8/23/2013 8:18 P.M. ET
Aoki inspired by countryman Ichiro's success
By Jeremy Warnemuende / MLB.com
CINCINNATI -- Brewers right fielder Norichika Aoki grew up in Japan watching Ichiro Suzuki's career and dreaming of one day following a similar path. As Ichiro -- now a Yankee -- approached and finally reached 4,000 professional hits on Wednesday, Aoki was watching again.
"I followed it pretty closely, and I was happy he reached it," Aoki said through interpreter Kosuke Inaji. "It's a number that you can't really put into words. It's just something that is incredible."
Ichiro collected his hits between the Major Leagues and Japan's top professional ranks, Nippon Professional Baseball. In nine seasons playing for the Orix Blue Wave, he notched 1,278 hits, before he brought in 2,722 more with the Mariners and Yankees starting in 2001.
Aoki played in the same league in Japan and won three batting titles to go with seven NPB All-Star nods. Although he said it's hard to compare baseball in Japan to the Majors, he said Ichiro's milestone should not be discounted.
"I understand where people are coming from, saying he hit this many in Japan and this many here," Aoki said. "But at the same time, I feel that if Ichiro started his career over here, it's probably a number he could have had a chance to reach over here. Even in Japan, he was just on a different level than everyone else. He was that much better than everyone."
Aoki began playing professionally in Japan in 2004, and he was just 19 years old when Ichiro made the jump to the U.S. Last season was his first playing in the Majors, and Aoki said Ichiro remains an inspiration for players who want to go from Japan to the U.S. to play baseball.
"He's a player that I've looked up to my whole life," Aoki said. "Seeing him play over here, too, that made me want to come play in MLB."
Gomez, Aoki return to Brewers' lineup Friday
CINCINNATI -- Carlos Gomez started in center field for the Brewers on Friday for the first time since Aug. 15, when he sprained his right knee colliding with the wall at Miller Park while making a stellar catch. Right fielder Norichika Aoki, who missed Wednesday's game with a sore right knee of his own, was also back in the lineup and batting leadoff.
The Brewers elected to not put Gomez on the disabled list after an MRI last Friday confirmed a sprain, but showed no significant damage. Manager Ron Roenicke was excited to have Gomez back after more than a week out of action, but he said he wasn't going to overextend the 27-year-old center fielder too much right off the bat.
"If there's a chance to get him out of there, I will try to get him out," Roenicke said. "I don't know if he's going to be able to go nine [innings] today and then nine again. I'm guessing he's going to be a little sore tomorrow, so we'll see how that is, but I won't know until we finish the game."
Entering Friday's series opener against the Reds, Gomez was batting .288 with 18 home runs and 55 RBIs to go with 30 stolen bases in his most productive season as a Major Leaguer to date.
As for Aoki, he said his knee felt better heading into Friday's game, and Roenicke was more confident in his ability to play through the nagging issue.
"I think he's going to have a lot of good days, and maybe he'll have a sore one every once in a while," Roenicke said. "Sometimes, those things linger for a while, and other times, they go away and he doesn't have to deal with it again. Hopefully, it's a lot better today, and we can keep him out there for a while."
Gindl recalled after tearing it up in Minors
CINCINNATI -- When Caleb Gindl was sent down to Triple-A Nashville on Aug. 14, manager Ron Roenicke told him that it had nothing to do with his play and was more about the Brewers' need for pitching.
Roenicke was pleased to see that Gindl, who was recalled Friday after playing the minimum 10 days in the Minors, did not appear discouraged by the demotion, as the 24-year-old outfielder batted .300 (9-for-30) with a homer and six RBIs in seven games for Nashville.
"Any time we send somebody down, either they're depressed because they're going back down, or they're mad because they're going back down, and all of a sudden, they don't play as well," Roenicke said. "He didn't get sent down because he wasn't doing well. He got sent down because we had a couple issues with our pitching that we needed to have another pitcher, so he was the guy we sent down. I explained that to him. I think he knows that. He went down, he played hard."
Roenicke said that Gindl has been impressing a lot of people in the organization as he competes for playing time with Logan Schafer and Khris Davis, and that his promotion back to the Brewers was imminent. In 32 games for Milwaukee entering Friday, Gindl batted .282 (22-for-78) and drove in six runs while drawing 10 walks.
Milwaukee also added right-handed reliever Rob Wooten off the paternity list after the birth of his first child. As a result, Roenicke said every reliever was available on Friday.
"It can change in a hurry," Roenicke said. "Right now, we're in good shape."
Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.