04/06/12 4:01 PM ET
Braun confident as Crew's season commences
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
Life without Prince Fielder, Braun said, "is really not that much different. The biggest difference will be offensively. You don't instantly replace a guy who's one of the best offensive players in baseball. ... But we all recognized his impending free agency, and the reality that if he reached free agency, the likelihood of him re-signing here was very small."
Hart 'surprised' to be part of Opening Day
MILWAUKEE -- Brewers right fielder Corey Hart was in the Brewers' Opening Day lineup Friday for the first time in three years. Truth be told, he didn't expect this."I'm surprised to be here after having surgery," said Hart, who had a March 6 procedure to repair torn cartilage in his right knee. "I think I'm more excited than ever, because I'm able to help the team from Day 1." Hart didn't have that option in 2011, when he started the season on the disabled list with a rib-cage strain. In 2010, Hart was on the Opening Day bench after a poor Spring Training led the Brewers to start veteran Jim Edmonds in right field. On Friday, Hart was front and center in Opening Day festivities. After players were introduced along the foul lines, Joseph Attanasio, the father of the Brewers' principal owner, continued his tradition of singing the National Anthem. Miss America Laura Kaeppeler wore her crown to throw the season's ceremonial first pitch, a strike to Brewers video coordinator Joe Crawford. The Brewers have five players on their first Major League Opening Day roster: Norichika Aoki, Tim Dillard, Marco Estrada, Mat Gamel and Jonathan Lucroy. "Opening Day, I don't care how many [years] you've been in baseball, it's always an exciting time because of all the work you put into getting to this point," manager Ron Roenicke said. "It's always an unknown. You can feel great about your team, and sometimes it doesn't work out, and vice versa. ... We're really comfortable and confident in what this team has a chance to do this year." The Brewers are healthier at the start of this season than last, when they went on to win 96 regular-season games and the National League Central. Hart, starter Zack Greinke and catcher Jonathan Lucroy were among the players who began last season on the disabled list. "If you compare last year's team at this point to this year's team, I think this year's team is better," principal owner Mark Attanasio said.
Greinke, Axford talks to continue into season
MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers' contract negotiations with starter Zack Greinke and closer John Axford won't end with the start of regular season, two top officials said before Friday's season opener.General manager Doug Melvin confirmed that talks would continue with Greinke and Axford. Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio added that the same goes for Melvin himself, manager Ron Roenicke, COO Rick Schlesinger and executive vice president-finance and administration Bob Quinn, all of whom, Attanasio said, are up for extensions. "I know in our sport there is this demarcation of Opening Day, like everything needs to be done by Opening Day," Attanasio said. "We certainly don't operate like that." Said Melvin: "I think we have to get away from the [concept] that there's a deadline on Opening Day on contracts. I don't think there is. ... In my mind, I don't necessarily believe in deadlines unless they're implemented by the Commissioner's Office. I think you can just go with the flow of it. If it happens, it happens, and if it doesn't, we still have the opportunity at the end of the year with any of our players."
The Brewers would prefer to lock up Greinke before he gets that far. He re-hired agent Casey Close this week, and Close and Melvin had a talk on Thursday evening. They plan to talk again Monday, Melvin said.Greinke is entering the final year of his contract and would be the top right-hander on the free-agent market. "There's no timeline on it," Melvin said. "I know players sometimes say they want to focus on the season, and that's fine. I respect that. It doesn't mean the GM and the agent can't talk behind the scenes. We want [Greinke] to go out and have a big year." Axford's situation is different. He will qualify for salary arbitration next winter as a "Super 2" player, and will be under club control for the 2013-16 seasons. The Brewers have discussed a deal with Axford's agent, Dan Horwits, that would buy out some or all of those seasons, and could extend into free agency. Melvin, the Brewers' GM since September 2002, has a contract that expires after this season. Roenicke is in the second season of a two-year deal, but he has a club option for 2013. Attanasio said talks were "progressing nicely" with Melvin and Roenicke.
Doug Melvin, who was the Rangers' general manager when Alex Rodriguez signed his record-setting contract in 2000, said this about the rash of megadeals in Major League Baseball: "I think you've got to see, does the excitement in the early years of a contract outweigh the agony at the end? I think you have to weigh that when you're talking about seven-, eight-, nine-year contracts. I've talked to other general managers who have done those. There's a lot of excitement when you do them, early, and a lot of pain and agony at the end."