More changes ahead for Brewers after tough season
MILWAUKEE (AP) The Brewers packed up their belongings and said their goodbyes for the 2015 season after getting swept in the final series by the Chicago Cubs.
Really, the franchise started looking forward to next year five months ago.
An offseason of change has arrived as Milwaukee looks to retool following its first 90-loss campaign since 2004. At 68-94, the Brewers were 14 games worse than the previous year.
''There could be no doubt, no hesitation, certainly no second-guessing that it was time to move in another direction,'' owner Mark Attanasio in recapping a lost season.
The Brewers' fate was decided just a few weeks into 2015 when the team started 2-13 in the ultra-competitive NL Central. Ten games later, manager Ron Roenicke was fired, replaced by Craig Counsell.
The changes are just beginning.
The Brewers announced on Monday that they were not renewing the contracts of five of the seven coaches who stayed on after Counsell took over as manager. Only hitting coach Darnell Coles and third base coach Ed Sedar were retained.
New general manager David Stearns said he had a challenging first official day on the job.
''All of these coaches have given a tremendous amount to the organization,'' Stearns said. ''This is a time of a lot of change in the organization as a whole. I'm part of that. New voices, ideas and outlooks into the fold.''
Attanasio hired the 30-year-old Stearns a couple weeks ago to replace long-time GM Doug Melvin, who announced in August that he was retiring and moving into an advisory role.
''I hope the further we get away from it, hopefully we'll look back and see it as a turning point for the franchise,'' outfielder Ryan Braun said.
Some notes and other takeaways about the 2015 campaign:
KEY HITS: For now, the Brewers seemed to have received a good return for the veteran talent dealt at the trade deadline. Outfielder Domingo Santana provided a glimpse of power after coming over from Houston as part of the deal that sent Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers to the Astros. Milwaukee also acquired potential promising outfielder Brett Phillips in the deal.
Zach Davies, who was acquired from Baltimore for outfielder Gerardo Parra, fared well in his big league audition. Davies finished 3-2 with a 3.71 ERA in six starts.
COSTLY ERRORS: Melvin gave Stearns a head start in the rebuilding process. Where the plan went wrong was how the Brewers held over essentially the same team from the 2014 campaign, when Milwaukee was in first place for five months before a September collapse that left them out of the postseason.
The Brewers insisted there would be no hangover yet the losing continued, necessitating the youth movement at Miller Park.
BRAUN'S BACK: Braun bounced back after hitting .284. With 25 homers and 24 stolen bases, the outfielder had his first 20-20 campaign since 2012.
A nerve problem near his right thumb didn't slow him down, though a lower back injury did limit Braun in September. Braun has spoken of possibly having a minor procedure to take care of the problem, and Counsell doesn't seem too worried about the back.
''I don't see it being a factor at all next season. To me, the fact that he had this type of offensive season is something that you count on, really,'' Counsell said.
FOR STARTERS: Milwaukee starters had a 4.79 ERA, the third-worst mark in the majors. Veterans Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza had awful campaigns before being ushered out of the rotation. Wily Peralta got hurt.
The Brewers did find bright spots in Jimmy Nelson, a 26-year-old righty who took a step forward in his first full season in the majors; and rookie Taylor Jungmann, who went 9-8 with a 3.77 ERA after being called up in June.
LOSING LUC: Catcher and fan favorite Jonathan Lucroy had a challenging season. He started the year hitting just .133 before going on the disabled list for nearly six weeks with a broken left toe. Lucroy returned on June 1 and hit .282 the rest of the way with seven homers and 42 RBIs. His presence helped shepherd a pitching staff that got younger as the season wore on. Lucroy played on a limited basis over the final weeks after suffering a concussion in early September.
AP freelance writer Andrew Wagner contributed to this story.
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