PHOENIX -- The Brewers made four additional camp cuts Saturday, and Juan Francisco's empty locker was a signal that at least one more move is pending.
Francisco reported to camp to compete with non-roster invitee Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay for first base duties, and it appears he is the odd man out. Brewers manager Ron Roenicke could not confirm that following a 9-6 loss to the Angels at Maryvale Baseball Park, but said he expected to inform players of the plan Sunday.
In the clubhouse, Overbay could not help but notice the empty locker.
"I just know that they're going to make the decision tomorrow," Overbay said. "I don't take anything for granted. There's trades out there. Hopefully, tomorrow will be the news we were looking for. Last year when I was with the Yankees, they got rid of my competition and didn't tell me anything. Everybody is always looking."
Overbay did eventually make the Yankees' cut, but did not get the news from GM Brian Cashman until after the team played its final exhibition game. He will learn his Brewers fate much earlier, since a clause in Overbay's contract dictated the Brewers release him within 48 hours of a request Saturday, or place him on the 40-man roster.
The Brewers currently have two openings on that roster. If Francisco is traded, released or otherwise removed, it would create a third.
In official roster moves Saturday, the team optioned right-hander Alfredo Figaro and outfielder Caleb Gindl to Triple-A Nashville and returned catcher Robinzon Diaz and infielder Irving Falu to Minor League camp. As a formality, the team also informed non-roster catcher Lucas May that he would not make the team, but would travel to Milwaukee for exhibitions against the Royals next weekend.
With Figaro out, the race for the Brewers bullpen is down to four players (non-roster invitee Zach Duke, plus Tyler Thornburg, Rob Wooten and Rule 5 pick Wei-Chung Wang) for three spots. It appears increasingly likely the Brewers will keep Wang rather than return him to the Pirates.
Gomez lands the leadoff assignment
PHOENIX -- After talking and tinkering all spring, the Brewers have settled on center fielder Carlos Gomez as their new leadoff hitter.
Manager Ron Roenicke had been mulling different options since the Brewers traded Norichika Aoki to the Royals in December. Aoki was a prototypical pick for that spot, a pesky left-handed batter who worked counts and got on base. Gomez is different, an aggressive right-handed batter with power.
He's getting the nod over shortstop Jean Segura and second basemen Rickie Weeks and Scooter Gennett.
"I'm liking what I see so far, so unless something happens in these few games after [Monday's] off-day, we're going to go with it," Roenicke said.
Gomez gave his manager more to like Saturday afternoon, when he hit a leadoff home run against Angels right-hander Joe Blanton.
"Like I said before, it doesn't matter to me. I'm ready," Gomez said. "I'm going to do my job and continue to be aggressive. It's not like I am going to be changing my approach. No, Ron told me, 'If you lead off, just [be] you. When you are good, you are aggressive. I want you to be aggressive.'"
Segura will likely bat second, giving the Brewers tremendous speed atop the lineup (Segura was second in the National League with 44 stolen bases last season, and Gomez fourth with 40 steals). Right fielder Ryan Braun, third baseman Aramis Ramirez and catcher Jonathan Lucroy will fill the 3-5 spots, leaving left fielder Khris Davis, the first baseman (Mark Reynolds or Lyle Overbay) and the second baseman (Gennett and Weeks look likely to platoon) to fill out the lineup in some order.
Gomez is coming off a career year in which he led the Brewers in doubles (27), home runs (24), extra-base hits (61), total bases (271) and slugging percentage (.506). He tied Aoki for the team lead with 80 runs scored and set career highs with a .284 batting average a .338 on-base percentage, 44 points better than his career OBP entering the season.
Roenicke confirmed that he urged Gomez not to change his approach in an attempt to "fit" the leadoff spot.
"I always feel like I should say something to him, and then you see how the player reacts to it," Roenicke said. "If he's going to go about it differently, then you may have to make a change."
Asked Saturday what he liked about Gomez in the leadoff spot, Roenicke smiled and said, "Yesterday."
The Brewers played the Rangers in Surprise, Ariz., on Friday, and Gomez led off with a hard line drive that buzzed Texas third baseman Adrian Beltre before Beltre could even raise his glove.
"I think that's a really good way to start off a game," Roenicke said. "[An opposing pitcher] has got to be careful, and they're not really locked in. The first batter is usually where they have the worst command."
Roenicke still not worried about Segura
PHOENIX -- The Brewers may hold shortstop Jean Segura out of Cactus League games through Monday's off-day to allow his sore throwing shoulder time to heal, but he was well enough to take at-bats in a Minor League game Saturday.
"I'm not too concerned about the defensive part," Roenicke said. "I'm more concerned with the offense, him going into the season knowing that his timing is there and he feels good about the offense."
Segura did not play winter ball this year for the first time, so he felt rusty coming into camp. He asked for, and was granted, more playing time, but that led to soreness in his right shoulder that Roenicke does not consider serious.
Segura has not played an "A" game since Tuesday, but the shoulder does not bother him when he swings, so he has been able to continue batting practice during his layoff.
"The defense part, he's had enough games there," Roenicke said "If he sits a week, he should be able to come out and just 'pick it' right away. I don't think that should be an issue."
• The Brewers are suggesting that fans give themselves extra time to get into Miller Park in 2014. According to spokesperson Tyler Barnes, Major League Baseball is mandating additional security measures this season that will range from screening at select gates some days to full screening of all fans at other times.
• Matt Garza and Marco Estrada are both scheduled to start Sunday, but the Brewers have flipped their assignments, so Garza will pitch the "A" game against the Reds in Goodyear, Ariz., and Estrada will get his work in a Class A Minor League game. Garza, who has a 19.06 ERA in his first three Cactus League starts, was originally reluctant to face the big league Reds since they are a division rival.
"Garza, we want him to be in the main game with big league hitters," Roenicke said. "The last time he pitched in a Minor League game, they were just swinging at everything, so I would like it to be a little different. Estrada, he is really throwing the ball well. So for him, it's just about getting in the pitchers and the innings."
The Brewers and Reds won't see each other again until May 1-4 in Cincinnati.
• Yovani Gallardo's Opening Day opponent is set. The Braves on Saturday named right-hander Julio Teheran their starter for the March 31 game at Miller Park. This will be the first Opening Day start for the 23-year-old, compared with Gallardo's fifth in a row.
"I'm happy," Teheran said. "It's a great honor to be the starting pitcher on Opening Day. I just want to say thanks for the opportunity. I have been working hard and it has paid off."