Friday's Frosty Mug: Brewers News, Links And Notes

After spending a week with these guys, Ryan Braun is back with his real teammates tonight.

Some things to read while noticing the similarities.

It feels like it's been weeks since the Brewers actually played baseball. They held a voluntary workout at Miller Park yesterday but J.P. Cadorin of Time Warner Cable Sports 32 reports that only about a dozen players attended, and Rickie Weeks, Aramis Ramirez, Corey Hart and Ryan Braun were among those who didn't. Martin Maldonado was in attendance after spending the day in the Dells on Wednesday.

Cadorin also talked to Doug Melvin yesterday, who praised Norichika Aoki for his unexpected success and recovery from his slow start.

Speaking of slow starts, Rickie Weeks' sub-.200 batting average and diminished power continue to be a top story. Jesse Sakstrup of The Hardball Times has a look at what's wrong with Weeks, and Kevin Kaduk of Big League Stew has Weeks ninth on his list of players who need a great start to the second half.

At any rate, the Brewers finally resume play tonight in Milwaukee with Zack Greinke taking on James McDonald in the first of a three game set. Carson Cistulli of FanGraphs gave tonight's matchup a 6 of 10 on his NERD scale, but I don't think he added any extra weight for the possibility that any Greinke start could be his last as a Brewer. It's the first contest of the long-awaited nine game divisional stretch expected to decide the Brewers' trade deadline plans.

Here are this weekend's pitching matchups:

Day Pirates Brewers
Friday James McDonald Zack Greinke
Saturday Kevin Correia Marco Estrada
Sunday A.J. Burnett Yovani Gallardo

That leaves either Michael Fiers or Randy Wolf to start Monday against Lance Lynn and the Cardinals.

Going back to Greinke for a moment, here are today's trade notes:

  • Doug Melvin told Tom Haudricourt that his phone "isn't ringing off the hook" with offers for Zack Greinke, but that teams have quietly expressed interest.
  • Tim Kurkijian (via MLB Daily Dish) says the Red Sox are "going to have to be buyers" and mentioned Greinke as a possibility.

All of this will need to be resolved before July 31, but is that too soon? Jon Morosi of Fox Sports wants the non-waiver trade deadline moved back to August 15.

Elsewhere in trade notes, there's a rumor circulating that the Dodgers are interested in Aramis Ramirez. Jay Jaffe says a deal to send Ramirez to LA would definitely be a win for the Brewers, but they'd probably have to eat a fair amount of his remaining salary. I have a hard time believing the Brewers would trade a player they just signed to a multi-year deal a few months ago.

Tonight's game could feature the major league debut of Jeff Bianchi, called up earlier this week to fill Taylor Green's roster spot. It remains to be seen how the Brewers will use Bianchi, but I thought this Ron Roenicke quote was encouraging.:

"We're not bringing him up here because we think he's just a backup guy who can't do a lot," Roenicke said. "We're making this change because we think that he can help us from what they tell us in Triple-A."

Reviewing the Brew has more on Bianchi (and it's pronounced be-YANKEE, if you missed that note earlier this week).

Tyler Thornburg could also make his Brewer bullpen debut tonight after being recalled this week to bolster the Brewer relief corps. Ron Roenicke told Jeremy Warnemuende that Thornburg is likely to be used as a long reliever to start, but could eventually move into a single inning role. If Thornburg is just going to serve as an extra mop-up arm, he should be back in AAA getting more regular work.

The Brewer bullpen was one of the top stories of the first half, as their inconsistency cost the Brewers several opportunities to climb back toward respectability. Ryan Topp of Disciples of Uecker crunched the numbers and says it's a safe bet they'll be better in the second half. In a related note, Kevan Feyzi of The Brewers Bar looked at John Axford's stuff in 2012 and concluded it's not much different from 2011.

In the minors:

  • The Brewers have until later this afternoon to work out contracts with their remaining unsigned 2012 draft picks. Brewerfan.net has a list of the 12 players who have yet to work out a deal, headlined by 15th rounder Buck Farmer.
  • The affiliates went 1-3 on a rain-abbreviated day yesterday and Mike Walker went 3-for-3 with a double and an HBP but it wasn't enough in Brevard County's 10-3 loss to Bradenton. You can read about that and more in today's Minor League Notes.

When the Miller Park gates open tonight fans will have a new opportunity for gastrointestinal disaster: The Brewers have unveiled "The Giant Slugger," a two foot long chili dog on a pretzel bun. The stand selling these is replacing the Pulled Pork Parfaits on the loge level.

If you'd like more Brewer coverage today but you're sick of reading, I've got a couple of options for you:

With the regular season resuming tonight, that means it's time to get back into the groove with our SB Nation Pick 6 contest. Today's action starts at 1:20, so there's still time to make your picks for today. And, of course, a new series also means a new set of Prognostikeggers.

Around baseball:

Blue Jays: Signed first baseman Edwin Encarnacion to a three year, $27 million contract extension.
Mariners: Signed pitcher David Pauley to a minor league deal.
Reds: Signed outfielder Xavier Paul to a minor league deal.

A month ago he was out of baseball and this would have been nearly unthinkable, but here we are: Ben Sheets is opening the second half with the Braves and will start on Sunday. Until making two starts in the minors this season Sheets hadn't pitched in a professional game at any level since July 19 of 2010.

Related note: If I gave you all day, would you be able to identify what Ben Sheets, Seth McClung and LaTroy Hawkins have in common? Plunk Everyone has the answer.

The 2012 draft was the first under baseball's new collective bargaining agreement, and we're seeing one of the first major drawbacks this week. #9 overall pick Andrew Heaney is holding out because the Marlins are refusing to offer him slot money, and the Marlins don't plan to sign him before today's deadline.

However, there's also this major shift in the number of draft picks waiting until the deadline to sign:

Criteria 2011 2012
Unsigned first/supplemental rounders on deadline day 34 5
Unsigned picks from top 331 on deadline day 98 17

This morning's edition of Today In Brewer History marks the 33rd anniversary of a 4-3, 17th inning walkoff win over the Indians in 1979. Chris Jaffe of The Hardball Times notes that it's also been exactly 20,000 days since Lew Burdette pitched a complete game shutout on short rest to win game seven of the 1957 World Series.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have 22 minutes.

Drink up.

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