Macha: Hoffman may get day off
Skipper rethinking options after closer's latest blown save
MILWAUKEE -- After watching Trevor Hoffman throw 23 more pitches on Wednesday while suffering his second blown save in as many days, manager Ken Macha suggested that his struggling closer was due at least a one-day break.
"That's two days in a row for him," Macha said. "[On Thursday], if we have a chance to win it, perhaps it will be somebody else at the end of the game."
The leading candidate would be LaTroy Hawkins, who saved 11 games for the Astros last season as a fill-in for injured closer Jose Valverde. But Macha gave no indication that Hoffman would get anything other than a one-day break to recharge his 42-year-old arm, even though Hoffman has blown as many saves -- four -- in seven opportunities as he had in all of 2009, when Hoffman converted 37-of-41 chances and made the National League All-Star team.
"He's aware of what he's doing and we'll try to get it ironed out," Macha said following the Brewers' 6-5 loss to the Pirates in 14 innings on Wednesday.
Hours earlier, Macha told a story from his managerial past to explain why he's sticking by the veteran Hoffman.
In 2006, Macha's final season managing the A's, veteran slugger Frank Thomas was batting in the .170s into the second week of May, and with a trip looming to Chicago, where Thomas had compiled most of his Hall of Fame-worthy credentials, Oakland officials were considering a change.
"My boss said, 'You'd better sit down and talk to this guy, because it looks like we might have to start platooning him,'" Macha said. "So we had an off-day and were going from west to east, so I had a couple of days to think about it.
"I brought [Thomas] in and asked him how he was feeling, [said] that I didn't want him to put too much pressure on himself because we were going to Chicago and playing the White Sox. That [first night in Chicago], he hit two homers in that game."
That was May 22, 2006, and Thomas batted .302 the rest of the season to finish with 39 home runs and 114 RBIs, finishing fourth in the American League MVP Award balloting.
"He helped us win the division," Macha said. "Then his bat basically won our playoff series [against the Twins]. When you have a guy like that, when does the switch go back on and [they] perform at that level? I never had to tell Frank, 'Hey, we're going to platoon you.' I didn't want to do that because of the respect I had for the player that he is and the accomplishments that he did have."
The same goes for Hoffman, who blew his second consecutive save against the Pirates on Wednesday, allowing a game-tying home run to Ryan Doumit the day after the Bucs catcher hit a grand slam in a five-run inning that sent Hoffman and the Brewers to a 7-3 loss. It was the first grand slam off Hoffman in 18 Major League seasons, and the sixth long ball he's allowed in nine innings this year. In 2009, Hoffman surrendered only two homers in 54 innings.
The closer conundrum occupied the skipper on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. After Tuesday's loss, Macha had chats with pitching coach Rick Peterson and general manager Doug Melvin about the struggling closer. On Wednesday morning, Macha spoke with assistant GM Gord Ash, who thinks the problem is mostly location, and head athletic trainer Roger Caplinger, who assured that Hoffman is in top physical shape, as usual.
Then Macha met with Hoffman himself, behind a closed door in the manager's office about an hour before the Brewers-Pirates series finale.
"Just like I said [Tuesday night], he's done this a lot and he hasn't survived this long without making the adjustments," Macha said. "You have to, as a manager, respect the accomplishments that he's had. Here again, it's, 'How much rope does the guy get?'"
Does Macha have that answer?
"I don't know the answer to that," Macha said.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.