MILWAUKEE -- It happened with only a few hundred fans at Miller Park, most of them focused on the Astros taking batting practice. In the bullpen, Brewers starter Shaun Marcum passed a key test in his return from a right elbow injury.Marcum, a free agent after the season who has not pitched since mid-June because of tightness in his elbow, pitched from the bullpen mound for about 20 minutes under the watch of pitching coach Rick Kranitz, sitting down at one point to simulate a break between innings. Before the game, manager Ron Roenicke called it a "big" moment. After the game, he deemed it an "outstanding" success. "He's going to go for it," Roenicke said earlier. "This is a big bullpen [session]. He's going to throw breaking stuff, he's going to bust it all out." Marcum's next step is facing hitters in a simulated game Saturday or Sunday in St. Louis. He would then make at least two Minor League rehabilitation appearances. Marcum is eligible to return from the 60-day disabled list beginning Aug. 14, and Roenicke said that if all goes well, "The timing is somewhere in there. It will be close." Marcum will be a free agent for the first time after the season, and when healthy, he is a quality pitcher. Since missing the 2009 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery on his elbow, Marcum is 31-18 with a 3.56 ERA in 77 starts, with a strikeout-to-walk ratio (K/BB) of better than three to one. In the last three seasons, only 11 qualifying pitchers have allowed fewer walks plus hits per inning pitched (WHIP) than Marcum's 1.15. The question is how he will be valued on the free-agent market after this elbow issue. Since Marcum knows what is at stake, Roenicke said the Brewers' medical staff is keeping a very close eye on him. "Hey, I want him to perform for us and win ballgames, but I also am concerned about him and his future, too," Roenicke said. In other injury news, left-hander Manny Parra was examined by Dr. William Raasch on Wednesday to determine what's going on which his balky left shoulder. Parra said he has an impingement in the joint. He is not expected to pitch against the Cardinals and will be re-examined on Monday when the Brewers return to Miller Park. "As of right now," Roenicke said, Parra will avoid the 15-day disabled list.
Mechanical tweak behind Gomez's hot streak
MILWAUKEE -- As Carlos Gomez continues to play well, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke continues to be increasingly excited about the 26-year-old center fielder and his future.Gomez is the reigning National League Co-Player of the Week after going 9-for-26 (.346) with 10 RBIs and four home runs in seven games. He also connected on a pair of doubles and stole three bases, putting his full range of talents on display. "He keeps showing those exciting tools, and hopefully he puts it together," Roenicke said. "I mean, we really like him. We like his energy, we like the way he plays out there. He can do some exciting things." The recent success for Gomez hasn't come by accident. In the last few weeks, Gomez said he has changed his approach by lifting the bat off his shoulder, standing up straighter and adding a leg kick that helps him sit on pitches and "drive balls more easily out of the ballpark." Roenicke was aware of Gomez's changes, but he still described his approach as "see the ball and swing as hard as you can." "It seems to be working for him," Roenicke said. "When the swing is flat and he's doing it that way, it works. When it's an uppercut and he's doing that, it doesn't work. So sometimes you see from at-bat to at-bat, you'll see a bad one, and then he'll turn around and hit a nice breaking ball like he did last night." Gomez attributed some of his success to increased playing time, as he was in the starting lineup on Wednesday for the sixth straight game. Roenicke said that will continue if Gomez keeps playing well, and the electrifying center fielder said he appreciates every opportunity. "I feel really good," Gomez said. "I feel like right now, I can be the player that everybody's waiting for, but it's only one good week. We have to wait. There's still two more months to play, and I'm still 26 years old. I still have a long career to go. Good week, but I have to continue practicing hard, working hard every day and find myself to be the player I want to be."
Roenicke's open-door policy on display
MILWAUKEE -- Brewers manager Ron Roenicke likes to have open lines of communication in his clubhouse. His office is always open to his players, and he prefers to keep them in the loop rather than leave them in the dark.That philosophy was on display Tuesday night, when Roenicke went to reliever Francisco Rodriguez in the clubhouse shortly after the Brewers beat the Astros. Roenicke wanted to make sure he was on the same page as Rodriguez, who has been struggling and made a rare appearance in a blowout after warming up and not pitching in a close game the night before. "When things bother me, I need to go talk to the player," Roenicke said. "I think it's huge. I always guessed when I played, and it's very uncomfortable." Much has changed in terms of communication since Roenicke's playing days, he said. If a manager wasn't talking to you, you didn't question him. And as far as going to the skipper and asking for more playing time, "You didn't even think about doing that." "But things are different now," Roenicke said, sitting in his office at Miller Park. "It's better for me. It's way better for the player, because now if you do have something on your mind and things are bothering you as a player, you can come in. And these guys all know that they can come in here, and I'm not going to chew on them for coming in and talking to me. I understand, so I want them to be open with me and let me know what's on their mind. And good or bad, I'm going to be honest with them; they know that. So even if it's not what they want to hear, I'm still going to tell them." Roenicke said he didn't think anything about the current state of baseball changed the way players and managers interact. Instead, he said that's just the culture of today. "Students, kids, athletes, they all want answers," Roenicke said. "They don't want to just be told what to do, and I don't have a problem with that. I think if you explain things to them and they understand it, I think they're able to accept that a lot easier than me just saying, 'No, this is the way we do it. We've always done it this way, it's the way we're doing it and that's it.' I don't think that works out very well."
Axford cuts his hair for good cause
MILWAUKEE -- After months of taking grief from fans about his long hair, a freshly-trimmed Brewers reliever John Axford this week revealed a good reason behind the look he once described as "angry magician."Axford donated his hair to Locks of Love, a charitable organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children in the U.S. and Canada who suffer long-term medical hair loss. "Once I reached a certain point of ridiculousness, I figured I would keep growing it until it reached the length necessary to donate it," Axford said. That length was 10 inches. Axford kept his quest private, and was planning to cut his hair next week. But that plan changed after a particularly frustrating loss to the Nationals on Sunday, in which Axford let a lead slip away in the eighth inning and again in the ninth, perpetuating a nightmare of a season. On Monday morning, he got a haircut. Axford Tweeted a photo of the result to his 56,000 followers. "People kept yelling at me, 'Cut your hair!'" Axford said. "Well, here's the reason I was doing it."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.