Brewers waive struggling Nixon
PHOENIX Mike Cameron walked within earshot of Milwaukee Brewers manager Ken Macha during warm-ups and asked Mike Lamb where Trot Nixon was.
Not two minutes earlier, Macha had just told a group of reporters Nixon had been released Wednesday, a move that had the skipper emotional and which he called “tough” because of his close ties to the veteran outfielder.
“That’s tough for me,” Macha said. “The four years I managed in the minor leagues, he was a player on my team. When you’re a minor-league manager, what you should do is put your heart and soul into getting a guy developed, to the big leagues. I explained to him his career has meant as much to me as it has him because he spent so much time with me and I’m proud to say he was a player for me in the minor leagues because of his professionalism and the career he has had.
”(But) he hasn’t had a very good spring.“
Nixon hit .105 with a homer and three RBI in 38 at-bats this spring. That low output plus solid spring campaigns by Chris Duffy and Brad Nelson equaled no room for Nixon, who was a non-roster invitee to camp.
It had been obvious for a while Nixon was being outplayed and wouldn’t make the club, so Macha asked general manager Doug Melvin to release Nixon early rather than hang onto him until the end of camp. This way Nixon has a chance to sign with another team since he expressed he still wants to play.
Nixon, 34, did not want to speak to the media after the announcement, but Macha had a lot to say.
”I’d recommend him as a person, a teammate and a baseball player,“ Macha said. ”But with Brad Nelson’s spring and Duffy, he’s the odd man out. Duffy has more experience playing center field and Nelson’s out of options.
“It’s a tough day for me, but that’s what happens.”
Nixon, who played parts of 12 major-league seasons and won a World Series with the Boston Red Sox in 2004, had known Macha for several years and expressed to the manager he didn’t think their relationship was the same during this camp as it had been in past years. Macha explained to Nixon that he was trying to get to know more than 50 players as a first-year manager.
Macha also told Nixon he wanted him to come in and earn his job.
“I consider Trot a friend and I’m proud of his career,” Macha said. “If he does get on to play, I wish him well. And if he doesn’t, I told him it’s equally difficult for anyone who loves the game as he does to call it quits.”
In other player moves, third baseman Mat Gamel was optioned to Class AAA Nashville after going 6 for 25 with one homer and four RBI this spring. Catcher Angel Salome was also optioned to Nashville. He hit .273 with a homer and an RBI in 11 at-bats as he was shut down with a bad back for most of the games.
Reliever Wes Littleton cleared waivers and will remain with the team to compete for a roster spot, although that seems like a long shot as his spot on the 40-man roster is open and likely will go to Duffy.
The Brewers also sent left-hander Chris Narveson and outfielder/infielder Jason Bourgeois back to minor-league camp.
No closer in sight
Closer Trevor Hoffman, the game’s all-time saves leader, is still making slow progress with his oblique injury.
Macha said the team is at the stage where it has to prepare for him not being available on opening day. That leaves a group of candidates to pitch the ninth inning if Hoffman starts the season on the disabled list, which would be retroactive and cause him to at least miss the opening series in San Francisco.
“With each day it’s getting more and more unlikely (he will be ready),” Macha said. “We have a number of candidates. Guys that have had the best spring so far have been (Todd) Coffey and (Mitch) Stetter. McClung has saved some games before and the guy we were kind of hoping (to close) before we signed Hoffman was (Carlos) Villanueva, but his spring has been spotty.
”We’ll see how we do here this next week. In fact, if we opened today and we had a lead in the ninth inning, I don’t know who it would be.“
Peavy rumors false
Melvin reiterated that there is no truth to the rumors circulating on the Internet that he has talked to the San Diego Padres about acquiring pitching ace Jake Peavy.
”There’s nothing to it,“ said Melvin. ”I haven’t talked to the Padres.“
Melvin said he even called Padres general manager Kevin Towers to assure him that the rumors weren’t coming from the Brewers’ end.