Notes: Top prospects visit Miller Park
Mench trying to adjust; Cordero shutting down opponents
MILWAUKEE -- Yovani Gallardo looked plenty comfortable when he took batting practice alongside the current Milwaukee Brewers pitching staff."He hit like .400," said Ryan Braun, Gallardo's teammate at Double-A Huntsville for much of the 2006 season, referring to Gallardo's performance with the Stars. He hit .429, to be exact, with nine singles and four RBIs in 21 at-bats with Huntsville. Of course, the Brewers are banking on most of the offense coming from Braun in the coming years, perhaps occasionally backing a strong pitching performance from Gallardo. Third baseman Braun and right-hander Gallardo were both on hand at Miller Park on Saturday to accept the 2006 Robin Yount Performance Award as the Brewers' Minor League player and pitcher of the year. "I was really nervous to come to this," Gallardo said. "Actually, this is the first time being here at this stadium, so it's a good experience." Gallardo split his Minor League season virtually down the middle between Class A Brevard County and Huntsville, working just one-third of an inning fewer at the latter location. He went 6-3 with a 2.20 ERA over 77 2/3 innings at Class A and managed to improve that at the next level, going 5-2 with a 1.63 ERA and holding opponents to a .185 batting average. "Whenever I went out there, I just tried to do the same thing I was doing all year down in Florida," Gallardo said. "Maybe I was more aggressive, which is how they want me to be against a little bit better hitters." Overall for the season, opposing batters hit just .192 against him and struck out 188 times in 155 innings of work. The second-round choice in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft joined Braun as Florida State League All-Stars for their work at Class A, and both participated in the XM Satellite All-Star Futures Game in Pittsburgh during All-Star weekend. Braun, who also performed well at Double-A following his promotion and guided the Huntsville offense into the Southern League championship series, will be one of seven players in the organization slated to see action in the prestigious Arizona Fall League. Milwaukee's first-round choice in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft hit a combined .289 in 2006 with 22 home runs, 77 RBIs and 26 stolen bases in 118 games. "It's an honor, obviously, considering our organization is pretty talented," Braun said. "For each of us to be recognized as the top player in the organization of this caliber is definitely quite an honor." Both players lingered in the dugout before the game and spent time with the team during warmups. For Braun, the opportunity offered a chance to watch Giants slugger Barry Bonds park batting-practice baseballs in the left-field bleachers. "He's the greatest hitter of our generation, if not all time, so getting to watch him up close is pretty special," Braun said. Legends in the fall: Following Friday's game, in which Bonds went deep for the 733rd time, tying Hank Aaron's record for most home runs in the National League, the future Hall of Famer said it was nice to get the record in the city where Aaron spent many years. "It's a big deal because it's the National League -- it's the only league I've ever been in," Bonds said. "It's a new ballpark, though, and it would have been cool in the old ballpark because it was actually where he played. Nevertheless, it's still in Milwaukee, so it's nice." Aaron hit 22 home runs from 1975-76 as a Milwaukee Brewer, his only years in the American League during a career that lasted 23 seasons. He hit 398 home runs during his 12 seasons with the Milwaukee Braves. Special Mench-ion: Friday marked a strong game for outfielder Kevin Mench, who went 3-for-3 with a double and three RBIs in Milwaukee's wild 13-12 win over the Giants. It was only the fifth multihit game for Mench since he joined the Brewers, with whom he has struggled in hitting .231 with just one home run. "You don't turn the corner in one ballgame," Brewers manager Ned Yost said. "I keep hearing a lot of people that have watched him in the past say we haven't seen the real Kevin Mench yet. In his defense, it's hard to come into a new league with a new team." Mench had gone a career-long 109 at-bats without a home run entering Saturday, though his three-hit night snapped a string of 11 hits in his previous 71 at-bats (.155). He hit .284 with the Texas Rangers this season before coming to Milwaukee as part of a deadline exchange for Carlos Lee. Still cuckoo for Coco: After earning his 14th save in as many tries Friday, closer Francisco Cordero has now won or saved 17 of the team's 23 wins since arriving via that deal for Lee. He entered Saturday without a blown save and just one earned run allowed since donning a Brewers uniform. "Once the game starts, my mind's thinking how can we get to Frankie in the ninth inning?" Yost said. It seems a foregone conclusion that the team will pick up his option for the 2007 season, worth $5 million. "That option doesn't scare me," Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said. "Providing guys stay healthy ... that's why you always wait until the end of the year to pick them up. He's done real well for us. I've always liked his arm, and he struggled in April, but he's done really well ever since." Up next: Ben Sheets (5-7, 4.21 ERA) has an identical record as the Brewers have playing in "Retro Sunday" uniforms this season. The team will look to improve on both fronts in the final home game of the season, with the Giants offering Matt Cain (13-10, 3.99)
JR Radcliffe is a contributor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.