2/19/2013 3:37 P.M. ET
Gonzalez urged to embrace utility role
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- Longtime shortstop Alex Gonzalez has told the Brewers he is willing to try first base this spring as the team seeks an early solution at that injury-riddled position, but did not exactly seem giddy about the proposition.
Manager Ron Roenicke said he understands if that is the case.
"Here is a guy that is a proven plus defender at shortstop for a lot of years, and he was our guy last year," Roenicke said. "Now he gets hurt and all of a sudden, he's not that guy anymore. That's hard to take. He knows if he comes back healthy, why shouldn't he be that guy again?"
The Brewers are instead committed to Jean Segura, who turns 23 next month. They view Gonzalez a la former Rangers infielder Michael Young, who moved all over the infield later in his career.
Roenicke will sell Gonzalez on the positives of that transition.
"I don't expect Alex to be happy about things that come up that I ask him to do," Roenicke said. "I try to explain it, why we need him to do it, explain about what may happen with him in the rest of his career, whether he's only wanting to play a couple more years or wanting to play five or more years.
"If he's wanting to play a long time, then he needs to be a utility man that can play all positions."
Other internal candidates to play first base include Bobby Crosby and Taylor Green, each of whom have played the position in the Majors. Catcher Martin Maldonado will play some first in the Cactus League, but is not considered a candidate to man the position full-time once the season begins because the Brewers need him behind the plate.
At some point, the Brewers could also look at candidates outside the organization, but a Major League source told FoxSports.com's Ken Rosenthal on Tuesday that Milwaukee had ruled out Seattle's Mike Carp, an outfielder/first baseman who was designated for assignment last week and will be traded by Friday.
Facing another long rehab on knee, Gamel upbeat
PHOENIX -- Mat Gamel reported to Brewers camp Tuesday with his head up and his eyes bright, vowing to plow through a second straight year of rehabilitation from right knee surgery with a positive attitude.
But he did allow himself one crack about the terrible news that his surgically repaired ACL had torn again.
"They said 10 percent will do that," Gamel said. "If there's a one percent chance of it doing something bad, then it's going to happen to me.
"But, what do you do, man? You go have the surgery and come back stronger and try to start it over again, I guess."
A timetable has yet to be set for Gamel's surgery, but it's clear that his 2013 season is over before it began, and that another long rehab lies ahead.
He was Milwaukee's Opening Day first baseman last season, but tore his ACL colliding with a low wall in San Diego on May 1 and missed the rest of the season. Gamel rehabbed diligently and was presented with an opportunity when Corey Hart suffered his own right knee injury during the offseason and underwent surgery that would sideline him at least through April and perhaps through May.
But bad luck struck Gamel again on Saturday, when he felt a tweak in his knee during the Brewers' first full-squad workout. He described the sensation after that as "shifting" in the joint, "but it's not like I went down or anything." Even when Brewers head physician William Raasch ordered another MRI scan, Gamel never fathomed it would be another tear.
Yet that's exactly what it was.
"It was shocking, to say the least," Gamel said. "That was the last thing I would have expected it would have been."
The repair had torn right through the middle, which Brewers head athletic trainer Dan Wright characterized as particularly rare. Yet Gamel always seems bit by bad luck, going back to 2010 and '11 when more minor Spring Training injuries cost him shots at the Opening Day roster.
Gamel may take up Hart on an offer to move into Hart's guest house in Phoenix's West Valley, and believes that his experience through rehab last year will help him this time. He will have a better idea when to push the joint without fear of further damage.
"I didn't really expect to have to go through it this soon, but here we are," Gamel said.
Does he ever ask, why me?
"What's that going to change?" Gamel said. "I'm not going to sit and pout and feel bad for myself because that isn't going to change nothing, except put me in a bad mood. Right now, I need to be positive."
Club's Classic pitchers ahead of schedule
PHOENIX -- Hiram Burgos pitched the Brewers' first live batting practice session on Monday and Yovani Gallardo was scheduled for a similar session on Tuesday, signs of the Brewers putting their participants on an accelerated path to next month's World Baseball Classic.
Manager Ron Roenicke and pitching coach Rick Kranitz have taken particular care to map a course for their starting pitchers -- Gallardo and Marco Estrada of Mexico and Puerto Rico's Burgos. They will essentially have to be one start ahead of a usual Spring Training schedule to be ready, even considering the Classic's pitch count restrictions.
Gallardo and Estrada will pitch in an intrasquad game scheduled for Friday. Roenicke said he wasn't ready to name a starter for Saturday's Cactus League opener against the A's.
"The starters, it's big to figure out to get them ready to extend themselves into those innings," Roenicke said. "I know they have a pitch count, they're trying to protect all the pitchers in that Classic, but it's still a concern with the pitching coach to make sure we're doing it the right way."
Classic pitchers will be limited to 65 pitches in the first round, 80 pitches in the second round and 95 in the final two rounds, down from 70, 85 and 100 pitches when the event was last held in 2009.
Wednesday will be a big day in Brewers camp, weather permitting, with 12 pitchers scheduled to throw live batting practice.
"From what I've seen in the bullpen, guys look like they're ready," Roenicke said. "Not too many guys come down here and they haven't thrown bullpen yet, though there are a couple."
Byrd mourns death of friend
PHOENIX -- Right-hander Darren Byrd has been working with a heavy heart in the early days of Brewers camp following the death of one of his best friends, who died from injuries suffered in a highway accident the day Byrd left for Maryvale Baseball Park.
Byrd was awaiting a connecting flight in Houston on Feb. 11 when his wife called with news that Brian Steinbeck, a member of Darren's high school graduating class who was working in Pensacola, Fla., as a highway surveyor, was in critical condition after a motorist swerved and struck the 25-year-old. Steinbeck died two days later and was laid to rest on Tuesday while Byrd and the Brewers practiced at Maryvale Baseball Park.
"It was hard for me not to be there," Byrd said. "You just never know when something like that is going to happen."
Byrd, just 26 himself, has already dealt with his share of tragedy. His mother, Joan, succumbed to cancer about two months before the start of 2008 Spring Training.
"I thought it would be easy going back to doing what I love to do, but it was tough," Byrd said. "This is hard, too. I just don't like seeing things happen to young people, especially good people like [Steinbeck]."
• Gamel said he may take Hart up on the offer to move in with Hart and his family for the remainder of spring. With Hart on crutches and Gamel soon to be, Hart's wife Kristina would have to serve as chauffeur.
"Like she doesn't have enough kids to watch," Roenicke joked.
The Harts already have four children of their own.
• Right-hander Kelvim Escobar, the 36-year-old attempting a comeback after five years of shoulder issues, said he was scheduled to throw his first bullpen session on Wednesday if the rain in the forecast holds off. Escobar's unofficial Brewers debut has been delayed a few days while the team followed up his physical exam with additional tests on his right shoulder.
• Left-hander Travis Webb threw from flat ground on Tuesday for the first time since his physical exam revealed some minor concern about the lat muscle behind his shoulder. Webb chalked up the delay to an abundance of caution and said he was feeling well after the session.