New Season, New Goals

By Troy A. Sparks, BASN Staff Reporter
Updated: February 1, 2010

MILWAUKEE (BASN) — After barely losing the National League Wild Card spot in 2007, the Milwaukee Brewers made the postseason their focus in 2008.

As a result, they made the playoffs for the first time in 26 years. Last year, the high expectations for a return trip to the playoffs went sour.

Milwaukee either led or tied for first in the NL Central Division until early July but lost the lead — and hopes — after a road series loss by the Chicago Cubs.

Milwaukee and Chicago lost momentum while St. Louis gained steam and won the NL Central by 11 games over the Brewers and 7 ½ games over the Cubs.

Now the Brewers are trying to steer the ship in the right direction with second-year manager Ken Macha at the wheel. They were not happy about the one area that led to their losing season at 80-82, so management addressed that issue in the offseason.

That has been solved with the signings of starters Randy Wolf and Doug Davis. The Brewers also signed reliever LaTroy Hawkins. The club has closer and all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman back and set-up man Todd Coffey, among other returning pitchers.

The three new pitchers — Davis pitched for the Brewers from 2004-06 — will join an already crowded staff from last year. It will be new pitching coach Rick Peterson’s responsibility to manage the egos and emotions of every pitcher.

“This is me more of trying to do some homework and doing some evaluation of each individual,” Peterson said at the annual Brewers on Deck winter fan fest at the Midwest Airlines Center Sunday.

“But then also, building that relationship and having them understand that we are coming here to really, truly help make a difference for them. So when you look at veteran pitchers, they’re really your teachers.”

“They teach you as much as they can about why was this successful, what did they do when they are this successful. And then hopefully we can help improve that and make that more consistent.”

The “Brew Crew” needs a lot of pitching help this year if they want to compete with the Cardinals and Cubs, the two teams who are predicted to battle for the division title.

In 2009, the Crew ranked 15th in pitching with a 4.83 team earned run average. In 1,435 innings, they gave up 207 home runs, 607 walks and 770 earned runs. Only the Washington Nationals were last in pitching.

“We’re expecting our pitching to be better this upcoming season,” Milwaukee general manager Doug Melvin said. “In 2008, we had more innings out of our starting pitching than any team in the National League. And last year, we were 15th in innings from our starting pitching.

“You like to get 950-975 innings out of your starting pitching, and last year, we only got about 880, I believe it was. We made it a point to go out and improve the pitching, and we feel we did that.”

Melvin also added balance to the lineup with more left-handed bats. First baseman Prince Fielder is the only consistent left-hander in the lineup.

“We’re very right-handed,” he said. “We just needed more balance on our ballclub with left-handedness.

Left-handed hitting was another priority that we wanted to add to the ballclub.”

According to assistant GM Gord Ash, all the players who appeared at Sunday’s event were given a clean bill of health by the team doctor. Almost all the players are under contract and ready for Spring Training.

Corey Hart rejected the latest offer from the Brewers and will face an arbitration hearing in February in Tampa. He wanted $4.8 million. Milwaukee offered him $4.15 million. The 2008 All-Star hit 12 homers with 48 RBI’s in 115 games and made $3.2 million last year.