03/03/12 5:30 PM ET
Jungmann impressive in intrasquad debut
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
Brewers lineup, starting rotation looks set
MILWAUKEE -- Barring unforeseen developments during the Brewers' month-long Cactus League slate, manager Ron Roenicke appears to have fixed on a lineup that includes Yovani Gallardo on the mound for his third consecutive Opening Day start.Roenicke has not made any formal declarations about his pitching plans, but the spring rotation provides a guide. Gallardo debuts Tuesday against the A's and will make six starts, with an extra day of rest between one of them, Roenicke said. That schedule takes Gallardo right to April 6, when the Brewers host the World Series champion Cardinals at Miller Park. Gallardo would be the fourth pitcher in Brewers history to start as many as three season openers. Jim Slaton and Teddy Higuera started three apiece, and Ben Sheets got the nod five times, including four straight Opening Days from 2002-05. Zack Greinke, meanwhile, will make his spring debut Sunday against the Giants in relief of Randy Wolf, then come back on three days' rest to pitch Thursday against the Reds in the first of his six scheduled spring starts. That puts him on an every-five-day schedule leading to the Brewers' second regular-season game against the Cardinals on April 7. At the moment, left-hander Wolf appears lined up to pitch the finale of that Cardinals series, followed by Shaun Marcum and Chris Narveson in the first two games against the Cubs. That alignment makes some sense, based on recent and not-so-recent history; Wolf pitched a gem in last year's National League Championship Series against the Cardinals and owns a 3.91 ERA in 19 regular-season starts against them, while Marcum was hit hard in last year's NLCS and has pitched two gems against the Cubs. Of course, the plan is subject to change. "You guys can figure out where everybody slots," Roenicke said. The same goes for his batting order, which Roenicke debuted for an intrasquad game at Maryvale Baseball Park on Saturday. The card had second baseman Rickie Weeks leading off, followed by center fielder Nyjer Morgan, left fielder Ryan Braun, third baseman Aramis Ramirez, right fielder Corey Hart and then the three spots that seemed up for grabs before Saturday. First baseman Mat Gamel batted sixth, then shortstop Alex Gonzalez and catcher Jonathan Lucroy before the pitcher's spot. The key questions were where to bat Gamel, a 26-year-old getting his first chance as a Major League regular, and Lucroy, the third-year catcher who handled the challenging eight-hole for most of last season. "I really like 'Luc' in the eighth spot," Roenicke said. "'Luc' can hit in any of those others, but ... in the National League lineup, you really need to get to that pitcher's spot. You need to have him come up so you can get through it and get to the [top] of your lineup, and I think 'Luc' allows us to do that more than [Gamel or Gonzalez]." With that spot set, the question then became whether to bat Gamel or Gonzalez sixth, behind the Brewers' big boppers. Braun, Ramirez and Hart all bat right-handed, so Roenicke gave the nod to Gamel, a lefty hitter. Gamel is coming off a season spent mostly at Triple-A Nashville, where he batted .310 with 28 home runs and 96 RBIs in 128 games. "When you talk about his tool set, he should be able to hit sixth in our lineup," Roenicke said. "I don't think that's a pressure spot in our lineup; I think our pressure is going to be 3-4-5. So I think it allows [Gamel] to be in a position, hopefully, where the mental side of it, which is the difference between the Major Leagues and the Minor Leagues, will not come into play as much, and he can relax and hit. This guy can hit."
Brewers, Axford to continue multiyear talks
PHOENIX -- The Brewers renewed closer John Axford's contract for $525,000 on Saturday and will continue discussions about a multiyear contract extension, assistant general manager Gord Ash said.Friday marked the start of a 10-day period in which teams could "renew" contracts for unsigned players who are not yet eligible for arbitration at a salary of the club's choosing. For more than a decade, the Brewers have paid such players, those with zero to three years of Major League service, according to a set scale that applies bonuses above the league-minimum salary for statistical achievements and awards. Instead of agreeing to those terms, Axford and agent Dan Horwits forced a renewal, an indication not of acrimony but rather that neither side wanted to give in amid negotiations about a longer-term contract to cover some or all of Axford's four upcoming arbitration seasons. He will be eligible as a "Super 2" player following the 2012 season. Ash argued that Axford's 2012 salary was "very fair," and places him near the top for players with one-plus year of service. Discussions about a longer-term deal are expected to resume when Horwits travels to Phoenix later this month. "It's a significant raise [from the $442,500 Axford earned last season]," Ash said. It's not a big deal to me. It's the placeholder that we talked about. We've agreed that in a week to 10 days, Danny will be here and we will meet face to face and see where that takes us." Both sides have expressed a desire to strike a deal. "That is something I would love," Axford said earlier in the week. "I'd love the security. I love Milwaukee, I'd love to play there as long as I could. I would love to begin my career there and end my career there, in all honesty."
Other highlights and lowlights from Saturday's three-inning intrasquad game: Pitcher Mark Rogers, returning from carpal tunnel surgery on both wrists, recorded only one out and was victimized by three errors by Brewers regulars. One went against new third baseman Aramis Ramirez on a very sharply hit grounder. ... Second baseman Eric Farris celebrated his 26th birthday with a slick defensive play and a single. ... Catcher Mike Rivera hit a two-run homer off Brewers pitching prospect Tyler Thornburg. ... Center fielder Carlos Gomez had two hits and made a shoestring catch to end an inning. Pitchers Francisco Rodriguez, Zach Braddock and Jed Bradley each threw their first live batting practice of the spring on Saturday. Rodriguez was a bit behind the rest of the pitchers because he reported to camp later, and Braddock (illness) and Bradley (groin) were delayed by physical issues. Rodriguez is ahead of schedule, Roenicke said, and should make his Cactus League debut on Tuesday.