04/04/09 2:20 AM ET
Brewers assign Gwynn Jr. to Triple-A
After clearing waivers, outfielder heads to Nashville
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
When long-faced reporters approached Gwynn on Friday night after Milwaukee's 7-2 exhibition win over the Dodgers, Gwynn brightened the mood."I didn't die, guys," he chided. But he was admittedly upset, and he said he was "100 percent hoping" that another club would claim him and give him a shot in the big leagues. "Honestly, the best word I can use to describe it is emotional. It was rough," Gwynn said. "But at the same time, when you've been around the game as long as I have, it's inevitable when you're not playing well. " Gwynn, 26 and Milwaukee's second-round Draft pick in 2003, reported to Spring Training out of Minor League options and seemingly was assured a job as the Brewers' fourth outfielder. But he missed the first half of Spring Training with a sore throwing shoulder and then was outplayed by fellow out-of-options outfielder Brad Nelson and non-roster invitee Chris Duffy. Gwynn went 4-for-25 in 13 Cactus League games with eight strikeouts. The final choice essentially came down to Gwynn or Duffy; both are left-handed hitters with speed on the basepaths and are premium defenders who can play center field. Duffy batted .315 in Spring Training. "I was surprised he got through [waivers]," Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash said. "But it's happened to other players before. It happened to Brad Nelson three years ago, and look where he is now." Nelson, once considered Milwaukee's top prospect, was waived midway through the 2006 season. Now, he is one of the players who beat out Gwynn for a reserve outfield role. "It doesn't mean the end of anything, it's just kind of an interruption," Ash said. "He is obviously disappointed, but understands. He wanted to make sure that he's going to get the opportunity to play and make his way back to the big leagues. I assured him he would." Asked if he was surprised to see Gwynn clear, manager Ken Macha answered with a simple, "No." "That's not a strike against him," Macha said. "I think he's got talent to play in the big leagues. But at this particular time, teams are trying to get down to their 25 instead of adding guys." Added general manager Doug Melvin: "We're glad he got through, really. But I also told him, 'If you get claimed and you're in the big leagues, I'm happy for you, too.' So in my mind, it's a no-lose situation." Gwynn said he could sense some sort of bad news coming, but it still stung when he was informed on Wednesday that he would not make the cut. He left the team and traveled home to San Diego to be with his wife, Alyse, and the couple's two children, including a daughter born during Spring Training. His mother drove Gwynn to Los Angeles on Friday to re-join the team, and, after a wrong turn, he arrived just before game time. He'll remain with the team through Sunday's workout in San Francisco before traveling along with fellow non-roster players Carlos Corporan, Lindsay Gulin, Adam Heether and Wes Littleton to Nashville. "I'm looking forward to playing every day and re-proving myself," Gwynn said. "And I don't know if I have to re-prove myself, but I've gotten that tag of being a great defensive outfielder. Everybody knows you can't play in the big leagues every day being a great defensive outfielder; you have to bring something to the offensive side. "So this time, going down, I'm not going to worry as much about my defense as I am about my offense. I'm really going to put a lot of effort into being more consistent at the plate. That doesn't necessarily mean hitting home runs. It means getting on base, hitting for a high average and scoring runs. That's what they pay J.J. [Hardy] and Corey [Hart] and all those guys to do -- to drive somebody in." Nelson could feel Gwynn's pain. "I've been in [Gwynn's] spot before so I know how it feels," said Nelson, who was passed through waivers midway through the 2006 season to remove him from the 40-man roster. "This just shows how tough it is to make it in baseball. It's tough when you're so close and yet it feels like you're a ways away." The Brewers made a series of other moves on Friday, claiming first baseman first baseman Joe Koshansky off waivers from the Rangers and assigning him to Nashville, announcing that third baseman Mike Lamb had cleared release waivers and become a free agent and releasing Triple-A players Scott Thorman and Joe Bateman. Thorman was let go to clear a spot at first base for Koshansky, who turns 27 in May and spent his entire five-year professional career with the Colorado Rockies until he was waived and claimed by Texas on March 29. The Rangers subsequently needed the 40-man roster spot for a non-roster invitee, so they waived him again. The Brewers couldn't pass. A left-handed hitter who has also worked a bit in the outfield, Koshansky has spent brief stints in the Majors with Colorado in each of the past two seasons, but spent most of that time at hitter-friendly Colorado Springs, the Rockies' top affiliate. He belted 52 home runs with 220 RBIs in 258 games over that span, including a 2008 season in which he batted .300 with 31 home runs and a Pacific Coast League-best 121 RBIs in just 122 games. Koshansky also struck out 286 times over the past two seasons, including 158 times in 2008. "We thought it was a chance to add a power left-handed bat to a club that has [Mat] Gamel but not a lot of power from the left side," Melvin said. The Brewers' 40-man roster stands at 38 players. When Duffy is added Sunday to complete the Opening Day slate, he will be No. 39.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.