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MILWAUKEE -- Mat Gamel's Triple-A manager pulled no punches in assessing the former top prospect's big league future, saying Gamel must make some fundamental changes if he is to break through with the Brewers in 2012.
A former third baseman, Gamel moved to first in 2011 to get accustomed to the position in the event Brewers incumbent Prince Fielder departs via free agency. Gamel batted .310 with 28 home runs and 96 RBIs, but was noticeably absent from the Brewers' list of September call-ups.
Triple-A Nashville manager Don Money was asked a simple question: Will Gamel be a good Major Leaguer?
"If he can get his head right, and that's the thing," Money said. "He's hard-headed. He doesn't carry himself well. You have to carry yourself like a professional, and he doesn't do it and I've said it to him."
Money offered several examples, beginning in 2008 when the Brewers made Gamel a September call-up and then sent him home Sept. 19 after Gamel declined to take optional batting practice with the other rookies and then complained of a sore shoulder. In '09, his first big league Spring Training camp, Brewers veterans moved Gamel's locker outside at Maryvale Baseball Park after he reported late on several occasions.
Then, in 2011, with a chance to impress new Brewers manager Ron Roenicke, Money says Gamel reported 25-30 pounds overweight. Gamel told Money he couldn't work out over the winter because he was rehabbing from toe surgery.
Money did praise Gamel's play and commitment at first base, a position he was hesitant to adopt the year before.
"The big question is, can he play it every day? Well, he can play first, but can he hit enough?" Money said. "That's the big 'if.'"
In 194 Major League plate appearances over parts of four seasons, Gamel is a .220 hitter with 67 strikeouts. He was 3-for-26 in a stint with the Brewers in 2011.
Gamel finished the Triple-A season in a slump that Money attributed to trying for the two home runs he needed for his first 30-homer season.
Money said Gamel was upset when the Brewers passed him over in late August to promote third baseman Taylor Green, another left-handed hitter.
"Maybe it's an awakening that, 'Hey, I'm not the big boy on the block anymore,'" Money said.
Among other Money observations:
-- Outfielder Caleb Gindl, at 22 for most of 2011 one of the youngest players in the Pacific Coast League, is a talented player who "has to learn the game."
"He got mad at the [Logan] Schafer call-up and I said, 'What are you mad for?'" Money said. "I told him, 'Don't worry about it. You can't control that. Go out and play winter ball, do what you need to do.' Schafer is what, 25? Gindl is . He's got to learn the game
. It's not just come out and hit home runs. You have to bunt, you have to hit the cutoff man, you have to throw to the right bases. ...
"All he's worried about is numbers, and I understand, numbers are what people see. When I see him every day, and he makes the mistake in August that he made in April, you haven't earned it yet. He needs more Triple-A time, that's what he needs. He needs another year."
Money said he advised Gindl to lose some weight over the offseason. The Brewers' media guide listed Gindl at 5-foot-9, 204 pounds.
-- Right-handers Mike Fiers and Wily Peralta should spend a significant part of next season at Triple-A to prove their strong finishes in 2011 were no fluke.
"Go out and show me you can do it again," Money said. "I don't see any reason why they can't."
-- Right-handed reliever Mike McClendon's poor finish to 2011 is cause for concern. McClendon, one of three pitchers, along with Fiers and Peralta, considered for a call-up this week that ultimately went to Fiers, allowed 22 hits in 16 2/3 innings and posted a 5.94 ERA in August.
"He's not the same pitcher he was two years ago," Money said. "He doesn't seem like he throws as hard. It doesn't seem like he has the command of his pitches like he used to. ... Has he pitched a lot of innings? I don't know. Are there other issues? I don't know that, either. I just look at the results."
Weeks back in lineup, inserted in No. 5 slot
MILWAUKEE -- With a smile on his face, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke wrote Rickie Weeks' name into the starting lineup on Sunday. Weeks batted fifth in his first start since he injured his left ankle in a July 27 game against the Cubs.
"That's nice to see," Roenicke said.
Weeks made his official comeback the night before, working a seventh-inning walk as a pinch-hitter against the Phillies' Cliff Lee. Roenicke was impressed by the quality of the plate appearance considering Weeks' long layoff.
He was expected only to play part of Sunday's series finale against the Phillies. Weeks is still short of 100 percent after suffering ligament damage in his left ankle and is playing with a brace.
"I don't have him [hitting] fifth because I think he's ready to hit fifth; I just think he fits in good there for what we have, and when I get him out of there it's a nice place to change," said Roenicke, who planned to insert Casey McGehee into Weeks' spot and move third baseman Taylor Green over to second.
Roenicke suffered a similar injury late in the 1981 season, when he was a rookie for the eventual World Series champion Dodgers. He missed that entire postseason and realizes that Weeks will not be back to full strength until deep into this winter.
But even with Weeks at less than 100 percent, the Brewers believe he can help.
"I think he trusts that he can do everything he needs to do, not at 100 percent," Roenicke said. "But he feels like he can get to the bag and turn two, that if he hits a double he can keep pace enough to get to second base. Obviously, we're not going to hit and run and steal with him."
Off-days prompt rotation jumble
MILWAUKEE -- Left-hander Chris Narveson is back in the bullpen because of team off-days Monday and Thursday, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said.
Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum will start the Brewers' two-game series against the Rockies, followed by Randy Wolf, Yovani Gallardo and Greinke in the following series in Cincinnati. Narveson will rejoin the rotation on Sept. 20 at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
Asked whether the rotation is lined up for the postseason, Roenicke said, "Don't care. I'm concerned about getting there, and we can rearrange things at the end if we start playing well. This thing may come down to the last couple of days."
The Brewers entered Sunday's finale against the Phillies with a six-game lead over the Cardinals in the National League Central with 15 games to play. They trailed the D-backs by one-half game in the race for the NL's second-best record and the right to start a Division Series at home.