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Your 2006 Nashville Sounds - Latest: Front Office Award

Mass Haas

With this thread, we begin our yearly series of "Your 2006" team threads where feature stories not associated with game recaps are placed. Look for other threads to open soon as the season nears.


And welcome back, Maurice Patton, who did a nice job covering Sounds home games last season.


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Helping Sounds stay competitive in Brewers' plans

Parent club eager for better stadium


Tennessean Staff Writer


Make no mistake, the primary objective of minor-league baseball is to develop talent for major-league teams.


Winning, though, is a part of that development.


So the Milwaukee Brewers' collective feelings were hardly hurt when their Class AAA affiliate, the Nashville Sounds, won the Pacific Coast League championship last summer.


"You want to develop a winning attitude with your young kids," Brewers General Manager Doug Melvin said on a recent teleconference, as his team gets set to open spring training this week in Phoenix. "You want to get them to prepare themselves for meaningful games in September."


The Sounds certainly played some pivotal contests down the stretch. They clinched the PCL American South division title on the next-to-last day of the regular season and then won back-to-back games in the opening-round, best-of-fve series after trailing Oklahoma two games to one. Nashville then swept three games from Tacoma in the championship series ? winning the final game on the road.


"It was a real credit to (Sounds Manager) Frank Kremblas and the coaching staff that they went on and won without some of their regular players," Melvin said. "We took half their team."


Over the course of the regular season, up-and-coming prospects such as pitcher Jose Capellan, first baseman Prince Fielder, second baseman Rickie Weeks and outfielder/first baseman Corey Hart all left Nashville for Milwaukee, as did pitchers Kane Davis, Rick Helling and Justin Lehr. In all, 12 one-time Sounds played for the Brewers last year.


"At the lower levels (of the minors), there's more instruction and development going on," Melvin said. "At Double-A and Triple-A, you start performing more. It's important to play meaningful games. Performance does come into play more in Nashville, and at Double-A as well."


Between the PCL crown and the recent stadium developments that should have the Sounds in a new facility within the next two or three years, the Brewers front office is excited about the second year of what's expected to be a long relationship with Nashville.


"That's certainly a very positive move," Milwaukee Assistant GM Gord Ash said. "We enjoyed everything about Nashville last year, being in the PCL, everything ? with the exception of the stadium. It's not what we were accustomed to when we were in Indianapolis, or in Louisville before that.


"Everything else is first-rate, and the new stadium, with the location it's going to be in, should make it the pre-eminent team and franchise in minor-league baseball."


The team will return to Greer Stadium for a 29th year this spring, and Ash and Melvin hope to put another viable group on the field.


While losing veteran infielders Steve Scarborough and Tony Zuniga, the Brewers signed infielders Brian Dallimore and Brent Abernathy as well as catcher Mark Johnson, who will team with returning catcher Mike Rivera. Brad Nelson, who played some outfield with the Sounds last year, will likely see some time at first base, and Luis Lopez has been signed after playing last season in Japan.


Dave Krynzel and Nelson Cruz, both of whom played outfield here last year, are in line for a possible return, while Anthony Gwynn, Jr. will likely come up from Double-A Huntsville. Veterans Colin Porter and Jermaine Clark have also been signed to minor-league contracts.


Pitchers Jared Fernandez, Wilfredo Rodriguez and Wilton Chavez have also been brought in and will compete for roster spots with the Brewers but could wind up in Nashville as well.


"We've signed some guys that can give us some experience and depth at the Triple-A level if they don't make the big club," Ash said. "We understand when you've won once, you want to win again. We want to try to continue to put a competitive club in there."

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Brewers left-hander Dana Eveland said his younger brother, Kyle, a 43rd-round pick last year, has enrolled at College of the Canyons, a junior college in California


College of the Canyons??? I know where that is... and I would never have guessed that they have a baseball team. That's one of the tiniest schools I've ever seen.

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More on Jermaine Clark as his hometown paper follows him -- actually some fun quotes here:




Clark hopes to tap into future plans of Brewers

By Tim Roe/Sports Editor



Experts can tell the difference between major-league baseball and Class AAA out on the field. Players look in the clubhouse.


Jermaine Clark is in minor-league spring training with the Milwaukee Brewers organization, but his heart ... and his stomach ... long for the days of major-league spring training, where he spent the last five Marches.


"The biggest difference is, major-league spring training is a catered meal. Minor-league spring training is two pieces of wheat bread and a piece of ham," Clark said with a laugh. "I just forgot about that. Hopefully this will make me even more hungry to get back to the big leagues."


Clark, the Will C. Wood High School graduate who played briefly with five different major-league teams the last five years, is trying to make a big enough impression with the Brewers to reach "the show" once again.


So far, the 29-year-old has started most of the Cactus League season at second base with the Nashville Sounds, the Brewers AAA affiliate. He struggled at the plate initially, but has been solid defensively at second, where he has played most of his career.


Clark, a late signee by the Brewers, doesn't know how the rest of the spring will play out. The Sounds leave for Nashville on April 3, and start the AAA season on April 6.


But the current Sounds roster could change drastically. The Brewers won't make their final cuts until next week, and some of those late major-league casualties could end up battling with Clark for minor-league playing time.


"I still don't know very much, but I did get paid (on Tuesday)," he said. "That means I'm around for another week. They never pay you any extra money, so when they pay you that means you're not going to get cut, at least for another week."


Clark has played in the majors with the Oakland A's, Cincinnati Reds, Texas Rangers, San Diego Padres and Detroit Tigers. But he knows the Brewers may not be team No. 6 on his big-league resume.


"They've got a some guys up on the big club that probably are going to come down, and a couple of those are middle infielders," he said. "I just have to do all I can, and hopefully somebody will see me."

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From Adam McCalvy of MLB.com:


The Brewers finalized Minor League assignments this week, including a Triple-A Nashville club that will defend its Pacific Coast League title.


"We're pleased with the Triple-A roster, especially the rotation, because there are so many good young arms there," assistant general manager Gord Ash said.


The Triple-A club will include young starters Dana Eveland, Ben Hendrickson, Zach Jackson, Dennis Sarfate and veteran Justin Thompson, a former All-Star with Detroit. Thompson will "piggyback" to start the season with Wilton Chavez, according to Ash.


The bullpen will feature Mike Adams, Chris Demaria, Brett Evert, Jason Kershner, Allan Simpson and Mitch Stetter.


Mark Johnson and Mike Rivera will split catching duties, and positional starters include first baseman Brad Nelson, second baseman Brent Abernathy, shortstop Zach Sorensen, third baseman Vinny Rottino and outfielders Nelson Cruz, Tony Gwynn Jr. and Dave Krynzel. Gwynn and Krynzel will get the majority of starts in center field, but all three players will play all three spots, Ash said.


Backup infielders include Enrique Cruz and Jermaine Clark, and Chris Barnwell will see action at first base and in the outfield. Rottino will play almost everywhere, including catcher, third and first base and both corner outfield positions.


"It's not like he's just a defensive guy," Wynegar said of Rottino, a Wisconsin native. "He's a strong kid, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him [in the Majors] this season."

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Cruz may actually get ab's at 3b when vinny is catching or pitching, or one of the other 20 things he does..


With two catchers already, I wonder how much catching time Vinny will actually get. I honestly don't see him cracking this position without playing there on a regular basis. In his short run for the stars last year he was absolutely brutal - not his fault, its a difficult position to learn.

But it would seem impossible for him to learn it without reps and expert tuition - was all the post season talk of him playing catcher just talk?

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Does this end the Cruz as CFer experiment before it begun? Ash said Gwynn and Krynzel will get 2/3 of the CF starts.


The outfield is crowded enough with out putting Sorenson out there.


I'm not sure what you are hinting at, End. Sure looks to me that Cruz will start in CF a couple days a week (1/3rd of the time), and having 3 prospects and an organizational soldier backing them up isn't "crowded" at all. And, the DH exists in the AL parks as well, that's why I expected Colin Porter to be the 4th OF.

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Top names gone, but ?06 Sounds show promise

By Nate Rau, Nashville City Paper Sports Correspondent


There will be no Prince Fielder on the 2006 Nashville Sounds. There won?t be a Rickie Weeks or a Corey Hart, either. This year?s roster doesn?t feature the top-flight prospects who tore through Nashville on their way to the big leagues last season.


And you won?t find a former World Series MVP or a former major league 20-game winner, like last year?s opening day roster with Pat Borders and Rick Helling.


But the latest edition of the Sounds still has its share of talent and highly-rated prospects who will be looking for an encore performance of last year?s Pacific Coast League Championship.


The Sounds face Belmont tonight in an exhibition game, and Nashville Manager Frank Kremblas is eager to see his team playing in games that will actually count in the standings. The team opens its season Thursday in Omaha.


?We?re ready to get out of here and start playing for real,? Kremblas said from Brewers spring training in Arizona. ?We?re obviously not the same team because some of the younger guys have moved on.?


Whereas last year?s team boasted its fair share of outstanding position players in Fielder, Weeks and Hart, this year?s team has more talent on the mound.


Three of the Brewers? top 10 prospects will open the season as Sounds and two of those players, Dana Eveland and Zach Johnson, are pitchers.


Kremblas spent most of spring training in Milwaukee?s big league camp so he didn?t get to keep an eye on many players who will open the season on the Sounds roster.


?Our starters have a little bit more, better arms,? Kremblas said. ?But they?re young arms.?


While in big league camp, Kremblas said two of his star pupils, Fielder and Weeks, had improved the area of the game which needed the most work: their defense. The duo will be the starting right side of Milwaukee?s infield.


?Both looked much better,? Kremblas said. ?It wasn?t like they were bad defensively. They just needed to work on it in order to get better and they did.?


Outfielder Nelson Cruz, Milwaukee?s No. 8 prospect, returns to the Sounds after a solid first season at Triple-A. Cruz hit 11 homers in 208 at-bats and was known for his strong arm and acrobatic catches in right field.


In regards to Cruz and all his top prospects, Kremblas said he doesn?t have any expectations besides hard work and high effort.


?I don?t look at this team as a repeat deal because the guys are different,? Kremblas said. ?Expectations-wise, I expect guys to play hard and get ready to play every day. That?s all I ask.?


Eveland will be the Sounds starter for the exhibition tonight, although Kremblas will likely use several pitchers through the course of the game.

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Krynzel determined to play again for Sounds

Outfielder's collarbone has been slow to heal


Tennessean Staff Writer


For Dave Krynzel, being in a uniform last night was enough. The fact that it was a Nashville Sounds uniform, and not a Milwaukee Brewers outfit, was hardly a bother.


If the 2005 season Krynzel had wasn't disappointing enough, the offseason was arguably worse.


After hitting just .256 ? with 138 strikeouts ? in 115 games, while committing 10 errors, the 24-year-old outfielder broke his right collarbone in a Nov. 9 motorbike accident. He didn't disclose the injury to the Brewers for weeks, until he realized it had failed to heal properly.


Krynzel underwent corrective surgery on Jan. 12, then went through intensive rehabilitation so he could return to play in time for Nashville's Pacific Coast League season opener tomorrow at Omaha.


"I'd never had baseball taken away from me," said Krynzel, the Brewers' first-round selection and the 11th overall pick in the 2000 draft, prior to last night's 10-0 exhibition win over Belmont at Greer Stadium.


"I didn't know if I'd be able to play again. I gained a feeling for what I really wanted to do for my life. It's all about baseball ? the guys, conversing, the workplace. This is what we do for a living, and it's unbelievable to have the job I do."


Held out of major league camp during spring training, as much for his '05 performance as for his physical status, Krynzel had little opportunity to show the Milwaukee brass what he could do this year.


"Obviously, the accident set him back a little bit," General Manager Doug Melvin said. "But he's still got some things he needs to work on. We still think a lot of David; he's still got good physical skills, still got ability. He's just being pushed a little harder. Some guys are coming on as outfield prospects; we're a little deeper. While he hasn't advanced, other guys have come on."


And though team officials weren't happy with their being kept in the dark initially about his injury, everyone has moved forward.


"We've talked to him," Melvin said. "He was reprimanded, he was talked to, he was told. He knows he made a mistake. I think from that standpoint, it's over and done with. The biggest penalty was not being in big-league camp."


The way Sounds Manager Frank Kremblas sees it, the woes of '05 might have Krynzel set for a big payoff.


"I see him ready to make a change in his mental approach to the game, so that he can play to his full potential," Kremblas said. "I think you always need something to kinda push you ? something that makes you go 'I need to change.' He just wasn't mentally ready to focus on the kind of player he needs to be. If you don't know who you are, it's hard to be who you are."


The injury, Krynzel said, gave him time to reflect.


"It was the toughest offseason I've ever had," he said. "But one of the positives was that I finally rested, because I couldn't move. I was doing stuff, I was moving around; I never gave myself a chance to rest. This year, with the injury that happened, I couldn't do anything. It kinda promoted me sitting down, being inside, finding myself a little more."


Though his numbers were a little off kilter last year, Krynzel can't find fault with the season he and his team had as the Sounds won the PCL championship.


"That's as good as it gets for me," he said. "Personal stats? Of course I want to do better; I want to do better every day. Ending totals? That's last year. It doesn't matter.


"I'm just working every day, understanding myself and just working. This is not a bad thing, to make a Triple-A team when you're 24 years old. I've got a spot in the outfield still. People look at me like 'You messed up.' Who doesn't make a mistake? But look at me now. I made a uniform. I've got it on again. I'm playing."

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Goal for Sounds: Win with Gwynn

Junior doesn't compare himself to famous father


Tennessean Staff Writer


Tony Gwynn Jr. isn't trying to follow in the footsteps of his dad ? which is a good thing, because those are some huge shoes.


And right now, the Nashville Sounds outfielder is still taking baby steps.


The Milwaukee Brewers' second-round selection in the 2003 draft, Gwynn Jr. is slated to start in center field when the Sounds open the 2006 Pacific Coast League season tonight in Omaha.


In three years as a pro, the younger Gwynn hasn't hit more than .280. In the older Gwynn's three minor-league seasons, he batted .331, .462 and .328 ? setting the tone for a 20-year major-league career over which he hit .338 and won seven National League batting crowns.


"People are going to expect him to do the things his dad did, which is totally unfair," said Nashville hitting coach Gary Pettis, who was a contemporary of the older Gwynn's during the 1980s and '90s. "Not to say he won't be that kind of a hitter, but it may take him a little longer.


"What he does have going for him is that he does have the Gwynn genes."


Thus far, the younger Gwynn's best season was his first, when he hit .280 in 61 games at Class A Beloit. Two years ago, at Double-A Huntsville, he batted .243, then followed that with .271 last season.


Junior is hardly concerned with the numbers, though.


"It's kinda hard to measure yourself against one of the best hitters of his time," he said. "It's tough to really compare myself to him. I'd feel disappointed all the time if I compared myself to him on the baseball field.


"The only thing I try to measure myself on is improving every year. I think he's happy with my progression. I think I'm happy with my progression. Every year, as long as I keep improving, I think I'll be in good shape."


While his plate performance isn't quite up to his dad's standards, some of Junior's game exhibits a longtime exposure to the sport.


"Instinctively, you'll see him do some things on the basepaths that will be different from what some of the other guys around the league are going to do," Pettis said. "He's already shown that. The other day (in spring training), he went from first to third on a ground ball to third base, and in that same game, he went from first to third on a ground ball to right field.


"You're going to see some things instinctively on the field that are going to surprise a lot of people. His instincts, his work ethic ? he's a very hard worker. He'll be a guy that will take ? what the pitcher gives him, a guy that's going to spray the ball all around the ballpark."


Though last year wasn't a real success, Gwynn saw some personal growth at Huntsville.


"I think it was a blessing," he said. "It was the first time I'd been by myself, without Prince (Fielder) and Rickie (Weeks), since I started playing professionally. They'd always been my crutch; when they left, it kind of allowed me to get to know myself better as a baseball player, and as a hitter especially.


"It was a tough year, team-wise. We didn't win that many games. But I learned a whole lot, as a baseball player. I learned a lot about myself, and I think that's going to help me improve on this level."

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Hendrickson's mind on his game

Overthinking caused pitcher trouble in '05


Tennessean Staff Writer


"Don't think. It can only hurt the ballclub."


? Catcher Crash Davis to pitcher Ebby Calvin "Nuke" LaLoosh, Bull Durham, 1988.


As Nashville Sounds pitching coach Stan Kyles watched and worked with Ben Hendrickson last season, there were times when he knew exactly how Kevin Costner's character felt. Following a 2004 performance that saw him earn Most Valuable Player honors in the International League, Hendrickson struggled through an '05 campaign in which he went nearly two months before winning his first start, on May 30.


He finished the year just 6-12 with a 4.97 ERA, and a lot of that was due to the shellshock of winning just one of nine decisions as a rookie with Milwaukee the previous season.


"He is definitely the epitome of thinking too much," Kyles said of Hendrickson, who is 1-0 with no earned runs in 11 innings after two starts. "I tried to get him, several times, to just throw the ball and not worry about the results of it or the science of it. But when, throughout his whole career, his ability has been forged by the way he's been able to think better than most kids his age, that's a hard thing to do, to stop thinking.


"Coming off the season he had in Indianapolis (in 2004), to do the things he did there and then to go to the big leagues and struggle the way he did ? I think in any case, in any young guy, there's going to be some doubt in your abilities. Everything is going well, you're doing such a good job, and then for it to come to a screeching halt at the pinnacle of your goal, I think it takes something out of you. It takes a while for you to get that back, and I think it took him a little longer than most people expected it would because he's such a cerebral player and a guy that has learned to work his way through so many things."


Hendrickson agrees that thinking less could lead to doing more this time around ? hopefully allowing Sounds fans to see the right-hander that was dominant in Indianapolis two years ago, winning 11 of 14 decisions with two shutouts, two complete games and a 2.02 ERA.


"I was trying to do too much," he said of last year. "I knew what I needed to do, but I'd try to do a little bit more than I needed to do. I put more pressure on myself.


"Sometimes, I'd go right at a hitter, get him 0-and-2 and go 'All right, I should throw this pitch ... or maybe I should throw this pitch ...' instead of just throwing the ball. Then, all of a sudden, it starts ticking in my mind."


Hendrickson's major league woes were due in part to fatigue, as elbow soreness in 2003 limited him to just 78-1/3 innings at Double-A Huntsville.


"I was tired at the all-star break, and they knew it," said Hendrickson, who pitched 171-1/3 innings between Indianapolis and Milwaukee in '04 and 155-2/3 last year. "I had thrown 90 innings by the break. But I'm healthy now and I'm ready to go.


"I know I'm good enough to pitch here, I'm good enough to pitch in Milwaukee, I'm good enough to pitch anywhere up there. I just have to continue to work on my delivery and continue to repeat it."


Kyles said the 25-year-old showed signs in spring training that he's close to a return trip to the majors.


"He did some things to let everybody know he was well on his way back," Kyles said. "There are still some things he needs to correct, and he understands that. But I think the struggles he had last year are going to help him this year. For me, and I voiced this in spring training to our bosses back in Milwaukee, I think Ben is a sleeper this year. I think he's going to be a guy that is going to do some good things this year and force his way back onto a big-league roster.


"Even through all his struggles last year, he learned some things. As long as he's went through it and you can see the end of the line, the end of the tunnel with him, that's all you can ask for. It doesn't matter how long it takes as long as he gets through. I think it's all going to come together for him this year, and I'm expecting big things from him."

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