously slow starter, this wasn’t much of a surprise), so teams could and did pitch around Braun much of this season.  Despite that, Braun is batting .312 with 40 home runs, 103 runs batted in, and 24 stolen bases in 31 attempts.  Braun also has 201 career home runs with the Brewers, which leaves him fifth on the all-time list, tied with Cecil Cooper; Braun’s the sixth Brewer to reach the 200 HR plateau, and the seventh to hit 40 HRs in a season.

All of this makes for an exciting end to the 2012 season, and as a long-time Brewers fan, I’m extremely glad to see it.  (Go Brewers!)

Now, let’s talk about Brewers first baseman/right fielder Corey Hart.  Hart, unfortunately, has been out for a week with a sprained ankle and a partial tear in his plantar fascia, according to Brewers.com beat writer Adam McCalvy.   That’s why he hasn’t pinch-hit; that’s why he’s not played the field; that’s why he’s had to rest and sit on the bench while having one of his better overall years despite his mid-season position switch from right field to first base (Hart’s stats stand with a .278 batting average, 27 HRs, 77 RBI, and 5 SBs in 5 attempts; as for his fielding stats, in 92 games played at first base, Hart has only 3 errors and a .996 fielding percentage).

Hart attempted to run the bases on Sunday and did not fare well according to McCalvy’s account.  Here’s a quote from that article:

“I’m definitely aiming for Tuesday, I just wish it would have felt better today than it did,” Hart said. “It’s a little frustrating. Today was the first day I tried to run the bases, and it didn’t go as planned.”

Running in a straight line was fine, but the trouble came when Hart ran along the arc along the outer edge of the infield dirt.

A bit later in the article, Hart said this:

“It’s tough, because I want to play,” Hart said. “I’ve played through a lot of injuries, but it’s one of those things where if I’m on first, I’m not going to be able to score on a double. If I’m on second, it’s going to be iffy to score on anything. Is it worth it to these guys? I feel like I wouldn’t be able to do everything I need to do.”

The last resort, Hart said, is an anti-inflammatory injection. The club’s medical officials on Sunday were mulling the pros and cons of that step.

Hart is extremely well-conditioned, a dedicated athlete, and a very good teammate, someone everyone on the Brewers, past or present, has liked — that’s not an easy feat, either, to be the guy everyone likes — and if he could get on the field, he’d be there, no questions asked.  But he’s obviously frustrated, as his quotes show . . . it’s not an easy thing to come up with a nasty injury toward the end of the season, especially when your team is still in the wild card chase.

My hope for Hart is that he heals quickly but doesn’t overstrain; even though the Brewers season is winding down and they do have a shot at the second wild card, the fact is that Hart is far more important to the Brewers in the long run, which is why he needs to put his long-term goals ahead of any short-term gains if those short-term gains will harm him.

Or to put it another way — I’d like to see Corey Hart play again this season, yes.  But only if he’s healthy.

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 16, 2012 at 9:35 pm

Mat Gamel Tears ACL, Out for the Year

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Folks, in last night’s game (May 1, 2012), Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Mat Gamel ran to catch a foul ball in San Diego.  There’s a drainage ditch there, right where the stands meet the field and wall, that’s caused problems before — but the Padres organization has yet to fix it.   This piece of information is essential to have when you consider that Gamel, in stumbling, then falling due to the drainage ditch, tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and is now projected to be out for the entire year.

This is really bad news for Gamel.  He’s only 26.  He’s had a rough go of it in the Brewers organization; for whatever reason, every season the Brewers minor league system seemingly had Gamel playing a different position.  He started out at third base, had a flirtation with the outfield for a while, and then eventually was moved to first base last year due to the Brewers’ certain knowledge that Prince Fielder would leave after the 2011 season due to Fielder’s demands for a huge payday — one the Brewers couldn’t provide.

So here Gamel is; he’s finally ensconced in the major leagues, playing every day, at first base.  Then he has this injury due to something the Padres really should’ve fixed at least four years ago — this odd drainage ditch right near the wall at Petco Park, which has caused players to miss time or be put on the disabled list (DL) before — and is now out for the entire year.  Gamel’s season ends with a .246 average, 1 home run, 6 RBI, 3 SB, 4 walks, and 15 strikeouts in 21 games played.

As for the Brewers, they’re now in crisis mode according to several sources — Brewers Extra Innings announcer Dan O’Donnell (a show on the Brewers Radio Network, carried by Brewers flagship radio station WTMJ-AM in Milwaukee, WI), FSN Wisconsin announcers Craig Coshun and Jerry Augustine (the latter a former Brewers pitcher during their glory days in the late 1970s/early 1980s), and Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Brewers beat writer Tom Haudricourt (see this link for more details) — as their only extant options are these: move RF Corey Hart to first base on a long-term basis, or sign and/or trade for someone else who’s capable of hitting big league pitching.

Now, some of you might be saying, “What about Brooks Conrad, who’s hitting quite well in AAA ball?”  While Conrad is hitting exceptionally well thus far — a .400 batting average, 5 HR and 13 RBI — the season is still young, and Conrad’s lifetime batting average of .229 in three-plus years of playing time isn’t exactly reassuring.**  Conrad, 32, can play a number of positions, which is definitely a plus, and is a credible short-term answer, along with current Brewers utilityman Travis Ishikawa (the latter a strong defensive first baseman).  But a long-term answer, he probably isn’t.

At this point, if I were the Brewers organization, I’d immediately start working Corey Hart out at first base.  I’d have him start playing late innings at the position, to get used to it (this, incidentally, would help keep his big bat in the game in later innings, too).  And until he was ready to play full games at first base, I’d probably divide the playing time between Conrad and Ishikawa as the best available options.

But this season doesn’t look too good right now, not with two substantial, season-ending injuries already in Gamel and pitcher Chris Narveson, which is one reason O’Donnell was panicking tonight on his radio show.  (Bad enough that the Brewers are now 11-14 and just lost a game to former Brewers pitcher Jeff Suppan, now of the Padres, even though Suppan hadn’t pitched in the major leagues since 2010.  Or that Rickie Weeks is only hitting .180 and looks horrid at the plate.)

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Note: For those of you saying, “Well, Barb, you keep extolling Vinny Rottino, and his stats aren’t that great, either!,” here’s my answer: Rottino’s not had a solid chance to play every day, or even every third or fourth day, in the majors.  Conrad has.  ‘Nuff said.

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 2, 2012 at 10:18 pm