Brewers' roster debate winding down
Reserve infield, outfield spots have yet to be determined
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Brewers played their first Spring Training night game on Friday, leaving an open morning and afternoon for club officials to continue debating the Opening Day roster.With closer Trevor Hoffman still shut down with an oblique injury -- "treading water" is how manager Ken Macha described it -- and likely to open the regular season on the disabled list, it appears that both Mark DiFelice and Jorge Julio will make the cut and that the Brewers' bullpen, at least in terms of personnel, is all but set.
If that's the case, it would leave only three of the 25 roster spots up for grabs: Mike Lamb or Casey McGehee for the final backup infield spot, and two of Chris Duffy, Tony Gwynn Jr. and Brad Nelson for reserve outfield jobs.In both areas, a desire for depth could fuel the decision. McGehee has a full complement of Minor League options and could be sent to Triple-A Nashville, while the veteran Lamb is out. In the outfield, Gwynn and Nelson are out of options while Duffy is in camp on a Minor League contract and simply could be assigned to Nashville. If the Brewers choose depth over Spring Training performance -- McGehee has a .383 Cactus League average with five home runs to Lamb's .250 and two homers, and Duffy is hitting .333 to Gwynn's .167 -- the roster could very well look like this: Starting pitchers: Jeff Suppan, Yovani Gallardo, Manny Parra, Braden Looper and Dave Bush. Relief pitchers: Todd Coffey, DiFelice, Julio, Seth McClung, David Riske, Mitch Stetter and Carlos Villanueva. Catchers: Jason Kendall and Mike Rivera. Infielders: Craig Counsell, Prince Fielder, Bill Hall, J.J. Hardy, Lamb, and Rickie Weeks. Outfielders: Ryan Braun, Mike Cameron, Gwynn, Corey Hart and Nelson. Disabled list: Hoffman. According to Macha, the decisions are still being debated. But he conceded that it's not all about spring stats. "It comes down to depth in the organization and having control over players," Macha said. The Brewers could sell Duffy on the idea of going to Nashville to prove he's healthy. The former Pirates prospect was limited to 74 games in 2007 by an ankle injury, then played only 30 games in the Minors in 2008 after coming back from left shoulder surgery. McGehee, who was plucked off waivers from the Cubs in August after a 92-RBI campaign at Triple-A Iowa, would be a much tougher sell. He has been excellent defensively at his natural position -- third base -- and has also proven serviceable at second base, first base and in the outfield, and he has professional experience as a catcher. He also bats right-handed, while Counsell, Lamb, Gwynn, Nelson and Duffy all hit lefty. At the plate, McGehee has exceeded expectations. In 47 at-bats through Thursday, he ranked second on the team to Hart in home runs and third behind Hart and Fielder with 13 RBIs. His .723 slugging percentage ranks behind only Hardy and Hart. If there's a knock on McGehee, it's that he had yet to draw a walk. "One of the things I said in my opening speech here," said Macha, referring to his first full-squad address in February, "was that it doesn't matter where you start, it's where you finish. Spring Training has highlighted what [McGehee] can do, not just to the Brewers but to the other teams out there who are scouting and watching what's going on." McGehee is trying to focus on baseball and not roster decisions. He started at first base against the Rangers on Friday night. "All I can say is we'll see what happens," McGehee said. "[The fact he has options] could be a good thing or a bad thing. Who knows?" As for Lamb, Macha said, "I think he's had some streaks where he's swung the bat very well, and then he's had some streaks where he hasn't. I've seen him play before, too [with Texas 2000-03] so that's in my mind, also. ... "If the fans are interested in that [Lamb/McGehee battle], I don't blame them. We are, too. It takes up a lot of our conversation." The Brewers have Lamb on the cheap. The Twins released him last August with more than a year left on his contract, so the Brewers are on the hook for only $400,000 of Lamb's $3 million salary in 2009. Of course, the final week and a half of Spring Training could help club officials make their decisions. Left fielder Braun has been bothered by a rib cage injury, and a trip to the disabled list would probably mean that Duffy, Gwynn and Nelson all make the cut. Counsell missed his third game on Friday because of a swollen knee, and while the team does not deem the injury serious, if it lingers it would open spots for Lamb and McGehee. "It's all going to get answered," Macha said.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.