7/24/2013 9:06 P.M. ET
Axford to remember K-Rod's impact on Crew
By Adam McCalvy and Kevin Massoth / MLB.com
MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers will miss more than Francisco Rodriguez's perfect save percentage and 1.09 ERA, former teammate John Axford and manager Ron Roencike said.
The Brewers traded Rodriguez to Baltimore on Tuesday night for third-base prospect Nicky Delmonico in the first of what could be a series of moves ahead of next week's nonwaiver Trade Deadline. Alfredo Figaro was reinstated from the disabled list Wednesday to take Rodriguez's spot on the roster, and Axford and Jim Henderson will take over closer duties.
"I don't really think it's a coincidence that since he's been on this team, I've thrown my best, in all honesty," Axford said. "He's helped me a lot this year. He's helped me a lot in the past. I'm definitely going to remember the last few years, especially the shutdown season we had in 2011 in the second half."
The Brewers acquired Rodriguez the night of the 2011 All-Star Game, let him walk in free agency after 2012, then re-signed him to a Minor League deal this April when Rodriguez was still looking for work. He earned a promotion to the Majors in May and claimed the closer's role in June, going 10-for-10 in save chances and finally reaching the 300-saves plateau.
The Brewers promoted Rodriguez on May 15, the day Axford, whose blown save the night before had boosted his ERA to 9.20, began a club-record-tying streak of 23 appearances without allowing an earned run.
"I honestly don't think that's a coincidence," Axford said. "He's been a tremendous help and a great supporter to me."
"Most people in baseball don't understand what Frankie does down in the bullpen other than coming out and pitching," Roenicke said.
Roenicke and Rodriguez go back to 2002, when Rodriguez was a rookie sensation for the world-champion Angels, and Roenicke was on that team's coaching staff.
"Frankie has been a leader down there for a long time," Roenicke said. "When I was with him with the Angels, he was the guy that kept that group together there. I mean getting them prepared and telling the young guys what they needed to do, and who they're going to come in and face. That knowledge and experience ... was big here, also. That will be missed."
Roenicke reiterated Wednesday that he would use both Axford and Henderson in save situations, and perhaps left-hander Michael Gonzalez on occasion (assuming Gonzalez, another free agent-to-be is not traded).
"And then if one of them is going to be lights-out, he's going to do that job more," Roenicke said.
Schlesinger: No single player defines Brewers
MILWAUKEE -- Brewers COO Rick Schlesinger said club officials had reached out to "a good number" of sponsors and season seatholders in the 48 hours after Ryan Braun's season-ending suspension in an effort to gauge public sentiment and begin planning for the offseason.
"The feedback has been highly supportive and understanding," Schlesinger said in an email Wednesday. "Our partners understand that the brand is much bigger than any single issue or player. We are very appreciative of the support and loyalty of our partners as we move forward through what obviously is a challenging time."
Chief among the challenges is the fact Braun is the face of the franchise, with seven seasons and more than $125 million left on his club-record contract. His image is prominent around Miller Park, and as of Wednesday it was believed there were no plans to change that.
On Monday, he acknowledged "mistakes" and accepted a suspension for the Brewers' remaining 65 games for violations of Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
"Monday's announcement was difficult for everyone who loves the Brewers, including all of the members of the front office," Schlesinger said. "However, we are focused on moving forward and providing the best experience for our fans and partners for the balance of the season. No single incident, problem or player defines the Brewers, and this is a challenge that we will overcome. We cannot say enough great things about our fans, season seatholders and corporate and community partners. Their support and loyalty is greatly appreciated."
Several players have made similar overtures, including Rickie Weeks, who was part of a previously scheduled season-seatholder luncheon Tuesday, and catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who addressed fans directly at the end of his weekly radio hit on Milwaukee's SportsRadio 1250 WSSP.
"I want to say one more thing," Lucroy said. "I wanted to make sure [fans] understand we still have guys on this team who are playing. We want you to come out and watch us, come out and support us. Honestly, we need that. ... I want to make sure people understand we need them in a pretty tough time."
Hand sore but expects to make next start
MILWAUKEE -- Brewers starter Donovan Hand threw lightly Wednesday, one day after getting hit in the hand by a 97-mph fastball, and said he expected to make his next start.
Hand took a third-inning Tyson Ross fastball to his hand while squaring around to bunt Tuesday and departed after throwing four innings because he could not grip the ball the way he wanted to -- something he said improved a bit Wednesday.
"He's sore today, but talking to the doctor and talking to [head athletic trainer] Dan Wright, I think he's going to be able to make his next start," manager Ron Roenicke said. "If he can't, that's going to be a little tricky."
The Brewers said X-rays were negative and that Hand was day to day after the game, but Hand was encouraged by his light throwing session. His next start is scheduled for Sunday at Colorado.
"I don't see anything holding me back," Hand said. "From this morning when I woke up to now, it's already made progress. Just keep progressing every day and see where I'm at at the end of it."
Hand just felt lucky to walk away with nothing worse than some swelling and soreness.
"Ninety-seven [mph] to the hand is not very comfortable," he said. "I was thinking I was fortunate to get out of the way. It's just a big bruise and some soreness. It's not broke, so hopefully it'll heal fast. But when it first happened I had a bad feeling."
Figaro back in Brewers' bullpen
MILWAUKEE -- Alfredo Figaro rejoined the Brewers on Wednesday after a month-long stay on the disabled list with a right oblique strain.
The right-hander jumps back into the Brewers' bullpen after making just one rehab start, with rookie-level Arizona on Monday. He threw 2 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing one hit and striking out four. Figaro insisted he was ready to pitch as soon as Milwaukee needed him.
"I'm ready whenever they need me; I'm ready," Figaro said.
Figaro first aggravated his right oblique after colliding with Marlins catcher Rob Brantly on June 12. He made two more starts with the Brewers but was placed on the 15-day DL and sent to rehab in Arizona on June 25. It was a longer and slower recovery than anticipated.
"Nothing you can do, because it's not like there's not any treatment," Figaro said. "Just take your time, just try and heal and get better. To me, It's not like an elbow or shoulder. It's bad because you can't even throw; you can't reach."
Figaro joins a bullpen that lost it closer, Francisco Rodriguez, in a trade to the Orioles on Tuesday. Figaro said the team did not discuss his role with him yet but that he was open to whatever they had planned.
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said he would test the closing waters with Jim Henderson and John Axford -- each of whom closed for the team earlier this season -- and possibly use Michael Gonzalez in the ninth against left-handed hitters.
Roenicke had said reliever Tyler Thornburg would drop back down to Triple-A Nashville with Figaro's return, but Rodriguez's departure opened another roster spot.
• With Logan Schafer out of the lineup Wednesday, Roenicke boosted Weeks to the leadoff spot and moved Norichika Aoki down to the two-hole in an effort to spark a struggling offense that was missing its projected third, fourth and fifth hitters.
Roenicke said he was "trying to push this lineup to get the guys where I think they are comfortable or have a better chance to succeed."
Caleb Gindl manned left field Wednesday over Schafer, Roenicke said, because he felt Gindl had been having the better recent at-bats.
• Khris Davis on Tuesday became the fifth Brewers player to hit his first Major League home run in 2013, joining Jean Segura, Scooter Gennett, Caleb Gindl, Logan Schafer and Sean Halton.
"There's been a lot happening this year," Roenicke said, "and unfortunately it's hard to be consistent when you have all this stuff going on."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. Kevin Massoth is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.