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WISCONSIN SPORTS ROUND-UP: Work begins on rebuilding Brewers for 2014

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MILWAUKEE - Milwaukee Brewers' general manager Doug Melvin said today that the high cost of winning in 2011 had an impact on this year's team.  At his season-ending news conference at Miller Park, Melvin said a lot of work would have to be done to get the Brewers back to the post-season -- and he looks forward to the challenge. 

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Melvin said he would try to sign shortstop Jean Segura to a long-term contract, after the All-Star hit .294 with 44 stolen bases and a solid glove in the field.  The GM also said he might ask Ryan Braun to move to right field from left in 2014 -- although he hasn't brought it up with him yet.  Melvin made it clear that Braun would need bigger numbers next year than this.  Braun was hitting .298 with nine homers in 61 games before he got his drug suspension on July 21st. The Brewers went 33-and-32 after Braun left.  As mentioned before, a 6-22 May killed Milwaukee's hopes for divisional success this year.  Melvin said quote, "I can't stand here every year and say we had a great second half ... That doesn't work."  The Brewers have four players who are eligible for salary arbitration this winter -- pitchers Marco Estrada and Burke Badenhop, and infielders Mat Gamel and Juan Francisco.  Reliever Michael Gonzalez will be a free agent, along with infielder Yuniesky Betancourt and first baseman Corey Hart -- who missed all season with two bad knees.  Melvin said Hart remains in the mix for Milwaukee's first base spot next year, depending on his health.

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The Green Bay Packers might end up relying on their two rookie running backs for Sunday’s home contest against Detroit.  Eddie Lacy is practicing for the first time since he suffered a concussion on September 15th against Washington.  Johnathan Franklin says his foot injury from September 22nd is feeling a lot better after the bye.  Franklin rushed for 103 yards at Cincinnati before he left with his injury near the end of the game.  Running back James Starks and fullback John Kuhn did not practice yesterday.  Starks is still getting over a bad knee suffered against the Bengals.  Kuhn is out with a hamstring injury.  So far, the Packers have kept their promise to step up their running game.  Green Bay is second in the NFL in rushing average, with five-point-three yards per carry.  They’re also ninth in average rushing yards with 128 per contest.  The Packers are 1-2.  They’ll face a Lions team that’s 3-1, tied with Chicago for first in the NFC North Division. 

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The Green Bay Packers have the NFL's worst kickoff returns -- and while the players are off today, the coaches will keep looking for ways to solve the problem.  Green Bay is averaging just 12 yards on kickoff returns, almost five yards less than the second-lowest team.  It's also a big disadvantage to the Packer offense, because it forces Aaron Rodgers-and-Company to start their drives at an average of their own 19-yard-line -- the league's second worst.  Also, Green Bay is one of only nine NFL teams to lose a fumble on a kickoff return.  Jeremy Ross did that -- and he was cut the day after.  The Packers were hoping to avoid using Randall Cobb on kick returns, so he could focus on his first job as a receiver.  That may be Green Bay's best option, though.  Cobb averaged 25-and-a-half yards per kickoff return last year, and almost nine-and-a-half yards on punt returns.  Coach Mike McCarthy says he'll keep weighing his options this week.  The Packers signed college return standout Reggie Dunn to their practice squad yesterday.  He had an NCAA-record five kickoff returns for touchdowns of 100-yards-or-more while playing at Utah for three years.  Dunn replaces running back Michael Hill on the practice squad.  Hill was promoted to Green Bay's 53-man roster.

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Milwaukee Bucks' owner Herb Kohl says he does not want this year's team to feel pressured to win just to generate public support for a new arena.  At the team's Media Day, Kohl agreed that a high-performing team would help more fans get behind a new facility -- but he says it's going to happen, and the players should not be thinking about the issue as they go about their business on the floor.  With 11 new players, the most prominent being All-Star forward Caron Butler, the Bucks are not sure what kind of a team they have yet.  Not even new coach Larry Drew says he knows for sure, because they have not played together.  That process begins today, as Milwaukee's training camp gets underway.  The team's first exhibition game is a week from tonight.  For now, Kohl says he feels good about the changes engineered by general manager John Hammond.  The owner says there's a lot of athletic ability on the Bucks.  He calls it a selfless team with good chemistry that will expect to win every night.

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National Football League teams have long had separate departments to scout other pro players.  Now, NBA teams are starting to do the same in basketball.  The Milwaukee Bucks have named Chris Gilmartin as their first director of NBA scouting.  He’s in his 17th year with the Bucks, and was an assistant coach for part of last season under former coach Jim Boylan.  General manager John Hammond says Gilmartin is well-qualified for the new job.  The GM said Gilmartin has been an advance scout, and has done many other things for the Milwaukee organization – and the new pro scouting post will give him a chance to expand his role.  Gilmartin graduated from U-W Madison in 1993, and was a volunteer assistant under Badger coaches Stu Jackson and Steve Yoder.  Also, Luke Steele has been hired as an advance scout for the Bucks. 

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Wisconsin's top swimming recruit will compete in the Big Ten, but not for his home-state Badgers.  Door County's Conner McHugh committed to the University of Minnesota yesterday.  Swimming World Magazine.com rated McHugh as the state's top swim recruit.  College Swimming.com named him the 43rd top recruit in the country.  McHugh competes in the Door County YMCA swimming program.  He has won numerous national championships. 

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Kristen Boone of Edgewood College is the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference women's tennis player-of-the-week.  Boone, a senior, went 4-0 in her singles' and doubles' matches to help Edgewood win its sixth straight conference regular season title.  Also, Jennifer Dailey of Edgewood is the women's soccer player-of-the-week.  Dailey, a junior, had two goals and two assists to help the Eagles go 3-and-0 in league play so far.  Also, the NACC gave weekly honors to Hannah Griffiths of Concordia-Mequon in volleyball, and Kenny Rucker of Edgewood and Angela Krueger of Marian in golf.

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UW-Oshkosh receiver Caleb Voss has been named a football player-of-the-week in the WIAC, along with Ryan Cortez and Eric Kindler, both of Whitewater.  Voss, a senior, had five catches for 106 yards and two touchdowns in a 56-3 Oshkosh rout of Alma College last Saturday.  Cortez, a senior linebacker, had a fumble recovery and an interception -- both of which led to points for the Warhawks in a 65-0 win over Waldorf.  Kindler, a senior kicker, had three field goals against Waldorf -- including a 50-yarder.  He also booted eight extra points.  The WIAC also gave its weekly honors to Sam Poser and Danielle Kunkel, both of Platteville, in cross country -- Ben Royce and Matt Elder, both of Superior, in men's soccer -- Megan Gresl of La Crosse and Sierra High of Whitewater in women's soccer -- Bryanne Blanton of La Crosse in women's singles tennis -- Olivia Hartwick and Abby Tresedder of La Crosse in doubles' tennis -- Alivia Holman of Whitewater in volleyball -- and Brittany McNett-Emmerich of Stout in women's golf.

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Katie Vanden Avond of Saint Norbert and Sidney Blodgett of Ripon College have been named the women’s soccer players-of-the-week in the Midwest Conference.  Vanden Avond, a junior, scored three goals in a Saint Norbert victory over Wisconsin Lutheran – and she had two more in a win over Lake Forest.  Vanden Avond set new school and conference records for career goals with 73 so far.  Blodgett, a sophomore goal-keeper, had 13 saves in two games – and she recorded her third shutout of the season in a 1-0 win over Illinois College.

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Sean Scallon
Sean Scallon has been a reporter and Sports Editor at the Pierce County Herald newspaper in Ellsworth since 1998. He holds a bachelors degree in communication arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He's also worked at newspapers in Glenwood City, Wisconsin; Marion, Illinois and Shawano, Wisconsin. Sean also works as a sports reporter for other newspapers and websites in RiverTown Multimedia from River Falls to Hudson to New Richmond and Red Wing.
(715) 273-4334
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