By Todd Rosiak, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel –
DENVER — For the first time since he became manager of the Milwaukee Brewers, Ron Roenicke gave Ryan Braun the day off because of his struggles at the plate.
“He thought about it for a while,” Roenicke said Wednesday before the Brewers’ 7-6 loss to the Rockies.
“I mentioned it to him, he thought about it and I went back and visited him and he still wasn’t sure. He said, ‘Do you think this will be best for me?’ I said, ‘I don’t know.’ And he said, ‘Well, nothing else is working, so why don’t we try it?’
“It’s a little of both of us trying to figure it out.”
Braun went 0 for 5 Tuesday night and failed to deliver in two key situations late in the game.
In the eighth inning, he struck out with one out and the bases loaded and the Brewers trailing, 8-3.
Then in the ninth, Braun came to the plate as the go-ahead run after the Brewers rallied to within 8-6. He flied out to center against Rafael Betancourt to end the game and finished the night 0 for 5.
Braun is 6 for his last 41 (.146), without a home run since Aug. 1, and his batting average is below .300 (.299) for the first time since May 7.
Taking that all into account, Roenicke believed giving Braun a mental break was the most logical step.
“(It’s based on) what I’ve been seeing,” he said. “Talking to him, trying to figure out how to get him back. Sometimes we talk about guys just need to go out there and play, get it back, and other times, taking a day off helps.
“Whatever we’re doing, it’s not working lately. I’ve never seen him struggle this long.”
The timing wasn’t great with the Brewers looking to avoid getting swept by the Rockies, who have had a miserable season, especially at Coors Field before Milwaukee came to town.
Even after a two-week slump, Braun carries a .299 average, he leads the NL with 29 home runs, has driven in 77 runs, scored 73 runs, is slugging .567, has an on-base percentage of .377 and has stolen 19 bases.
But with Braun having been so consistently good from the start of the season up until now, his struggles were magnified.
“He’s frustrated,” Roenicke said. “I don’t want to say it’s the worst that I’ve seen him because when he’s going well, he gets frustrated if he goes 0 for two days in a row. I think he’s just more baffled as to why it’s lasting this long, because usually it doesn’t.
“We talked yesterday about how really consistent he’s been this year — more than last year. A couple huge months and the other times he was good. But this year he’s been more consistent until this last two weeks.”
Looking ahead: With Randy Wolf suffering through a tough season — 3-9 with a 5.65 earned-run average — and the Brewers expected to continue auditioning younger arms the rest of the season, Roenicke was asked about the possibility of the left-hander remaining in the rotation the rest of the way.
Mike Fiers has already established himself, but there are others like Mark Rogers, Tyler Thornburg and probably Wily Peralta who will get opportunities to showcase themselves. Thornburg and Peralta would be candidates as September callups.
“I would expect with us talking about some of the younger guys maybe not completing the end of their season because of innings that most likely Randy will pitch through the season,” said Roenicke. “But things change and I don’t know all the decisions that we’re going to make on the innings pitched and which guys need to be shut down. And which guys we bring up to take a look at.
“So it’s hard to know exactly what we’re going to do at the end of the year.”
Shaun Marcum was scheduled to make another rehab start for Class A Wisconsin on Wednesday night. When he’s ready to return to the rotation, Roenicke indicated the Brewers may use a six-man rotation for a spell.
“I can’t really say exactly what’s going on,” Roenicke said. “We have it planned out but we’re still going to wait and see what happens with Marcum today, to make sure everything’s OK. We have Plan A and B.”