CHICAGO -- The Brewers knew they would have a hard time replacing Prince Fielder when he signed with the Tigers for 2012, but not this much trouble. Jonathan Lucroy on Wednesday volunteered to become the 12th different player to start a game at first for Milwaukee in the past season and a half.
"Being realistic, if you're going to screw up, this is a good time to screw up," said Lucroy, who had previously expressed reservations about manning the position until he had time to learn it in Spring Training. "This is a good year to do it because we're kind of out of it anyway. It's a good time to get some experience out there, some game-speed stuff."
His attitude changed last week when Ryan Braun was lost for the season to a suspension. With Aramis Ramirez and Corey Hart injured, Lucroy knew the team could not afford to be without another big bat on days like Wednesday, when Martin Maldonado was the starting catcher because Wily Peralta was on the mound.
The idea was Lucroy's.
"I went to [manager Ron Roenicke] after Brauny went down," Lucroy said. "I said, 'Look, I've got to stay in the lineup. I've got to. So what do I need to do?' ... We're going to go over there today and do some early work, and basically that's it. I'm just going to try to stop the ball and keep it in front of me. Don't try to be a Gold Glover or anything, just make the routine plays. Keep my bat in the lineup and see what happens."
Roenicke confirmed that Lucroy volunteered. Asked whether it made him nervous to play so inexperienced a player at such an involved position, Roenicke said he was "not any more nervous than some of the other guys."
"I love for a player to do that because that means he's wanting to be in there and wanting to do it," Roenicke said. "Anytime we approach somebody, they may say they want to do it, but down deep, you never know."
Fielder played nearly every day in all of his six full seasons with the Brewers. In 2011, Roenicke's first year at the helm, Fielder played all 162 games, started 159 at first base and played the position for 1,394 2/3 of the Brewers' 1,441 2/3 defensive innings.
Here are the 12 men to start at first base since Fielder's departure: Brooks Conrad, Yuniesky Betancourt, Sean Halton, Juan Francisco, Mat Gamel, Alex Gonzlalez, Taylor Green, Hart, Travis Ishikawa, Blake Lalli, Lucroy and Maldonado.
Before their starts for the Brewers in the past season and a half, six of those players had never played an inning at first base in the Major Leagues: Betancourt, Francisco, Gonzalez, Halton, Hart and Lucroy.
As for whether this could portend a more permanent switch, Lucroy said, "I'm a catcher. I don't think I hit enough to be a first baseman, anyway."
Crew quiet as Trade Deadline passes
CHICAGO -- The 3 p.m. CT non-waiver Trade Deadline came and went Wednesday with no more moves by the Brewers, who did trade reliever Francisco Rodriguez to the Orioles last week.
The inactivity did not bother general manager Doug Melvin, even as his team sat in last place in the National League Central with the league's second-highest loss total. He said the Brewers' recent pitching surge had reinforced his belief that a sell-off was not necessary, especially considering the Brewers' two most valuable trade chips -- right-handers Yovani Gallardo and Kyle Lohse -- were controllable for the next two seasons.
"I'm OK," Melvin said. "After you look at proposals we made and things like that, I'm OK. The one thing on our club that has improved over the second half of the year has been our pitching. Do you agree that St. Louis and Washington have pretty good pitching staffs? In the month of June, we were better than the Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals. In the month of July, we were better than the Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals.
"So with the younger guys that we have [alongside] Gallardo and Lohse, I'm encouraged by our pitching and how it's improved. I can't defend April and May, but I'm seeing some improvement."
At the same time, Melvin sees right-hander Johnny Hellweg, acquired from the Angels last July with shortstop Jean Segura and another pitching prospect for Zack Greinke, carving up the Triple-A Pacific Coast League to the tune of a 2.28 ERA, including a 9-0 record with a 1.16 ERA in his last 10 starts. Hellweg struggled badly in a brief stint with Milwaukee, but will be back later this season, Melvin said. The Brewers also expect to take a look at top pitching prospect Jimmy Nelson, who started for the Sounds on Wednesday.
Against that backdrop, Melvin was content to stand pat Wednesday when he was not wowed by any offers.
"Does that mean we won't look at it again in the offseason? Well, no. We'll look at it in the offseason again," Melvin said.
Now that the non-waiver Trade Deadline has passed, deals involving players on the 40-man roster cannot be made unless the players already have cleared waivers. In other words, the player must be offered to the other teams in reverse order of the standings, and if he is claimed by one of the teams, he cannot be traded. The club that placed the player on waivers can either withdraw the request and keep the player, or let the player go to the claiming team, which would then have the rights to the player. As long as a player is acquired by Aug. 31, he is eligible for postseason play with his acquiring team. Possible candidates to be moved by the Brewers in August are left-hander Michael Gonzalez, a free agent after this season, or third baseman Aramis Ramirez, who is signed through 2014. Ramirez has to get healthy first. He is on the disabled list with a sprained left knee.
Melvin said Gallardo's hamstring injury had no impact on Wednesday's lack of action. Melvin had previously made clear he was not motivated to move Gallardo.
Gallardo will earn $11.25 million in the final guaranteed year of his contract and has a $13 million option for 2015, with a $600,000 buyout. Lohse is earning $11 million base salaries every year through 2015.
Manager Ron Roenicke was not surprised that the Brewers made no further trades.
"I didn't expect any," Roenicke said. "I talked to Doug the last few days, and he didn't think there was going to be anything happening, and that's fine with me. I know with just moving [Rodriguez] how it's changed what I need to do with the bullpen, that it's hard when you lose guys."
• Segura's absence from the starting lineup on Wednesday was pre-planned, Roenicke said. Segura, who was struck on the forearm by a pitch over the weekend in Denver, also did not start Game 2 of Tuesday's doubleheader.
• Some observers surmised that Wednesday lacked the action of previous Trade Deadlines because of the advent of the second Wild Card, which increases the number of "buying" teams over clear sellers, and have proposed pushing the date into August.
Melvin likes it where it is.
"I'm OK with it," Melvin said. "I think if you change it later, I don't know if we get a player like Jean Segura, guys like that. Teams would not give up a whole lot, and I think there would be fewer deals. Teams just wouldn't get anything back for guys."