MILWAUKEE -- The pride of Whitefish Bay, Wis. was appreciative of another big ovation from Brewers fans on Sunday. But Craig Counsell will approach his winter of free agency just like he has every other."I'm a free agent, I'm going to take the best offer," Counsell said. "A lot of things go into the best offer. That's the easiest way to put it." One of those things in the past has been the opportunity to play close to his suburban Milwaukee home. Counsell was born in South Bend, Ind., but grew up in Whitefish Bay. His dad worked in the Brewers' front office. But Counsell, who turned 40 last month, also wants an opportunity to win a third World Series ring. If another contender makes a better offer, he will take it. He has yet to have any conversations with Brewers officials about returning in 2011. Counsell is batting .251 in 199 at-bats, often as a fill-in for rookie shortstop Alcides Escobar against the game's top starting pitchers. Manager Ken Macha made sure Counsell was in the starting lineup for Sunday's home finale. The veteran went 2-for-4 with an RBI in the Brewers' 7-1 win. "I think he's had a great year," Macha said. "Particularly his defense, there's been, like, absolutely no deterioration whatsoever. He still runs good, throws good, his range is OK, he plays all the positions and he loves the game." Counsell isn't happy with his numbers, but he decided at some point over the summer that he would return for a 16th Major League season in 2011. "I still think I can add something," Counsell said. Those fans hope he's back in a Brewers uniform. "Every time I go up there, they cheer way too loud," Counsell said with a smile. "It's like they're expecting something unbelievable."
Fielder's Brewers future in limbo
MILWAUKEE -- Did Prince Fielder play his final home game in a Brewers uniform on Sunday? Even the slugger himself isn't sure.The Brewers' biggest offseason questions revolve around Fielder, who is under club control for one more year before reaching free agency after the 2011 season. Do they trade him this winter to maximize his value, perhaps for a starting pitcher? Do they hold him for the start of '11, then shop him ahead of the Trade Deadline if the team gets off to a slow start? Or do they simply keep him through the end of his arbitration seasons and risk losing him for only Draft picks in return? Whatever the answer, expect Fielder's name to appear early and often in offseason trade rumors. He's not sure what to expect. "I don't know. I really wish I could tell you 100 percent," Fielder said. "That's out of my control. Anything can happen, so I'm just taking it like every other offseason." He supplied the home fans with one last highlight in Sunday's 7-1 win over the Marlins, a long solo homer amid a four-run outburst in the third inning. After Fielder drew a walk in the bottom of the eighth in what might prove his final plate appearance as a Brewer at Miller Park, he was replaced by a pinch-runner amid another huge ovation and then a curtain call. Fielder went to the top step of the dugout and raised his batting helmet in the air. He said the fans' sendoff, if that's what it ends up being, was "cool." "They pumped me up a little bit," Fielder said. "I appreciate the love they gave me." "Everybody understands the situation, him included," said teammate Ryan Braun. "I feel so fortunate to have had him hitting behind me for my first four years in the Major Leagues. I know that, personally, I wouldn't have been able to accomplish a lot of the things that I've done without him hitting behind me. For us as a team, he's been one of the greatest players in the history of the franchise in the short time he's been here." The Brewers engaged Fielder's agent, Scott Boras, in discussions about a contract extension earlier this year, but were reportedly spurned after offering a deal in the neighborhood of five years and $100 million. There are no indications that those talks will be revived. Asked whether he thought those discussions would be re-started, Fielder conceded, "probably not." He is comfortable with the way the discussion has been handled by both sides. "It's a business," he said. "Sometimes, business can't be handled right away." Milwaukee's first-round Draft pick in 2002 has been remarkably productive in his five-plus seasons in the Major Leagues. Fielder set a Brewers record with 50 home runs in 2007, helped lead the team to the National League Wild Card in '08 and then set another franchise record and tied for the Major League lead with 141 RBIs in '09. This season has been more trying for Fielder, who is hitting .267 with 32 home runs, 80 RBIs and a .230 average with runners in scoring position. But he's kept his on-base percentage high at .403 thanks to 106 walks, most in the NL. Teams were often content to work around Fielder and tangle with No. 5 hitter Casey McGehee, who has cashed in with 99 RBIs. "I look back at Spring Training, and apparently there were contract negotiations and things like that, and that fell through," manager Ken Macha said of Fielder. "Emotions go through people that maybe affect what you're doing out there. "Being able to accept that they're not going to throw you a pitch, for somebody that's relatively young, and wanting to do some things to get the contract that you want, sometimes gets you out of the game you should be playing." Fielder assessed his own year. "I'm on pace to play 161 games, so that's good. Unfortunately, I got sick one day," he said. "If I'm healthy, then that's a good year. Maybe not for the team, but personally. That's my goal, to be healthy and give us a chance." Fielder spoke while packing the belongings of his locker into a big box to be shipped home to Orlando, Fla. "It's no different than any offseason time," Fielder said. "The wife is back, packing up the apartment. It's just time to go home. ... It was great here. I had great times, met a lot of great friends and teammates. Now we'll see what happens."
Capuano finishes strong, despite early exit
MILWAUKEE -- The good news for Chris Capuano was that his left elbow, the subject of two Tommy John surgeries, was feeling better than ever. The bad news was that Capuano's comeback season probably ended with him walking off the field Sunday with an athletic trainer at his side.Capuano's start against the Marlins in the Brewers' home finale, scheduled to be his last start this season, was cut short when he tweaked a left groin muscle that's been bothering him for weeks. Capuano settled for six very strong innings in a 7-1 win that capped an inspiring comeback from two years lost to injury. "I told myself I wanted to finish this year healthy and in the starting rotation, and I'm happy and I feel blessed that my arm feels absolutely great," he said. "A lot of good things came from this year for me." Sunday marked Capuano's fourth consecutive quality start -- an outing of at least six innings with three or fewer earned runs. At 72 pitches through the end of the sixth, he had allowed only one Marlins run on four hits, and he appeared poised to pitch seven full innings for only the second time this season. But that groin injury, for which Capuano has received daily treatment from the medical staff, started acting up after he dove for a batted ball in the bottom of the sixth. After a discussion with assistant athletic trainer Dan Wright, manager Ken Macha called for reliever Brandon Kintzler. "I kind of felt it grab a little bit," Capuano said. "I saw the doctor and it actually feels pretty good right now. I knew it was going to bug me a little bit for the rest of this year, because it's one of those things that won't go away until you rest it." Now he'll have plenty of time. An 18-game winner for the Brewers in 2006 and an All-Star in '07, Capuano re-injured his surgically-repaired left elbow during Spring Training in '08, and didn't pitch again in the Majors until this June. He is a free agent for the first time after this season and has yet to consider where he will begin '11. "I haven't talked to my agent about it, haven't really talked to my family about it," Capuano said. "This year, [after] having a setback in Spring Training, the goal was to get back to the big leagues and feel healthy. I haven't thought about being in this position yet. We'll go home, talk about it and see what our options are."
Macha must wait to learn managerial future
MILWAUKEE -- It appears the Brewers will play out the season amid managerial uncertainty. General manager Doug Melvin said he's not planning to make public his plans for manager Ken Macha until after the Brewers throw their final pitch and take their final swings of 2010."I'll make all decisions after the season," Melvin said. "Within a few days after the season." The situation is inherently different than 2009, when Melvin declared before the season's final game that Macha would be back for the second year of his contract, and then added a club option for 2011 onto Macha's deal to give him some stability. Now Macha is in something of a state of limbo after a second straight losing season. The Brewers are 73-82 entering the season's final week. Asked how Macha had performed this year, Melvin said, "We'll make all of our evaluations at the end of the season. We've had the injuries taking place with the ballclub. I think Ken is a very sharp baseball guy, a very solid baseball guy."