Marcum plans change

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Todd Rosiak
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
— Some routine off-season chores led to Milwaukee Brewers starter Shaun Marcum re-working his delivery a bit.

The right-hander said during a break at the “On Deck” fan fest at the Frontier Airlines Center on Sunday that he’s spent the last few months concentrating on strengthening both his core and his legs in an attempt to work them into his pitching motion more.

He’s been doing squats, lunges and more distance running than in years past, and has also been taking advantage of the unseasonably warm weather by getting in some rare winter long-toss sessions at home in Excelsior Springs, Mo.

“It’s a weird story,” he said. “My wife was at my parents’ house helping clean up some stuff, and I found a picture from when I was in college. I saw it and was like, ‘Wow, I didn’t realize I used my legs, my backside, that much.’ So I’ve just been kind of trying to do that—use my backside more.

“I’ve been almost all arm, it seems like, the last couple years. By doing that, having my legs a little bit stronger, that’ll probably add a little bit more velocity.

“But at the same time I’ll be able to get down the mound a little further, and by getting down the mound a little further you obviously release the ball closer to home plate.”

Marcum was one of two big acquisitions last off-season for the Brewers, joining fellow starter Zack Greinke. Marcum wound up going 13-7 with a 3.54 earned-run average and a WHIP of 1.156.

He was rock-solid for most of the year and was arguably the Brewers’ best road starter posting an 8-3 record, 2.21 ERA and 0.973 WHIP away from Miller Park.

But it was Marcum’s postseason that undoubtedly still remains fresh in the minds of many Brewers fans. In three starts—Game 3 of the NLDS at Arizona and Games 2 and 6 of the NLCS against St. Louis—he went 0-3 with a 14.90 ERA.

His final start was the most puzzling. With manager Ron Roenicke deciding against re-working his rotation and pitching Yovani Gallardo on short rest in Game 6 against the Cardinals at Miller Park, Marcum wound up lasting just one inning, allowing three hits and four earned runs in a 27-pitch outing.

The Brewers went on to lose, 12-6, falling just short of earning their second-ever World Series appearance.

Afterward, many postulated Marcum was either injured or suffering from a tired arm after pitching a career-high 200 2/3 innings. Marcum reiterated what he said in the aftermath of Game 6.

“Honestly, my arm didn’t feel tired,” he said. “Everybody seems to go through a phase in the season where the ball doesn’t seem to come out of your hand with the zip that it normally does, but I didn’t feel like I had any of that.”

Adrenaline takes over and you don’t really know what’s going on.

“I’ll never use that or make an excuse for anything—I just wasn’t locating. That’s part of the game. It just so happened I hit my funk at the wrong time. Hitters go through their spells, and I went through mine at the wrong time of the season.”

Long road back

Underscoring how severe the sprained left ankle that Rickie Weeks suffered late last July, the second baseman still isn’t classifying himself as 100% recovered roughly three weeks before the start of spring training.

“I’m almost at 100 percent. Very close,” he said. “Still doing rehab back home and doing precautionary stuff to get ready for spring training.

“They kind of warned me that something like this would probably take some time. The baseball activities, I can do everything. Just a little strengthening here with all the muscles around the ankle. But I’m pretty optimistic about it.”

Weeks said he is doing all his rehab work and baseball preparation full speed now, which is good news for a Brewers team that is going to be relying upon him as both a big bat to help replace the departed Prince Fielder and as the lone returning member of the infield.

“It’s part of the game. There’s turnover in this game,” said Weeks. “You’ve got do your part to stay in there, stay in shape and try to get up there with the young guys coming up. Free agents leave, but it’s the nature of the game that you’ve got to keep plugging along. No excuses.”

Figuring out first

With Fielder now in Detroit, first base becomes a major question mark for the Brewers.

The team remains committed to Mat Gamel getting the majority of playing time there. Roenicke said as of now the left-handed-hitting Gamel projects as a No. 6 or 7 hitter in the lineup, and his defense at the position should be adequate as well according to infield coach Garth Iorg.

“I just hope to stay healthy and have a good year,” Gamel said. “I don’t really think I’m replacing Prince. I don’t think there’s anyone in this game can, as far as what he does and what he brought to the team.

“I’m just going to go out and try to do what I’m capable of.”

The Brewers aren’t expecting Gamel to be an iron man like Fielder, though, so they’ve broached the possibility of Corey Hart spelling Gamel on occasion against tough left-handed pitchers.

Hart, normally the team’s rightfielder, said he recently received a new first baseman’s mitt in preparation.

“I got one in the mail a couple days ago. I threw it away—I didn’t like it,” he joked. “I’ll be as good as they let me be. I’ll work and do every drill they throw my way. I told (Roenicke) it’s their fault if I don’t get good over there. I’ll do whatever they ask me to.”

Hart said he understands the Brewers’ intentions in wanting him to prepare to play some games at first.

“I think it’s asking a lot putting Matty out there for 160 (games), especially with him being a lefty,” he said. “I’ll sneak in against a few of the tough ones. I told them, ‘Whatever helps us.’ I’m not extremely excited, but I told them I’d do whatever they want me to do.”

Contract talks: Brewers vice president for business operations Teddy Werner said he has made “good progress” of late in talks with Rex Gary, the agent for Marcum.

Eligible for the final time for arbitration, Marcum filed a request for $8.7 million, with the Brewers offering $6.75 million.

“I’ve had a good dialogue with Rex,” said Werner. “There’s definitely been progress. We will continue to talk and hopefully get something done.”

The only other Brewer still in arbitration is reliever Jose Veras, who filed for $2.375 million with the club offering $2 million. Werner said he had no ongoing talks with Veras’ agent, Bryce Dickson.

On the topic of agents, Greinke is still working without one. So, if the Brewers do make overtures for an extension for the free agent-to-be, they would have to deal directly with the player.

“It would be me in charge as of right now,” he said. “We’ll see how long that lasts. I don’t really want to talk about (a possible extension). I like the business of baseball. It’s exciting for me to know what goes on behind the scenes.

Greinke seemed open to talks about an extension when he added, “I do really enjoy the coaching staff and the front office here. It’s a good organization.”

Tom Haudricourt of the Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report.

Last updated: 7:49 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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