PHOENIX -- The Brewers picked Travis Ishikawa over Brooks Conrad for the final roster spot, giving them a relatively experienced bench bat but leaving the team thin on the middle infield.Manager Ron Roenicke hopes Ishikawa develops into this year's Mark Kotsay, the veteran outfielder who was a favorite of the skipper last season. "We're losing what we felt was a great pinch-hitter last year in Kotsay," Roenicke said. "We're looking at a guy [in Ishikawa] who's got some experience, and he's done a nice job for San Francisco in the Major Leagues." Ishikawa played 281 games for the Giants since 2006 and is a plus defender at first base who can play left field in a pinch. He's 20-for-75 (.290) lifetime as a pinch-hitter. He'll be the primary backup to Mat Gamel, Milwaukee's first-year starter at first base. Both Ishikawa and Conrad were in Brewers camp on Minor League deals. Conrad will play multiple positions for Triple-A Nashville, whose infield is set with first baseman Erick Almonte, second baseman Eric Farris, third baseman Taylor Green and shortstop Edwin Maysonet. Conrad's calling card was versatility. Without him, the Brewers only have one reserve middle infielder -- veteran Cesar Izturis. Roenicke said the team would "go with this for a while and see how it plays out." Maysonet impressed Brewers coaches in camp and is only a call away. He has logged big league time with the Astros and has one Minor League option remaining. The Brewers plan to formally file their 25-man roster before Wednesday's Spring Training finale against the D-backs. Barring a last-minute injury, it will include starters Yovani Gallardo, Zack Greinke, Randy Wolf, Shaun Marcum and Chris Narveson; relievers John Axford, Francisco Rodriguez, Jose Veras, Kameron Loe, Marco Estrada, Manny Parra and Tim Dillard; catchers Jonathan Lucroy and George Kottaras; infielders Gamel, Rickie Weeks, Aramis Ramirez, Alex Gonzalez, Izturis and Ishikawa and outfielders Ryan Braun, Nyjer Morgan, Carlos Gomez, Corey Hart and Norichika Aoki.
Marcum satisfied with limited spring
PHOENIX -- For the second consecutive season, Brewers right-hander Shaun Marcum will enter the regular season after the most abbreviated of Spring Trainings. He's set to make just his second Cactus League appearance Wednesday on getaway day, an afternoon game against the D-backs at Chase Field.And that's just fine with Marcum. "I only need four or five starts," he said. "Nowadays, with [the importance] of pitch counts in the game, there's not too many guys who get to 120 pitches, anyways. I've been locating my fastball, and, for me, that's the thing that matters." This year, like last, Marcum dealt with a stiff right shoulder early in camp. He made three starts in Minor League camp and a three-inning start vs. the Dodgers on March 25 without incident and said he expects to reach the 70-75 pitch mark Wednesday. That is the same level at which he started last season in Cincinnati. By that measure, Marcum is actually ahead of schedule. He's entering the final year of his contract. Wherever Marcum winds up in 2013, he may consider planning for an abbreviated spring from the start. "It's definitely an option," Marcum said.
Report says Greinke hires agent
PHOENIX -- Brewers right-hander Zack Greinke has retained high-profile baseball agent Casey Close, according to MLB Network Radio and ESPN analyst Jim Bowden, fueling speculation that Greinke and the Brewers were making progress toward a contract extension.For now, it remains only speculation, because Greinke, a free agent after this season, declined on Monday to offer any details about his business dealings with the Brewers. Greinke had been working without representation for more than a year, and has been engaged directly this spring with club officials about a contract extension. General manager Doug Melvin has also declined to discuss his talks with Greinke. The report linking Greinke to Close came one day after Matt Cain and the Giants struck a five-year agreement that makes Cain the richest right-handed pitcher in baseball history. Greinke and Cain have comparable statistics and were each entering their final season before free agency. "Obviously, he's really good," Greinke said Monday. "I can't really get into if I think I compare to him or I don't think I compare to him. That's more business stuff I don't feel like giving y'all my opinion on."
Heckathorn takes start as learning experience
MESA, Ariz. -- Amid a chorus of queries wondering, "Who are these guys?" a split-squad Brewers club made up primarily of Double-A Huntsville players earned respect in a game against a lineup featuring most of the Cubs' Opening Day starters.
Kyle Heckathorn was on the hill for the Brewers, and though he had a shaky first two innings, giving up four runs on six hits and a walk, he settled down for his final three innings of work, allowing one more run on an Alfredo Amezaga solo shot to right. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Cubs' starters were mostly out of the lineup after two at-bats.
"It was awesome -- any time you get the privilege to face a big league lineup you take advantage of it, get some feedback, and learn from it," Heckathorn said. "I made a couple mistakes and they made me pay for it, but it's all part of learning and facing a big league lineup."
Heckathorn was the Brewers' supplemental pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft and has been working his way through the system, making seven starts for Huntsville in 2011 after starting the season in Class A Brevard County. He is 15-17 in 53 Minor League games, 48 of them starts, and has posted a 4.12 ERA. He walked two and struck out six Tuesday, including Alfonso Soriano, Marlon Byrd, and Blake DeWitt twice.
"That's a lineup you can sit back and learn from," Huntsville manager Darnell Coles said. "You go home, you go over pitch-by-pitch, how you threw guys in certain situations. Some guys like to swing early in the counts. Some guys you may want to not stay over the middle of the plate. He made a couple mistakes and he got hit hard, but for a couple innings there, he pitched well, he moved the ball around, and his overall performance was great. It's a learning experience, and he'll learn from this moving forward."
Major Leaguers Nyjer Morgan, Jonathan Lucroy, and Mat Gamel all started for the Crew, with Morgan leading off the game with a single to the pitcher. Lucroy singled to center in the third to improve his Cactus League average to .491 (26-for-53). Gamel was 0-for-2 with a pair of groundouts against Cubs starter Travis Wood.
Milwaukee's lone run off Wood came on a two-out homer to left from Minor League third baseman Andy Gonzalez, making his Cactus League debut.
Defensively, Lucroy had a close play at the plate, receiving a throw from left fielder Lee Haydel on a Joe Mather double to bring home Reed Johnson. Lucroy set up in front of the plate and made a lunging sweep tag, but Johnson was called safe.
-- Owen Perkins
Gonzalez has been pleasant spring surprise
PHOENIX -- With about 24 hours remaining in Spring Training, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke was asked Tuesday afternoon for his camp surprises and mentioned new shortstop Alex Gonzalez, who has been better than advertised in the batter's box.Gonzalez entered the Brewers' Chase Field exhibitions with a .440 batting average (22-for-50), four home runs and 14 RBIs. He led the Brewers with 39 total bases with two Cactus League games to go, and had a .481 on-base percentage. Yes, it's "just Spring Training." Yes, plenty of players have shown a great approach at the plate in March and failed to carry it into April. Center fielder Carlos Gomez did it last year. But, yes, Roenicke is encouraged, especially with Gonzalez's opposite-field approach. "Gonzo [has been] better offensively than I thought," Roenicke said. "He's changed his approach a little bit. I'm hoping we see a lot of this during the season. "I had a meeting with him and I told him in all the years I've seen him play, I see more in him offensively. I do. He's been a good hitter, but I think he's capable of doing some more things." In parts of 13 seasons, Gonzalez has a .247 batting average, a .291 on-base percentage and a .690 OPS. He had the lowest on-base percentage last season (.270) among qualifying National League hitters, but interested the Brewers because of his quality defense. Gonzalez's contract includes a 2013 option that will vest if he reaches 525 plate appearances.
Roenicke said left fielder Ryan Braun "is starting to look like the guy we saw last year," when Braun won the NL MVP Award."He's squaring-up almost every ball now," Roenicke said. "I think he knows, mentally, he needs to get after it, and he has." Roenicke still intends to bat catcher Jonathan Lucroy eighth, but considering Lucroy's sensational spring, he could be talked into batting Lucroy higher in the order. If Travis Ishikawa wins the last roster spot over switch-hitter Brooks Conrad, the Brewers may have to rely often on Norichika Aoki, a left-handed hitter, to pinch-hit against left-handed relievers. "I know it's not the conventional way of doing things, but he has shown history-wise and he's shown us in Spring Training that he really hits lefties well," Roenicke said. "So why wouldn't I go that way?" Roenicke and his coaches received advance scouting materials Tuesday about the Cardinals, Milwaukee's season-opening opponent this weekend at Miller Park. They will study it on Wednesday's flight home to Milwaukee, then will meet Thursday afternoon to dissect it before a clubhouse meeting and a workout. Second base prospect Scooter Gennett had three more hits against the Cubs on Tuesday afternoon and went 9-for-20 (.450) in nine Cactus League games, giving him as many spring hits as Braun entering Tuesday's night game against the D-backs. Not bad, considering Gennett was not even a member of big league camp. "It can go both ways," Roenicke said. "It should help your development, your confidence. ... And it can go sometimes in a negative way, 'Hey, I've shown I can hit in the big leagues.' Then you get this 'big league-itis' and now you're a pain in the butt to some people. I don't think, with him, it will go that way. I like his personality, his makeup, and he can hit."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.