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A model built in Milwaukee

They have a legacy of losing behind them and an exciting future ahead thanks to a roster of future stars.

By MARC TOPKIN
Published May 13, 2007


They have a legacy of losing behind them and an exciting future ahead thanks to a roster of future stars.

The Devil Rays? They're still dreaming of better days.

The Brewers are living them.

The Brew Crew has the best record in the majors 25-11 and the confidence to keep it going.

The Brewers have an impressive group of position players led by the young trio of Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks and J.J. Hardy. They have a dominating bullpen led by Francisco Cordero. They have a quietly effective rotation, anchored by veteran free-agent addition Jeff Suppan.

And, as unlikely as it seems for a team that hasn't had a winning season since 1992, they have a real chance to keep it going, given the depth of their talent, their spunk and the mediocrity of their NL Central division.

The Brewers benefited from a soft start, playing 25 of their first 31 games against division foes and 21 of their first 34 at home. Now they step up in class, starting a 16-game stretch against the much tougher Mets, Phillies, Twins, Dodgers and Padres that could make the next few weeks telling.

But don't tell that to manager Ned Yost.

"I don't think they need any more validation, " Yost told mlb.com. "I think our kids have been pretty confident. I think I've seen everything I need to see from those kids out there."

The players are enjoying the change.

"People see you now and say, 'You're a Brewer, keep up the good work!' " reliever Matt Wise told mlb.com. "In the past, it was like, 'You're a Brewer?' And they made a face, and you would kind of slowly duck away."

NO BAGELS FOR YOU: Kansas City-area Panera Bread stores cooked up a "Baker's Dozen" promotion where if the Royals got 13 or more hits in a home win, fans could redeem their ticket stub for 13 bagels. But when more then 8, 500 fans sought their free bagels (111, 000 or so) after the April 20 game, the chain canceled the promotion. "It was just too much, " Panera executive Eric Cole told the Kansas City Star.

INTERLEAGUE INTRIGUE: The Marlins come to the Trop on Friday with one of the game's top young stars in SS Hanley Ramirez. Veteran Aaron Boone says: "He's as talented a guy as there is in the league. Hanley is still young and has to do it over the long haul, but, man, talentwise I'd take him with anyone in the game that I've certainly ever played with." And that includes Barry Larkin and Derek Jeter.

10, 9 ... 5, 4, 3, 2, 1: Most countdowns start with 10, but apparently not for Barry Bonds. After hitting his 745th homer Tuesday - to pull within 10 of Hank Aaron - Bonds left the clubhouse without talking to the media. He had said this season that he wanted the countdown to start at 750.

G-O-O-D T-I-M-E: Royals C John Buck was a good sport - and a good speller - Sunday, going onstage for a cameo in the touring production of the play The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Four volunteers are chosen at each show to participate in a real spelling bee, and Buck, identified as "Putnam County High's starting catcher, " correctly spelled Mexicans, demicatters and caterjunes. "I was winging it, " Buck said. "If I got it right, I got it right."

NUMBERS GAME: The A's already have used seven leftfielders and seven centerfielders. ... The Brewers used closer Cordero in six consecutive games before Thursday's off day. He picked up five saves while throwing only 64 pitches. ... Detroit's Jeremy Bonderman has a 15.43 ERA in the first inning, 1.18 after that. ... Philadelphia's Ryan Howard has three May hits, all home runs. ... In seven starts, Cleveland ace C.C. Sabathia has had two 3-0 counts and 106 0-1 counts. ... The Phillies are the only team that has yet to win when scoring three or fewer.

MISCELLANY: The Astros look smart in holding on to RHP Brad Lidge, who has his ERA down to 4.02 and his confidence back. ... Twenty-five-year-old Josh is the latest Caray in the baseball broadcasting business, working for the Class A Rome Braves. He is a grandson of Hall of Famer Harry Caray, the son of Skip and half-brother of Chip. ... A's 3B Eric Chavez said former Rays RHP Chad Gaudin (2-1, 2.40) is "kind of our silent, unsung hero" in an injury-plagued rotation. ... The 14 years and 304 days between John Smoltz-Greg Maddux matchups was the longest since the 14 years and 360 days between Ferguson Jenkins-Don Sutton matchups. ... Injured Mariners ace Felix Hernandez is expected back Tuesday. ... David Ortiz, one of the best players the Twins let get away, suggests they act fast to re-sign Torii Hunter: "He's going to be a good fit anywhere, and if I'm them, I'd lock him in right now because a lot of people are going to come after him."

Quote board

"This is dumb. Can't we just wear our pants high?"

Mets reserve David Newhan on his teammates' decision to shave their heads

"With this Rocket situation, there's two kinds of people: people that are not surprised and morons."

Astros 1B Lance Berkman, making it clear he knew Roger Clemens was going to sign with the Yankees

"I don't think you can do this for six months."

Nationals OF Austin Kearns, right, on the team's 9-25 start.

"If he wants to run for office some day and tackle the world's problems, fine, but not while I'm the manager."

Red Sox manager Terry Francona, after cleaning up again after Curt Schilling's latest controversial comments

Fast Facts:

 

Name Game

The Braves didn't just take a peek at the future when they called up catching prospect Jarrod Saltalamacchia. They also delivered the first major-leaguer with a last name 14 letters long (ahead of Cardinals prospect Cory Rauschenberger). There have been 14 players with 13-letter names. The long and the not-so-short of it:

Player, position Years

Gene DeMontreville, 2B 1894-1904

Ossee Schreckengost, C 1897-1908

Lou Schiappacasse, OF 1902

Lee DeMontreville, SS 1903

Bonnie Hollingsworth, P 1922-28

Al Hollingsworth, P 1935-46

Austin Knickerbocker, OF 1947

Bill Knickerbocker, SS 1933-42

Ken Raffensberger, P 1939-54

Kirk Dressendorfer, P 1991

William VanLandingham, P 1994-96

Steve Wojciechowski, P 1995-96

Todd Hollandsworth, OF 1995-2006

Tim Spooneybarger, P 2001-03

Jarrold Saltalamacchia, C 2007

Source: Beyond the box score