Notes: Braun off to a fast start
Rookie third baseman emerging as offensive threat
PITTSBURGH -- When a Minor League player in just his third professional season gets called up the Majors, it's natural to expect him to get off to a rough start.
Manager Ned Yost expected the opposite for third baseman Ryan Braun. He inserted him into the third spot in the order and has seen the dividends pay off.
Braun hit the ground running, and has batted .347 with eight home runs and 29 RBIs in 36 starts at third base. Yost has no doubts that Braun will compete for National League Rookie of the Year, and said one of Braun's biggest strengths is his intelligence at the plate and his ability to put a good at-bat together.
"He's got a lot of confidence in his abilities," Yost said. "He's not just up there swinging, he's got a good idea of what he's trying to do."
Braun flashed the power and the savvy at the plate Yost referred to against the Pirates on Wednesday. Braun drilled a hanging slider from Ian Snell out of the park for a three-run home run after he kept himself in the at-bat by fouling off four pitches.
Braun said that even though he has gotten off to a strong start, he knows he hasn't learned all he needs to have continued success in the Major Leagues. He said that while the numbers don't show it, he is still getting used to life in the Major Leagues.
"I feel like I'm still in an adjustment phase," Braun said. "I'm still learning every day. Obviously I've never faced any of these pitchers, and guys here obviously have much better stuff than they did in the Minor Leagues. You try to make adjustments as quickly as possible, and as long as I do that, I feel like I'll continue to have success."
Hart's streak: Corey Hart's 20-game hitting streak is the fourth-longest in Brewers history, and the longest since Paul Molitor had a franchise-record 39-game hitting streak in 1987. As the streak continues to grow, Hart continues to dismiss its importance.
He said worrying about things like a hitting streak, which doesn't affect the team's success, is pointless, and would only make him lose focus.
"I don't think about it too much," Hart said. "It's not something I have to do, or try to do."
Hart has been walking a tight rope in July, as he has kept the streak alive by recording a single hit in each of his last four games. But, as so many of his hits have been this season, each has been productive. He came around to score in each game, and hit an RBI double on Monday and a solo home run on Sunday.
Hart said that while he feels fine at the plate right now, he doesn't feel as good as he did earlier in the season.
"I feel like I'm seeing the ball OK, but I'm not locked in or anything," Hart said. "I've felt a lot better this year."
Fielder rests: One thing has been constant for the Brewers this season -- Prince Fielder has stepped onto the diamond every day. That will likely not happen on Thursday, as Yost gave Fielder the day off. Fielder had started 82 games and came off the bench in the other two.
Yost said he didn't plan to use Fielder, and the slugger would see playing time only in "the direst of dire emergencies."
"He just needs a good day off," Yost said. "It's not fair to keep giving him half-days off."
Tony Graffanino replaced Fielder in the starting lineup. Graffanino has been all over the infield in his career, but had played just 42 games at first. He has, however, been a pleasant surprise defensively at first for Yost since he came to the Brewers last season.
"I knew he was a good fielder," Yost said. "He's just like a natural over there, though."
Miller starts again: Damian Miller started for the second time in four games on Thursday. He had been on a tear in his previous two games, going 7-for-10 with three home runs and 11 RBIs.
He said that after his 4-for-5 performance that included his sixth career grand slam on Monday, he hoped to have similar success, but set the bar a little lower.
"I'll just settle for one hit," Miller said. "That'd be nice."
Long layoff: Setup man Derrick Turnbow and closer Francisco Cordero haven't pitched since Friday, but Yost said he didn't plan on getting them work if the situation didn't call for it.
Yost said the stretch of inaction comes with the job -- as do stretches of pitching days in a row in tight games.
"I like it better worrying about wearing them out than I do having them sitting down there," Yost said.
Around the horn: Yost said he has not decided how the Brew Crew's rotation will form after the All-Star break. He said one important issue would be if Ben Sheets pitches in the All-Star Game, something Yost said he expects. ... J.J. Hardy returned to the lineup on Thursday after missing time on Tuesday because of a stomach virus and having a scheduled off-day on Wednesday. ... Kevin Mench started in place of Geoff Jenkins on Thursday with left-hander Tom Gorzelanny on the mound for the Pirates.
On deck: The Brewers finish off the first half with a three-game series at Washington this weekend. Brewers righty Dave Bush (6-7, 5.11 ERA) will take on Mike Bacsik (2-5, 4.65 ERA) in the opener on Friday. First pitch is scheduled for 6.05 p.m. CT.
Jeremy Anders is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.