MILWAUKEE -- By this time last year, Francisco Rodriguez knew his days with the Mets were numbered. The team was scuffling, and he was a free agent-to-be drawing a large salary from a franchise looking to cut costs.Rodriguez's hunch came true when he was traded to the Brewers the night of the All-Star Game, and he is back in Milwaukee this year after accepting arbitration. But once again Rodriguez pitches for a team that is scuffling, and once again he is a free agent-to-be drawing a large salary from a franchise that pushed its payroll to new heights this season. And if the Brewers don't start winning games in bunches, they may opt to cut salary and add prospects. Rodriguez is holding out hope that he'll finish the season in a Brewers uniform. "We're still there," Rodriguez said. "We haven't played our game yet at the level we're supposed to. We're not too far away, but obviously, we have to get back to .500. That's the main thing. After that, we'll see what's going to happen." Last year was different. "There were so many rumors out, and I had a feeling," Rodriguez said. "Big contract, everything that had happened in the past. I was sure [I would be traded], but not sure. I was insecure. The rumors even started in Spring Training, all the way through the first half of the season." The deal that sent Rodriguez to Milwaukee went down early in the trading period, more than two weeks before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Rodriguez re-signed with the Brewers for $8 million after surprising them in December by accepting an arbitration offer. Such one-year deals do not include any no-trade protection. When a player has some no-trade rights, Rodriguez said, "You feel like you have some control of your future right there. In this case, not. But I just have to do my job in the field and not worry about things I cannot control." Rodriguez was frustrated with his performance earlier this season, particularly after he absorbed a loss in San Diego on May 1. But in the first 12 outings after that loss, he allowed only two earned runs, struck out 12 batters versus three walks, and logged six holds.
He had a letdown on Thursday, when Cubs pinch-hitter Bryan LaHair hit a go-ahead two-run homer off him in the eighth inning, but the Brewers came back to win in the 10th, 4-3."I've pitched a lot better," Rodriguez said before his outing. "The first month was pretty rough for me, but my release point has been a little more consistent lately, and I'm pitching more. The more I pitch, the better I feel." Rodriguez remains stuck on 292 career saves, having logged his only one in a Brewers uniform back in April, as he is serving as a setup man for closer John Axford. Rodriguez would like to close at his next stop, but that is not his focus now. "I just want to be patient," he said. "Sooner or later, somebody is going to give me an opportunity."
Hart, Ishikawa trading experience, expertise
MILWAUKEE -- Corey Hart and Travis Ishikawa have been trading expertise lately -- Ishikawa on playing first base, Hart on dealing with a nagging rib-cage injury.On Thursday morning, Ishikawa took his first swings since the Brewers placed him on the disabled list with a strained left oblique, but he remains a long way from reinstatement.
In Ishikawa's absence, the Brewers have called on Hart to play a significant amount of first base. It's Hart's original position, but one he has not played regularly since 2002."He's done great," Ishikawa said. "To go nine years in between playing there? Last year, in Triple-A, I did 10 games straight in the outfield and then went to first base. I felt uncomfortable. To go nine years, I can't even imagine what that would feel like. And he's handled himself great over there." The Brewers have resisted naming Hart the everyday first baseman, instead bouncing him between there and right field. Hart started at first on Thursday for the ninth time. Ishikawa, an above-average defender, has been there to answer the occasional question from Hart about playing first base. Hart, in turn, has relayed his experience with a strained oblique, an injury sustained in Spring Training 2011. Hart came back too early from the injury, to his detriment, so Ishikawa is trying to be patient. He somehow played through the injury for about a week before finally going on the DL on May 27. "It just got to point where I couldn't even play catch anymore without shooting pains," Ishikawa said. "After that Arizona game [on May 25], I knew when I was getting straight heaters down the middle and all I could do was foul them off. I was taking pitches, and it hurt worse to take than it did to swing, so that's when I knew I'm not doing myself or the team any favors trying to play through this."
Aramis out of lineup for fourth consecutive game
MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers were without their cleanup hitter for a fourth consecutive game on Thursday after Aramis Ramirez was not given clearance from the medical staff to play with a strained left quadriceps.Ramirez, hurt during Saturday's game against the Pirates, tested his leg on the field about two hours before the Cubs-Brewers series finale. After a long talk with head athletic trainer Dan Wright, he retreated to the clubhouse, and shortly thereafter a Ramirez-less lineup was posted. "The side-to-side stuff, he's fine. He's moving well for that. It's the straight-on running that's holding him back," said manager Ron Roenicke, who had two lineups ready to go, one with Ramirez and one without. The Brewers are exercising extreme caution with Ramirez. The team has been decimated by injuries, with seven players on the disabled list as of Thursday morning, including three key players (first baseman Mat Gamel, shortstop Alex Gonzalez and pitcher Chris Narveson) who are out for the season. "You know what's going on, we can't afford to lose [Ramirez] for a long time," Roenicke said. In the meantime, writing the lineup has become a full-time job. "Every day there's something that we're waiting on or trying to figure out who to play," Roenicke said. "It's getting complicated."
Shortstop Alex Gonzalez will go home to Miami in the coming days to begin rehabbing from surgery on his right knee. His wife, Johanna, gave birth to a baby girl in April. Gonzalez will be a free agent after the season, assuming the Brewers decline his $4 million option. Former Brewers All-Star Don Money turned 65 on Thursday, and television broadcaster Brian Anderson turned 41.