The big question for Brewers fans coming out of spring training was whether the starting pitching was good enough to make the club a playoff contender.
That answer has so far been a resounding yes (check out the 3.88 team ERA).
But a question that didn't get a lot of attention in March became a concern in April — the Brewers' bench. Great springs by first baseman-outfielder Brad Nelson and infielder Casey McGehee, a solid performance by outfielder Chris Duffy and the presence of veteran infielder Craig Counsell pretty much made manager Ken Macha's decisions a no-brainer.
But Nelson (0-for-21), Duffy (4-for-32) and McGehee (5-for-21 after a two-hit game Wednesday) haven't been able to replicate their performaces from the desert air of Maryvale to the bright lights of Miller Park. Nelson has already been booted and Duffy is likely to be next.
Why? General manager Doug Melvin is trying to keep Macha's arsenal loaded. Melvin went out and acquired lefty-hitting outfielder Jody Gerut from the Padres in exchange for the underperforming Tony Gwynn Jr. Most stories will concentrate on Gwynn returning to his hometown of San Diego and following in his famous father's footsteps by playing for the Padres.
But the bigger impact is Gerut joining the Brew Crew. Gerut is a versatile outfielder (he can play all three spots) and can hit leadoff (he was the first batter at the Mets' new Citi Field and hit the historic first home run). The well-traveled Gerut — Milwaukee is his fifth team in seven major-league seasons — is likely to push right fielder Corey Hart for playing time, with Macha possibly platooning the duo, while spelling Mike Cameron in center.
This comes on the heels of hot prospect third Mat Gamel's promotion. Gamel has played well so far this year in his first week back in the majors (he has his first homer and a couple of big hits).
One more piece to Melvin quickly reshaping the Brewers' bench is veteran Frank Catalanotto, who is scheduled to report to Double-A Huntsville to get his bat in game shape and see if he is worthy of a spot on the Crew's major-league roster. If he is, McGehee is likely the odd man out, meaning the three youngsters who played their way onto the roste in spring training could be in the minors before June 1.
As a team that has hopes of returning to the playoffs after a taste last year, the actions are swift and strong.
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Written by Steve Drumwright