3/18/2014 7:25 P.M. ET
Stats aside, Brewers pitchers making 'progress'
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- No matter what the numbers say, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke still believes his club possesses an improved pitching staff.
Entering Tuesday's games, Milwaukee ranked 28th of the 30 Major League teams -- and 14th of the 15 clubs that play in the Cactus League -- with a 5.55 ERA in exhibition play. Many of the teams on the bottom half of the list spend spring in Arizona, where dry air, "high" skies and rock-hard infields can play against pitching.
"If I see progress, that's good for me," Roenicke said. "If I look at numbers, I'm not going to be pleased."
But, he said, "I see progress."
"I think I'm seeing some things we like from 'Yo' [Yovani Gallardo], I'm seeing a lot of good things we like from Kyle [Lohse], though we know what happened with the inning [on Monday, when Lohse was having trouble with the mound]. [Wily] Peralta has been outstanding, except for when he loses command at times.
"But when these guys are throwing strikes and they're throwing down in the zone like they want to, they all succeed."
Right-hander Marco Estrada helped lower the Brewers' staff ERA on Tuesday afternoon by working six sharp scoreless innings in a 9-3 win over the Rangers, running his personal scoreless streak to 12 innings. He threw 80 pitches.
"I felt good, could have gone back out," Estrada said. "That's the most important thing, that my stamina is up."
One struggling pitcher of note is closer Jim Henderson, who surrendered four runs on four hard hits in an inning against the White Sox on Monday in a rally that could have been cut short at one run had right fielder Irving Falu made a tricky catch at the wall.
Henderson has surrendered six earned runs on eight hits in his first five spring innings, with three walks and four strikeouts. He has been trying to incorporate a changeup to his fastball-slider combination.
"He's not where he needs to be, so we're going to try to figure that out," Roenicke said. "Location and stuff. He's a very deceptive guy in the way he throws, and you still see 95, 96 [mph], and hitters say it looks like 100 [mph] because of the deception he has. He's still trying to figure it out."
Despite upheld calls, Roenicke likes replay
PHOENIX -- Brewers manager Ron Roenicke fell to 0-for-5 in challenges on Tuesday after expressing satisfaction earlier in the day with the way Major League Baseball is implementing expanded replay.
Roenicke's latest challenge came in the second inning against the Rangers, when Texas' Engel Beltre bunted for a hit, with Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez's throw pulling first baseman Mark Reynolds off the bag, per first-base umpire Kerwin Danley.
It was the sixth time that a manager challenged a call at Maryvale Baseball Park this spring, and all six times (including Roenicke's five challenges), the call has been upheld. Roenicke said Tuesday morning that he expects the ratio to be more balanced during the regular season, when more and higher-quality cameras are used for television broadcasts.
Of the replay system in general, Roenicke said, "I definitely feel more comfortable. Even some of the games that aren't replay, there are plays that come up that we talk about, and we feel comfortable that in the season, I would go out and either ask them to look at it or I would challenge the play."
Brewers coach John Shelby will be stationed in the video room at Miller Park monitoring replays and signaling to the bench when a challenge is in order. The system will not be fully up and running until the Brewers' March 31 Opening Day game against the Braves.
Another big rule change in baseball still needs clarification, Roenicke said. He senses some confusion among the umpires about changes governing collisions at home plate.
"I'm not comfortable with it, because I don't have a clear answer on that," Roenicke said. "I've asked different umpires, they don't have a clear answer on it. So I need to get some answers on that.
"I don't know if a guy is blocking the plate without the ball -- he can't do that, right? So if he's doing that, and he's sitting in front of home plate, I told our guys I don't want them running over the catcher. He's sitting in front of the plate without the ball, he's illegally blocking the plate, and our guy slides wide and doesn't run over the catcher and that's the only place he has to go, and they catch the ball and tag him out because he's gone wide, can they call that [runner] safe? We've heard yes and we've heard no. So I need an answer to it."
Gomez could land leadoff spot in Brewers' lineup
PHOENIX -- Center fielder Carlos Gomez led off for a second straight game on Tuesday, as the Brewers continued mulling options for that important position in the batting order.
Manager Ron Roenicke needs a replacement for outfielder Norichika Aoki, who was traded to the Royals over the winter after batting leadoff for most of the past two seasons. He left a void, since the Brewers' stolen-base threats -- Gomez and shortstop Jean Segura -- do not work many walks. Second baseman Rickie Weeks has extensive experience hitting leadoff, but he appears destined to platoon with Scooter Gennett.
"They're swingers," Roenicke said. "They swing the bat. Their on-base [percentage] is basically a little bit above their batting average. So 'Gomey' causes problems because, for one, he's scary to start a game against, and then second, if he gets on base, he can steal bases. 'Siggy,' the same way. He can steal bases. Rickie has probably a little better on-base, but he doesn't run like the other two, and neither does Scooter. ...
"That's why we're putting Gomez there, to see what it looks like. As much as you tell guys, 'Just be yourself. We're moving you in the order, but don't change anything,' there's still something about that leadoff spot that they change. I understand that, so that's why we're wanting to see it. If Carlos can go out and be the guy he was in the six-spot [in 2013], then he fits that."
Roenicke liked what he saw in the Brewers' 9-3 win over the Rangers on Tuesday afternoon, when Gomez hit a three-run home run in the fifth inning after helping to manufacture a run in the fourth. He doubled in that inning, moved to third on a Segura groundout, then scored on a Ryan Braun groundout for a 1-0 Brewers lead.
"'Siggy' did a nice job of getting him over, and then you get a ground ball from Ryan and you've got a point," Roenicke said. "That's how it's set up anyway. You hope it works that way a lot. I still don't know. We'll continue to see how it looks and figure out what we want to do."
If Segura is the pick to lead off, catcher Jonathan Lucroy could bat second and Gomez could move to fifth. If Gomez leads off, Segura would probably bat second and Lucroy would hit fifth.
Roenicke said "it would be nice having a clear picture going into the season what we're going to do, rather than the day before or two days before."
Exhibition vs. Wisconsin-Milwaukee set for '15 spring
PHOENIX -- The Brewers announced plans to host the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's baseball team for an exhibition game at Maryvale Baseball Park during Spring Training next year. It will be the Brewers' first exhibition against a college team since they played Arizona State University in 1983.
"This game will be great for baseball in the state of Wisconsin," said Brewers president and general manager Doug Melvin. "It's a good opportunity for our organization to support the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee program, and will give our players a chance to connect with some of the state's top young amateur talent."
The UWM Panthers play regular-season games each year at Miller Park and have produced five First-Year Player Draft picks in the past three seasons, including right-hander Josh Uhen, Milwaukee's first-round pick last year. He was the highest Draft pick in school history.
• The Brewers removed first baseman/outfielder Sean Halton from the 40-man roster on Tuesday by assigning him outright to Triple-A Nashville. There are now 38 players on the roster, leaving space in the event non-roster players in camp like first basemen Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay or relievers Zach Duke and Donovan Hand make the team.
• Thursday is Tyler Thornburg's regular day to start, but the Brewers are considering using him in relief instead, lending further credence to the notion that the club is looking at the right-hander for a spot in the Opening Day bullpen. If Thornburg doesn't start, the nod could go to Francisco Rodriguez or Wei-Chung Wang.
• The Brewers announced that their Class A Wisconsin club would play its annual regular-season game at Miller Park on May 24 against Beloit. Game time is set for 6:10 p.m. CT, and tickets ($10 for field diamond box and $5 for all other locations) will go on sale at Brewers.com at 9 a.m. CT on Wednesday.