Brewers staying in-house at second
Club will test its infield depth with Weeks out for season
HOUSTON -- Free-agent second baseman Ray Durham, who finished last season with the Brewers, is hitting and working out at home in North Carolina and would consider a return to Milwaukee, according to his agent. But the Brewers appear set on filling the void left by Rickie Weeks' absence from within.Weeks is scheduled to undergo season-ending surgery on Wednesday for a right wrist injury. "I talked with [Durham's rep] Ed Setlik, and he knows we're going to go in-house for now," Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said Tuesday before the start of a series against the Astros. "Right now, Craig Counsell is doing a good job, and Casey McGehee is starting [at second base] today." The team's other internal option is Hernan Iribarren, who was promoted earlier in the day from Triple-A Nashville. Bill Hall is apparently not an option. Even with third-base prospect Mat Gamel up in the big leagues at the moment, Melvin said the Brewers have not discussed using Hall at second. The problem Melvin could face in staying in-house is that Counsell is valuable as a versatile bench option, plus he has been playing with torn cartilage in his right knee. Counsell bristled on Tuesday when asked how his knee was feeling. "I'm playing every day, so it's not an issue," he said. McGehee and Iribarren, meanwhile, are both unproven in the Major Leagues. So is shortstop prospect Alcides Escobar, who will begin playing second base two out of three days to determine if he is an option. Escobar will play the third day at shortstop to maintain his arm strength. Brewers farm director Reid Nichols told Melvin that he believes Escobar will adapt quickly. "Reid said, 'I'd bet my paycheck that he could do it today,'" Melvin said. If the Brewers start looking outside the organization to replace Weeks, Durham will be listening. "Yes, he wants to play, but the questions are better directed to the GM," Setlik said. "If Mr. Melvin has an idea that he might want Ray to step in, the chances are good that there would be a match. But it all starts with Mr. Melvin." The Brewers acquired Durham, 38, from San Francisco last July for left-handed help off the bench, and he batted .280 in 41 regular-season games. Durham reportedly turned down an offer from the Washington Nationals over the offseason. Setlik would not speculate on the type of deal needed to lure Durham out of free agency. "That wouldn't be appropriate," Setlik said. "First, there has to be a need. Then the financials can be discussed. Doing it any other way is putting the cart before the horse. But he had a very good experience there, and I think he would be open to talking." Durham has not faced big league pitching since October, so he would need time to get into game shape. So would fellow veteran free agent Damion Easley, whose agent reached out to Melvin on Tuesday. Mark Grudzielanek is also available, but Melvin expressed some reservations about Grudzielanek's back injury last season in Kansas City. Melvin always has his baseball operations assistants brainstorming potential trades, but it's probably too early to pull off a meaningful deal. Trades also get complicated if they involve a player signed past this season because Weeks has two more years of arbitration-eligibility left before he hits free agency. "Rickie is back next year, so it's not like you want a guy who's going to be here [long-term]," Melvin said. "It's an injury, and that's why you have depth on your team and in the organization. Those things can change later on, obviously." For now, the Brewers plan to test that depth.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.