Melvin looks to improve Brewers for 2014
MILWAUKEE — General manager Doug Melvin pulled out a cheat sheet that highlighted some of the high points of the Brewers season.
The emergence of speedy Jean Segura at shortstop. The energetic play of center fielder Carlos Gomez. The steady presence of Jonathan Lucroy behind the plate and the second-half improvement from the pitching staff.
Melvin didn’t hold back, either, when it came to how he felt about what the Brewers need to do to improve on their 74-88 season.
“I can’t stand here every year and say we had a great second half,” Melvin said. “That doesn’t work.”
That 6-22 record in May hurt the bottom line, especially considering that the Brewers went 33-32 after slugger Ryan Braun was lost for the season July 21 for a doping suspension.
Melvin wrapped up the 2013 season with reporters Tuesday on a quiet day at Miller Park. No postseason baseball in Milwaukee for a second straight season.
“The cost of winning ... had a little impact on our ball club this year,” Melvin said. “We don’t look back on it. The winning was fun ... I look forward to the challenge to get this team back to the postseason. A lot of work to be done among our baseball staff, but I think we can do it.”
That 2011 team that lost to the Cardinals in the NLCS had Prince Fielder and Braun leading the way at the plate, aided by Corey Hart and Rickie Weeks.
Fielder is playing playoff baseball in Detroit now.
What happened to the other three was a microcosm of the Brewers season.
Hart never played a game because of knee injuries. Weeks went down to a hamstring injury in August. Braun battled a thumb injury before his suspension.
Braun remains an integral part of the Brewers’ plans, especially after being signed to a five-year extension in 2011. Melvin said he may consider moving Braun from left to right field, in part because of the emergence of Khris Davis this season, though he hasn’t talked to Braun about it yet.
“I think internally he’ll come back and be accepted. He just needs to go out there and do all the things every other player does once he’s back in uniform,” Melvin said. “I think everybody knows we need Ryan to come back and perform.”
Hitting .298 with nine homers and 38 RBIs in 61 games isn’t going to cut it. They’ll need more from Braun, along with getting consistent production from the other injured Brewers.
Getting stability at first base, unsettled since Fielder left, is a priority. Hart, who will be a free agent, remains in the mix, Melvin said. He’ll need to talk things over with trainers and Hart’s agent.
“It’s just a decision we’ll have to, weigh the risk factor involved with someone coming off an injury that hadn’t played all year. But his name is on the list of names we have to consider,” Melvin said.
The Brewers won’t have to worry about Gomez, though. The center fielder was signed to an extension before the start of the season, and he came through with the first 20-homer, 40-steal season in franchise history.
Melvin will also look into signing Segura to a long-term extension after the All-Star shortstop hit .294 with 44 steals and helped solidify the defense up the middle.
Segura, who slumped down the stretch, will skip winter ball this year. But Scooter Gennett emerged in August and September at second to give the Brewers a solid option in place of the injured Weeks.
The bullpen lost John Axford and Francisco Rodriguez to midseason trades but still compiled the third-best ERA (3.19) in the National League. Melvin likes his top three starters in Yovanni Gallardo, Kyle Lohse and Wily Peralta, while Tyler Thornburg and Marco Estrada pitched well late in the season. The Brewers also have young options with Johnny Hellweg and prospect Jimmy Nelson.
There are positive signs up the middle for Melvin. Now he just needs a full complement of productive, healthy players for a full season.
“We can’t say every year that our young ballplayers bailed us out the second half of the year. It doesn’t win championships. It doesn’t get us to the postseason. But that’s encouraging,” Melvin said. “There’s still work to be done.”