7/1/2013 11:51 P.M. ET
Aoki will be free agent at end of current contract
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
WASHINGTON -- Contrary to previous reporting, and with potential implications for the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, outfielder Norichika Aoki will be a free agent when his contract expires after this season or next.
A club official had told MLB.com that Aoki's two-year contract, which runs through the end of 2013 and has a $1.5 million option for 2014, did not include language calling for the Brewers to release him when that deal is up. Under that scenario, assuming the Brewers exercised his '14 option (a near certainty, considering Aoki's successful transition to the U.S. Major Leagues and reasonable price tag), Aoki would have had three years of arbitration-eligibility. from 2015 ro 2017. and would have remained Brewers property.
But that is not the case, according to Aoki's agent, Nez Balelo of CAA Sports, and assistant general manager Gord Ash, who double-checked the language in the contract on Monday. The contract stipulated that Aoki will be an untethered free agent at the end of his deal, whether or not the Brewers exercise their option.
That is common practice for such players making the jump from Japan to the U.S. as Aoki, who was a three-time batting champion for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows. That team posted Aoki in December 2011, and the Brewers won negotiating rights with a $2.5 million bid, then signed him to a two-year deal that guaranteed $2.5 million plus incentives.
Aoki, 31, entered Monday batting .284 with a .362 on-base percentage, 43 runs and nine stolen bases. Considering he is, at most, a season and a half from free agency, and that the Brewers are expected to be sellers at the Trade Deadline, he could be an appealing trade chip. General manager Doug Melvin has already fielded calls about his relievers, including right-handers John Axford and Francisco Rodriguez, and has indicated an openness to making trades with an eye toward the future.
The Brewers have a strong stable of outfield prospects, including Logan Schafer, who began the season as a Major League reserve but has been playing regularly with left fielder Ryan Braun on the disabled list, and Triple-A Nashville's Khris Davis, Caleb Gindl and Josh Prince. Davis and Gindl are each on MLB.com's list of the top 20 Brewers prospects (Davis at No. 14 and Gindl at No. 16), as are Double-A Huntsville's Kentrail Davis (No. 19), Class A Advanced Brevard County's Mitch Haniger (No. 10) and Class A Wisconsin's Victor Roache (No. 7) and Tyrone Taylor (No. 13).
Roenicke insists Brewers haven't quit
WASHINGTON -- Manager Ron Roenicke forcefully disputed the latest Major League scout to criticize the Brewers' hustle, insisting he's seen no signs of quit despite his team's spot in the National League Central cellar.
Roenicke made his comments in response to a column by FoxSports.com's Ken Rosenthal, who quoted an anonymous scout as saying, "There's a lot of quit on that team."
Last month another scout offered similar criticism to CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman.
"I don't see it," Roenicke said. "I see sometimes that a guy isn't running down to first base hard. A couple of guys I've told not to. We had one [injury] blowout last year because of it, and Aramis [Ramirez], I just flat-out tell he can't do it. But there's some other guys once in a while that don't run hard down to first base.
"Other than that, whoever makes that comment [doesn't] know what they're talking about, because we're still getting after it the way I think we should. Whenever you do not score runs, it always looks like you've got no energy. Offense brings energy. It brings it to the dugout. So when you don't score runs, I don't care what team it is in baseball, you can look at every single one of them, if they get shut out and you watch the bench during the game, you'll say, 'Hey, they didn't have any energy.'"
The anonymous criticism irks Roenicke.
"There's nothing to it," he said. "If there was something to it, believe me, I would have meetings about it. I haven't had to do that, which I think is really good, as bad as we are playing. I'm glad these guys are still trying to get after it, going out and playing hard every day. We've got a lot of guys banged up who won't come out of the lineup. They need to [rest], and they're still wanting to play every day. For the people who don't know these things, they have no idea what they're talking about."
Hellweg's next start pushed back
WASHINGTON -- The Brewers shuffled their rotation in light of Sunday's rainy, marathon loss to the Pirates, bumping prospect Johnny Hellweg to temporary relief duty and re-inserting Kyle Lohse in Hellweg's place.
Lohse will now start against the Nationals on Wednesday, three days after his Sunday start in Pittsburgh was cut short by rain after 1 2/3 innings. Thursday's starter has yet to be determined, with manager Ron Roenicke saying it would either be Hellweg or the previously scheduled Donovan Hand.
Hellweg pitched the eighth inning of Monday's 10-5 loss to the Nationals, and if Hand stays on schedule for Thursday, then Hellweg would work on Friday at home against the Mets and make one fewer start before the All-Star break.
"There's still an innings thing that we need to worry about with Hellweg, and who we match up against comes into play sometimes," Roenicke said. "[The Nationals] have some pretty good left-handers in this lineup. So some of that definitely comes into the conversation.
"The most important thing is to get this guy confident, and the only way for him to do that is to success. So, what's better for him? Pitching here Thursday or pitching Friday, back at our place? Donnie Hand, I'm very confident in. Donnie, I don't care who it's against, I don't care what ballpark it is, I have a lot of confidence in him. He throws strikes, he's got great offspeed pitches. But the other guy we have to be concerned about."
Hellweg pitched a perfect first inning in his Major League debut, on Friday in Pittsburgh, before allowing seven runs (five earned) on six hits while recording only two outs in the second inning. He is eager to start again.
"I'm ready to go back out there," Hellweg said. "I kind of left a bad taste in everyone's mouth the last time they saw me. I want to get out and show what I can do."
He did not have to wait. With the Brewers trailing, 8-5, in the eighth inning on Monday and the rest of the bullpen taxed, Hellweg made his first Major League relief appearance. He surrendered two runs, one of which was unearned because of shortstop Jean Segura's error, but he topped 96 mph from the start of his outing.
"I know things didn't turn out for Hellweg, but I really like the way he threw the ball," Roenicke said. "He attacked the guys. He showed his best stuff, and we didn't make some plays behind him."
• All seven home clubs active on Monday's Major League schedule held a moment of silence to honor the memory of 19 elite firefighters who died in Arizona on Sunday battling a horrific blaze. All but one were members of the Prescott (Ariz.) Granite Mountain Hotshots, a unit trained to fight the most severe wildfires. The Brewers and Nationals lined up in front of their respective dugouts before the national anthem and bowed their heads in silence.
• Manager Ron Roenicke said that shortstop Jean Segura, who has started all but three of the team's games this season, would get a break on Tuesday or Wednesday. Segura has been fighting a minor injury to his thumb, said Roenicke, who did not specify which thumb.
"He's always on the ground, he's always diving around," Roenicke said. "He brings energy to a team. It's hard to take him out of there, because the energy he brings and the way he plays -- he's a great player. But somewhere, whether it's [Tuesday or Wednesday], he's going to get a day."
• The bullpen was in dire need of help after Sunday, when Tyler Thornburg took over after a rain delay of two hours and 20 minutes and worked five shutout innings, Brandon Kintzler pitched three innings and Francisco Rodriguez two. Asked who was available for Monday night, Roenicke smiled and began rattling off position players -- Sean Halton, Logan Schafer, Carlos Gomez and Martin Maldonado.
He was not kidding.
"That's where we are," he said. "It needs to be someone who has been on the rubber and has figured out a windup. It can't be a guy who says, 'Yeah, I pitched in Little League.'"
• Second baseman Rickie Weeks was named the Brewers' player of the month for May in a vote of club officials, broadcasters and beat writers, and Kyle Lohse was named the pitcher of the month.