4/30/2014 1:45 A.M. ET
Roenicke expecting better bunting execution
By Adam McCalvy and Teddy Cahill / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- The Brewers are off to the best start in baseball, but manager Ron Roenicke believes they can be better in certain areas. Bunting is at the top of his list.
The Brewers entered Tuesday tied with Miami for the Major League lead with 15 sacrifice bunts, but that total should be much higher, Roenicke said. He is particularly irked by the number of instances his players have been unable to get a bunt down when the opposing pitcher serves up a fastball.
"I can't imagine missing a bunt on a fastball right down the middle, and not even fouling it?" Roenicke said. "To just flat miss it? That's unbelievable to me. I can see if a guy is [throwing breaking pitches] and it's on the black, OK.
"Some of it is pride, sure. Some of it is the importance [of bunting in today's game]. Put it this way: If I wasn't a good bunter, I wouldn't have stayed in the big leagues as long. Part of the reason I was there is I could bunt. For an extra guy, or a guy who wants to get out there and start every day, they should do little things the best that they can. Today's game, it's just not an important factor."
Roenicke does not know the statistics, but he guessed that the success rate on sacrifice bunts around baseball this season was less than 50 percent. The Brewers bunt off a pitching machine every day during Spring Training, but rarely do so during the regular season.
Roenicke will keep working on it with players.
"All you can do is keep bringing guys out early," he said. "Right now, Eddie [Sedar, the Brewers' third- base coach] has the starting pitchers in the cage bunting. But it's the regulars, too. It's in baseball. For whatever reason, it's part of the game that guys aren't real successful at."
A few hours later, a missed bunt coincidentally worked in the Brewers' favor. Lyle Overbay hit two attempts foul before swinging away with two strikes and delivering the go-ahead single in an 11-inning, 5-4 win over the Cardinals.
Brewers continuing to deal with key injuries
ST. LOUIS -- Brewers manager Ron Roenicke had a quick answer Tuesday afternoon when it was suggested that his starting lineup resembled something from Spring Training.
"Sometimes I made it like that in Spring Training and we went out and scored 10 runs," Roenicke said. "You don't know what's going to happen. Those guys are all hungry to get in there and play."
Ryan Braun (rib cage), Aramis Ramirez (elbow) and Jean Segura (facial laceration) all were out of the lineup and day to day with their various ailments, and catcher Jonathan Lucroy also sat out as a previously scheduled off-day. Roenicke considered altering the Lucroy plan in light of the team's other losses, but he ultimately stuck with it because he wanted to continue pairing Kyle Lohse with backup catcher Martin Maldonado.
That means the Brewers were without their usual 3-4-5 hitters -- in addition to Segura, who started the season batting second before falling recently to eighth. On Tuesday, Scooter Gennett batted third for the second time in his Major League career, and Khris Davis batted cleanup for the fifth time.
The latest on those banged-up Brewers:
• Ramirez was knocked out of Monday's game after being hit by pitches in consecutive innings, first on the left hand and then on the left elbow. The blow to the elbow was more serious, striking just below his protective guard. Ramirez could not fully extend his arm on Tuesday morning, so he called Roenicke and informed the manager he would not be available to play.
"It is unbelievable," Ramirez said. "That's what I wear that guard for, but it hit right below. It got me pretty good. I hope it's just a one-day thing, so hopefully I'll be good [Wednesday]."
It does not help Ramirez that Wednesday's game is scheduled for 12:45 p.m. CT. But by Thursday night in Cincinnati, he expects to be back to full strength.
• Segura, on the shelf since he since he was struck in the face by Braun's bat in the dugout on Saturday, was able to appear as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning Tuesday -- he tried to bunt for a hit and was thrown out -- but remained sidelined from the starting lineup.
Segura hit in the batting cage for the second straight day, and for the first time took some ground balls on the field. He has yet to be cleared by the medical staff for full batting practice, and he won't start for the Brewers until he clears that final hurdle.
The swelling on the right side of Segura's face has declined dramatically in the past few days.
"It's not really painful," Segura said. "My vision is fine. I think I need to still pass a few tests. … You don't want to go out there and have a scare, maybe try to break up a double play and have the cut open up again. I'm going to take my time -- maybe one or two more days -- to be 100 percent."
• Braun stepped out on deck during Monday's extra-inning game, and Roenicke suggested it was more than a decoy. But Braun was still held out of batting practice on Tuesday because of a right rib-cage strain, instead taking swings in the indoor batting cage.
"They can control everything better in there," said Roenicke, who offered no update to a timetable for Braun's return.
Tommy John surgery ends Hellweg's season
ST. LOUIS -- Brewers prospect Johnny Hellweg on Tuesday joined baseball's long list of pitchers to undergo Tommy John surgery, ending his 2014 season.
Hellweg, the No. 7 Brewers prospect according to MLB.com, felt a pop in his right elbow during an April 20 start for Triple-A Nashville and left the game nine pitches later. He was diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament two days later in Milwaukee, and he received a second opinion this week from Dr. James Andrews.
Andrews was to perform Hellweg's surgery on Tuesday. The procedure requires a 12-18 month rehabilitation, usually on the shorter end of that projection for pitchers undergoing the surgery for the first time. In it, the surgeon grafts the torn ligament with a tendon from elsewhere in the body.
Hellweg is the latest professional pitcher dealing with a serious elbow injury this season, including the Rays' Matt Moore and the Yankees' Ivan Nova most recently. Brandon Beachy, Patrick Corbin, Kris Medlen, Jarrod Parker and Jameson Taillon are among those who have already undergone Tommy John surgery in recent weeks.
"I don't know if I'd call it an epidemic, but it's certainly been an injury of note this season," Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash said. "We had two [Tommy John surgeries in the Minor League system] last year. We're probably on the lower number of clubs in this over the last four or five years."
Over the last three years, Milwaukee has had six Tommy John surgeries, all for Minor Leaguers. The most for any other organization in that span is 27 such surgeries, and the fewest is four, according to the Brewers' own research. Milwaukee has the third-lowest number at six. The median is 15.5 and the average is 13.3.
Five clubs, including the Brewers, have not had any Tommy John surgeries for Major Leaguers in that timeframe. Nine other teams have had at least four Major Leaguers undergo the surgery.
Taylor hits for cycle for Class A Brevard County
Outfielder Tyrone Taylor, the Brewers' No. 2 prospect, hit for the cycle Tuesday and Class A Advanced Brevard County defeated Clearwater, 20-0. It was the first cycle in the franchise's 21-year history.
Taylor needed just four at-bats to achieve the feat. He singled in the first inning, tripled in the third, doubled in the fourth and homered in the fifth. He finished the game 5-for-5 with five runs and a walk.
Taylor began the season sluggishly and entered this week hitting .198. But he has broken out in two games against Clearwater. He collected three hits (including a home run) Monday and is now hitting .263 with a .495 slugging percentage. He has three home runs and 11 doubles in 24 games this season.
Aiding Taylor in the Manatees' offensive outburst were fellow Top 20 prospects in shortstop Orlando Arcia and outfielders Victor Roache and Michael Reed. Arcia (No. 4) went 4-for-7 with two doubles and scored three runs. Roache (No. 7) added two hits and a stolen base, while Reed (No. 15) hit his first home run of the season and stole his 13th base.
• The Brewers assigned right-hander Jeremy Jeffress to Triple-A Nashville on Tuesday and wasted no time getting him in a game. Jeffress, a former first-round Draft pick who re-signed with Milwaukee two weeks ago after stints with the Royals and Blue Jays, worked 1 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing one hit and two walks with three strikeouts. The Sounds' radio broadcaster reported that Jeffress touched 97 mph.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.