3/12/2014 8:55 P.M. ET
Gorzelanny progressing; Opening Day in question
Brewers assessing options if left-handed reliever not ready
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Brewers left-hander Tom Gorzelanny is making steady progress in his return from offseason shoulder surgery, but is running out of time to be game-ready by Opening Day, manager Ron Roenicke conceded Wednesday.
Left-handers Wei-Chung Wang, a Rule 5 Draft pick, and Zach Duke, a non-roster invitee, could be particularly impacted if Gorzelanny begins the season on the 15-day disabled list. He underwent what the club described as a "cleanup" procedure in early December and graduated on Wednesday to throwing from 150 feet on flat ground.
"He's still a ways away [from pitching in a game]," Roenicke said. "It doesn't look real good [unless] something happens to where he comes around really fast. I don't think [he's going to miss Opening Day] by a lot, unless there's setbacks, but we're pushing it a little."
The Brewers already have one lefty pegged for the bullpen in Will Smith, who was acquired from Kansas City during the offseason. A second southpaw would give Roenicke the sort of flexibility he enjoyed for a brief period in 2013, when Gorzelanny and Mike Gonzalez were both pitching effectively.
Duke and Wang each have their positives.
Duke found success as a situational left-hander with the Reds during the latter portion of last season, posting a 0.84 ERA in 14 appearances, and would be valuable during early days of the regular season that see the Brewers face the Braves (with left-handed hitters Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward), Red Sox (David Ortiz) and Phillies (Domonic Brown, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley).
Wang would be more of a long-term investment. Brewers scouts liked his arm enough to select him from Pittsburgh in December's Rule 5 Draft, even though Wang is 21, missed all of 2012 while recovering from Tommy John surgery and pitched at the rookie-league level in 2013. By rule, the Brewers would have to keep Wang in the Major Leagues all season or offer him back to the Pirates. If he can throw strikes, Roenicke said last week, Wang could work as a middle relief option.
"It's hard to talk about all these things because so much changes," Roenicke said. "We spend a lot of energy talking about stuff that we can wait and talk about."
Of Wang's composure, Roenicke said, "it's just personalities. Everybody is different. His personality is, it doesn't seem like [pressure] is going to affect him. It may later, I don't know. Right now, I don't see it."
Weeks happily 'free' after hamstring pops
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks felt a pop in the same left hamstring that required season-ending surgery last August -- and was grinning ear-to-ear afterward.
This time, the pop was a good thing. According to Weeks, it was scar tissue breaking free.
"I've been waiting for that," Weeks said. "It's just free now, basically."
Weeks had singled with one out in the inning to boost his Cactus League batting average to .368. He motored all the way home on Jonathan Lucroy's double and scored on a headfirst slide, but appeared to labor halfway between third base and the plate.
He exited the game in the next half inning, but insisted this was no setback.
"It was a little knot back there, basically," Weeks said. "On that one, I knew I had to 'bust it,' and I stretched out and it just released. It kind of scared me a little bit, and then the last three steps I was like, 'Oh, I feel good.'
"It's a great thing, for sure. Now I'm good. … Now that I've had that release, I can keep strengthening it more and more, and just keep working through it."
The 31-year-old is entering the final guaranteed season of his contract after batting .209 last year and missing the final six weeks of the season following surgery. He reported to camp at full health to battle Scooter Gennett for starting duties at second base.
Hellweg, De La Torre join list of camp cuts
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Brewers optioned Johnny Hellweg and outrighted Jose De La Torre to Triple-A Nashville on Wednesday, continuing a very busy week of camp cuts.
Hellweg, No. 3 on MLB.com's list of the top Brewers prospects, and De La Torre, plucked off waivers from the Red Sox last fall, were the 13th and 14th players sent to Minor League camp or released since Monday afternoon. Their departure left 43 players, including 21 pitchers, to vie for 25 spots on the Opening Day roster.
His Cactus League numbers -- three innings, six earned runs on eight hits including a pair of homers -- say Hellweg's Spring Training was a scuffle.
"Yeah, if you look at numbers," manager Ron Roenicke said. "I was actually happy with the way he threw the ball. His last two outings, he really got after it, and that's what we were trying to get him to do, instead of the pacing, and your good stuff doesn't show up until the third, fourth, fifth inning. Try to get him to come out and really get after it, and he did. Plus, he's trying to quicken his delivery, and he did."
Hellweg was the 2013 Pacific Coast League pitcher of the year but struggled to a 6.75 ERA in seven starts and one relief appearance for the Brewers. He can he brought up and sent down throughout 2014, but will be out of Minor League options next year.
Of the players released earlier in the week, none impressed more than 23-year-old outfielder Mitch Haniger, who batted .500 (5-for-10) with a home run, five RBIs, two walks and only one strikeout in his first big league camp.
"I told him the whole idea when you come into big league camp and you're not a guy who has a legitimate chance to make a team, you try to impress somebody," Roenicke said. "And I told him, 'You impressed everybody here.' That's perfect for a guy coming in like he did. Who knows? You start off great, and you never know what's going to happen.
"The mental side is really good, and he's a really well-rounded player. He's a good defender, great arm. Offensively, he's a guy that makes adjustments, will put the ball in play when he has to, but he also drives the ball really well."
Haniger, a supplemental first-round pick in 2012 (as compensation for losing Prince Fielder in free agency) topped out at advanced Class A Wisconsin in 2013.
With De La Torre's removal, the Brewers' 40-man roster stands at 39 players.
• Kyle Lohse threw 60 pitches over four innings in a morning intrasquad game at Maryvale Baseball Park as the Brewers further aligned their pitching rotation. Roenicke, however, still was not prepared to name his Opening Day starter.
• Minor League coach Al LeBoeuf was showered with hugs and handshakes when he visited big league camp on Wednesday. LeBoeuf is returning to a regular role in the organization after fighting cancer for the last year and a half.
He had a stem cell transplant on Dec. 23, and was cancer-free as of Jan. 6.
"I golfed nine holes before coming down here, my first nine holes in two years," said LeBouef, whose battle began when he felt numbness in his legs while playing golf. "I shot a 47, but I couldn't have cared less if I shot a 147. I'm just happy to be here."
LeBoeuf will serve as the hitting coach for the Arizona League Brewers this season.