Notes: Jeffress suspended 50 games
Yost tinkers with lineup; Sheets feels fine after big start
CHICAGO -- Former Brewers first-round Draft pick Jeremy Jeffress was suspended for 50 games by Major League Baseball on Thursday after testing positive for "a drug of abuse."Jeffress, a right-hander from rural Virginia whose fastball consistently tops 100 mph, went 9-5 with a 3.13 ERA this season for Class A West Virginia and is considered one of the best pitching prospects in Milwaukee's organization. The team drafted him with the 16th overall pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft and gave him a $1.55 million signing bonus. Including Thursday's game against Lexington, West Virginia has only five games remaining on its regular-season schedule, so much of Jeffress' suspension will be served in 2008. He'll turn 20 years old next month. In a statement, Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said, "The Milwaukee Brewers support Major League Baseball's drug program and its decision to suspend Jeremy Jeffress. The organization takes these matters very seriously and we are in the process of formulating a plan in hopes that Jeremy can redeem himelf. Jeremy will be provided every opportunity to get his career back on track through the Brewers' Employee Assistance Program." Jeffress became the second significant Brewers prospect this season suspended under the Minor League drug prevention program, which was put in place in 2001 and is more far-reaching than the MLB program first implemented in 2003. Catcher Angel Salome was slapped with a 50-game suspension in July for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. Lineup shuffle: Manager Ned Yost moved shortstop J.J. Hardy back up to the two-hole and flipped third baseman Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder back to third and fourth, respectively, for Thursday's game against the Cubs. Yost also slotted hot-hitting outfielder Corey Hart into the five-hole and said he will stick with this configuration for the time being. Hardy batted .404 in 13 games as the No. 8 hitter and slumped the last time Yost tried moving him back to second in the order. But he also was hitting .357 on the road trip, so the skipper decided to give it another try. "The way he's swinging the bat right now, it's beneficial to us to get him the extra at-bat in the game that he probably wouldn't get batting eighth," Yost said. Braun had batted third and Fielder fourth for much of the season, but Yost made the switch earlier this month as pitchers began to pitch around National League home run leader Fielder. But Braun batted .227 in 12 games as the cleanup hitter, and Fielder is hitting .262 this season in the three-hole, 38 points lower than his average hitting fourth entering play Thursday. The key to the updated configuration could be Hart, who was 9-for-18 in the first eight games of the trip. He had all three Brewers RBIs on Tuesday against the Cubs and put the Brewers on the board Wednesday with a two-out RBI triple to right field. "Once Corey starts taking balls that way, like he's been doing, he's getting back," Yost said. "When Corey gets into a little bit of a funk, it's because he's pulling off balls. He's back to driving the ball up the middle. ... He always finds ways to produce." Hart is two home runs shy of becoming the fifth player in franchise history with at least 20 homers and 20 stolen bases in a season. All good: Ben Sheets said he felt completely normal Thursday, a day after he delivered six inspired innings in a win over the Cubs in his first start off the disabled list. His arm, unused in a game since July 14, felt strong, and there was no recurrence of a blister on his right middle finger. In terms of stamina, it helped that Sheets had been able to play catch for much of his six-week stint on the DL with torn tissue on his middle finger, a stint extended by the blisters. But it also helped that the injury took place in July instead of April. "I think it helped that I was already built up," Sheets said, referring to his arm strength. "Last year, when I got hurt it was only a month in. I wasn't all the way built up." Yost will keep Sheets on an every-five-day schedule whenever possible for the remainder of the season, giving Sheets six more starts. He worked almost exclusively with fastballs on Wednesday, but expects to mix in more breaking stuff on Monday against the Astros. "My curve will be fine," he said. "To be honest, it felt a little different coming out of my hand. But it will be there." Good cause: Limited tickets remain for Brewers bullpen catcher Marcus Hanel's charity event on Monday night in Racine, Wis., where as many as 20 Brewers players and coaches will be on hand for a dinner and silent auction. Proceeds go to Hanel's "Koos for Kids" charity and will benefit ill and disadvantaged kids in southeast Wisconsin. A number of autographed jerseys hung in Hanel's locker at Wrigley Field, including a Brandon Webb and a Ryan Howard, and will be up for auction along with memorabilia from the Brewers, Bucks and Packers and other items from Wisconsin retailers. "It has kind of become a community project, and that's what our whole goal is," said Hanel, in his seventh season as the Brewers bullpen catcher. "It's great to see the way we have been able to impact so many families." For tickets ($15 for adults and $10 for kids), call Jill at (262) 880-1048 or visit Pocaro Mitsubishi, 6107 Washington Ave. in Racine. More information about the Labor Day event and the foundation in general is at www.koosforkids.com. On deck: Working on two extra days of rest, right-hander Yovani Gallardo will take the mound Friday night in the opener of a three-game series against the Pirates at Miller Park. Pittsburgh will counter with righty Tony Armas, who is 3-0 in four career starts against Milwaukee.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.