MILWAUKEE -- With almost three quarters of the season in the books, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke has become more conscious of when his everyday players might need a break.One game after giving Rickie Weeks a day off, Roenicke held Norichika Aoki, Corey Hart and Aramis Ramirez out of the starting lineup on Sunday against the Phillies. That left three of the Brewers' best hitters and a combined 163 RBIs sitting on the bench. Although it was difficult to give all of them a break -- particularly Hart and Ramirez -- in the same game, Roenicke said it was a necessary evil. "They've been playing hard and going at it," Roenicke said. "And when I asked them, the day games is when they really feel it's the hardest for them to get out there. You hate to take both of them out, but the good thing is we get them both back tomorrow." Hart had played every game since the All-Star break, and Ramirez had only sat out twice in that span with a sore wrist. Aoki, meanwhile, has played 109 games in his first year in the Major Leagues, and Roenicke said he has to keep an eye on how the former Japanese Central League batting champion is holding up.
In place of Hart, Travis Ishikawa got the start at first base, batting fifth. Cody Ransom started at third for Ramirez and hit seventh. Nyjer Morgan, who got the nod in right for Aoki, was in the leadoff spot.
Braun busts out of slump in NL MVP-like fashion
MILWAUKEE -- For Ryan Braun, it doesn't take much to break out of a bad stretch at the plate.Braun came into the series against the Phillies batting .143 (6-for-42) in his previous 10 games, which led to manager Ron Roenicke giving his All-Star left fielder a day off on Wednesday. But after connecting on four home runs and registering six total hits in the past three games, Braun's slump -- although not that long ago -- feels to Roenicke like it was in the distant past. "He's one of the elite guys, as we all know, so when he does things, it really doesn't surprise me," Roenicke said. "This is a special guy. I've been with a few of them in my career -- Mike Schmidt and Tony Gwynn and guys like that -- and they're just different guys. I struggled to stay in the big leagues and tried to hit and tried to watch everything I could on the great hitters, and there's just a difference. There's a huge window of difference between the really good ones and the guys that just are playing in the big leagues." After driving in seven runs in the first 12 games of August, Braun had six RBIs in his last three contests heading into Sunday's action. He blasted a home run to right field on Saturday, but Roenicke was most impressed with a breaking pitch off the plate that he took the other way for a base hit. Roenicke said the ability to hit bad pitches is something Braun shows often, and it's part of what makes him different than most hitters. "You throw batting practice and you just go, 'My gosh, how do you hit balls like that?'" Roenicke said. "That's why I think he can go into these little funks for a while and then the next thing you know, two weeks later, he's right back up to where he was." On the year, Braun's numbers are on par with his stats from his MVP season in 2011. He leads the National League with 33 home runs -- four off his career high -- and with a stolen base on Saturday, he locked up his third 20/20 season. His average is down from .329 at this time last season to .305 now, but he entered Sunday tied for the NL lead with 83 RBIs. Although the Brewers' record and spot in the standings will play against him, could Braun once again find his name in the MVP discussion at season's end? "Certainly he can," Roenicke said. "We'll see how he finishes out, but if he gets hot, if he has one of his months, he could put up some really stupid numbers. So yes, where he is right now, he'd definitely be in there."
With just four players on his bench on Saturday, Roenicke elected to use starting pitcher Mark Rogers as a pinch-hitter in the fifth inning. Milwaukee has been carrying an extra pitcher as the bullpen tries to work out its issues, and Roenicke said he hopes the club can move a reliever and bring in another position player soon."That's where I'd like to get to," Roenicke said. "But we need to make sure we're OK in the bullpen. We talked to [general manager Doug Melvin] about it, we've talked as a staff about it. Our bullpen guys seem to be throwing the ball well again, and if that continues, I think we can get back to the five-man bench. But it's hard when the bullpen guys aren't throwing well, and we start getting pressured a little bit with our starters maybe if they're not doing their job. Then the bullpen gets taxed and you need an extra guy." With Mike Fiers at a career high for innings (142), Roenicke said the Brewers will be monitoring the rookie pitcher, but he did not have a set number for when they might shut him down or begin to limit him. "He's fine right now," Roenicke said. "It will come up and we'll talk about it later on, but right now, he's fine." Jean Segura started his 12th game Sunday. The rookie shortstop entered the series finale batting .243 with four RBIs and a stolen base since coming to Milwaukee in the Zack Greinke trade. Roenicke said he's happy with what Segura has done in a short amount of time, but he's excited to see more out of the 22-year-old the rest of the season and hopefully beyond. "He does a lot of things that allow us, I think, to look at him and say this guy's got a chance to be a good Major Leaguer," Roenicke said.
Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.