MILWAUKEE -- After swinging his way into the record books, Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton placed a phone call on Wednesday morning to his mentor.But Brewers hitting coach Johnny Narron didn't get to say much. "He just wanted to talk about it, so I listened to him," Narron said. Hamilton recounted his history-making effort on Tuesday night in Baltimore, where he became the 16th Major Leaguer to hit four home runs in a game.
Narron was expecting a call. The two men have been very close since 2007, when Narron began serving as an around-the-clock asset for Hamilton, helping the talented but troubled outfielder avoid issues with drugs and alcohol. Though Narron left last winter for the position in Milwaukee, the two remain in regular contact.Narron heard about Hamilton's four-homer game after the Brewers beat the Reds at Miller Park on Tuesday and raced to see the highlights. "Knowing Josh the way I know him, I wanted to see on TV how they pitched him," Narron said. "I saw they threw him in the middle of the zone, in his hot spot. ... Shame on 'em, because he isn't going to miss it." Narron has his hands full with the Brewers, who, Tuesday's 8-3 win notwithstanding, are off to a sluggish start. Batting averages aren't everything, but the fact remains that Narron is in charge of a lineup with a leadoff man (Rickie Weeks) and two-hole hitter (Nyjer Morgan) each batting below .200, a cleanup hitter (Aramis Ramirez) hitting .218 entering Wednesday's series finale against the Reds, and a first baseman (Mat Gamel) and shortstop (Alex Gonzalez) lost to season-ending injuries. The ever-positive Narron said he was "doing great." "That's part of it," he said of Milwaukee's early struggles. "That's why I'm here. You can't [get down]. The failure is built into the game, the way it's designed. ... You have to deal with that. It's part of it. That's what you're buying into. I always take an objective viewpoint -- 'What can I do to help?'"
Roenicke sticking with struggling Weeks
MILWAUKEE -- Manager Ron Roenicke is standing by his second baseman.Rickie Weeks, an All-Star starter last season, entered Wednesday's game batting .168 with three home runs and six RBIs. His 37 strikeouts tied him with two others for the National League lead. And even with 21 walks, the third most in the NL, Weeks' .304 on-base percentage ranked 65th of the 89 players with enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title. Yet Weeks is the only Brewer to start all 31 games this season. Roenicke argued that Weeks produced quality at-bats while going 0-for-4 on Tuesday and has made a mechanical adjustment with his hands. "He still talks like he's fine," Roenicke said. "When I bring in guys and I talk to them, I can tell when they're frustrated, and it's like, they need a day. Rick's not there. Until he is there, we'll keep going at it." Weeks is a difficult read, Roenicke conceded. "He's harder to read, but when you're talking to him, you can tell the difference," he said. "You know, if he continues to struggle, I will talk to him again about taking a day [off] somewhere. But as long as he feels like today can be the day that he can bust out of it, I need to keep putting him out there." Roenicke bristled when asked whether he had considered dropping Weeks in the lineup and using someone such as catcher Jonathan Lucroy in the two-hole, saying that he and his coaches have considered every possible lineup contortion. Some moves are not made, Roenicke said, for reasons he cannot share. For his part, Weeks said he was feeling, "all right, not great. "Your confidence has to be strong. If it's not strong in this game, it's going to be hard."
Brewers measure offense by 'team production'
MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers' offense is not clicking the way it has in recent seasons, at least according to the traditional measures. But the team's coaches have other ways of tracking production, including one they track called "team productive at-bats."Hitting coach Johnny Narron said that a player can earn such an at-bat through five categories: Any type of hit. Any type of "free pass," including a walk, hit-by-pitch or catchers' interference. A sacrifice bunt or sacrifice fly. Advancing a lead runner by putting a ball in play for an out or an error. Any plate appearance of eight pitches or more. Example: On Tuesday night, Nyjer Morgan and Rickie Weeks each made outs against Reds starter Homer Bailey in the first inning, but in the process, they worked the right-hander for 17 total pitches. The Brewers wound up scoring a pair of runs while Bailey labored through a 42-pitch frame. "When you wear a pitcher down like that, then he gets in trouble, and it starts getting in his mind," Narron said.
Said manager Ron Roenicke: "It's a way to get the players to understand that an 0-for-4 is not just an 0-for-4 and you don't help your team. Two of those at-bats can help your team win. It's another way to get some positive thought into what you're doing at the plate."