Lamb falls short of Brewers roster
Veteran has Wednesday deadline to accept Triple-A assignment
PHOENIX -- Veteran third baseman Mike Lamb will not be on Milwaukee's Opening Day roster, and what happens next is up to the player.A Brewers clubhouse attendant pulled Lamb off the practice field on Tuesday just minutes before the team began its daily stretch, and when Lamb met inside with general manager Doug Melvin and manager Ken Macha, he was informed of the decision. That was at 5 p.m. CT sharp, and by 1 p.m. CT on Wednesday, Lamb must tell the Brewers whether he is open to an assignment to Triple-A Nashville.
If he is, the Brewers would place Lamb on outright waivers, and the other 29 teams would have an opportunity to claim Lamb for $20,000. If he isn't, the Brewers will place him on release waivers and he can be had for $1.Speaking to a reporter via telephone after he left camp, Lamb did not sound like a player poised to go to Triple-A. "I need to talk to my agent [Sam Levinson]," Lamb said. "I don't envision being a Triple-A player. It's not a money issue. My contract is guaranteed. I don't want to go to Triple-A to be somebody's insurance policy. I don't think I deserve that." Was the move a surprise? "Yes and no," Lamb said. "Yes, because every indication I had from the offseason leading into Spring Training was that I was going to be on the team and see playing time at third base, depending on how Billy [Hall] did. "Then, when I got to Spring Training, I started going into games in the seventh and eighth inning. And I went almost a week without playing third. It just wasn't adding up. I wasn't totally shocked, but I never dreamed I'd get released again. I don't think I merited that. I thought I played decent enough. My batting average wasn't that great, but I certainly don't think I was overmatched." Lamb is due $3 million this season but only $400,000 of that was to come from the Brewers. He's owed the rest by the Twins, who signed Lamb to a two-year, $6.5 million contract prior to the 2008 season but then released him in August. The Brewers picked up Lamb for their September stretch run, and he went 3-for-11 (.273) as a pinch-hitter. He wasn't eligible for the postseason roster. Whatever Lamb's decision, it clears the way for Casey McGehee to make the roster. McGehee, a 26-year-old Spring Training standout who belted a game-winning home run to beat the Mariners on Monday, would serve as a right-handed bat on a lefty-heavy Brewers bench. He's a capable defender at first, second and third base and in the outfield and would also be the team's emergency catcher. "It's hard to say, 'Have a great spring and make the team,' and have a spring like he has and not make the team," Macha said. Asked whether McGehee had won a spot on the team, Melvin said the final decisions have yet to be made. But the departure of Lamb certainly bodes well for a player hitting .370 this spring with six homers and 15 RBIs. McGehee hit a game-winning, two-run homer to beat the Mariners on Monday. The Brewers plucked him off waivers from the Cubs in October. McGehee batted .296 at Triple-A Iowa last season with 12 home runs and 92 RBIs. "I've been with two organizations, the Expos and the A's, where we've taken a little bit of a chance on a guy when he's had a plus offensive year in Triple-A," Macha said, "and it proved to be right in the big leagues when it came to being extra guys." The Expo was Wallace Johnson, who went on to play parts of nine Major League seasons and proved a quality pinch-hitter. The A's player was Olmedo Saenz, who also played nine seasons through 2007. "The ultimate question was: How is his Spring Training going to translate out into the year?" Macha said. "We don't have a crystal ball on that one." McGehee's gain was Lamb's loss. Lamb was hitting .250 in the Cactus League (13-for-52) with two home runs and 12 RBIs. He racked up six of those RBIs in his last four games, including a pinch-hit, three-run homer on Friday night against the Rangers and another three-RBI performance on Monday against the Mariners. "I'm only 33," he said. "Hopefully, something will open up with another team. It's a tough spot because everybody else is doing the same thing, trimming their roster to get down to 25. It can be difficult to find a job." The Brewers are very close to whittling their own roster down to 25. Assuming Craig Counsell forgoes surgery and plays with a torn meniscus in his right knee, the only spots up for grabs are in the outfield, where Chris Duffy, Tony Gwynn Jr. and Brad Nelson are vying for two spots.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.