7/8/2014 8:18 P.M. ET
Brewers fan has unforgettable day at Miller Park
By Caitlin Swieca / MLB.com
MILWAUKEE -- One Brewers fan was treated to the experience of a lifetime Tuesday as the winner of the team's "Welcome to the Big Leagues" promotion, a part of the Brewers' "Fan-Tastic Forty" offseason program that rewards renewing season-ticket holders.
Sandy Rusch of Milwaukee was this year's lucky winner. Rusch received the full Major League experience first by signing a one-day contract and then receiving a personalized jersey adorned with the No. 44 of one of her all-time favorite Brewers, Hank Aaron. Rusch has been a season-ticket holder since 1988 and is one of nine partners holding a season-ticket package.
Rusch received a check for $2,732.24 -- one day's pay at the MLB minimum salary -- and threw out the first pitch at Tuesday's game against the Phillies. Along with Brewers general manager Doug Melvin, Rusch held a pregame press conference for her friends and family, who questioned the choice of her other favorite Brewer, Rob Deer.
"If you're a female, you already know the answer to that," Rusch said, smiling. "But also, I just remember Easter Sunday 1987. Rob Deer hits a three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth to tie up the game, and Dale Sveum goes on to win it for us. If it hadn't been for Rob Deer's major swing, we wouldn't have had a 12-game winning streak that day."
That was Game 12 of the Brewers' 13-game win streak to start that 1987 season. Rusch clearly had a sharp memory of favorite ballpark moments, and when asked about her favorite Miller Park memory, Rusch didn't hesitate.
"That's easy," she said. "2011, the NLDS, Game Five, bottom of the 10th, Nyjer Morgan, Carlos Gomez. … We beat the Arizona Diamondbacks, and I couldn't talk for three days."
Melvin chimed in: "I couldn't either."
The die-hard fan, who has been attending games in Milwaukee since the Braves were in town, and purposely moved to Milwaukee's Story Hill neighborhood in order to be closer to Milwaukee County Stadium, said the day had been an unforgettable experience.
"What's important to the Brewers is not only our players and our performance but our fan base, and with Sandy's friends and family following the Brewers, we appreciate that," Melvin said. "It's an opportunity to give some pleasure to reward a fan for their following of the Brewers over the years."
Brewers shuffle lineup with Braun out
MILWAUKEE -- With Ryan Braun out of Tuesday's lineup with back issues that have lingered from this weekend, Ron Roenicke took an opportunity to do something he's been thinking about for a while and returned to a lineup that more closely resembles the one he put out on Opening Day.
Carlos Gomez, who led off his first 42 games this season, returned to the spot after starting 37 of his last 39 games in the cleanup hole. Aramis Ramirez, who has usually batted fifth since returning from the disabled list June 3, is back in his traditional cleanup spot. Recent leadoff man Scooter Gennett took over Braun's usual No. 2 spot and Jonathan Lucroy stayed at No. 3.
Roenicke said he was hoping the offense would wake up after scoring two runs or fewer in five of its last six games.
"I was wanting to do something, and this timing allowed me to do it, because I needed somebody to fill in where Ryan's spot was," Roenicke said. "I thought, 'I like Gomey leading off.' I think it was a good way to start out, what we did. If he gets on base, he can steal, and it seems like when he gets on base we were scoring a lot. So I think it was a good time to do it."
Gomez, who is feeling better after being sick during Monday's game, said he was indifferent to where he batted in the lineup.
"Wherever they put me in the lineup, I tell [Roenicke], 'You're the manager, and the decisions that you make to any lineup you put up there, you don't have to even tell me why,'" Gomez said. "I'm fine with it. Like I told him before, all I've dreamed about is staying in the lineup, so when I'm in the lineup, I'm the happiest man in the world."
Roenicke also said he's long felt that Ramirez's status as an elite hitter makes him more suited for the cleanup spot, and he's wanted to move the third baseman back there for a while.
As for Braun, Roenicke reasserted that he expected this to be a short-term malady. Braun was removed for pinch-runner Logan Schafer on Monday after running slowly on an eight-inning double, and Roenicke said he was "pretty sore" Tuesday.
Braun has been in and out of the lineup since being removed from Saturday's game in Cincinnati with back spasms.
Henderson moving up to Double-A in rehab
MILWAUKEE -- After more than two months on the disabled list, Brewers right-hander Jim Henderson is making progress toward a Major League return and is moving up to Double-A Huntsville in his rehab, manager Ron Roenicke said Tuesday. Henderson has been sidelined since May 2 with right shoulder inflammation. After being the Brewers' closer last year, he lost the job this season after experiencing a dip in velocity in Spring Training.
The righty has been rehabbing at the team's facility in Arizona and made his first appearance in the Arizona League last week. In two appearances totaling 2 2/3 innings, Henderson has allowed one hit and no runs while striking out three.
Roenicke said Henderson's velocity was "really good" in the latest outing and that the Brewers had set a targeted Major League return date, though he didn't know when it was.
Meanwhile, righty Tyler Thornburg, who went on the DL on June 7 with right elbow soreness, is still playing catch and is not scheduled for a bullpen session for a few more days, Roenicke said. He said the team didn't anticipate Thornburg to be sidelined for so long.
Brewers mull plans for Nelson at Triple-A
MILWAUKEE -- Brewers fans have been keeping a close eye on Triple-A righty Jimmy Nelson, who has compiled a 10-2 record and 1.46 ERA in 111 innings in Nashville this season. On Tuesday, Ron Roenicke confirmed that the team's front office has, too.
News of Nelson's performances have spread across social media with each start, especially recently as Nelson has had three straight scoreless performances of more than six innings. On Monday night, he went seven scoreless innings against Memphis, allowing four hits.
Roenicke was coy when asked about Nelson on Tuesday but confirmed that the team had had "a lot of dicussions" about promoting the prospect.
"Yeah, he's doing great," Roenicke said. "He's doing everything he can to make us want to bring him up, and that's why [there are] all the discussions."
Part of the delay is attributable to Milwaukee not having any glaring weaknesses in its current rotation, though there was a lot of buzz about Nelson replacing the struggling Marco Estrada last month. Estrada has been better in his last few starts, though he lasted only five innings against Philadelphia on Monday.
Nelson did make a spot start for Milwaukee this season, allowing five hits over 5 2/3 scoreless innings. He made four appearances, but only one start, for the Brewers last September.
"I think when the timing's right, you do it," Roenicke said shortly. "We'll see."
Appleton teacher to be honored at All-Star Game
MILWAUKEE -- A man with a passion for teaching and baseball, Appleton's Eric Vander Loop was selected Tuesday to represent the Milwaukee Brewers during All-Star Week as part of Major League Baseball, Target and People magazine's All-Star Teachers program.
Vander Loop and his wife, Karen, both teach at Woodland School in Appleton, Wisc. Eric is a lifelong Brewers fan who coached high school baseball for seven years and started the "River Studies Summer Fishing Program" 15 years ago to help raise funds to pay for student materials in his district.
Perhaps most notably, six years ago, Vander Loop created the "Unless" program, which has raised more than $86,000 to fight cancer. He started the program when he found out that a student's mother and another friend of his family both had Stage 4 lung cancer.
Vander Loop will join one winner representing each of the 30 MLB Clubs to be included in All-Star Week activities and recognized during the pregame ceremony of the 2014 MLB All-Star Game -- Tuesday, July 15 with pregame ceremonies beginning at 6:30 p.m. CT on FOX from Target Field in Minneapolis.
Fans nationwide cast their votes at AllStarTeachers.com to select 30 winners from a pool of 90 finalists.
Caitlin Swieca is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.