6/5/2013 2:36 A.M. ET
Francisco makes first big league start at first base
By Adam McCalvy and Kevin Massoth / MLB.com
MILWAUKEE -- Juan Francisco became the 14th different player to man first base for the Brewers since Prince Fielder departed two winters ago, the eighth different player to start at the position, and the latest in a long line of players to learn the position on the fly on Tuesday.
Only one of the 14 is a "true" first baseman: Travis Ishikawa. The rest are a right fielder (Corey Hart), three shortstops (Yuniesky Betancourt, Cesar Izturis and Alex Gonzalez), four catchers (George Kottaras, Blake Lalli, Jonathan Lucroy and Martin Maldonado) and four others who can most accurately be described as utility men (Brooks Conrad, Mat Gamel, Taylor Green and Cody Ransom).
There are grey areas in those groupings. Gamel was drafted as a third baseman, moved to the outfield and then to first base to prepare for Fielder's departure. Hart began his professional career as a first baseman, but had not played there in a decade before re-acclimating himself last season. Lalli played first base extensively in the Minors, but the Brewers listed him as a catcher.
Already this season, five different players have manned first base, four of them for the first time ever in the Major Leagues: Gonzalez, Betancourt, Lucroy and now Francisco, a third baseman by trade who made his Brewers debut against the A's on Tuesday, a little more than 24 hours after he was traded to Milwaukee from Atlanta. Francisco didn't make an error in Tuesday's 4-3, 10-inning win over Oakland, and went 0-for-2 with a walk. Betancourt pinch-hit for him in the ninth and later delivered the game-winning hit.
"Of course I'm a little nervous, having never played it," Francisco said through a translator. "I'm hoping I'll get the nerves out and calm down."
Francisco briefly played first base in the Minor Leagues and in the Dominican Winter League, where he played alongside new teammates Jean Segura, Wily Peralta and Alfredo Figaro (he is also close with Carlos Gomez). But before Tuesday, all 880 1/3 of Francisco's defensive innings in the Majors had come at third base.
The Brewers sent Minor League left-hander Thomas Keeling to the Braves to get Francisco's left-handed power bat and some balance for a lineup that was heavily right-handed. He also gives the Brewers additional coverage at third base, where Aramis Ramirez is still building strength after an early-season knee injury.
Francisco became available after the Braves designated him for assignment on Thursday.
"This is a much better opportunity, because there are more opportunities to play here, first or third," Francisco said.
At least three Brewers scouts filed positive reports on Francisco, including former pro scouting director Dick Groch and newcomer Cory Melvin, the son of GM Doug Melvin. Pro scouting director Zack Minasian saw Francisco back in 2007 in the Midwest League, and liked his raw power and strong arm. He had him marked as a future big leaguer.
The Brewers also discussed Francisco as a potential target during Spring Training because he was out of options.
"You hear how good people are, but I need to see him and formulate my own opinion on how good he is," manager Ron Roenicke said. "I also need to see later in the game if it comes up and I need to replace him defensively. … I don't take defense at first base lightly. I think it is very important."
At some point, the Brewers hope Hart returns and reclaims the position. He is still recovering from January surgery on his right knee.
"He ran the bases [Monday] for the first time," Roenicke said. "OK, tentative. So, it's hard to say. I don't know if we're a week away [from a Minor League rehabilitation assignment]. He said it just depends on how fast he comes along. Sometimes the new things he does feel awkward and it takes him a while, and sometimes the new things just happen right away and he feels great."
Brewers contemplating DL stint for Estrada
MILWAUKEE -- Marco Estrada is unlikely to make his next start because of a strained left hamstring suffered on Monday night, and Brewers officials were mulling whether to place him on the 15-day disabled list.
"We're going to make a decision on that a little later," manager Ron Roenicke said Tuesday afternoon.
Estrada's next scheduled start would have been Saturday against the Phillies. The team's rotation was already in limbo, with Hiram Burgos on the disabled list with a right shoulder injury and Mike Fiers having just been sent down to Triple-A. If the Brewers do place Estrada on the DL, they could recall Fiers, who was home in Florida on Tuesday visiting his ill mother. If they decide Estrada does not need a stint on the DL, Fiers would not be eligible and the Brewers would have to summon a different arm from the Minor Leagues.
Estrada felt a "pop" in his hamstring delivering a pitch in the fifth inning of Monday's 10-2 loss to the A's, and it was all but certain a day later he would be unable to pitch on Saturday.
"I think that's what's going to happen," Estrada said about missing the start. "I can walk on it, it's fine, it's just that when I get to that one point where I have to put pressure on it and extend my leg, that's when it hurts. Obviously, I need to do that to be able to pitch.
"I don't know if this start is going to happen or not. It doesn't look very good right now. We'll see what happens. I'm not too happy right now."
Brewers' numbers against lefties belie record
MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers entered Tuesday's game first in the National League in runs scored (81) and second in batting average (.272) against left-handed pitching this season, but they still can't figure out how to beat southpaws.
With Monday's 10-2 loss to A's lefty Tommy Milone, the Brewers' record against left-handed starters dropped to 5-20, a statistic nobody seems to have an answer for.
"We should be better against lefties, because we have a lot of righties," Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez said after Monday night's game. "I can't explain that."
Milwaukee entered Tuesday with 81 runs scored against left-handed pitchers, best in the NL and fifth best in Major League Baseball, and it owned a .272 average against lefties, which is second in the NL behind only the Dodgers (.278) and seventh best overall.
The Brewers were also first in MLB with 188 hits, first in the NL with 78 RBIs and a .432 slugging percentage, and tied for second in the NL with 21 home runs, against left-handers.
"I don't know. I have no idea," Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. "I feel pretty comfortable against left-handed pitchers, so I couldn't tell you. It's just a little funk I guess, it's hard to really explain."
The Brewers rallied off Oakland's lefty reliever Sean Doolittle in the eighth inning of Tuesday's 4-3, 10-inning win over the A's, as they got three straight hits off him without recording an out to tie the game.
The Brewers have run into some quality left-handed starters early this season, facing Cliff Lee, Derek Holland, Francisco Liriano, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Clayton Kershaw twice.
"[Milone] last night, he didn't make a lot of mistakes," Lucroy said. "Doesn't matter if he's righty or lefty, if the guy hits his spots consistently and stays down, you're not going to really do much against him anyway."
The Brewers will catch a break from lefties in the near future, as they are slated to face right-handers in 11 of their next 12 games against the A's, Phillies, Marlins and Reds.
Brewers honor season-ticket holder
MILWAUKEE -- Jerry DeQuardo has been loyal to the Brewers for a long time, and on Tuesday, the Brewers gave a little something back to the Milwaukee native.
DeQuardo, a season-ticket holder with the Brewers since 1978, won the Brewers' third-annual "Fan-Tastic Forty" Welcome to the Big Leagues prize and signed a one day Major League contract on Tuesday prior to the Brewers-A's game at Miller Park.
Brewers GM Doug Melvin presented DeQuardo with his contract and a check for $2,677.60, one day's pay at the MLB minimum salary, in a pregame press conference in the Miller Park Media Interview Room.
"It's just like a dream come true," DeQuardo said. "I just feel in awe of this. I think this is one of the neatest experiences I've ever had in my life. I wouldn't trade this for anything."
In addition to his check, DeQuardo received a personalized full Brewers uniform, a framed final page of his contract, 50 baseball cards of his likeness, a DVD highlight video of himself and a chance to throw out the first pitch prior to the game.
The event is part of the Brewers "Fan-Tastic Forty" promotion, which awards prizes for 40 consecutive days to various season seat holders who renewed their ticket packages.
"I've been to hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of games, that's for sure," said DeQuardo who was joined by his girlfriend, son, nephew and nephew's son at the press conference. "This is unbelievable. I've got to pinch myself."
DeQuardo, 70, currently resides in Brookfield and says he is semi-retired while still owning his own insurance firm, DeQuardo Insurance. His ties with Milwaukee baseball date back to his bat boy and clubhouse staffer days with the Milwaukee Braves from 1958-1960.
"I remember shaking Willie Mays' hand, Stan Musial. Danny Murtaugh was the manager of the Pirates, and they won it that year. I still remember that very much," DeQuardo said. "It was a great experience, it really was. A lot of great memories."
• Rehabbing left-hander Chris Narveson allowed six earned runs on eight hits in two innings for Triple-A Nashville on Tuesday, including all six runs and seven of the hits -- two of which were homers -- in a 31-pitch second inning. He threw 45 pitches in his second rehab start, and will pitch at least once more for the Sounds before the Brewers consider bringing him into the Major League rotation. He has been sidelined since early April by a sprained ligament in his left middle finger.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. Kevin Massoth is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.