MILWAUKEE -- Prince Fielder has been more selective at the plate recently, which has helped the Brewers' first baseman raise his on-base percentage 34 points from .367 to .401 over the past three games.
Entering Wednesday's game, Fielder had walked eight times -- including four in one game against the Twins -- in the Brewers' past three games and 15 times in the month of May.
Though his power numbers remain down from this point a year ago, Fielder's patience may be an indicator that power is on its way.
"If you continue to swing at balls out of the strike zone, you may get hits here and there, but you're not going to do what you're capable of doing," manager Ken Macha said. "Enlarge the strike zone and your production goes down and the amount of runs that the team scores goes down, because you're not going to score unless you get guys on base."
On the season, Fielder has a team-leading 27 walks. The eight he has drawn over the past three games represents about 30 percent of his total for the year. With 27 walks, Fielder ranks 10th in the National League and is just six behind the leader.
Fielder walked three times on Tuesday night, including one that extended a four-run seventh inning. Though he remains just fourth and fifth on the team in home runs and RBIs, respectively, Macha likes the direction in which his first baseman is heading.
"I'm very encouraged by what Prince is doing," Macha said. "His patience is improving. He's going to start making them get it in the strike zone, and I think it's going to be very beneficial for him."
Zaun has torn labrum in right shoulder
MILWAUKEE -- The diagnosis is in for Brewers catcher Gregg Zaun's shoulder injury, and it's not good. The 39-year-old has a torn labrum in the front of his right shoulder and raised the possibility that the setback could spell the end of his Major League career.Zaun put his chances of playing this season at "50-50." The doctors have recommended conservative treatment for the next two to four weeks, at which time they will re-evaluate his strength and range of motion to decide of surgery is necessary. A surgical fix would sideline Zaun for four to six months. "I'm pretty disappointed," said Zaun, who saw head team physician William Raasch at Miller Park on Tuesday evening. "Things were just starting to roll offensively. ... For this to happen now is just bad timing, as usual." Zaun started the season 0-for-21 but batted .333 over his next 81 at-bats to boost his average to .265 before going on the disabled list. With the 39-year-old on the sidelines, the Brewers are left extremely inexperienced behind the plate. Primary duties figure to go to George Kottaras, who made his 42nd career start on Wednesday night against the Astros. The backup is 23-year-old Jonathan Lucroy, who made his first career start on Tuesday. Zaun's injury dates back to a mid-April collision at home plate with Nationals infielder Ian Desmond. Zaun played through shoulder pain until a second-inning at-bat in Pittsburgh on May 20, when his right hand slipped off the bat on a swinging strike. He felt his shoulder pop out of its socket and then slam back into place, but continued the at-bat and drove in a run with a groundout before exiting. Zaun was placed on the 15-day disabled list the following morning and subsequent tests revealed the torn labrum. He has some big decisions ahead. "I have a couple of questions I have to ask myself," Zaun said. "Do I want to play next year? I can't answer that question at this point right now. I love the game; I'm not sure if I want to continue going through this. "If I make a decision that I'm going to grind this out and do what it takes to play this season, I have to be able to come back as strong as I was before. I don't want to just come back and be a guy who's going to play twice a week with two or three days of rest in between. If I don't see myself coming back to a situation where I can play four or five days in a row and still function normally, I'm going to go ahead and get surgery and at least keep the options open for next year. "I owe it to the organization and my teammates to kind of run through the process and give it every chance to be back out there on the field this year. If the time comes where I feel like it's not going to work for me ... then I have to look toward next year and do the right thing." Zaun will remain at Miller Park next week while the Brewers go on a road trip. By the end of a June 8-13 homestand, he figures to have some answers. He already had labrum surgery once in his career, following the 2000 season. That time, Zaun said, the tear was in the back of his shoulder. Zaun signed a one-year contract with Milwaukee in December that includes a club option for 2011. If the Brewers decline that $2.25 million option, they owe a $250,000 buyout.
Hoffman poised to regain closer duties
MILWAUKEE -- Brewers manager Ken Macha stopped short of making a formal declaration, but it appears he is ready to restore all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman to the closer's role.Hoffman allowed a hit and a walk in a scoreless seventh inning of Wednesday's 5-0 loss to the Astros, his second appearance in three games in a non-save situation. According to baseball-reference.com, it was Hoffman's first appearance earlier than the eighth inning since a seventh-inning stint on Sept. 2, 2003, Hoffman's first game back from shoulder surgery. He also worked a 10-pitch, 1-2-3 inning in Sunday's win at Minnesota, and Macha was asked whether Hoffman, who has 596 career saves, was ready to resume his drive to 600. "We kind of talked about that several times today," Macha said. "We'll see how some things go. That is two good outings in a row, so I'll talk to him [Thursday] and see how he's feeling about himself." Hoffman has not pitched in a save situation since May 18 in Cincinnati, where he surrendered three runs on four hits in his fifth blown save this season without recording an out. He spent the rest of last week working on mechanics with Brewers pitching coach Rick Peterson. Carlos Villanueva went 1-for-2 in save chances and John Axford converted his only opportunity in Hoffman's absence. "We've been having an open conversation. I can't say, 'OK, Trevor is going to be the closer [on Thursday],'" Macha said. "We'll have to work that out with him." In those conversations, Hoffman has indicated that he is much more comfortable with the routine associated with save situations, Macha said.
Hawkins dealing with right shoulder pain
MILWAUKEE -- Brewers reliever LaTroy Hawkins had a cortisone shot in his right shoulder on Tuesday and said he has pain in the joint, not just weakness.He will be completely shut down until Saturday while the cortisone is allowed to work. Hawkins is targeting Monday to resume throwing. "I'm looking forward to be able to do some things -- put on my belt -- without it hurting," he said. "Then we'll start throwing a baseball." The mention of pain was new from Hawkins, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 7 with "right shoulder weakness." That is part of the problem, Hawkins said, and subsequent strength tests have shown improvement. Tests have not revealed any structural damage in the shoulder, Hawkins said.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter and Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.