8/14/2014 4:10 P.M. ET
Brewers, Helena finalize four-year extension
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- The Brewers on Thursday announced a four-year extension of their player development contract with Rookie level Helena of the picturesque Pioneer League, running through 2018.
Helena's association with the Brewers dates back to 1985 and includes two stints -- from '85-2000 and 2003-present.
"Our affiliation with the Helena Brewers has been very positive, and we're excited to extend our player development contract with the franchise," Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash said in a statement. "Many players on our big league roster started their professional careers at Helena, where they developed and honed their skills to play at the Major League level."
Still to be determined is the Brewers' future with two other affiliates. Triple-A Nashville and Double-A Huntsville are each entering the final weeks of PDC with the Brewers and are scheduled to move into new stadiums as early as next season, with Huntsville moving to Biloxi, Miss.
Sore right ankle puts Lohse's next start in doubt
CHICAGO -- By noon CT on Thursday, Kyle Lohse had already received two rounds of treatment on the sore right ankle he'd tweaked the night before, but he remained in limbo for his next scheduled start on Tuesday against the Blue Jays.
Because of a team off-day preceding Lohse's start, the Brewers have the flexibility to skip his turn and keep the rest of their starting pitchers on schedule.
"He's got to get a lot better," manager Ron Roenicke said. "I hate to put him out there again if that thing is going to still bother him. Then you worry about the next start after it. We do have an off-day -- he was supposed to pitch Tuesday -- so we could adjust it if it's still sore."
Asked about that scenario, Lohse pointed toward the manager's office and said, "That's up to them. I'll take the ball when I can. Right now, I don't know when that will be, so we'll see. It's still five days away. I'm sure they're already thinking about it, you guys [reporters] are already thinking about it. I'm just trying to think about what I need to do to try to get ready to take the ball the next time I'm on the hill, whenever that is."
Lohse has been dealing with the injury since he rolled the ankle chasing an errant baseball on Aug. 2 in St. Louis. He altered his mechanics to compensate six days later against the Dodgers and was able to deliver six innings of one-run ball, but he re-aggravated the issue while batting in the third inning of Wednesday's 4-2 loss to the Cubs.
Was it pretty sore on Thursday morning?
"Yeah," Lohse said with a sigh. "It's weird, because it's not like a roll or a sprain that's a big, blowout thing. It's where, when I'm pushing off, it's affecting what I'm trying to do. It's just one of those things where you can't repeat your mechanics because you can't get your balance, you can't push off. You don't want it to lead to something else. I was fighting it the whole time last night, and made it worse when I tried to check a swing. I don't even know what happened. I didn't look to see what exactly it looked like, but it didn't feel good. I thought I could go and keep battling it out, but it wasn't smart to keep going like that. ...
"It's just frustrating, because it doesn't feel that bad. It's just an annoying thing. It's just not right. That's all I can say right now."
Lohse indicated he had yet to undergo an X-ray or MRI on the ankle.
"That's probably my fault because I was trying to push it," Lohse said. "It's probably my fault because I was telling them I'm good. I'll be a little smarter this time."
All parties agree that the injury is relatively minor. But Roenicke's primary concern is that even a minor injury can affect a player's mechanics and lead to trouble in the future.
"You know, Kyle's obviously very important to us the rest of the season," Roenicke said. "We can't have him going out there if he's going to scuffle with the physical part of it, and if we can skip him, which we can with this day off, then it may be the way to go. But I haven't really talked to him about it, so we'll see how he's doing here in the next couple days."
Braun out of lineup with lingering thumb issue
CHICAGO -- Little has changed since Ryan Braun first spoke in depth in early April about the nerve issue in his right hand that has bothered him since last season. It still flares up on occasion, forcing him out of the lineup as it did Thursday for the first time in a month. And there is still no definitive answer for how to fix it.
"We've discussed a lot of different options," said Braun, who is under contract through at least 2020. "We've looked into a lot of different things. We're constantly evaluating it. We've talked to a lot of people.
"There's some thought that it could just eventually go away. And I think if there was a surgery that everybody was really confident would heal the injury and there wouldn't be any side effects, we would have already done it. But because it isn't something there is a lot of information on, it's not something that's been done often -- we just need to continue to gather information. It's not like I can't play. I obviously can play."
Braun has started 98 of the Brewers' first 122 games and batted .279 with 14 home runs and 67 RBIs.
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke didn't like the defensive swings he saw from Braun in Wednesday's 4-2 loss to the Cubs, so he held his three-hole hitter out of the lineup for Thursday's afternoon finale. Braun had one hit in his first 12 at-bats in the series.
"A week ago, he was swinging the bat great," Roenicke said. "Probably the last four, five, six days, somewhere in there, it's been bothering him. If he has a couple at-bats where he doesn't square up the ball right, sometimes it flares it up, and then you see difference in swings, which I saw [Wednesday] -- a lot different swings from him."
Braun has experienced pain in the hand since last May resulting from an inflamed nerve near the base of his right thumb. Because none of the surgical options were guaranteed to work, the hope was that an extended shutdown period from the start of Braun's suspension last July into Spring Training in February would resolve the issue, but it did not.
He remains a vital and expensive piece of the Brewers' future plans. Braun will earn $12 million next season before his salary jumps to $19 million in 2016 at the start of a five-year, $105 million contract extension.
Over the course of this season, Braun has worked with medical director Roger Caplinger, head athletic trainer Dan Wright and other members of the Brewers' medical staff to develop methods of padding his bat without costing him "feel" during at-bats.
"At this point, my only focus is dealing with it the best we can, managing it," Braun said. "The trainers have been great. We're trying to stay on the field and compete the best I can.
"Like I've said many times, we all deal with challenges physically, and this game is all about making adjustments. We all have different ailments, especially as you get to this point in the season. This is a unique and challenging one, because at times it really alters the way I hold the bat, the way I swing, my approach and some different things. It's frustrating, but I try to deal with it the best I can."
The Brewers are staging a "No Fee Friday," with the team covering the cost of all ticket transaction fees for online and phone ticket orders placed between 9 a.m. and 11:59 p.m. CT on Friday. The one-day promotion is valid for any remaining 2014 regular-season games at Miller Park.