MILWAUKEE -- Catching duties for the ceremonial first pitch usually fall to a low man on the depth chart. Not Monday, when all of the Brewers and Twins took part in a special pregame ceremony.
They marked Memorial Day by handling first pitches from 40 active military service members, veterans and military dependents. The "mass first pitch" came moments after a rendition of the national anthem from Staff Sergeant Korin Saal of the Army National Guard.
"I think it means a lot," Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. "The reason why we're able to play this game for a living is because of our veterans, guys and women who risked their lives for our freedom, going all the way back to the founding of our country. It's important that we honor them and not take them for granted."
Lucroy is a supporter of the Fisher House Foundation, which provides free or low-cost housing to military veterans and their families.
On Monday, both teams wore special camouflage caps and uniforms. At 3 p.m. CT, the Brewers planned to pause the game for an MLB-wide moment of silence in the National Moment of Remembrance.
Braun latest on banged-up Crew to miss time
MILWAUKEE -- Add left fielder Ryan Braun to a Brewers injury report that now includes the team's three best power hitters, its best starting pitcher and its closer.
Braun was limited to a ninth-inning pinch-hit appearance Monday with a nagging right thumb injury. With third baseman Aramis Ramirez on a planned day off for his still-healing right knee and first baseman Corey Hart still rehabbing from knee surgery, plus right-hander Kyle Lohse trying to overcome a "cranky" elbow and closer Jim Henderson on the disabled list with a strained hamstring, the Brewers were extremely shorthanded for the first of four Interleague games against the Twins.
"I hurt it two weeks ago, and I've just basically been dealing with it since," Braun said before Monday's game. "We all deal with different things through the course of the season, and you try to compensate and do the best you can with with you're dealing with. Anything with the hand is tough. I've basically been swinging with one hand for two weeks."
Over those two weeks, Braun batted .326 with five doubles, a home run and seven RBIs.
"I've changed the way I've held the bat; I've changed the way I've swung," he said. "And it's frustrating, because we're not progressing. It's not getting any better at all, so it's just at the point where I need to take the time to get it close to being healthy so I can contribute and do the things I'm used to doing."
On top of the thumb issue, Braun has been getting treatment all season for a persistent stiff neck.
He was not sure Monday morning how much time he would miss. The series opener with Minnesota marked the fourth of 20 games in 20 days for the banged-up Brewers.
The problem, Braun said, is that instead of getting better with treatment and various methods of padding the bat, the thumb had been getting "progressively worse." Braun worried that overcompensating for the pain in his thumb could create an injury elsewhere.
"I'm not going to swing a bat or do anything today," he said, "so hopefully it gets better. I don't want to put a timetable on it. Maybe I show up [Tuesday] and it gets a lot better."
With both Braun and Ramirez sidelined and Rickie Weeks still stuck in a deep funk, manager Ron Roenicke fielded a creative lineup Monday that featured Yuniesky Betancourt batting cleanup for the fifth time this season and Jeff Bianchi at second base and batting fifth, his first career start above the six-hole.
In a strange way, the Brewers' injury woes give Braun hope for the rest of the season.
"In the moment, it's always discouraging," Braun said. "But looking into the future, I think it can be encouraging, because hopefully everybody gets back and gets healthy and we can all put together a streak where we're playing the way we're capable of and winning some games."
Gomez showing Twins how far he's come
MILWAUKEE -- Carlos Gomez was batting third for the Brewers on Monday, a prime place to show his former manager he had developed into the sort of impact player Ron Gardenhire had always envisioned.
Gomez delivered the second multihomer game of his career -- both in the span of three games -- but the Brewers fell to the Twins, 6-3 at Miller Park. Gomez was not in the mood to celebrate his ninth and 10th home runs of the season.
"You don't enjoy it when things are going like this," Gomez said.
Gardenhire managed Gomez in Minnesota in 2008 and 2009, and "managed" is the proper term, the way Gardenhire tells it. Four years later, Gomez is one of the National League's top early-season hitters, fifth in the league with a .326 batting average and ninth with a .943 OPS entering Monday.
"I thought we sent him right on his way," Gardenhire said. "I thought he learned a lot with us. Gomez was a lot of fun. I think everybody knew it from the time he was with the Mets, how much talent he had, if he could ever harness it and calm himself down enough.
"You never want to take away a guy playing the game with the enthusiasm that he plays it with, but some of the things he had to clean up. It sounds like he has. He got down to understanding what he's about as a player, and with all the ability that's a dangerous thing. He can do some damage. He can swing it, he's got a cannon, he can run. He's got all the tools. It's just a matter of harnessing it all and putting it to work in the right way."
Gomez batted .248 with a .293 on-base percentage in his two seasons with the Twins before that team traded him to the Brewers for shortstop J.J. Hardy. It was not until 2012 that Gomez began to get the most of his raw ability, resulting in a career-best .305 on-base percentage last year and a three-year contract extension this spring.
In Minnesota, the Twins tried to help Gomez harness his energy.
"I didn't agree with it, but they thought it was best for me at the time," Gomez said. "I still have respect for the manager, the coaches. Every time I see them, I tip my cap. Ron always talked to me like a son. It's fun and exciting to always play against your ex-teammates."
Four years ago, "he was loose cannon, No. 1," Gardenhire said. "I liked how he used to fake bunt. He'd tell us he was going to draw the guy in, the third baseman in. The third baseman was already in for the bunt. We said, 'Go-Go, you don't need to fake bunt and draw him in, he's already standing in there.' So then he would fake bunt, fake swing, fake bunt, all on one pitch. That's what we loved about him."
Aware that Gomez gets amped-up to play the Twins, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke spent some time Monday mulling where to place him in the lineup. Roenicke's hand was forced when Ryan Braun was sidelined by a right thumb injury and third baseman Aramis Ramirez needed the day to rest his balky right knee.
"Carlos doesn't have bad feelings toward that club," Roenicke said. "It's, 'Hey, I want to show them how far I've come."
Is there more to come?
"If there's more than what he's doing right now," Roenicke said. "You're talking about a superstar. He's playing great. Defense is good, he's stealing bases for us. The offensive part has been the biggest improvement, obviously. Everybody knew the other stuff was there, but it was the discipline at the plate, trying to be consistent. Now, whether he can do this the whole year, I don't know. He's a way tougher out now than he's ever been."
Brewers ready board for June Draft
MILWAUKEE -- Brewers amateur scouting director Bruce Seid gathered his staff at Miller Park beginning Monday for the first of three days of regional scouting meetings, the final step in preparing for next week's First-Year Player Draft.
When those meetings adjourn Wednesday, Seid will remain in Milwaukee to finalize the team's Draft board. The Brewers forfeited their first-round pick to sign Kyle Lohse, so they will not select until No. 54 overall.
They also own pick Nos. 72 and 90 in the top 100.
"The most important thing has been trying to identify who won't be in front of us so we don't waste a whole lot of time talking about those guys," Seid said. "We wanted to zero in on guys we feel will be in the top three picks of ours. In reality, at 54, 72 and 90, there's big leaguers in there."
The Draft will take place Thursday, June 6, through Saturday, June 8, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB.com and MLB Network on June 6 at 5 p.m. CT. Live Draft coverage from MLB Network's Studio 42 begins at 6 p.m. CT, with the top 73 picks being streamed on MLB.com and broadcast on MLB Network.
The Draft will then resume Friday beginning with selection No. 74.
• Lohse deemed his Monday morning bullpen session a success and said he was on track to rejoin the rotation Thursday in Minnesota. His right elbow flared up after recent outings and prompted the Brewers to skip one of Lohse's starts.
"I got everything out of it that I wanted to, and I should be good to go," Lohse said Monday evening.
• Ramirez's right knee is still less than 100 percent, Roenicke said, but Ramirez had no unusual flare-ups after playing three straight days for the first time since coming off the DL.
"You know, he's battling through this thing," Roenicke said. "It's not like the days I have him out there, he's really good. He wants to play, he knows we need him out there, but it's not 100 percent."
• The Brewers signed right-handed reliever Clay Hensley to a Minor League contract and sent him to Triple-A Nashville, where the 33-year-old took the roster spot opened when the Brewers promoted Donovan Hand to the Major Leagues. Hensley began the year with the Reds' Triple-A club and posted a 4.00 ERA in 15 relief outings before being released May 20. He made 60 appearances last season for the Giants and has appeared in 271 Major League games (49 starts).