Weary Brewers welcome postponement
Crew gets extra day to regroup before returning Friday vs. Cards
CHICAGO -- This may have been the real world equivalent of Crash Davis running the sprinklers overnight when his Durham Bulls needed a rainout.
The scuffling Brewers, with a crowded disabled list, a combustible bullpen and a 2-6 record, needed a break. Mother Nature gave them one.
"I don't think it's a bad thing," manager Ron Roenicke said.
He spoke in the visiting manager's office after the decision was made more than four hours before the scheduled first pitch that the Brewers and Cubs would not play at Wrigley Field on Wednesday night. Rain was in the forecast, along with near-freezing temperatures, and Cubs officials decided early that this was no day for fans or players to come to the ballpark.
The teams will make up the game on July 30, at 1:20 p.m. CT, as part of a day-night doubleheader.
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The Brewers' starting pitchers were all pushed back one day, so right-hander Kyle Lohse will start on Friday night in St. Louis against his former team, followed by Yovani Gallardo on Saturday and Marco Estrada on Sunday.
The washout even meant an extra night at home. Instead of flying to St. Louis late Wednesday night as originally scheduled, the Brewers bussed back to Milwaukee and planned to fly on Thursday afternoon.
"It comes at a good time for us," said left fielder Ryan Braun. "We're obviously not playing well, and nobody enjoys playing in this weather. The combination of those two things, I think we're fortunate to have the day off tonight."
Among the ways in which this was a welcome rainout for the Brewers:
• It gave Braun an extra day to heal a stiff neck that cost him three consecutive games over the weekend, and shortstop Jean Segura time to heal a bruised left thigh and rolled right ankle. Braun was able to play the first two games against the Cubs at less than 100 percent, and he and Segura were to be in the starting lineup on Wednesday. Both will benefit from the extra time off.
• It lined up the Brewers' top three starting pitchers against the rival Cardinals for the teams' first meeting this season, starting with a sentimental matchup for Lohse on Friday night. He pitched the past five seasons in a Cardinals uniform, and has not started at Busch Stadium as an opponent since June 7, 2007, when he worked 8 1/3 innings for the Reds and allowed only one run.
• It gave the Brewers' beleaguered bullpen a break. John Axford has already been removed temporarily from the closer's role and the entire group has been used extensively in the season's first eight games. The group owns a 6.11 ERA, third-worst among National League bullpens, and a .319 batting average against that ranks last.
• It gave Roenicke more time to brainstorm ideas to get production from the cleanup spot. In the four full games since third baseman Aramis Ramirez went down with a left knee injury, Brewers No. 4 hitters were 1-for-18 with one RBI and eight strikeouts.
Rickie Weeks, who went 0-for-10 with six strikeouts in his two games in that spot, was hitting fourth in Roenicke's lineup on Wednesday. With right-hander Shelby Miller scheduled to start for St. Louis on Friday, Weeks will probably be back in the cleanup hole. Against right-handers, Roenicke views Weeks as the best option to protect Braun.
"Rickie's killing the ball in the second spot, and I move him to the fourth spot and all of a sudden he doesn't hit, and now I'm thinking, 'Is this my fault because I moved him to the fourth spot?'" Roenicke said. "There's all kinds of things that go into it. I try to do what I see is best, but sometimes it doesn't work out that way."
Ditto in the bullpen. Roenicke would much prefer a situation like the Brewers enjoyed in the second half of 2011, when LaTroy Hawkins and Takashi Saito handled the seventh inning, Francisco Rodriguez locked-down the eighth and Axford was nearly automatic in the ninth. So far this season, everyone is scrambling for roles.
"I'm trying to figure out how to do this right," Roenicke said.
Wednesday's postponement may have been hardest on Matt Smith, a longtime home clubhouse assistant who was serving as interim director of team travel on this trip. Dan Larrea, who for years has filled that role, was home in Milwaukee with his wife, Stacy, who gave birth to twins Jacob and Isabella last week. They were headed home from the hospital on Wednesday when the Cubs postponed the game.
The challenge was that the Brewers were not scheduled to fly to St. Louis until very late Wednesday night, and getting the team charter to Chicago earlier than that was nearly impossible because of the inclement weather. So the choices were to wait around for a plane that might not arrive, or bus back to Milwaukee and try again Thursday.
Larrea got involved to make the arrangements. Still, it made for a challenging debut for Smith.
"He doesn't want this job anymore," Roenicke quipped.
The situation was typical of the Brewers' trying start.
"It's been quite chaotic early in the season," Braun said.