5/11/2014 8:02 P.M. ET
Smith credits slider for saving career
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
MILWAUKEE -- Brewers reliever Will Smith's best pitch is a relatively new pitch. He didn't start throwing what has become his so-called "Slider of Death" until 2011 at Double-A Northwest Arkansas.
"It's saved my career," Smith said. "I wouldn't say I was stalling out, but every start was an absolute grind."
Smith was a starting pitcher in the Royals' system then, using a fastball, curveball, changeup combo. He had briefly thrown sliders in high school, but they hurt his arm, so he stopped. Royals pitching coordinator Bill Fischer and Northwest Arkansas pitching coach Larry Carter thought he'd grown enough by 2011 to try again.
Smith was game, and he canvassed the clubhouse asking other pitchers about their grips. He found one he liked from left-handed reliever Kevin Chapman, who is now in Triple-A with the Astros.
Smith is in the Major Leagues with Milwaukee, a key piece of the Brewers' setup puzzle. His perfect eighth inning on Saturday left Smith with a 0.55 ERA in 19 appearances, and 24 strikeouts in 16 1/3 innings. Left-handed batters, particularly susceptible to that slider, had struck out 13 times in 24 at-bats.
"It was probably last year that I was finally comfortable with it," Smith said. "Going to the 'pen probably helped me throw it sharper and harder. I'm pretty confident now, whether it's a left-hander or a right-hander."
Aramis headed to DL; Brewers mulling options
MILWAUKEE -- Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez's strained left hamstring will send him to the disabled list before Tuesday's game against the Pirates, and club officials were still discussing options Sunday for a corresponding roster move -- or moves.
The outcome will depend on whether right fielder Ryan Braun is ready to return from a stint on the DL for a right rib-cage strain. That seemed likely on Sunday, when Braun took full batting practice again and the session "went great," according to manager Ron Roenicke.
The Brewers would have liked to see Braun play a Minor League game before making a formal move, but weather worries at Class A Wisconsin on Monday and travel issues for the other affiliates made that challenging. Braun will instead report to Miller Park for treatment.
"We're hoping he checks out well [Monday] and then we can activate him Tuesday," Roenicke said.
In that scenario, Mark Reynolds and Jeff Bianchi could fill in at third base during Ramirez's absence. Braun has avoided making predictions about his availability for Tuesday, saying, "I'm just trying to get the most out of each day. It's still progressing. Definitely heading in the right direction. It's not going to disappear overnight."
If Braun needs more time, the Brewers would have to call up utility man Elian Herrera from Triple-A Nashville. The switch-hitter has already played a stint in the big leagues this season.
Further complicating matters is the uncertain status of center fielder Carlos Gomez, who had an appeal hearing for his three-game suspension on Friday. The Brewers anticipate a ruling from Major League Baseball on Monday or Tuesday, and even if Braun is back, the team may consider adding Herrera to help fill the lineup with right-handed bats against left-handed Pirates pitchers for Wednesday and Thursday.
All of the personnel shuffling gave Roenicke an uncomfortable sense of déjà vu on Sunday. Last season, he routinely scrambled to fill out a lineup card because of injuries to key middle-of-the-order hitters.
"When I was writing up the lineup today, yes," Roenicke said when asked about the comparison. "It was a tough one today."
Still, for all their issues, the Brewers are 24-14 after Sunday's 6-5 win, and they will enjoy Monday's off-day with at least a five-game lead in the National League Central.
"It's huge, health is huge," Roenicke said. "We'll get through this period, hopefully get everybody at the same time, but we got to get through this period playing good baseball. Our pitching, I think, is good enough to do that. We've just got to figure out with scrapping some runs [together]. Hopefully, we get through it."
Roenicke said there was no timetable for Ramirez's recovery. On Saturday night, Ramirez indicated this was his first hamstring injury in a career that spans parts of 17 Major League seasons.
Gomez dyes goatee as Brewers go pink
MILWAUKEE -- No less an authority on style, Derek Jeter liked the look. But what possessed Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez to dye his goatee pink for Mother's Day?
It was essentially on a dare from his wife, Gerandy.
"She doesn't like when I have color on my face, and I said, 'You know what? I'm going to have a pink beard.'" Gomez said after the Brewers' 6-5 win. "She said, 'No you're not.' I said, 'OK, watch.'"
Sure enough, Gomez applied the color himself on Sunday, when players from both teams swung special bats and otherwise adorned themselves in pink as part of Major League Baseball's annual tribute to moms.
What did Gerandy Gomez say when she saw the result?
"'You're crazy,'" Carlos relayed with a laugh.
He added: "I said it's for the other moms. They're going to see it as something cool, and they appreciate it. It's not for me, it's for every mom from the United States. It's not Mother's Day in the Dominican, but it means a lot for me. It's a special day because it's the day seven years ago I got called up. Every Mother's Day is special because it's when I celebrate my callup."
Jeter got a close-up look before the game, when Gomez and Ryan Braun presented Jeter with gifts from the Brewers during a ceremony honoring Jeter's impending retirement.
"He told me, 'If I had face hair, I'd do the same thing,'" Gomez said. "It's really cool."
Gomez was one of four Brewers starters who swung pink bats in the game, with Lyle Overbay, Khris Davis and Jean Segura. Overbay's mom always asks for a home run on Mother's Day, and he always dutifully tries to deliver.
"I think I hit a few before they started having the pink bats," Overbay said. "But since they debuted the pink ones, I don't know if I even have any hits."
He finished 1-for-5 on Sunday and said he likes the tradition. Overbay wore pink in part to honor his stepmother, who has fought breast cancer in the past.
"It started with the bats, and it's taken on a life of its own," he said, noting the abundance of pink batting gloves, armbands and cleats adorning players on Sunday. "I think it's great to raise awareness of breast cancer. All of this stuff is auctioned off for a great cause."
Even players who did not swing pink bats on Sunday against the Yankees got into the action. Starter Marco Estrada and third baseman Mark Reynolds were among those wearing pink cleats. Catcher Martin Maldonado may have had the most complete get-up -- catching gear accented with pink from head to toe.
On his chest protector, Maldonado inscribed his mother's initials: JVA. Janette Valdez Ayala still plays a significant role in his life, encouraging her son to begin an annual Three King's Day charitable event in Puerto Rico.
"She's been everything," Maldonado said. "She's done so much for me since I was a little kid."
The pink bats used in Sunday's game will be auctioned at MLB.com to benefit the league's breast cancer awareness initiatives.
Bronze bat among Jeter's gifts from Brewers
MILWAUKEE -- Brewers reliever Rob Wooten bounced around the clubhouse Sunday morning like a little kid. He'd just received a baseball signed by retiring Yankee Derek Jeter.
"Everything he does represents the good and right way," Wooten said. "He's a guy you model your game after, even though I'm not a shortstop. On the field, off the field, he's a role model for all of us."
Wooten and the rest of the Brewers lined the dugout rail before Sunday's Brewers-Yankees series finale for a brief ceremony honoring Jeter's contributions.
Brewers outfielders Ryan Braun and Carlos Gomez, principal owner Mark Attanasio and his wife, Debbie, plus general manager Doug Melvin and special assistant Dick Groch were on the field to shower Jeter with gifts. Groch was the Yankees' scout who recommended and then signed Jeter in 1992.
The gifts included a bronze replica of Jeter's Louisville Slugger bat, a stay at the prestigious American Club and a round of golf at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wis.
The Attanasios, on behalf of the Brewers Community Foundation, also made a $10,000 donation to Jeter's Turn 2 Foundation, which supports programs that motivate young people to turn away from drugs and alcohol and toward healthy lifestyles.
Public address announcer Robb Edwards said, "Congratulations, Derek. May you enjoy retirement as much as we enjoyed your professionalism and play on the field."
In a nice touch introducing Jeter's first at-bat, the Brewers used audio from the late, great Yankee Stadium public address announcer Bob Sheppard.