4/10/2013 1:09 A.M. ET
Axford not surprised by Brewers' bullpen shuffle
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- Erstwhile Brewers closer John Axford said he was not surprised when manager Ron Roenicke approached him in the outfield during batting practice Monday and said he was getting a break from that role.
Disappointed, yes. Surprised, no.
"Not entirely, no," Axford said Tuesday afternoon, before his latest loss. "The way things have gone, it's a difficult position for Ron and Rick [Kranitz, Milwaukee's pitching coach] to be in, especially with where our team is at and going 1-5 coming into yesterday. It's difficult to have somebody at the back end of the game who hasn't really had success in the three outings he's had so far. He might as well try to get that person back to where they need to be, back in the right state of mind, back in the right state out there on the mound, and get someone in who's had some success in the last three games and get things back on track."
That is Roenicke's aim. He billed the switch to Jim Henderson, like Axford a Canadian right-hander, as temporary, and compared it to a similar situation last July. Axford was removed from closer duty for about a month, regained his command and confidence, then converted 17 of 18 save chances to close the season.
He felt just as good in Spring Training but is off to a terrible start to the regular season that continued in Tuesday's 6-3 loss to the Cubs. Axford escaped a jam in the seventh but surrendered a double and two walks in the eighth and watched all three runners score. In four outings, he had two losses, one blown save and a 24.30 ERA.
"I'm not mad about the situation," Axford said before Tuesday's game. "It's my situation that I put myself into. Obviously, it would be better if the results were better and I didn't have to be in this position, but it was three games in a row. It wasn't like it was like 2011 -- at the beginning of that year it was about a month that I struggled, but there would be a few good games followed by a bad game, and then things started clicking and everything was good. This was two bad games, then kind of a good inning [on Sunday against the D-backs] followed by a bad inning. Three outings in a row. It's a difficult spot to put myself in and the coaches in.
"Obviously, I'm mad at myself. I expect a lot out of myself. I expect more out of myself. I also expect myself to overcome this and pitch better than what I have."
Roenicke intended to use Axford in less stressful innings for an uncertain period of time, though that plan was pushed back Tuesday when Axford entered a tie game in the seventh inning with the tying run at second base. Henderson gets the first crack at closer duties in Axford's absence, starting with a tense but successful save against the Cubs on Monday.
"Hopefully he runs away with it, and takes advantage like I did in that situation [in 2010]," Axford said. "You never know. It could work out great that way."
Narveson to miss 4-6 weeks with sprained finger
CHICAGO -- Brewers left-hander Chris Narveson expects to miss four to six weeks with the sprained middle finger that sent him to the disabled list Monday.
He was injured throwing a curveball in the bullpen before a one-inning outing against the Rockies on Saturday. Narveson got through that inning, but his finger swelled up afterward.
"I felt a pop, just like a knuckle pop," he said. "It started stiffening up, and I couldn't really grip anything that whole inning. The last inning I pitched I was sitting there like, 'This isn't right.' So I got back, said something to the trainers, and they thought maybe it was just inflammation."
An MRI scan Monday morning revealed the sprain -- technically a slight tear to a ligament in Narveson's finger.
"It's one of those freak things," Narveson said. "I guess they find it a lot in rock climbers."
They also found it in Ben Sheets' right middle finger back in 2007. He exited a July 14 game against the Rockies saying he was unable to grip the baseball and did not return until the next Aug. 29.
The injury represents tough luck for Narveson, who made only two starts last season before sustaining a season-ending shoulder injury. He had a procedure last May 1 to repair a torn labrum and torn rotator cuff and was healthy this spring. The Brewers opted to put him in a long relief role to begin the season so he could ease the shoulder back into action.
"That was the thing, it was just getting to the point where you're getting comfortable, getting ramped up," Narveson said. "And the next thing you know, something like that happens. Who knows? Maybe it's a blessing in disguise. It kind of gives you a little bit of a rest."
Hart's return pushed to late May, early June
CHICAGO -- Rehabbing Brewers first baseman Corey Hart's move to the 60-day disabled list made sense, assistant general manager Gord Ash said, because Hart was making steady but slow progress in his recovery from right knee surgery.
As a result of the move from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL, Hart is not eligible to return to active duty until May 30. Back in Spring Training, Hart spoke of returning much earlier than that. But in a recent injury report, "he was talking about it being late May/early June himself," Ash said.
Hart is still strengthening his surgically repaired right knee. He has yet to get on a treadmill.
"Given what he is saying now about his recovery, [the 60-day DL] seems to be more appropriate," Ash said. "I talked to him [on Monday], and he concurs that's a reasonable timeframe, which is what the doctors said all along. The doctor indicated he felt [Hart would be ready at] the end of May, and now Corey is saying the same thing. We didn't want to make that move initially, just in case, but obviously now we have to."
The Brewers had to make the move because they needed to clear space on their full 40-man roster for catcher/first baseman Blake Lalli, who was promoted Tuesday to re-balance the Brewers' bench.
Fiers reports for Brewers bullpen duty
CHICAGO -- After one shaky start, Brewers right-hander Mike Fiers reported for his first day of bullpen duty Tuesday.
The Brewers will proceed with only four starting pitchers for most of April. A series of off-days means they will not need a fifth starter again until April 20 against the Cubs. They can then go with four starters again until April 30 against the Pirates.
"With [Fiers] back there, it gives us length and it gives us a guy we feel can give us one good inning," manager Ron Roenicke said. "I've told him just be ready for anything. I told him, I think [his role] kind of depends on how he throws the first couple of times. If he comes out and is throwing strikes, yeah, I think he could [pitch] a little later."
Fiers surrendered six earned runs on nine hits in five innings of a loss to the D-backs on Saturday.
Gomez apologizes for outburst
CHICAGO -- Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez called home Monday night and was scolded by his young son. Yandel, who turns 4 next month, had been watching the Brewers-Cubs game on television and was not happy when dad snapped his bat in half over his knee after a seventh-inning strikeout.
"¡Feo!," Yandel said.
"He said, 'Why are you mad?' It's so ugly. It's not good,'" Gomez said Tuesday, after his emotions had cooled. "I felt bad, because a lot of kids follow me, a lot of kids look at me like a role model and I should not have done this. ... I don't want kids to go and do the same stuff."
So Gomez took to Twitter and issued an apology.
"I want to apologize to everyone for my actions today, sometimes you get caught in the heat of the moment," he tweeted. "I always try to be a good example and carry myself and uniform in a professional way, again I am truly sorry for my actions today."
• Infielder Taylor Green, on the 15-day DL with a left hip labrum injury, had another setback during fielding drills Monday, Ash said.
"He hopefully was going to play [Wednesday], but it doesn't look like it's going to be the case right now," Ash said.
• Right-hander Mark Rogers touched 92 mph in an extended spring training start Monday and will begin a gradual transition to relief. His bid for the Brewers' Opening Day roster was ruined by a case of dead arm that sapped the life from Rogers' 95-97 mph fastball.
The Brewers still see Rogers as a starter longterm. But because his most immediate path to this year's team is in relief, they will give it a try.
• Shortstop Jean Segura doubled and scored a run in his first plate appearance Tuesday against the Cubs, but he had to get through batting practice without issue before the team's athletic trainers cleared him to play. Segura exited Sunday's game against Arizona and did not play Monday because of a deep left thigh bruise.
• Roenicke said Lalli could see a start at first base in the coming days against a tough right-handed pitcher because the Brewers' other options for that injury-plagued position -- Alex Gonzalez, Yuniesky Betancourt and Martin Maldonado -- are right-handed hitters.
Circle Saturday on the calendar. That right-handed trio is a combined 1-for-20 against scheduled Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright.
• The Rockies have called to gauge the Brewers' interest in right-hander Aaron Harang, but Milwaukee officials do not think Harang is a good match for Miller Park.