MILWAUKEE -- In the short term, the Brewers needed a fresh arm to help simulate at-bats for returning second baseman Rickie Weeks. In the long term, the team obviously sees right-hander Mike Fiers as a part of its future.Those concurrent factors delivered Fiers to the big leagues on Saturday, when the Brewers purchased his contract from Triple-A Nashville. He threw a 35-pitch session to Weeks, and will be available in the bullpen beginning Tuesday against the Rockies. "This has been my dream since Day 1," Fiers said. Fiers is coming off a breakthrough season split between Double-A Huntsville and Triple-A Nashville in which he pitched -- Fiers' fastball often sits in the high 80s -- his way to a 13-3 record with a 1.86 ERA in 18 starts and 16 relief appearances. At Nashville, the Brewers' top Minor League affiliate, he was simply sensational, going 8-0 with a 1.11 ERA mostly as a starter, including a three-hit shutout on Aug. 30. The Brewers' faith in his future was telegraphed in the timing of the callup to Milwaukee. Fiers, 26, a 22nd-round Draft pick in 2009, did not have to be protected on the 40-man roster until after the 2012 season. By adding him Saturday, the Brewers started his clock. "He just went out there this year and did some dealing," said Don Money, Fiers' manager at Triple-A Nashville. "He throws all of his pitches over for strikes. He's not an overly hard thrower, but I always talk to the third basemen, and they say, 'This guy is pretty good. I can't see his ball.'" Fiers did not see the promotion coming. He pitched Nashville's season finale on Monday, then drove home to south Florida on Tuesday and began his offseason. On Friday morning, Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash called and told him to repack and catch a flight to Milwaukee. He credited his 2011 success in part to a new pitch, the cut fastball suggested by Brewers Minor League pitching coordinator Lee Tunnell last fall. Fiers began working on the pitch in the Arizona Fall League. "I kept gaining confidence with it and it became one of my pitches to go to," Fiers said.
Weeks makes return as pinch-hitter
MILWAUKEE -- Rickie Weeks was back in the batter's box for the Brewers on Saturday night, and he will probably be back in the starting lineup on Sunday.Weeks took live batting practice from right-handed pitching prospect Mike Fiers on Saturday afternoon, a tune-up for his seventh-inning plate appearance against Cliff Lee in what would become a 10-inning, 3-2 Brewers loss. Weeks, greeted by a standing ovation from a sold-out crowd at Miller Park, worked a walk from Lee in a rally that would fizzle. "I didn't hear at first," Weeks said. "I did my usual [routine] before I got to the plate, but after that I heard the crowd cheering and everything like that. I really appreciate that. That's why you work hard to get back, to help your team win." Is he ready to play? "I'm competitive, so I'm not going to try to go up there and make excuses," he said. "I'm going up to try and get some hits." Before Saturday, Weeks had not seen a real pitch since a Carlos Zambrano fastball in the second inning of a July 27 win over the Cubs. Weeks bounced that pitch to shortstop and beat out an infield hit, but severely sprained his left ankle on the play and was forced to the disabled list. He was activated from the DL on Thursday, but did not see action in the Brewers' first two games against the Phillies. Manager Ron Roenicke did not want Weeks' first live pitch in six weeks to come from Phillies aces Cole Hamels or Roy Halladay. The team solved that problem by promoting Fiers on Saturday, and then Roenicke inserted Weeks in the seventh inning to face Lee in a key spot. The Brewers hope Weeks can help boost an offense that has wilted under the heat of some top National League arms. Halladay came within one inning Friday of pitching the third consecutive complete game by a Brewers opponent. "A lot of these games where the offense kind of stalls a bit and we're scoring two or three [runs], he's got a chance to make that maybe five runs," Roenicke said before Saturday's game. "He's a guy that, when people are on base, he's got a chance to pick up those runs that a lot of times we don't get." Roenicke said his plan is likely to have Weeks bat in the two-hole on Sunday and play four or five innings. Weeks would then gradually work up to playing all nine innings. Roenicke intimated that Weeks eventually would bat fifth or sixth, and not as the Brewers' leadoff man. Right fielder Corey Hart has been hitting leadoff since Weeks got hurt. "We'll see how the at-bats go, how many balls he has to really run around for," Roenicke said. "It all depends on how the ankle is. If the ankle holds up and it's not really sore after playing some innings, he's going to come along quick. The ankle, being on it and having to take off on every ball that's hit hard, I don't know how that's going to go." In Weeks' case, it helps that the Brewers have an off-day Monday and another on Thursday, Roenicke said.
Roenicke will have options at shortstop
MILWAUKEE -- Second baseman Rickie Weeks' imminent return to the Brewers' lineup will mean less playing time for shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt, unless Betancourt can snap out of another deep slump.Manager Ron Roenicke said he may begin using Jerry Hairston Jr. at shortstop when Weeks works his way closer to full strength. The versatile Hairston, acquired July 30 from the Nationals, has so far helped the Brewers cover second base and center field in the wake of injuries to Weeks and Carlos Gomez. Now, Gomez is back and Weeks is very close. That frees Hairston to play elsewhere, and the Brewers' biggest need is shortstop, where Betancourt has impressed the team with his defense but entered Saturday night with a .167 batting average, a .191 on-base percentage and eight RBIs over his previous 24 games. Before that, Betrancourt had been hot. He hit .369 with a .385 on-base percentage and 21 RBIs in his first 28 games after the All-Star break. Hairston has played 145 big league games at shortstop. "If Jerry's real hot and we slip him in there and he does a nice job, we'll see how it looks," Roenicke said. "Hopefully, Yuni gets hot and we won't have to worry about that." Betancourt is 3-for-20 this season with the bases loaded, including a double-play grounder in a huge spot against the Phillies' Roy Halladay on Friday night. Betancourt swung at a first pitch and sent it to shortstop. Was the first-pitch swing frustrating in that instance? "Yes," Roenicke said. "That's about all I want to go with that."