Brewers collapse leaves immediate uncertainty

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MILWAUKEE (AP) — A blue hardhat with a Milwaukee Brewers logo sat on a table behind manager Ron Roenicke's desk at his Miller Park office.

After a September swoon, this team could be looking at some renovations and it's unclear yet if even Roenicke will be back to oversee the changes.

The Brewers are out of the playoffs for a third straight season, but this might be the most painful offseason yet in the skipper's four-year tenure. A 20-7 start that allowed Milwaukee to stay atop the National League Central for five months was wasted by a 9-22 season collapse to finish 2014.

Roenicke, who is under contract through 2015, would like to return.

"We played great for five months, we didn't play great the last month. Whether we played .500 ball or whatever, we didn't play well and we didn't get in it. That's what matters," Roenicke said after a season-ending 5-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs. "We'll figure out how to stay away from the long losing streaks."

Milwaukee also went through a midseason 1-11 skid, yet still managed to hold on to the NL Central lead at the All-Star break with the Cardinals and Pirates struggling.

Owner Mark Attanasio was so disappointed with the ending that he didn't address the team the final weekend, as he usually does.

The Brewers signed Matt Garza as a free agent in the offseason, believing he would give the Brewers a solid staff that included Yovani Gallado, Kyle Lohse and Wily Peralta.

For the most part, the starting pitching was consistent. Peralta won 17 games. Mike Fiers joined the rotation in August and became the team's best pitcher down the stretch. Rookie Jimmy Nelson showed glimpses of promise.

"For the most part we've got young guys who can throw and that's important in starting a foundation," All-Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy said.

Francisco Rodriguez finished with 44 saves. The 32-year-old can become a free agent, and Milwaukee has Jonathan Broxton in the bullpen to take over closing duties if Rodriguez leaves.

The offense was the biggest problem. A free-swinging team that mashed the ball in the first half of the season scuffled to score runs the last few months.

"We're wondering why did we (perform) well offensively the first half of the year and not the second half," general manager Doug Melvin said.

Carlos Gomez played with his usual infectious energy, hitting .284 with 23 homers and 34 stolen bases primarily batting leadoff. Lucroy set the single-season record for doubles by a catcher with 46.

With 53 doubles overall, Lucroy became the first player who was primarily a catcher to lead his league. He finished the season hitting .301, and Lucroy's bat became so important that he started 16 games at first to keep him in the lineup.

Ryan Braun played 135 games in his first season back from his 65-game suspension in 2013 as part of the Biogenesis doping scandal. But he hit just .266 with 19 homers as he dealt with a lingering nerve issue near the base of his right thumb.

Braun was scheduled to have surgery on Thursday to fix the problem.

"I know he's been disappointed with what's happened here in the second half," Roenicke said. "I think he feels like if he can get this thumb issue behind him, he can be that same player again."

The Brewers might benefit from a tweak in their approach at the plate to work counts more often, though Roenicke has said the aggressive philosophy feeds into his players' strengths.

Or Milwaukee might need to sprinkle in a hitter or two with more patient approaches at the plate. A left-handed hitting first baseman who can hit .300 sure would be nice.

"First off, I want to find out who cares about winning and losing in the clubhouse. If there (are) guys in there who don't care about winning, then they probably won't be here," Melvin said. "As far as shakeup, could be. We might turn over the roster a little bit."

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