Gamel must adjust to bench role
Slugging prospect not expected to play regularly at third
MILWAUKEE -- No one knows what to expect from Mat Gamel over the next couple of weeks, and that includes Gamel himself.The Brewers prospect arrived in the big leagues Thursday morning after a promotion from Triple-A Nashville the night before. He'll have to transition from playing every day in the Minor Leagues to coming off the bench for the Brewers in advance of a May 22-24 Interleague series at Minnesota, during which Gamel could serve as the designated hitter. "Time will tell," Gamel said. "It's a role I've never really had to play, other than in high school. I'm looking forward to it. Whatever role they want me to play, I'll play, just to stay up here as long as I possibly can. It will be a good challenge." The Brewers do not plan to play Gamel regularly at third base, so he joins an impressive list of former Brewers prospects promoted to the Majors for their bats. Ryan Braun was the most recent, in May 2007, and he eventually moved from third base to left field, partly because of concern about his play in the infield. Before Braun, it was Prince Fielder, who has worked hard to improve at first base, and Rickie Weeks, who continues to work at second. The Brewers are following the Fielder model with Gamel. Fielder was promoted in 2005 as the Brewers began an Interleague trip to Tampa Bay and Toronto. He got 28 at-bats in just short of three weeks before returning to Triple-A. "It was hard," Fielder said of his own adjustment to irregular work. "But I asked [former Brewers outfielder Chris] Magruder about it and he really helped me get ready. He just said, 'Always go up there ready to hit,' and for some reason, that made it easier for me." Will Prince offer advice to Gamel? "If he asks me, yeah," Fielder said. "But I like to let guys do their own thing." Even manager Ken Macha left Gamel alone on Thursday morning, when players arrived early for a noon CT game. "We had a couple talks in Spring Training," Macha said. "He's probably tired of talking to me." Gamel, who got a taste of the Majors as a September callup last season and then played in 16 Cactus League games for Macha during 2009 Spring Training, is a prospect because of his bat. A 2-for-4 afternoon on Wednesday boosted his average at Nashville to .336, and he belted eight home runs while driving in 31. To make room for him on the 25-man roster, the Brewers outrighted Brad Nelson to Nashville after an 0-for-21 start to the season, including 0-for-14 as a pinch-hitter. Nelson had to pass through waivers before the Brewers made the move, and he had 72 hours to decide whether to decline the assignment, because it is his second outright. Nelson said Tuesday night that he was not sure what he would do. He couldn't have made a snap decision anyway; according to assistant general manager Gord Ash, there is what amounts to a 24-hour cooling-off period before a player can make official his intentions. Meanwhile, for Gamel, the hardest part about getting to the big leagues was getting to the big leagues. As Gamel tells it, he and catcher Mike Rivera (who returned from a rehab stint at Nashville) had a long day of travel on Thursday because of thunderstorms in the Midwest. They were stuck in a holding pattern over Chicago or Milwaukee so long that when the plane landed, it had to be towed to the gate. Gamel said the plane was out of gas. "It was a little scary," he said. Pulling on a big league uniform made him feel a lot better. "It's an honor to even be here," Gamel said. "I'm really dumbfounded. I don't think it's even set in yet."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.