Spring training for the Milwaukee Brewers may be half way over, but the juiciest story-lines and most critical managerial decisions are yet to come.
Unlike recent years, positional battles are all the rage at Brewers camp 2012 in Maryvale, Arizona. Many newly acquired players and young prospects are looking to make the opening-day roster or possibly even a spot in manager Ron Roenicke’s starting lineup.
Who are these players and what positions are they looking to wrap up with under three weeks until the start of the regular season? Let’s take a quick look.
Who’s Battling: Nyjer Morgan, Carlos Gomez, Norichika Aoki, Logan Schafer
The Brewers utilized a two-man rotation of Nyjer Morgan and Carlos Gomez in center field for most of last season and, for the most part, it worked quite well. Morgan’s left-handed bat started against right-handed starters and Gomez started whenever a southpaw took the mound.
This season, things could become even more diversified in the outfield. With the signing of three-time Japanese batting champ Norichika Aoki, the Brewers have enough depth and solidarity off the bench to incorporate a three-man rotation in center field. For what it’s worth, though, each has struggled this spring while 25-year-old prospect Logan Schafer has thrived. A September call-up last season, Schafer could eventually find his way into the starting lineup later in the season if he continues to rake.
Who’s Battling: RHP Kameron Loe, RHP Jose Veras
One of the underlying reasons for the Brewers’ collective success last season was their efficiency out of the bullpen, particularly in the seventh inning. LaTroy Hawkins, Takashi Saito and Kameron Loe all bridged the gap from the middle-inning relievers to the Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford extremely well.
However, with both Hawkins and Saito out the door, someone will need to step up and assume the crucial seventh-inning role. As it stands, both Loe and offseason trade acquisition Jose Veras are the preemptive favorites to accept the role.
Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel told me Veras “figures to be the seventh inning guy”, though both are veteran arms capable of taking on the role within Milwaukee’s bullpen. It wouldn’t surprise me if manager Ron Roenicke opts to use both equally throughout this season.
Who’s Battling: RHP Yovani Gallardo, RHP Zack Greinke
The Brewers came into spring training competition last year with a newly refurbished starting rotation and a big decision to go along with it: Would incumbent ace Yovani Gallardo take the mound on opening day or would Zack Greinke? Gallardo ultimately took on the role and performed exceptionally throughout the regular season, though Greinke would return to Cy Young-form after the All-Star break (9-3, 2.53 ERA, 102 SO). Greinke’s scintillating production then prompted widespread discussion over who should be the opening-day starter for the club in 2012.
And here we are.
Now under three weeks from the season kicking off, and that question has yet to be answered and it doesn’t look to be an easy decision for manager Ron Roenicke. Greinke has been a strikeout machine so far this spring and Gallardo has also looked impressive. It should be intriguing to see who takes the mound for the Brewers at Miller Park on opening day.