Tag: Milwaukee Brewers

Ryan Braun’s Superstar Comeback Makes Him High-Profile Trade Chip

For 10 big league seasons, Ryan Braun has worn uniforms that said only “Milwaukee” or “Brewers” across the front.

Before the 2016 MLB trade deadline slides past, that could change.

Yes, it’s a little early to talk trades. Chances are that even clubs with zero shot at the playoffs and assets to unload will wait until the heat of summer to wheel and deal.

When that time comes, however, look for Braun’s name to churn through the rumor mill. Virtually every contender could use another power bat—and so far, Braun is flexing his muscles for the rebuilding Brewers.

In fact, after a month-plus of action, Braun is looking tantalizingly similar to his old superstar self.

After going 2-for-3 with a solo home run, a double, two runs and a walk in Sunday’s 5-4 win over the Cincinnati Reds, Braun sports a gaudy .367/.430/.615 slash line to go along with seven homers and 24 RBI.

It’s early, a small sample sizeyada, yada, yada. But we’ve seen this guy before.

Braun’s surge calls to mind his salad days, when he hit at least 25 homers and drove in more than 100 runs for a five-year stretch between 2008 and 2012 and picked up a National League MVP trophy in 2011.

Then came 2013’s legacy-tarnishing performance-enhancing-drug suspension, followed by two seasons of diminished performance.

Braun didn’t disappear. He hit 25 home runs last year and made the All-Star team. But it was worth wondering if he’d ever recapture his former glory, especially after undergoing offseason back surgery.

At the same time, Braun is just 32 years old. Not a spring chicken, but far from a cooked goose. Stranger renaissances have happened.

Even if and when Braun’s production takes a slight dip, if he stays healthy and reasonably productive, he’s sure to draw ample trade interest.

As Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal recently noted, Braun has a no-trade clause that allows him to block a swap to any team except the Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, Miami Marlins, Arizona Diamondbacks, San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants.

None of those teams is an especially likely landing spot. But just because Braun can block a trade to another club doesn’t mean he will.

We’re talking about a guy who has tasted the postseason only twice and has never advanced as far as the World Series. If the opportunity arose to go to a winner, surely he’d consider it.

And his contract, while lucrative, isn’t a deal-breaker. After this season, Braun is owed $76 million over four years, including a $4 million buyout. That’s not nothing, but it isn’t a bank-buster by today’s standards.

Plus, the Brewers have shown a willingness to take on a share of the financial burden to sweeten the deal, as they did with Yovani Gallardo, Aramis Ramirez and Jonathan Broxton last season.

Based on his no-trade exemptions, it’s clear Braun prefers to go to the West Coast, which makes sense given his Southern California roots.

If he were willing to broaden his scope, however, he’d be an attractive option for an array of clubs, particularly in the wide-open American League, where the designated hitter slot prolongs careers.

The Texas Rangers play in a hitter-friendly yard and are counting on converted shortstop Ian Desmond and his .239 average to hold down left field.

Or how about the surprising Chicago White Sox, who have a potential need at DH after Adam LaRoche’s abrupt spring training retirement?

Dave Cameron of FanGraphs added the Boston Red Sox and Washington Nationals as two other plausible destinations.

We could keep going. Again, the list of teams that wouldn’t benefit from a game-changing power bat is short, bordering on nonexistent.

The point is this: If Milwaukee dangles Braun and is willing to eat some cashand if Braun is willing to waive his no-trade clause for a shot at a ringthere will be suitors.

“You have to take it in steps,” Milwaukee owner Mark Attanasio said recently of his team’s rebuild, per Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “You have to get back to the playoffs again. And then we’d like to [get to the World Series]. We missed by two games in 2011. We’d like not to miss next time.”

The 2011 run came with Braun at the height of his powers. Now, the return of those powers could help the Brewers get backwith Braun in another uniform.


All statistics and contract information current as of May 8 and courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Scooter Gennett Injury: Updates on Brewers 2B’s Oblique and Return

Milwaukee Brewers second baseman Scooter Gennett is dealing with right oblique tightness that landed him on the disabled list, and it is uncertain when he’ll return to action. 

Continue for updates.

Counsell Comments on Gennett’s Timeline for Return

Thursday, April 28

Brewers manager Craig Counsell told reporters he expects Gennett to miss three weeks with the injury.

Gennett Placed on 15-Day DL

Thursday, April 28

The Brewers announced the roster move on their official Twitter account, noting Gennett will be replaced on the 25-man roster by infielder Hernan Perez. They also noted starting pitcher Matt Garza was transferred to the 60-day disabled list to complete the transaction.

Injury Halts Gennett’s Strong Start to Season

It’s a disappointing setback for Gennett. The 25-year-old Ohio native was off to a strong start to the 2016 campaign with four home runs and a .361 on-base percentage in 18 games. By comparison, he finished last season with just six homers in 114 contests.

Yadiel Rivera, who started in place of Gennett in the Brewers’ last game, has just six hits in 37 career at-bats (.162). So while he’ll probably get the first crack at filling the void, Perez could also get his chance after hitting .339 in 16 games to start the year at Triple-A.

Either of those options will likely represent a drop-off for Milwaukee, based on the production Gennett provided during the first month of the season. As Counsell alluded to, it could be a while before the starter returns, given the delicate nature of oblique injuries.


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Matt Garza Injury: Updates on Brewers SP’s Lat and Return

The Milwaukee Brewers announced Tuesday they placed starting pitcher Matt Garza on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Saturday, with a right lat strain. It’s unclear when he will return.

Continue for updates.

Latest on Garza’s Recovery Timeline

Tuesday, April 5

Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Garza will miss at least four-to-six weeks.

Garza Comments on Lat Injury

Tuesday, April 5

“It just got suddenly tight and it was the last start before the season, so no need to push it,” Garza said, per MLB.com’s Chris Abshire. “More precautionary than anything. I didn’t feel comfortable.”

Garza Looking to Rebound with Healthy 2016 Season

Garza is coming off a brutal 2015 season in which he finished 6-14 with a 5.63 ERA. According to FanGraphs, his 4.94 FIP was the highest of his career, while his 0.6 WAR was his lowest since his rookie season in 2006.

The Brewers will be counting on Garza to rebound in 2016. They don’t have a ton of depth in their starting rotation, and they’re paying him $25 million over the next two seasons, so they need to get a return on their investment.

Starting the regular season on the DL isn’t an encouraging sign for Garza’s chances this year. Milwaukee called up right-hander Tyler Cravy from its Triple-A affiliate, the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, to take his place in the pitching staff.

Cravy appeared in 14 games for Milwaukee in 2015, posting an 0-8 record and a 5.70 ERA. The Brewers have an off day Thursday and then another on April 12. Manager Craig Counsell can shuffle his rotation around a bit to avoid Cravy having to make a start if that’s the team’s plan following his call-up.

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Ryan Braun Injury: Updates on Brewers Star’s Back and Return

Ryan Braun‘s back is flaring up late in spring training, causing the Milwaukee Brewers to take him out of the lineup on Thursday. He is not expected to miss time in the regular season, though it’s unclear exactly when he will return.

Continue for updates.

Counsell Comments on Braun’s Playing Status 

Saturday, March 26

“I’m confident he’ll be in the lineup on Opening Day,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said, per Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I really am.”

Injury-Plagued Braun Still a Star Slugger 

The 2011 National League MVP battled back problems last season, eventually undergoing surgery to repair a herniated disc in October. 

In November, Braun told Haudricourt his rehab was progressing well:

I feel pretty good, knock on wood. The only surprise is the rehab is a little longer than I was anticipating, just a couple months of rehab. Other than that, everything was as expected. 

The first couple of days post-procedure were not fun; it was painful. But other than that, I feel good. I’m doing my physical therapy stuff four days a week. I definitely feel pretty good right now.

Braun, who is 32 years old, had a strong rebound season in 2015 after a poor 2014 in which he posted a career-low .777 OPS. He’s not the MVP-caliber player from early in his career, but he still hit 25 home runs with an .854 OPS in 140 games last season. 

The Brewers are fully immersed in rebuilding their roster and acquiring assets for the future, so contending in 2016 is a long shot. 

Braun is the last vestige of Milwaukee’s 2008 and 2011 playoff teams and signed through 2020 with a mutual option for 2021. His health will be a huge focal point for the Brewers, who are paying him a lot of money as they endure a lot of struggles on the field. 

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Rymer Liriano Injury: Updates on Brewers of After Getting Hit in Face by Pitch

Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Rymer Liriano suffered a gruesome injury Sunday when taking a pitch to the face in an exhibition game in Phoenix against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Continue for updates.

Liriano Taken to Hospital for Further Evaluation

Sunday, March 20

Liriano was hit under the brim of his helmet and immediately went to the ground in pain. Trainers assessed his condition for an extended period at the plate before strapping him to a backboard so he could be taken to a hospital, according to the Associated Press.

SB Nation MLB shared a picture of him being carted off the field after the fateful pitch from Dodgers pitcher Matt West:

“It’s serious,” manager Craig Counsell initially said of Liriano’s injury, per Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “He got hit in the head. I can’t give you many details.”

Haudricourt later added the team reported Liriano suffered “multiple facial fractures” and will undergo further evaluation at the hospital.

“Players who saw Liriano before he was taken to the hospital said his left eye was swollen shut,” reported Haudricourt

It’s a huge blow for the 24-year-old who is trying to make the big league roster. The Brewers acquired him in a Jan. 28 trade with the San Diego Padres, and he spent all of last season in the minors after making his MLB debut in 2014.

In 131 games with San Diego’s Triple-A affiliate, Liriano hit .292.383/.460 with 14 home runs and 53 RBI.

Milwaukee is in the midst of a major rebuild, and a young player with promise such as Liriano fits the direction the Brewers are taking toward stocking young talent.

But a significant injury will throw a major wrench in his development with the team.

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Brewers’ David Denson Hopes Coming Out Paves Way to Achieving MLB Dream

LA PUENTE, California — Six months after knocking ignorance and intolerance out of the park, Milwaukee minor league slugger David Denson hops out of his father’s white Dodge Charger in a parking lot here and smiles broadly.

Behind him are the shadows from which he emerged to declare himself to the world, finally brave and comfortable enough in his own skin to do something that no other active, affiliated professional baseball player ever has dared.

Ahead are skies that have cleared for the first time in his memory, the dawn of an era that finally will allow him to continue pursuing a very old dream in a very new way.

Simply, as a professional baseball player who happens to be gay instead of something far more complicated: a gay man trying to play professional baseball.

Speaking extensively for the first time since coming out in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in mid-August, Denson revealed these past few months have been a revelation to him in a way in which he never expected.

Instead of being ostracized, he has been welcomed.

Where he once feared cold shoulders and harsh judgments, he instead has received warm hugs and supportive gestures.

And a rough-hewn sport known for beanballs and bench jockeys helps guide the way, ever so gently, into a new and welcome Age of Enlightenment.

“I think it actually formed a bond between my teammates and me even more,” Denson says, sitting at a patio table at a local Starbucks in mid-February. “They had an idea. They would never cross the boundary of actually asking me, but they always had an idea in their mind.

“So when I actually said it, it’s like, it satisfied their wonder. It was like, ‘OK, now we know. We don’t have to think about it too much anymore.’ It’s like, ‘It’s out there, it’s cool and we’ve passed it.'”

It never was Denson’s goal to be a trailblazer. He did not set out to make a statement after signing as Milwaukee’s 15th-round draft pick in 2013.

It’s just that, as all those buses rattled along past Wisconsin and Iowa corn fields in the Midwest League and beneath the darkened big sky of Montana in the Pioneer League, a guy like Denson cannot help but feel like a phony, eventually.

He bites his lip here, passes on making a comment there, plugs a pseudonym for his partner into his cellphone so nobody catches on, and pretty soon, there is the person on the inside and the person on the outside. And they are different, much different, and sometimes they wage war with each other. The mind churns endlessly while peers compete and jabber and pass the time, and soon the person on the outside becomes unrecognizable to the person on the inside.

Although Denson had been considering coming out for months, texting regularly for support and advice with Billy Bean, Major League Baseball’s vice president for social responsibility and inclusion, when it finally did happen, it surprised even Denson.

He was with the Brewers‘ rookie-level team in Helena, Montana, last July, just another game day in another minor league town. When the rain swept in following batting practice and the team retreated into the clubhouse, the players did what players have been doing during rain delays since the invention of the tarp. They started teasing each other. In Denson walked and one of his teammates ribbed him, calling him a maricon. The word is a Spanish slang term for f—-t.

“Be careful,” Denson, 6’3″ and 254 pounds, told his teammate. “You never know.”

And just like that, the secret he had painstakingly guarded since stepping into the world of professional baseball two years earlier was out.

“I was like, ‘Did I just say that?'” Denson, who turned 21 in January, says. “And my teammate said, ‘We know that you are [gay]. We were just waiting for you to become comfortable enough to say it.'”

“It was pretty surreal,” says Charlie Galiano, a catcher on the Helena club last summer. “I was really happy for him. Some guys did have some questions but, for the most part, I think everybody accepted it.”

Credit Mother Nature with a sharp sense of drama, because it rained hard enough that night to postpone the game. So Denson and his teammates sat in the clubhouse and talked about what he had just told them for probably 15 or 20 minutes, first in a small group, then with more and more players crowding around. They asked him questions, and he fed them answers.

“I was still kind of in shock,” Denson says. “You could say it was OK, but you never know who was going to react to what. I never wanted to make my teammates feel uncomfortable. I never wanted them to feel different toward me.

“Because whether I’m gay, straight, bisexual, whatever, I’m still myself. I wanted them to see me for me. And that’s exactly what they did.”

Wearing a Brewers cap backward and a sleeve tattoo, Denson is a couple of hours away from another offseason training session at a nearby college. He is working out with a renewed zeal this winter. He cannot wait for this season to begin.

This is not how he thought it would go.

“Huge difference from last winter,” Denson says. “Huge.

“When it came to preparing for spring training last year, I’d say I worked hard but I didn’t work my ass off. It ran through my mind that if any of the stuff I’m thinking goes wrong, or goes the way I think it’s going to go, then what’s the point of me even trying? What’s the point of me giving everything to something that I’m going to lose anyway?

“So there’s no point in my working my ass off because if somebody finds out, it’s all going to go down the drain.”

Can you imagine? Runs, now they are a part of baseball. Hits, too, and, yes, even errors. But hopelessness? In a society tilting hard toward tolerance and acceptance, ugliness and bile still too often poison the air.

“I expected the worst reaction,” he continues. “I expected the absolute worst. And I think that actually helped a lot. Going through my mind, expecting the worst, even if bad things were going to happen, it still wasn’t the worst that was going through my mind.

“So that gave me exactly everything I thought could go wrong, and it didn’t.”

His mind never stopped because his imagination wouldn’t allow it. He envisioned every potential land mine.

“That my teammates would neglect me. That they wouldn’t want me around,” he says. “That I would make them feel awkward, that they wouldn’t feel comfortable around me in the locker room because of that whole stereotype that somebody is gay and they’re looking at me, something like that.

“That other teams would feel some type of way toward me, like me being on the field is disrespectful. That coaches won’t be OK with it because of the saying that goes around in the locker room, that if you’re a distraction to the team, they want to get rid of distractions.

“All of that ran through my mind.”

Of those things, here is exactly how many happened:


Even in the stands. No catcalls, no rude comments.

“I’d read everything off of the first day in a city,” he says. “If there was no reaction that first day, then I was like, ‘OK, I can be calm here.'”

There was a time in this country when women were not allowed to vote. When African-Americans were not allowed to drink from certain water fountains. When simply being born to a certain gender, race or with a particular sexual orientation gave other folks a tacit license to discriminate.

Maybe as a society we are not in the clear yet. Maybe some days it seems like we’re further from the clear than other days. But we also live in a time in which, fortunately, there is a growing awareness that bullying, in whatever form, is not OK.

Remove it, and the possibilities can seem endless. 

“Heading into this year, I’ve done workouts that I’ve never done before,” Denson says. “I’ve worked harder than I’ve ever worked before. That’s why I’m so excited. I can see the difference. I can see the change.

“I feel like they’re going to get a totally different player.”

Text by text, beginning with Bean last winter, Denson built the courage to find a way out of his trap. That Major League Baseball had people in place with life preservers is no small part of his story.

The game that gave us Jackie Robinson in 1947, a full 17 years before that Civil Rights Act of 1964, hired Bean as Ambassador for Inclusion during the summer of 2014. A fourth-round draft pick by the Detroit Tigers in 1986, Bean, now 51, spent six years in the majors as a journeyman outfielder with the Tigers, Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres.

Like Denson, Bean is gay. Only he kept it to himself until a few years after he retired.

“My trepidation on his behalf was, first of all…his mental well-being,” Bean says. “Why he wanted to [come out], what his family situation was like.

“The fact that he reached out to me, I was not guiding his decision. I was just someone he could reach out to.”

That Bean was there with a waiting hand was no accident. A game that long has prided itself as a social institution with a social responsibility this winter promoted Bean to a vice president’s position, hired Curtis Pride as its new Ambassador for Inclusion and also hired Tyrone Brooks as senior director of MLB‘s new Front Office and Field Staff Diversity Pipeline Program.

“It’s about diversity and inclusion,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred told Bleacher Report. “I think for a business like ours to maximize its appeal to a very diverse population, people have to believe we are diverse—on the field, with what the product looks like and with who’s running it. And it can’t stop with race.

“Race is the first step. But diversity and inclusion in today’s world is much more than that.”

As internal pressure built last spring and Denson wondered whether he could even continue plodding toward a future he feared would be stripped away, he met privately at the Brewers’ spring training camp in Arizona with Becky Schnakenberg, a counselor then employed by the club, farm director Reid Nichols, Class A Wisconsin manager Matt Erickson and minor league hitting coordinator Jeremy Reed.

“Their reaction was, we don’t care,” Denson says. “We don’t see you any differently. As long as you can play and go out and do your job, there’s nothing that’s holding you back anymore.”

But there was.

He spilled his secret but declined their offer to talk to some of the other players for him. No, Denson said, if his teammates were to find out, he wanted to be the one to tell them, face-to-face, on his own terms. He did not want them to feel like they had to accept him simply because a coach told them to.

After the season started, sensing Denson was spiraling downward, Bean secretly visited him in Appleton, Wisconsin.

“I didn’t even tell anyone in my office,” Bean says.

Over dinner at a local steakhouse, Bean allowed him to vent. Through the first two months of the season, Denson was hitting .195 (16-for-82) with one homer and eight RBI at Class A Wisconsin. Not long after the dinner, those numbers would earn Denson a demotion to Helena, a lower-level Class A team.

“You could tell he had a lot on his mind,” Bean says. “His parents were greatly concerned with his decision. David is a very confident young man. He’s not going to be intimidated by anyone. But he’s young.

“In this Facebook world, you’re going to be given a lot of love if you put yourself out there,” Bean says. “But my concern was that once he did this, he could not reverse that decision. Being the first active player with an affiliated ballclub, he was going into uncharted territory.”

Manfred says he finds positive reaction in the game to Denson so far to be “so encouraging because we have worked hard to create an inclusive work environment, and the reason we do is our product is so compelling because we attract the very best baseball players in the world. If one happens to be of a different race or sexual orientation or religion, the fact that we have a welcoming environment is crucial to attracting the best.

“This doesn’t happen simply because you fall off the back of a truck. Our clubs, from the time a player is signed as an amateur, and our great partners in minor league baseball, have worked very hard to give a player like David Denson the experience he’s had.”

Says Bean: “Baseball is proud of the way it was handled. There is a collective supportive environment. If you’re a baseball player, we have that in common. And the world has changed dramatically in the way we talk about these other issues.”

Indeed, two decades ago, Bean walked away from the game he loved at age 31 because it simply was too torturous for him to go on.

“The great regret I share is that I didn’t believe I belonged somewhere and I still had time left,” Bean says. “We get old quickly. I look back and think, ‘How on earth could I have not talked to someone? How could I just run away, disconnect?’

“I decided to quit and not talk to anyone.”

Denson did not quit….but it did cross his mind.

“David almost quit twice last year,” says his father, Lamont, 62.

The first time was in the spring, about the time he had the meeting with the Brewers’ contingent. The other time was in June, around the time Bean secretly visited him.

“I felt like when I was at home or by myself, I was being me, but any other time I was being a totally different person,” Denson says. “And I really was being a totally different person, so that didn’t help.

“In general, even off the field toward my teammates, I was getting a label for myself that I didn’t like. I was a hothead. I had a temper. I had an attitude. And at the time, I don’t want to sound rude, but I didn’t care.”

Back home in Southern California, his partner, Freddy, was one of the few who could listen. But catching up on the telephone isn’t always the best, especially given the time zone differences as the baseball schedule dictated Denson’s life. And there was no way they could travel together.

“On my phone, he was saved as a different name,” Denson says of his now 10-month relationship. “Any kind of social media, he knew [a message] was toward him, but if anybody would read it they would never think it was toward a man.

“On Instagram, you know how you can tag a person? I would never tag him. I’d use a term that’s unisex. It was never directed at him. It was always a secret.”

Since the start of his professional career, Denson has had two prior relationships. Neither one lasted. This one, he says, is different.

“I finally found somebody who understands,” he says.

Sometimes, inner turmoil is our toughest opponent. Denson is known to his friends as an easygoing, affable man who loves movies, dancing, music and laughter. He is quick with a smile, and quicker yet to bring friends together.

“He’s not shy at all,” says Adrian De Horta, a pitcher in the San Diego Padres organization and best friends with Denson since the two were six years old. “He’s going to be the conversation starter. He’ll come up to you and give you a hug and start the conversation right off the top.

“Great guy. Big heart. The type of guy who will always help you out.”

Yet his teammates last summer in both Wisconsin and Helena saw that side of him only in glimpses.

“He had little anger-management issues,” says Doug Melvin, the Brewers general manager from 2002-15 before stepping into an advisory role with the club at the end of last season. “Not major confrontations. I’m not saying he had attitude problems. But you could tell there were some things he was uncomfortable with, and later on we understood why.”

The anger would flash after strikeouts. Every so often he would fail to hustle.

“I always say to our player development department, we can never know enough about our players,” Melvin says. “Everybody has different hobbies, different likes, different social things they go and do.”

Denson had broken the news to his parents on the eve of spring training last year, so he already was an emotional wreck by the time he took his first swings of the spring. His mother, Felisa, 43, was concerned in a protective way.

“She was nervous because of the brutality that’s out there,” says Denson, who also has a sister, Celestine (26, and whose husband is a former Brewers minor leaguer, Jose Sermo), and a brother, Eugene (35). “The stories of how people have been beaten or tormented for being gay. All the traveling through different cities and towns, you don’t know how people are going to react.”

With his father, it was more of an argument. Lamont is a former athlete and a God-fearing man who had serious difficulty accepting what his son was telling him.

“He said it was really eating him up,” Lamont says. “I told him that my son and daughter, you can talk to me about anything. When you don’t talk to me, that’s when things are going to be crazy.”

Things still went a little crazy.

“I’m still going through it,” Lamont says. “It hasn’t stopped yet. As I told him, I’m a very religious man. I accept it. I don’t condone it. But I accept it, I told him, because you’re grown now.

“At a young age, I introduced him to the Lord. Anything he does now is between him and the Lord and not for me to judge. When it comes time to meet his maker, that’s who he’s going to discuss it with. I was put here and blessed to be his father, and I thank the Lord for that.”

Not long after David publicly came out in August, Lamont’s phone rang. It was Melvin, calling from Milwaukee.

“The one thing I did was call his father, because I had heard his father was having a difficult time,” Melvin says. “I put myself into the shoes of a father.

“I told him, ‘Mr. Denson, I want you to know our objective and our goal with David is not going to change. It is to get him to the big leagues. He is not going to be viewed any differently.’

“I wanted to put his father at ease because he could be thinking, ‘What if the organization looks at my son differently?’ I thought that was important for me to do as a GM.”

Bean phoned his father as well—and continues to call. Lamont says they talk quite often, and that he appreciates Bean “opening himself up to our whole family.” David Denson simply says that Bean has become family.

Sometimes, we all need angels in our lives.

“I told David that God had a special plan for him, and this is just the beginning,” Lamont says. “With him doing what he did, it’s going to open the door for a lot of people in a lot of sports for people not to be afraid of who they are.

“Once you let that go, you can achieve so many things in life.”

Afterward, not coincidentally, Denson’s anger issues just sort of faded away. Teammates noticed how relaxed he suddenly had become. You’re not mad, they told him. You’re not angry.

“And I was, like, that wasn’t who I am,” Denson says. “I was just doing that so you guys would leave me alone and not ask questions.”

Galiano, who roomed with Denson on the road last summer at Helena, says, “I actually knew about him being a homosexual about a month before [Denson told his teammates during that rain delay]. I was the first teammate he told.

“I asked, ‘Do you want me to keep it a secret?’ I’m an Italian from New York; I know how to keep a secret.

“I was trying to explain to him, ‘Listen, it’s a different day and age. That other stuff was years ago. If they don’t accept you now, they’re the odd one out.

“My sister is a professional dancer, so I’m very familiar with gay people. They’re awesome. He knew my feelings on it before he told me, and when he did tell me, I was like, ‘All right.’ It didn’t bother me.”

Says Lamont: “I am very surprised about how many people accept him, but only to a certain extent because I know what a good person he is. The way he expresses himself to people, he’s a very likable guy.”

As he speaks, by his own count, Lamont Denson’s wardrobe is stocked with six Brewers caps. Two of them are official team caps given to him by his son. Four of them, he’s purchased.

Nearly every day, one can be found atop his head.

Before David Denson, there was Michael Sam, who became the first publicly gay player to be drafted by an NFL team, and Jason Collins, the NBA veteran. Neither built much of a career after coming out.

Sam went public with his sexuality after his last season at the University of Missouri, then underwhelmed at the NFL Scouting Combine and was drafted in the seventh round by the St. Louis Rams. He was cut at the end of training camp in 2014 and then, last June, took a leave of absence for personal reasons from the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League.

Collins came out following the 2012-13 NBA season, becoming the first active openly gay male athlete in one of the four major North American professional sports leagues. Though Collins played 13 years in the NBA, he played only briefly for the Brooklyn Nets after coming out and retired in November 2014.

Denson is still a long way away from the majors. He is expected to start at the Class A level this summer, and if he plays well for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, maybe he’ll advance to the high-Class A Brevard County (Florida) Manatees. As of 2015, he was not listed among the Brewers’ top 30 prospects, according to MLB.com Pipeline’s prospects watch.

So, both his professional story and his personal story are still being authored, and will be for the near future.

“We are changing the tide of that conversation in a wonderful way, but I don’t need to explain that a [major league] clubhouse is not an employee resource group environment,” Bean says. “It is a different world, and you’d better be a damn good player to bring personal stuff into the clubhouse.

“If you’re getting it done on the field, it’s a layup. If not…unfortunately for Michael Sam, the decision on when he announced was when he was not playing and he was talking about going to play. It was so built up when Michael was not able to play at a level of a first-round draft choice at the combine that the naysayers began to have a field day.

“That was a learning experience for all of us.”

In fact, with his son near the breaking point and determined to unburden himself, Lamont Denson urged him last summer to wait until the offseason to do it. But the way things went for Sam was instructive, and as David and Bean worked their way through things, they were very cognizant of potential minefields.

“I think we learned from Michael Sam’s choices that we’ve got to keep it about baseball,” Bean says. Hence, the decision for Denson to come out during the season, when the steady drumbeat of games would allow the news to float in and out of the news cycle. “David still is an A ball player, and it’s getting pretty close to the time when he needs to make a statement. This is his fourth season, and the time is now.”

Gay or straight, white or black, there are no guarantees. It is a bottom-line business, and the bottom line is production. Jobs hang in the balance all around, from the clubhouse to the front office, and there are no easy paths.

Sitting here under the warm California sun, what Denson most remembers are the final few weeks of last season. Following his revelation, he smashed four home runs and collected 20 RBI in August and September. He also was named as the outstanding player for the Pioneer League in the Class A Northwest League-Pioneer League All-Star Game.

“I was back in my game, easily back in my game,” Denson says.

He could see teammates in both Helena and Wisconsin (he was promoted back to the Timber Rattlers later in August) wondering, where has this guy been?

“He wasn’t here,” Denson says. “There was so much other stuff going on, this person wasn’t here.

“I’m excited. I feel like this season is going to be a total, total different outcome.”

Says Bean: “I would be devastated if David’s career is shorter rather than longer. I’m fond of him. It’s hard to see, most athletes that are LGBT have a bad ending because they just didn’t trust, and then quit, or they had a negative situation based on where they played.

“It’s one of those things with David where, so far, it’s been good.”

When he reports to the Brewers spring training camp in Maryvale, Arizona, it will be with nothing to hide. It will be with a clear mind trained on possibilities, not a head full of demons taunting him about the horror life can bring.

Not only is it a good time to be living in his own skin again, but it is an excellent time to be young and a Brewer. The club is undergoing a renovation at the big league level, shedding veterans and rebuilding. There is enormous opportunity throughout the organization.

The Brewers, who have moved him off of first base and are making him a corner outfielder this year, like his power and plate discipline.

Finally, he feels free again, like he can handle anything the new season throws at him. Sure, the knuckle draggers are out there, but fear no longer is part of his equation. He knows he is being watched, both by those within the game and by who knows how many younger gay players who are keeping quiet while suddenly having discovered a new hero.

“I feel more motivated than anything,” Denson says. “There is pressure, but the feeling of finally feeling free outweighs everything else. I don’t feel like I’m doing this for myself. I feel like this is a stepping-stone for other players who may be going through it, or who have gone through it and never said anything.

“Or, for future generations of little ones who may be feeling this way and sooner or later are going to be exposed to it. It shouldn’t be a thing where you discriminate against someone for their sexuality. I feel like I’m competing against a bunch of guys who are straight and I’m gay but I’m holding my own, so what does sexuality have to do with it?

“My sexuality is not going to make me hit the ball harder or feel better. It’s just my personal preference, that’s all it is.”

Now, he says, his view is more outward than inward.

“Before, it was more about protecting myself,” he says. “Now, it’s like you have to stand up for others. You stood up for yourself, good. But now you have to keep going to show and to prove you can do everything anybody else does.

“My goal was never to be accepted. And I feel like that’s the line that people don’t understand. For me, there is a difference between being accepted and respected.”

He still remembers scrolling through the comments section underneath the story when it first appeared in the Milwaukee newspaper last August. Those comments, some of which represented the only nasty reaction he’s received, actually helped steel him.

“At first, I got upset,” he says. “Why are people so close-minded? They don’t understand.

“Then it finally hit me: Dude, your story’s out and you know not everybody’s going to accept it, so why are you taking the time to read these things? Now you don’t have to worry about it. Now they’re talking about something you were worried about for so long.

“So now, if they’re going to talk, let them talk. Let them say whatever they need to say. Because at the end of the day, they’re not supporting your playing, they’re not working out every day like you’re doing, and they don’t pay your bills.”


Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

Follow Scott on Twitter and talk baseball.

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Jacob Nottingham to Brewers: Latest Trade Details and Scouting Report

On Friday, the Milwaukee Brewers announced they acquired catcher Jacob Nottingham in a trade with the Oakland Athletics.

The Brewers also received minor league pitcher Bubba Derby in a deal that sent outfielder Khris Davis to Oakland.

While a Friday evening trade involving a trio of players with limited MLB experience doesn’t seem to be a headliner at face value, Nottingham’s addition could be big for the Brewers.

As Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel indicated, Nottingham will likely be the long-term replacement for Jonathan Lucroy when the team eventually deals the former All-Star:

Lucroy will likely be the next prominent chip the Brewers deal as part of their massive rebuild that’s seen the team trade staples Francisco Rodriguez and Adam Lind in an effort to get younger and more affordable. 

The move comes on the heels of a 68-94 campaign that came a season after the team sat in first place all year until a September meltdown.

The Brewers have made nine trades since hiring new general manager David Stearns in September, and Nottingham has ties to Stearns dating back to their tenures with the Houston Astros.

A 6’3”, 250-pound brute, Nottingham turned down a baseball scholarship to play football at Arizona, per Haudricourt, and will give the Brewers power at a position where strength is scarce. 

Nottingham, who will turn 21 in April, will be a non-roster invite to the Brewers’ big league spring training camp, according to Adam McCalvy of MLB.com.

The Brewers’ next few seasons could be ugly, as they’ve dealt a slew of their core talent in exchange for prospects, but Nottingham’s addition gives them something to look forward to in the future.

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Rymer Liriano to Brewers: Latest Trade Details, Comments and Reaction

The Milwaukee Brewers bolstered their outfield depth Thursday via a trade.

The team announced on Twitter it acquired outfielder Rymer Liriano from the San Diego Padres in exchange for minor league pitcher Trevor Seidenberger. The Brewers designated outfielder Shane Peterson for assignment as well.

Chris Mitchell of FanGraphs noted the Padres recently designated Liriano for assignment to make room on the roster for Alexei Ramirez. Steve Adams of MLBTradeRumors.com pointed out Liriano underwent Tommy John surgery and missed the entire 2013 campaign, although he did play for the Padres in 2014.

The outfield prospect appeared in 38 games at the major league level in 2014 and hit .220 with one home run, six RBI and four stolen bases. He flashed some speed on the basepaths and in the field, but he also struck out 39 times.

The lack of contact follows a scouting report Mitchell offered that said Liriano struck out in 24 percent of his at-bats in Triple-A last season and has suffered the same fate in more than 20 percent of his total plate appearances throughout his entire minor league career.

However, Mitchell also mentioned the outfielder’s versatile tool set with power, speed and a strong arm and said “relatively few prospects have such a strong and diverse collection of skills. Furthermore, he’s parlayed those tools into some nice numbers in the high minors. He hit .291/.375/.466 with nearly 40 steals between Double-A and Triple-A in the past two seasons.” 

Dayn Perry of CBS Sports added, “I’d definitely take a flyer [sic] on Rymer Liriano.”

MLB.com provided a video highlighting Liriano’s talent before the 2015 season:

As for Seidenberger, MLB.com did not rate him as one of Milwaukee’s top 30 prospects heading into 2015. According to MiLB.com, the southpaw posted a mediocre 4.07 ERA in 48.2 innings pitched of minor league ball in 2015. The 23-year-old is yet to pitch above the Double-A level and likely needs more seasoning before he is ready to contribute for a major league roster.

Liriano is the headliner in this trade, especially since he is only 24 years old. MLB.com rated the outfielder as the 13th-best prospect in San Diego’s system before the 2015 season even after the surgery that cost him 2013.

Liriano posted solid numbers in Triple-A in recent years and is a low-risk, high-reward addition for a Brewers team looking to rebuild in a daunting division over the course of the next few seasons.

If he finally delivers on his versatile skill set at the major league level, Liriano can develop into an everyday starter in the near future.

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Jonathan Lucroy Could Provide Big Trade Impact as All-Star-Level Catcher

Word is Jonathan Lucroy would welcome a trade to a team that has eyes on winning. All he needs now is a team that’s willing to bet he can be a star catcher again, which is hardly the craziest notion.

That this idea requires some faith, though, is reflected in how quiet Lucroy‘s trade market has been. Adam McCalvy of MLB.com reported during the winter meetings that the rebuilding Milwaukee Brewers were open to trading Lucroy, but there have been few reported nibbles on the 29-year-old catcher.

Last week, we found out that this has nothing to do with Lucroy being intent on hiding behind limited no-trade protection. In an interview with Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Lucroy said he wouldn’t mind being traded to a contender.

“Yeah, absolutely. I want to win,” he said. “It’s not guaranteed that I’m going to win if I am traded. But I’m going to be a 30-year-old catcher. I can’t put numbers on how much longer I’m going to play, but as players we want to win. I don’t care about the money; I just want to win. That’s the bottom line.”

But while Lucroy‘s words aren’t exactly unwelcome for potential suitorsDavid Schoenfield of ESPN.com figures that list includes the Texas Rangers and Washington Nationals—a trade doesn’t sound imminent.

Take it from Haudricourt:

Because Lucroy was an All-Star and a National League MVP contender as recently as 2014 and is controllable through 2017 at less than $10 million, you can’t blame the Brewers for putting a high price tag on him.

But at the same time, you also can’t blame other teams for saying, “Gee, I don’t know, man.”

Lucroy is heading into the danger zone with his age-30 season due up, and off a rough 2015 season to boot. An early-season toe injury and a late-season concussion limited him to only 103 games, and his OPS fell from .837 in 2014 all the way to just .717. 

And that’s not the full extent of the warning signs. As Harry Pavlidis of Baseball Prospectus showed recently, Lucroy‘s once-elite ability to frame strikes is now barely above average. With that being the case, “meh” might be the best word to describe Lucroy‘s defense.

When looking at recent history, Michael Baumann of Today’s Knuckleball noted that the Brewers can demand at least one top-50 prospect in exchange for Lucroy. And given that he plays a position where talent is scarce and he has a cheap contract, the emphasis probably belongs on “at least.”

For a guy who may have started a decline in 2015, maybe that sounds like a lot to ask. But though teams have every right to wonder as much, reasons for optimism aren’t hard to find.

Generally speaking, teams have a better chance of finding Waldo in a candy cane field than they do of finding an above-average hitter to play catcher. That makes the prospect of Lucroy‘s offense rebounding arguably the most intriguing possibility of trading for him.

And really, that’s not too much to ask of him.

Though Lucroy‘s 2015 offensive performance looks bad on the whole, one bright side is that his rough start and finish to the season heavily skewed his overall performance. In between Lucroy‘s toe injury and concussion, there was an 82-game stretch where he hit .277 with a .758 OPS. That may not be up to par with what he did in 2014, but it’s way above average for a catcher.

Further, Lucroy‘s batted-ball profile for the 2015 season backs up the idea that he was mostly his usual self in the batter’s box. He continued to hit line drives, use the whole field and generally make solid contact:

This is not to say Lucroy didn’t have real issues at the plate. As David Golebiewski pointed out at Gammons Daily, hard stuff gave him more trouble than it did in 2014. And though Lucroy remained an above-average contact hitter, his strikeout rate did experience a spike. 

Overall, though, Lucroy was more dangerous than his final numbers let on. He was actually a pretty good hitter in 80 percent of the games he was able to play in, and he didn’t forget how to sting the ball.

Hence why it’s not a surprise to see optimistic projections for Lucroy‘s 2016 season. The Marcel projections have him bouncing back to hit .279 with a .778 OPS. The Steamer projections aren’t as bullish, but they still see a .273 average and .756 OPS.

Of course, Lucroy‘s health will have to cooperate. And on that front, the reality is that you can’t be too sure with concussions—particularly when catchers are involved, and especially when said catcher is nearing the wrong side of 30.

But while it may be impossible to disregard any concerns for Lucroy‘s noggin, he’s at least doing his best to downplay the possibility of further damage. He was advised to fortify his head by strengthening his neck, and he’s taken the advice to heart.

“We’ve been doing a nice, safe regimen for neck strengthening that will help me be more impact resistant,” Lucroy told Haudricourt. “A lot of studies have shown neck strength helps decrease the severity of concussions by a lot. That’s what I’m aiming for.”  

Relative to his bat and to his health, maybe the biggest question regarding Lucroy‘s future has to do with his ability to frame strikes. Strike framing makes for a significant portion of a catcher’s defensive value, after all, so you can rest assured this is something potential suitors have on their minds.

And this, frankly, is where it’s a bit harder to drum up optimism. As Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs found, what pitch-framing data there is suggests that when a framing decline begins, it tends to be permanent. 

And yet, not all hope is lost. As Sullivan said: “[Lucroy‘s] not yet old, and he could have a much healthier season. He still knows all the techniques, and there’s some chance the numbers are actually missing something. Maybe, for example, they’re not giving Lucroy enough credit for catching a pretty lousy staff.”

This, to be sure, it not a promise that Lucroy can get his framing back on track. But it’s a Lloyd Christmas-y way of saying there’s a chance, which is certainly better than no chance.

And even if Lucroy‘s framing stays stuck in decline mode, it will be hard to complain about that as long as his bat and his health behave better than they did in 2015.

Take a look back to even Lucroy‘s modestly productive 2013 season: His solid hitting and sizable body of work made him worth over three wins above replacement. Only four catchers ended up in that range last year. Star-level catchers are scarce like that, so even a modestly productive Lucroy could be a big asset.

This is not to say Lucroy is a trade steal waiting to happen. The only way that would come true is if he got back to his MVP-caliber form from 2014, which isn’t terribly likely. However, a trade need not be a steal in order to be worth it. And if Lucroy can put his rough 2015 behind him, he stands to be just that—worth itif a team pays a heavy price for him in a trade.

For now, prospective suitors at least know that Lucroy is game to leave Milwaukee. All they have to decide is how much they want to get him out of there.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

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Jonathan Lucroy Trade Rumors: Latest News and Speculation on Brewers C

Jonathan Lucroy has long been linked to trade rumors this offseason, but actual discussions for the Milwaukee Brewers All-Star catcher have furthered among interested suitors.

Continue for updates.

Lucroy Comments on Trade Rumors 

Tuesday, Jan. 19

Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel provided Lucroy’s take on his standing with the Brewers’ organization:

“I’m not going to sit here and say we’re going to compete for the playoffs this year. If I did that, you’d call me a liar. I’d lose credibility and respect.

I want to win and I don’t see us winning in the foreseeable future. I want to go to a World Series. That’s what all players want. Rebuilding is not a lot of fun for any veteran guy.”


“If I stay with the Brewers, I’m not going to go out and dog it,” he said. “I’m not going to be a bad teammate. I’m not going to be a bad clubhouse guy. I’m not going to be bitter. It’s just part of the game.

Right now, I’m planning on being with the Brewers. I’m not going to think anything different until something happens. It might and it might not. No one knows. I’m going to go out every day and compete with whatever team I’m with.

It’s a unique situation. I try to look at it objectively and without bias. As players, we can’t help but play GM at times. It’s definitely a hard thing, and I get that. There are injury concerns, which is fine. There are performance concerns, which is fine. That comes with the territory.”

Brewers’ Asking Price ‘Too High’ for Lucroy

Monday, Jan. 18

The Texas Rangers, Washington Nationals and Oakland Athletics have all recently been involved in trade talks with the Brewers over Lucroy, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.

However, Rosenthal added that no deal has been struck because the Brewers’ asking price is reportedly “too high.”

That could be in light of Lucroy’s incredibly affordable contract, which has one year and $4.35 million left with a $5.25 million option for 2017, per Spotrac.

The veteran is coming off a production decline and an injury-ridden season, but despite one outlying year, he’s still an everyday backstop with a bat better than most at his position as a career .282 hitter.

Teams are well aware of his production and cost value but want to act quickly if they’re going to strike a deal, per Mike Axisa of CBS Sports:

Teams right now want to buy low on Lucroy and acquire him for two full seasons. If the Brewers wait until the deadline, they’re only selling one and a half seasons of Lucroy. Teams won’t be willing to pay as much. Those first few months of the season have real value. Waiting until next offseason means the price would be even lower.

The Brewers are in the midst of a massive rebuild that’s involved trades of key contributors such as Carlos Gomez, Mike Fiers, Francisco Rodriguez, Adam Lind, Gerardo Parra and Jonathan Broxton since last year’s non-waiver trade deadline.

After finishing 68-94, tied for fourth-worst in the majors a year after leading the National League Central for 152 days before a September meltdown, Milwaukee has conceded it needs to focus on long-term scope.

When Lucroy hits free agency, he’ll likely command at least twice what he’s making, and stockpiling young yet cheap talent and/or draft picks would be in the Brewers’ best interest.  

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