02/24/2013 7:20 PM ET
Finally healthy, Rogers has shot at roster spot
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- It was reflective of Mark Rogers' injury-interrupted career that Sunday, at the start of his ninth professional season and his fourth Major League camp, the former first-round Draft pick finally made his first Cactus League start.
"Here we are," Rogers said.
He is on the cusp of his first Opening Day roster, one of four candidates for three openings in the Brewers' starting rotation. Rogers' bid began shakily, with a 1 2/3-inning start against the Indians in which he walked three batters, surrendered two hits and two runs and threw a wild pitch.
But he was healthy, and after shoulder, elbow and hand surgeries, that counted for something.
"I want to make this team," Rogers said. "I understand what the situation is, obviously. But you can only control what you can control, and that's taking the ball every opportunity I get and pitching to the best of my ability."
He came back from 2011's carpal tunnel surgery to pitch well in '12, going 6-6 with a 4.72 ERA in 18 starts at Triple-A Nashville before a seven-start stint with the Brewers. Rogers was 3-1 with a 3.92 ERA in the Majors and was shut down in September to protect his arm from a dramatic bump in innings.
His 2013 season began with a tough first inning against the Indians. Rogers' trouble started when he walked leadoff man Ezequiel Carrera, who stole second base and then third on a close play. Carrera scored on a single by Mike Aviles, who stole second himself and eventually scored on a groundout.
Rogers said he was simply out of rhythm, and he was not alone. Most of the six Brewers pitchers who worked Sunday struggled with command including right-handed prospect Taylor Jungmann, who walked three batters in 1 2/3 innings, hit another and was the pitcher of decision in the team's 7-4 loss.
The cold, windy, dry conditions on Sunday did not help.
"I really don't expect these guys to be real good early," manager Ron Roenicke said. "If they are, great. That's why we have all of these games to get them locked in."
Gonzalez begins crash course at first base
PHOENIX -- After 13,207 2/3 innings at shortstop, Alex Gonzalez is game for something new. He manned first base in the Brewers' Cactus League matchup with the Indians on Sunday and played a flawless four innings.
"You have to make adjustments," Gonzalez said.
That means moving off shortstop, the only position he's played in 14 Major League seasons, to try his hand at first, where the Brewers have an early-season need after losing Corey Hart and Mat Gamel to knee injuries.
Gonzalez has spent these early days of camp working on positioning and footwork. On Sunday he made one nice play to pick a grounder and throw to second for a forceout, and he later picked a throw out of the dirt.
"Just have confidence in yourself," Gonzalez said. "If you go out there relaxed, you make it easy."
Manager Ron Roenicke said Gonzalez has taken to the position quickly.
"Definitely the hardest part is knowing where you need to be in different situations," Roenicke said. "And secondly would be when you're running to the first base bag, finding the bag while you're turning and looking at the infielders for the throw coming across. Once you get comfortable with those two things, it's easy."
Ex-catcher Sanchez makes pitch for Brewers 'pen
PHOENIX -- Jesus Sanchez has two things working in his favor as he bids for a spot in the Brewers' bullpen: a mid-90s fastball, and an appreciation for how difficult it is to hit it.
Sanchez batted .206 over four seasons in the Yankees and Phillies systems before converting from catching to pitching in 2009. He took to the new role immediately, posting a 3.44 ERA in 26 Class A starts his first year and a 2.99 ERA in 22 starts the following year, including his first career complete game. He signed with the Brewers as a Minor League free agent for 2011 and moved midway through the year to relief, a role he filled ably in 2012 to the tune of a 1.63 ERA and 11 saves in 52 appearances between Double-A Huntsville and Triple-A Nashville.
On Saturday, Sanchez pitched a perfect ninth inning against the A's for his first Cactus League save.
"He's got a strong arm, and I really like his delivery," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "It's compact, he's got a short arm stroke which [means] the ball gets on hitters a little better. I was just asking the guys about his breaking ball, and he's got a real good one. He just needs to be more consistent with it."
That makes sense for a player with only four years of pitching under his belt. Sanchez said he throws a four-seam fastball in the 93-94-mph range, hitting 96 on occasion last season, plus a slider, a changeup and a new two-seam fastball suggested this spring by pitching coach Rick Kranitz.
He's not the first converted catcher to pitch in Brewers camp. Dave Bush switched to closing games at Wake Forest University and eventually made it as a Milwaukee starter from 2006-10. He's still pitching as a non-roster invitee with the Blue Jays.
Sanchez is a long shot for the Brewers' Opening Day roster, though general manager Doug Melvin is fond of saying that everybody with a uniform is in the running. Sanchez has been in a big league camp before, with the Phillies.
"Still, the first game, you're a little bit nervous," he said. "I treat it just like an outing during the season so I get that focus and concentration. If you don't take it seriously, you don't get 100 percent out of it."
Power pitchers populate Brewers camp
PHOENIX -- Ryan Braun has taken note at the number of big arms in Brewers uniforms these days.
The organization's focus on large-framed power pitchers was evident in the team's Cactus League opener against the A's, when John Axford, Jim Henderson, Santo Manzanillo and Michael Olmsted all pitched in relief.
Still waiting to debut was right-hander Johnny Hellweg, the 100-mph arm acquired in last year's trade for Zack Greinke.
"All of a sudden we've got some guys," Braun said.
"There's more velocity now than my first year in camp, no doubt about it," third-year manager Ron Roenicke said. "Sometimes it shifts on purpose, and sometimes it's what's available and how you draft and how those guys develop."
• Infielder Bobby Crosby is sidelined a few days with a minor leg injury sustained during conditioning drills this weekend, Roenicke said.
• It will be all hands on deck Monday when the Brewers play split-squad games at home against the Padres and in Goodyear against the Reds. Since pitchers are just getting stretched out and position players are gradually increasing their workloads, Roenicke will borrow a number of players from the club's Minor League minicamp, including right-hander Jimmy Nelson, No. 9 on MLB.com's list of the Brewers' top 20 prospects.
Hiram Burgos will start the home game against San Diego's Edinson Volquez, and Tyler Thornburg will pitch against the Reds' Armando Galarraga.