DENVER -- It has been a trying season for the Milwaukee Brewers, but a great one for their little brothers in Helena, Mont.
The rookie Pioneer League's Helena Brewers clinched a postseason spot with a Great Falls loss on Thursday, then clinched the league's North Division first-half title with a 9-7 win over Billings on Friday. Helena, 21-14 with the victory, is one of only two Milwaukee affiliates with a winning record this season.
"In the second half, we're going to focus on consistency, playing the game the way it's supposed to be played," said manager Tony Diggs, who began his pro career in Helena in 1989. "We want to see the players improve. That's how it is in player development -- you don't want to see anybody breaking down walls. What you want to see is guys improving every day, and you want to see the improvement they make over the course of the season."
The baby Brewers hit five home runs in their clinching victory, including two by infielder Renaldo Jenkins, a 19th-round Draft pick in 2011. Michael Ratterree (10th-round pick this year) singled twice and scored twice to extend his hitting streak to 16 games, and Adam Giacalone (16th round in 2012) was 2-for-4 with a two-run homer to raise his average to .465.
"But it is really special for me to be back here," said Diggs, the Brewers' sixth-round pick in 1989. "I've seen a lot of new faces, and I've seen a lot of old faces."
Molitor to Braun: 'Transparency is important'
DENVER -- Former Brewers star Paul Molitor, who battled a cocaine addiction early in his Hall of Fame career, offered some advice to suspended slugger Ryan Braun on Saturday: Tell the whole truth.
"For me personally, it brings back times when I had my own troubles, how difficult it was, the embarrassment, the remorse," Molitor said Friday on 620 WTMJ-AM, the Brewers' flagship radio station. "I know it's tough. As far as the fans are concerned, Milwaukee fans feel a personal connection with their players. If you're playing for us, you're one of us. There's a lot of disappointment.
"Anytime you get busted, if you will, if your weaknesses become public, you have a tendency to only acknowledge things as they come out, instead of trying to get out infront of it. In hindsight, from the beginning, I wish I had been more honest about some of the problems I had with recreational drugs."
Braun's situation is different, as he's suspended for the Brewers' final 65 games for violations of Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment program. Neither Braun nor the MLB disclosed his violations, but they are related to the league's investigation into the Miami-area anti-aging clinic Biogenesis.
Molitor was never suspended for his drug use, which included cocaine and marijuana, but it was reported by Milwaukee media outlets in the mid-1980s. Molitor kicked his addictions and has spoken out in the years since about the dangers of recreational drugs.
He compared his experience to the long road ahead for Braun.
"I think transparency is important," Molitor said. "I don't think it's something you can run and hide from. It will be good for the healing in the long run. If somehow, some way, Ryan makes his way back into the game and people begin to give him a second chance, that he'd be compelled to be one of those guys to educate young people."
Wooten's spring experience aided him in MLB debut
DENVER -- The newest Brewers reliever believes his successful season began at Miller Park long before his Major League debut on Friday night.
Wooten was one of the extra players who made the trip from Phoenix to Milwaukee at the end of Spring Training for a pair of exhibition games against the White Sox. All of them knew that, barring a last-minute injury to someone else, they would not make Milwaukee's Opening Day roster.
In the penultimate game of the spring, Wooten worked 1 2/3 scoreless innings and allowed only one hit before heading to Triple-A Nashville.
"I picked all the brains I could pick in that clubhouse during Spring Training, and I had an opportunity to pitch in Miller Park in that exhibition game, and I think that got my season going in the right direction," he said. "I had some success there and I carried it into Nashville. I knew it wasn't an official big league game, but it was pretty doggone close. The lights were still bright, and the hitters were still Major League hitters."
Wooten allowed two hits and was not charged with a run in 2 1/3 innings in relief of Wily Peralta. He posted a 2.94 ERA and 20 saves in 40 appearances at Nashville before he was promoted Thursday night, becoming the ninth Brewers player to make his Major League debut in 2013. That is one shy of the Cardinals' Major League-leading total this season.
Manager Ron Roenicke, knowing Wooten was a strike-thrower, called on him with two runners on base in the fourth inning.
"Running through the gates, there were a lot of emotions running through me," Wooten said. "I knew my first hitter was Todd Helton -- that's pretty cool, too. But once he got in the box, and I was able to throw that first pitch for a strike, it really settled down. The nerves went away, and it was, 'Back to work.'"
Helton actually accounted for two firsts in Wooten's debut: His first hit allowed, a cue-shot single in that first meeting, and his first Major League strikeout later on.
"I don't think I'm going to change the way I go about my business," Wooten said. "What I did got me here. I'm going to continue to pound the strike zone."
Estrada ready for rehab assignment
DENVER -- Brewers right-hander Marco Estrada is ready to begin a Minor League rehabilitation assignment, his final step before rejoining the starting rotation after a long battle with hamstring and back issues.
Estrada, who was placed on the disabled list on June 5 with a left hamstring strain, successfully threw live batting practice on Friday, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. He is slated to start and work two innings for Rookie-level Arizona on Monday, the first of three scheduled starts.
"We'll see how smooth those go, and where his pitch count gets to," Roenicke said. "It would be a nice arm to get back if he pitches like he did last year. He wasn't the same this year, for whatever reason. We talked about the [World Baseball] Classic and trying to get amped up early, and maybe not quite having the same Spring Training he was used to. I don't know what the reasons are, but he wasn't the same guy this year as he was last year."
Estrada pitched to a 3.64 ERA in 23 starts and six relief appearances in 2012, leading to a spot with Team Mexico in the Classic and a start in the Brewers' second game of the regular season. But he posted a 5.32 ERA in his first 12 regular-season starts before the hamsting injury.