4/2/2013 7:57 P.M. ET
Aoki savors spot as Brewers' home run leader
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
MILWAUKEE -- Norichika Aoki did not need his translator to answer the first question on Tuesday:
Would he have picked himself to hit the Brewers' first home run of the season?
"No," Aoki said with a big smile.
"I would have never bet on me," he added, through translator Kosuke Inaji.
Yet there was Aoki atop the Brewers' leaderboard, his third-inning solo home run the team's only homer in its extra-inning victory over the Rockies on Opening Day.
It came off Jhoulys Chacin, the same Rockies right-hander who surrendered Aoki's first Major League home run last April 20. The difference was that Monday's cleared the fence. Last year's was of the inside-the-park variety.
Aoki went on to hit 10 home runs last season, and Brewers manager Ron Roenicke thinks his leadoff man will top that total in 2013. Aoki, a three-time batting champion in Japan, hit as many as 20 home runs for the Yakult Swallows in 2007, and he reported to Spring Training this year a bit more bulked-up. He said the goal was to hit the ball harder to the gaps -- not necessarily to clear more fences.
Does he think he'll top 10 homers this year?
"I can't really say," Aoki said. "I'd like to, but my primary focus is getting on base, because our real home run hitters are the guys behind me."
Velocity dip doesn't worry Gallardo after one game
MILWAUKEE -- Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo insisted he wasn't worried about the slightly diminished radar gun readings during his Opening Day start against the Rockies. The scoreboard showed 90s and 91s where Gallardo routinely produces 93s and 94s.
"I know it went down as the game went on," Gallardo said. "I could feel it, more than anything, by the way the slider and everything else was coming out. It was my first time going close to 100 pitches; that could have something to do with it.
"It will be there. It felt like my velocities were normal when the game started and then went down from there. It will get there."
On Monday, Gallardo's top fastball registered 91.6 mph, according to Pitch f/x data from BrooksBaseball.net. His four-seam fastball averaged 90.19. That's 2 mph below his career average, per FanGraphs.com.
Manager Ron Roenicke noticed the dip, and said Gallardo also worked with slightly less zip on his fastball during his final Cactus League outings. Those games capped a strange Spring Training in which Gallardo ramped up early to be ready for the World Baseball Classic, nearly missed the event because of a groin injury, pitched one game for Mexico and then returned to the Brewers to quickly prepare for the regular season.
"We saw pretty good velocity in the World Baseball Classic, and then the last couple of outings, we haven't seen it, but he's had such good command I wasn't too concerned about it because I know it will come back," Roenicke said. "I think we've seen, since the two years I've been here, he goes through stretches where he loses some velocity. I don't know if that's a dead-arm period. Maybe things got 'moved around' a little bit with how hard he had to go in the Classic."
Gallardo predicted better results in his next start against the D-backs on Sunday. The Brewers will host a big crowd that afternoon for Norichika Aoki bobblehead day.
"I don't want to say I'm behind schedule, but that injury with the groin kind of backed me up a week and a half," Gallardo said. "Instead of going 50 pitches [in the Classic], I should have been going 65. Those are extra pitches that might have made a difference. But everything is fine. No issues. I feel good.
"Going that many pitches is like anything else -- you do it the first time and you get a little fatigued, a little tired. Then you do it again and things get back to normal."
Brewers still aiming high with lower Draft pick
MILWAUKEE -- Brewers amateur scouting director Bruce Seid was in town Monday and Tuesday to brief top club officials on players of interest for the upcoming First-Year Player Draft.
Until two weeks ago, the Brewers owned the 17th pick in the Draft. But after surrendering that selection as a side effect of signing right-hander Kyle Lohse to a three-year deal, Seid won't get to call a name until the 54th overall pick. The Brewers also lost the Draft pool dollars associated with the 17th overall pick -- which amounted to $2 million in 2012.
"That's just part of the process," Seid said. "Whatever was best for the ballclub, I'm on board. The key here is we've still got three picks inside 90. We've had some success in recent and past years with [that range]."
Such selections include right-hander Tyler Thornburg, the 96th overall pick in 2010 and the Brewers' No. 2-ranked prospect. The Brewers' reigning Minor League Player of the Year, first baseman Hunter Morris (No. 5), was the 129th overall pick that year.
Further back, the Brewers drafted right-hander Yovani Gallardo in the second round in 2004 and catcher Jonathan Lucroy in the third round in 2007. Outfielder Logan Schafer was a third-round pick in 2008.
"We'll find some value," Seid said. "I love the challenge."
Seid will host a conference call at the end of the month with the Brewers' national crosscheckers to begin zeroing in on potential picks. The three-day First-Year Player Draft begins June 6.