Fielder rebuts concerns about slow start
First baseman was 0-for-4 on Saturday with three strikeouts
MILWAUKEE -- Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder did not appreciate a reporter's question Saturday about his "slow start.""Wow. You're already starting with that, huh?" Fielder asked incredulously. "Yeah, slow start I guess."
Fielder went 0-for-4 on Saturday with three strikeouts, but he entered the afternoon with five hits in 14 at-bats for a not-too-shabby .357 batting average. He has not homered in the Brewers' first five games, and he was 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position.Considering Fielder's past Aprils, this is nothing. As a rookie in 2006, Fielder started the year 0-for-11 with seven strikeouts before he hit a bloop, game-winning single to beat the Pirates in the third game of the season. In 2007, he didn't hit his second home run of the season until April 20. In 2008, he didn't homer until his 54th at-bat, snapping the drought on April 17 with a 10th-inning, game-winning home run in St. Louis. Last season, he didn't hit his second homer until April 25. "Even when I had one home run the whole [first] month, I still ended up with 34," he said, referring to his '08 season. "So I should be all right."
-- Adam McCalvy
Escobar is surprise leader in RBIs
MILWAUKEE -- Looking at the Brewers' batting leaders, a surprising name is atop the RBI list: Alcides Escobar.
Better known for his defense, the 23-year-old Venezuelan shortstop has been equally impressive at the plate through Milwaukee's first four games. Escobar is batting .286, with two doubles and four RBIs.
Escobar's run production began Tuesday, in the Brewers' second game against the Rockies. With Milwaukee leading Colorado 6-4 in the eighth inning, Escobar singled down the line in right, scoring Prince Fielder from second.
His three other RBIs came on doubles in each of the past two games. Escobar had an RBI double in the second inning on Wednesday and a two-run double on Friday night in the fourth inning, which gave the Brewers a 3-1 lead.
Even with four RBIs in the past three games, Escobar is not concerned with producing runs.
"I'm never thinking about that," he said. "But that's good, because I'm putting the ball in play."
Although the opposite-field single down the line Tuesday may have been the type of soft hit many would expect from the young shortstop, Escobar's doubles were far more impressive.
Each came on an inside pitch, which Escobar was able to get around on and pull to left. Both times the left fielder appeared to be shading him toward the left-center-field gap.
"If he keeps hitting them down there, they're going to move the guy over," manager Ken Macha said. "[But] handling the fastball at this particular time has not been a problem."
One thing Macha would like to see Escobar improve on is his pitch selection. Having drawn no walks through four games, Escobar's on-base percentage is identical to his batting average.
A .286 on-base percentage is not nearly as high as Macha would like to see out of his young shortstop.
"He puts the ball in play; when he swings, the ball is in play," Macha said. "Hopefully on down the line he'll take a few more pitches, have confidence that he's going to put the ball in play and get his on-base percentage up a little bit."
Brewers' setup men, closer look strong
MILWAUKEE -- If their starters can get through six innings with the lead, it's a pretty safe bet the Brewers will win the game.
Although that was not the case on Friday night when veteran closer Trevor Hoffman allowed a game-winning pinch-hit home run in the ninth, Milwaukee's relievers have been reliable so far when called upon.
In a combined nine innings pitched, relievers Todd Coffey, LaTroy Hawkins and Hoffman have combined to allow just three runs. Plus, the rarity of the two-strike, two-out, two-run home run allowed by Hoffman makes the numbers more impressive.
"He went out there, made his pitch and the guy hit it," Coffey said of Hoffman. "You've got to tip your cap on that one. It's going to happen. But the bullpen as a whole is pitching great right now."
Coffey, a 29-year-old right-hander, has yet to allow a hit in two appearances. He's also walked two -- one of which was intentional -- and struck out a pair.
The fan favorite, who is best known for sprinting from the bullpen when called upon, pitched the fifth and sixth on Wednesday before throwing in the seventh on Friday.
According to manager Ken Macha, the addition of the veteran Hawkins allows him to be more flexible with his options in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings.
Hawkins, 37, began his career in Minnesota and has played with seven teams over 15 years before joining the Brewers for the 2010 season.
With Coffey, Hawkins and Hoffman pitching in the seventh, eighth and ninth, respectively, the Brewers have one of the best back-end bullpen combinations in baseball.
"He's pretty amazing; I think he's better now than he used to be to be honest with you," catcher Gregg Zaun said of Hawkins. "I don't remember his fastball being that explosive. I don't think the batters get a great look at it. He hides the ball pretty well now."
In three innings over three games, Hawkins has struck out six batters while allowing just one hit and one intentional walk.
Hoffman has not been able to see much of what Hawkins has done, but he's happy to have Hawkins setting up in the eighth.
"I think we got a steal in getting him over here, that's for sure," Hoffman said. "Good power arm."
Unusual move works out for Macha
MILWAUKEE -- Brewers manager Ken Macha did something rare on Friday night with veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins pitching in the eighth inning. He put the potential winning run on base by intentionally walking Albert Pujols to get to Matt Holliday.
The move was even more surprising when considering that Holliday was already 3-for-3 on the night while Pujols had been held hitless in three at-bats.
"I haven't done that a whole lot, but I just felt the situation dictated that," Macha said. "You had basically three guys to get one out, and I wasn't going to let the game rest on Pujols."
Macha's move paid off, as Hawkins struck Holliday out swinging on five straight fastballs.
Fielder keeps things light for Wolf
MILWAUKEE -- Randy Wolf was looking forward to his start against the Cardinals on Sunday night, and not just because it offers a chance to improve to 2-0.
"You should hear the things Prince says on the mound," Wolf said after he beat the Rockies on Tuesday, referring to Brewers fun-loving first baseman Prince Fielder. "He's awesome. He's hilarious. After the game I said, 'You're the funniest guy I've ever played with.'"
Could Wolf share any of those Prince-isms?
"Absolutely not," Wolf said with a laugh.
Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.