Gwynn out as Brewers break camp
Injury limits spring action; Duffy, Nelson likely land spots
PHOENIX -- When the Brewers broke camp Thursday and boarded a flight to Los Angeles for their final two exhibition games, outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. was driving back home to San Diego after an unsuccessful bid to make the Opening Day roster.With Gwynn on his way out, it meant the Brewers had settled on Chris Duffy and Brad Nelson as the backup outfielders, the only two spots that were still up for grabs entering the team's Cactus League finale against the White Sox. Gwynn, who is out of Minor League options, did not play on Wednesday or Thursday, an indication that a trade was in the works or, more likely, that he had been placed on waivers in an effort to assign him to Triple-A Nashville.
Manager Ken Macha referred questions to general manager Doug Melvin, and Melvin wouldn't -- or couldn't -- comment."I can't [say], either," Melvin said. When might he be able to provide the answer? "Tomorrow," Melvin said.
That would be Friday, when the Brewers play the first of two games against the Dodgers at 9:10 p.m. CT. Gwynn's fate should be decided much earlier in the day.The 26-year-old Gwynn missed the first half of Spring Training with a strained right shoulder -- he is a left-handed batter but a right-handed thrower -- and then struggled upon his return to a .160 batting average (4-for-25) and eight strikeouts in 13 games. If he indeed doesn't make the cut, it would clear the way for fellow out-of-options outfielder Nelson (.344 with a .417 on-base percentage in Spring Training) and non-roster invitee Duffy (.315 average in a team-high 73 at-bats) to make the team. Teams must set their rosters Sunday before the Braves and Phillies play the Major League season opener, and the Brewers do not plan to set their slate early, said Melvin, stressing that an injury, a trade or a waiver claim could change things. The Brewers don't open the regular season until Tuesday afternoon in San Francisco. In the interim, club officials are scouring the list of players either waived or released by other clubs. Melvin asked head pro scout Dick Groch to remain in Arizona for two extra days to help in that area. One of the players they discussed is Frank Catalattano, who was released by the Rangers. But Melvin did not sound overly intrigued, saying Catalattano had been limited mostly to left field and, "would have to be better than Duffy or Nelson" to pique the Brewers' interest. "We're reviewing some players, but I don't anticipate [doing] anything that's going to impact our Major League club," Melvin said. "We're tweaking the Minor Leagues more, making sure those clubs are fine." For the second straight season, an injury came at a bad time for Gwynn. He was supposed to serve as the starting center fielder last April before a hamstring strain sidelined him. He was expected to arrive this spring with the fourth outfielder's job all but locked up, but he injured his shoulder just days before reporting. In 130 Major League games over the past three seasons, Gwynn has a .248 batting average, 23 runs scored and 14 stolen bases. He is a .273 hitter with 136 steals in 569 Minor League games since the Brewers drafted him in the second round of the 2003 First-Year Player Draft. "We know Tony and we've seen what he can do," Melvin said. "It's probably been a little harder for Ken and his new staff to evaluate him, because they haven't seen him. But we've told them what he can do and what he can't do. He's still a good player and everything. He fits what Duffy does, a little bit." Duffy was happy with his performance in camp. But he had yet to be told whether he had a spot locked up. "I stayed healthy, and that was the No. 1 thing," said Duffy, who missed big chunks of the past two seasons with injuries, most notably a shoulder injury that required surgery. "This might sound crazy, but my mindset wasn't totally to make the team. I wanted to stay healthy and get ready for the season, wherever that was going to be. That helped me not put pressure on myself. I can't control what they think or what they want, but I can control my own mindset. "I don't know what they're going to do. At the end, it comes down to the fact that this is a business and that can affect the different decisions that are made. I've been around long enough to understand that." Duffy and infielder Casey McGehee both made the team with strong springs. McGehee batted .345 with six home runs and 15 RBIs in 25 games. "Spring Training stats are very overrated," Melvin said. "But when guys get a chance and they do well, you have to put some merit in it." Said Macha: "We had a couple of guys have outstanding springs. I think the tough thing would be if everybody either had a great spring or a poor spring." If Gwynn clears waivers, he would join a very crowded outfield situation in Nashville. Brendan Katin and Cole Gillespie are expected to see time at the corners, though Gillespie is dealing with an elbow strain at the moment. Minor League veterans Jason Bourgeois, Adam Stern and Jason Tyner are also under contract -- Tyner just signed this week and had three hits in the Triple-A game on Wednesday. Stern might be assigned to Double-A Huntsville, Melvin said, and so could Lorenzo Cain, though Cain may remain in extended spring training because of a "tweaked" hamstring.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.