MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers are recommending winter ball for Juan Francisco as an opportunity to implement some changes at the plate and continue working defensively at first base, a position he manned this season for the first time in the Major Leagues.
Francisco plays for Licey in the Dominican Winter League. The idea is for him to play first and third base.
"We talked about it a couple of weeks ago and he asked me again a couple of days ago. I think he needs to go play," manager Ron Roenicke said.
Brewers hitting coach Johnny Narron has some adjustments in mind for Francisco, whose playing time has diminished lately as he entered Sunday in a 7-for-51, 27-strikeout slump. The Brewers are intrigued by Francisco's power (18 home runs in his first 285 at-bats this season for the Braves and Brewers) and still consider the 26-year-old one of the options to man first base next season.
"It's very difficult to ask a guy who comes over to you in a season to say, 'Hey, this is what you need to do,'" Roenicke said. "Because he is trying to make an impression on us, he wants, obviously, a job with us next year -- a starting job if it can be. And to make him change and all of a sudden he doesn't perform well and then you don't keep him, that gets a little difficult."
Compounding that difficulty is the fact Francisco will be arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter and will be paid based on his statistics relative to peers.
"If it's your guys that you've had, and you know that you're bringing them back next year, they know that you're bringing them back, it's different," Roenicke said. "You can ask a guy to do some things. That's the thing we've been caught with this year, is what's fair to him? Is it fair to have him change, and if he doesn't succeed, then we don't bring him back? I don't know, I've always had trouble with that."
Ramirez expects to return to lineup Monday
MILWAUKEE -- Aramis Ramirez missed a second straight start Sunday with a bruised left wrist, but expects to return to action on Monday night against the Cubs. Ramirez was hurt Friday when he was struck by a Mat Latos fastball in the first inning.
"I talked to Ronnie [Roenicke] and we're going to give it one more day," Ramirez said. "You want to be out there for your teammates and everybody. We're not in the race or anything, but you want to finish strong, feeling good about yourself."
Bothered most of the season by a left knee injury, Ramirez is batting .267 with 10 home runs and 41 RBIs in 81 games. Barring a late-September surge, it will be his poorest season statistically since 2000, when he played only 73 games for the Pirates as a 22-year-old.
Ramirez works out in the offseason with the Yankees' Robinson Cano and Red Sox's David Ortiz, and plans to work on strengthening his lower half. He will earn $16 million next season in the final season of his three-year contract, and has a mutual option for 2015 that includes a $4 million buyout.
"I'm looking forward next year to finally staying healthy," Ramirez said.
Brewers instructional league underway
MILWAUKEE -- Add the fall instructional league to Brewers prospect Jason Rogers' busy schedule.
Rogers and top 2013 Draft picks Devin Williams and Tucker Neuhaus highlight the list of players reporting Sunday to Maryvale Baseball Park for an instructional program that gets underway Monday morning. Rogers, who manned first base at Double-A Huntsville this season, will work a bit at third base before primarily playing left field in the Arizona Fall League as the Brewers increase his versatility for 2014.
Fifty-three players in all are listed on the Brewers' instructional league roster -- 42 on the regular roster and 11 more on an advanced roster. They include 20 of the team's 2013 First-Year Player Draft picks, and eight players from MLB.com's list of the top 20 Brewers prospects: outfielder Tyrone Taylor (No. 4), shortstop Orlando Arcia (No. 6), outfielder Victor Roache (No. 8), right-hander Williams (No. 9), catcher Clint Coulter (No. 11), infielder Neuhaus (No. 13), and right-handers Drew Gagnon (No. 15) and Damien Magnifico (No. 19).
Also participating are shortstop Franly Mallen and outfielder Nicolas Pierre, who signed record-setting contracts in the Dominican Republic in July.
"It's mostly young guys," assistant general manager Gord Ash said. "The instructional league has changed over the years. Twenty-five years ago, it would have been primarily Triple-A and Double-A guys just finishing off something, whether it was another pitch or learning to switch-hit, base stealing.
"I would say certainly in the last decade it's been more about extension of rookie ball. So the concept in Arizona and Helena [the Brewers' two rookie-level affiliates] is you come in, you get oriented to the world of professional baseball, playing every day, working out every day, traveling, but we don't do a lot of mechanical work with you. You do all of that in the instructional league."
That's not to say there is no instruction in rookie ball, Ash said. If a pitcher's mechanics are viewed as a threat to his health, it is addressed.
But many of the fundamentals are saved for the fall.
"You're not putting in their mind interfering with their results," Ash said. "In instructional league, results aren't as important, so they are more open to adjustments."
"When I was managing rookie ball, that's what they did, too," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "The drafted guys, you don't change. If they come to you and ask you, 'Hey, I need some help,' OK. I think it's great, because a lot of times a scout will draft a guy for a certain reason, and he gets to rookie ball and you've got a coach who just wants to change everybody; maybe he wants to clone everybody, which doesn't work. All of a sudden, this guy is a mess, and the scout says, 'What happened?'"
Ash was not aware of any major positional changes in store for any of the Brewers' participants. Coulter, the team's top pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, will continue to catch.
"He's struggling," Ash said. "He had a knee injury, and he has struggled with it. I think it's also that he's getting frustrated that [catching] is a little bit more difficult than he thought it would be. I'm sure this fall will answer that. We would like him to stick with it. It's too early to give up yet."
Nestor Corredor and Matt Erickson will each manage a team over a schedule that begins Wednesday and runs through Oct. 12.
• Right fielder Norichika Aoki had Sunday off as he continues getting treatment for a sore right knee. He also may be pressing at the plate, going 0-for-7 in the first two games of the homestand after a 5-for-23 (.217) road trip that included the first three-strikeout game of his Major League career.
"I think that was kind of a fluke game for him, but I think he's pressing," Roenicke said. "Any time his average starts coming down, he wants it to get back up there and I think he's pressing, although he brings it right back up. It's getting near the end of the season, he's played an awful lot and he wants to finish strong."
• Left-hander Tom Gorzelanny (shoulder) played catch Sunday morning but has multiple steps ahead of him before he is able to pitch in a game.