Brewers call up veteran Catalanotto
Outfielder suits up for series opener against Cardinals
MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers promoted Frank Catalanotto to the Majors on Monday, and the veteran arrived with one goal in mind."This is my 12th year in the Major Leagues and I haven't made it to the postseason," said Catalanotto, 35. "My No. 1 priority was to pick a team that I felt had a good chance to make it to the postseason, and this team is young and exciting, a good group of guys with some veterans mixed in. ... I felt like the National League would be a good situation for me." The Brewers optioned left-handed reliever R.J. Swindle back to Triple-A Nashville to clear a spot for Catalanotto, who along with newly-acquired Jody Gerut gives Milwaukee two left-handed-hitting backup outfielders. Catalanotto will also take some ground balls at second base, a position he hasn't manned in the big leagues since 2002. The Brewers are a bit short there at the moment, with second baseman Rickie Weeks lost for the season to a wrist injury and shortstop J.J. Hardy out for the short-term with a stiff back. But it's Catalanotto's bat the Brewers coveted most. Brewers pinch-hitters were 8-for-46 heading into Monday's game, a .174 batting average that was the second-lowest mark in the NL. Houston's pinch-hitters were hitting just .129. "I know one thing, the guy can hit," Brewers manager Ken Macha said. "He's a very good fastball hitter, and he uses the whole field. He gives you a great at-bat. I don't think players realize what their utility, their value, would be in the National League if they are able to do all those things." Catalanotto got his first shot in the eighth inning, with the Brewers and Cardinals locked in a scoreless tie. He hit a drive down the left-field line that might have driven in the go-ahead run but bounced just foul, then grounded out to end the inning.
Catalanotto is in the NL for the first time in a career that has featured stops in Detroit, Texas, Toronto and Texas again. The Rangers released him at the end of Spring Training and added Andruw Jones to the roster instead, making Catalanotto a last-minute free agent in an already difficult market for veteran players.The 29 other teams did not exactly beat his door down, even for a career .292 hitter and a career .289 pinch-hitter. "[The Rangers] let me go really late in the spring so they didn't give me much of a chance to catch on with another team," Catalanotto said. "I did think there would be more interest, but I think the game is changing a little bit. I was surprised there weren't more phone calls." He remained unemployed until May 12, when the Brewers offered a Minor League contract. Catalanotto played five games in extended Spring Training before an assignment to Double-A Huntsville, where he went 3-for-12 with a pair of doubles in three games. Catalanotto had not played Double-A baseball since 1996, when he belted a career-high 17 home runs at Jacksonville. "I played in Huntsville in that league in '96, and the only thing that's changed in that ballpark is the paint," Catalanotto said. His stint with Huntsville this time coincided with a Stars homestand. That meant Catalanotto was spared from the Southern League's notoriously long road trips. "I'm glad I missed that," Catalanotto said with a laugh. "It was a good experience. It definitely makes you appreciate the big leagues even more. Maybe everyone should have to go down every now and then, just to let you know how much more difficult it is down there. They have a good group of guys down there."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.