It’s been quite a while since someone wrote on the blog here other than me, the primary author. This was submitted by my podcast co-host for your enjoyment back near the beginning of August. My crazy schedule led to my forgetting to get it posted until now.
With that said, certain information is “as of writing” and should be taken as such (i.e. Izturis wasn’t yet traded).
By: Cary Kostka
The Brewers were selling in the days leading up the non-waiver trade deadline sending us all on a “what now” path for the rest of this season, as well as what to look for next season. Although this is largely seen as a step backwards for the organization, I see this as an opportunity for the team to be better down the road.
The Brewers have the next couple of months to evaluate their current roster and newly acquired players, and like most Brewer fans I have my own theory as to how the next couple of months should play out.
I broke it down into the following categories: starting pitching, bullpen, catching, infield, and outfield.
The injuries we have seen over the course of the season have given us long looks at Marco Estrada and Mike Fiers, as well as a touch of Tyler Thornburg mixed in.
The Brewers acquired a couple of arms in the Zack Greinke deal, and a bullpen arm in the George Kottaras deal. But what will the rotation look like for now?
Below I have two rotations: one for August, and one for September. You will notice that the September rotation has six pitchers listed. This is not a mistake on my part…I see a 6 man September rotation as a great way to take a look at some additional young arms. With Shaun Marcum’s impending free agency and Randy Wolf’s option possibly not being picked up, the make-up of the 2013 rotation is in the air.
So, here are my projected rotations (not in any particular order) for the rest of 2012.
August rotation: Yovani Gallardo, Wolf, Estrada, Fiers, Marcum/Mark Rogers.
Marcum is still a question mark at this point, and him being moved to the 60-day DL means that he will not be available until the last third of August. He has been feeling good in simulated outings, so I would imagine he would be back in time for a late August start.
September rotation: Gallardo, Wolf, Marcum, Estrada, Fiers, Rogers/Wily Peralta.
Go to a 6-man rotation in September, and in the 6th spot, alternate starts between Peralta and Rogers. Peralta has been pitching much better lately for Nashville (5-2, 3.06 ERA in his last 10 starts).
With his arm fatigue, Thornburg would be best served spending September on the bench or in limited bullpen duty.
What a thorn in the side of the 2012 season this bunch turned out to be. Let’s face it; the bullpen was a heaping load of mediocrity this year.
Try to deal K-Rod if you can…if not, park him at the ass end of the bullpen. I think John Axford will be fine, and a new bullpen coach will help here. The loss of veterans LaTroy Hawkins and Takashi Saito hurt him this year, as he leaned on both of them for advice and instruction (Hawkins in particular).
Below is how the roles should shake out for both August and September.
Closer: Axford and Jim Henderson. Keep throwing Ax out there, but let Henderson continue to get work in as a closer.
Setup/General Relief: Whatever the situation dictates.
Lefty Specialist: Manny Parra Longman/mop-up: Livan Hernandez
Same as August, except you add Rogers and Peralta to the bullpen mix when they are between starts. Park K-Rod and Hernandez on the bench, and let’s see what our newly acquired arms (Pena, Hellweg, and De Los Santos) can do. Thornburg could help here as well, but that depends on how his arm is responding to rest. I’d like to see how Rogers would do in the setup role.
Ok, so this one is easy.
Lucroy is back, but I say split his playing time with Maldonado 60/40. Catchers are the baseball equivalent to NFL running backs; they have short shelf lives due to constant wear and tear. There is no sense in “using up” Lucroy in a non-playoff season. Also, this gives Maldonado a great chance to continue his growth. This pair will be one of the best catching tandems in baseball next season.
Corey Hart is here to stay as our first baseman at least for this season. With Aramis Ramirez entrenched at third, the big questions arise in the middle of the infield.
Rickie Weeks has had just shy of two months of production this year, and shortstop had been ok defensively but a black hole in the lineup, sans Cody Ransom’s innate ability to seemingly make every one of his few and far between hits a game changer.
My thoughts on this are to send Izturis packing…he is not a long term option, and the team would be better off if newly acquired Jean Segura was promoted and started. Jeff Bianchi would be called up on September 1st, and would see some time at short as well.
At second, we’re basically stuck. Would the team be able to find a place on the 25-man roster for Eric Farris? I’d like to see what he’s got, though he projects as more of a backup type player. I would like to see Taylor Green get more playing time to get a better feel for what he is capable of, or not capable of doing. I feel this is something the team needs to know going into next season.
Mat Gamel will be a question mark next season, and if Green shows he can hit, 1B could be a little less of a question mark in spring training, and would allow the team to confidently move Hart back to right. Hart has done pretty well at first, but next season will be the final year of his contract. It would be good to know our other options at that first.
I have heard speculation about giving Green more time at second, but that would be a mistake given his concrete boot like range at second.
Travis Ishikawa maintains his current role on the team.
Trade or waive Nyjer Morgan. He does not have a place on this team at all. I would much rather see Caleb Gindl or Logan Schafer get some MLB trigger time.
Ryan Braun is a lock in left (duh).
The mechanical adjustments Carlos Gomez made recently have upped his game to a new level. Make him the sole starter in center and see where this takes him.
Norichika Aoki has played great and is a lock in right. Call up Gindl as a reserve outfielder, as he has logged double digit games in all three OF spots. Schafer gets the call up on September 1st.
So, Brewer Nation, what say you?
At the close of play today, Thursday, July 5th, the Milwaukee Brewers sit with a record of 38-44, 8.0 games behind the National League Central Divison-leading Pittsburgh Pirates.
It’s a far cry from where the Brewers were a year ago at this time, and at times it feels like this year’s incarnation will never accomplish anything.
While this may prove to be true in the end, at least as far as a playoff participation is concerned, there is still plenty of time left this year to simply enjoy the game of baseball if nothing else.
Then again, there is still a small window of opportunity in front of the Brewers. Between now and Monday, July 23rd is a stretch of 12 regular-season games (along with the MLB All-Star break) which will decide how busy general manager Doug Melvin’s phone will be and whether he’ll be making calls or receiving them.
This stretch is singularly key to the Brewers decision-makers because all 12 games are intradivisional along with the final nine of those games coming against the three teams in front of them in the Division.
The three games prior to the break are in Houston, against an Astros team that traded off one of its only offensive pieces. Those are extremely winnable games, especially given that Yovani Gallardo and Zack Greinke will be pitching in the series.
The nine games immediately following the break begin with six at Miller Park (a place where the Brewers seriously need to play more consistent baseball) against the Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals, and then three on the road in Cincinnati against the Reds.
The Brewers trail the Cardinals by 5.5 games, the Reds by 6.5 games and, as I mentioned earlier, the Pirates by 8.0 games. So, while the Brewers would be hard-pressed to overtake any of the teams during this stretch, even should they somehow go 12-0, one can see the importance here.
Should the Brewers continue to falter and lose, the front office will be left with little choice but to sell off valuable pieces to the highest bidders. As we discussed on the podcast recorded Thursday morning (which hopefully will be posted soon), those pieces should include Shaun Marcum, George Kottaras, Nyjer Morgan, Francisco Rodriguez, Cesar Izturis, and even Zack Greinke (assuming the team is as far away on a contract offer as it appears that they are). Furthermore, should a team approach the Brewers with an acceptable offer for any expendable member of the Brewers roster, that deal should be made.
Nobody in the locker room wants the team to sell. They enjoy this group and want to maintain it, if at all possible. That just simply can’t happen if they have no chance of winning though.
Now, some may say that after the injuries to Chris Narveson, Mat Gamel and Alex Gonzalez that the team never had a chance, but that’s beside the point.
The point being: if the team can gain some significant ground on the teams ahead of them in the Division, and they do so by showing some consistent play in all facets of the game, the front office would likely try to add to the roster and make a push.
Nobody is saying that this scenario doesn’t seem like a tremendous long shot, but as of today at least its a shot that’s available to take.
Bottom line: Pay attention, Brewer Nation. A decision will be made by Monday, July 23rd as to whether this team buys or sells before the July 31st non-waiver trading deadline. Trust me, either way there will be plenty of time to make one or more deals, regardless of the direction of the roster.
Also, either way, it’ll be an exciting time to pay attention to the team. Just make sure you haven’t checked out by then.
I’m not sitting down with an article idea to post on this. I just wanted to see the words written down so that I can stare at it and ponder what it all means.
What follows might be a bit of “stream of consciousness” writing.
First off, to be fair, he actually is probably an upgrade over a couple of the arms currently in the bullpen, and if he actually does only pitch out of the bullpen for the Brewers it would give them the true long-man they’ve been lacking since Chris Narveson’s injury and Marco Estrada’s subsequent move to the starting rotation.
Hernandez also could almost single-handedly solve the fatigue problem the Brewers’ bullpen is currently experiencing because, to be honest, I’m not sure the man ever actually expends stamina when he throws.
Sure, he exerts effort and energy, but he seemingly has the super power to absorb energy from the environment around him to maintain optimum levels in himself.
He’s the “Human Gatorade”, if I may.
He’s the “Ageless (Really, we have no idea how old dude actually is) Wonder”, if I may.
Doesn’t “Livan” translate to “Effortless” in ancient Mayan, or something? I heard that once.
I also once heard that he moves from city to city in MLB so nobody notices how he never seems to age to the point where one would normally be unable to lift their arm, let alone throw a baseball with any accuracy. Maybe he was the inspiration behind Will Smith’s titular character in the movie “Hancock”?
Well, in any event, here are his career numbers for your absorption.
175 W, 177 L, 4.40 ERA, 493 G (474 GS), 50 CG (9 SO), 3152.2 IP, 3481 H, 1655 R (1541 ER), 352 HR, 1058 BB (86 IBB), 1947 K, 77 HBP, 13 balks, 1.44 WHIP
Hernandez posses a career ERA+ of 96 (100 is league average).
All of that was done for eight different franchises over 9 different stops with 10 change of address forms for his agent to send him stuff in-season during a, to this point, 17-year career in the big leagues after being signed as a free agent following his defection from Cuba.
The team (along with a couple of national names) has confirmed the signing (first reported by Bill Hall on Twitter because he happened to run into Hernandez at the airport — of course he did!).
Now, all we can do is ponder about the meaning of this move from a metaphysical standpoint.
Oh, and we get to talk about who might be coming off the 40-man roster if Hernandez will be signed, as believed/reported, to a Major League contract.
Cesar Izturis is due back from the Disabled List today, so perhaps it’s him who goes as the tandem of Cody Ransom and Edwin Maysonet have played capably.
Then again, maybe the team is ready to simply cut ties with an underperforming player.
Maybe with the move to first base by Corey Hart, the team feels it no longer needs to retain the services of Travis Ishikawa once he’s healthy.
Maybe Marco Estrada had an as-yet-unreported setback following his rehab start last night for Nashville.
The worst situation would be if something further was found in Shaun Marcum’s elbow requiring him to miss the rest of the season.
***UPDATE: It’s LHP Juan Perez who has been Designated For Assignment to make room for Livan Hernandez.***
So now that it’s been announced, sit back, stare at that headline and consider…
“What does it all mean?”
or perhaps just
“What the hell?”
Wondering who wore a certain uniform number all-time for the Milwaukee Brewers?
The Brewer Nation has got you covered. If you found this list on its own, head back here for the full repository after checking out this one.
Bernie Smith (’71)
John Felske (’72)
Joe Lahoud (’72-’73)
Deron Johnson (’74)
Gorman Thomas (’75-’76)
Ed Kirkpatrick (’77)
Billie Jo Robidoux (’85)
Juan Castillo (’86-’89)
Dante Bichette (’91)
Phil Garner* (’92-’99)
Jerry Royster* (’02)
Ned Yost* (’03-’08)
Felipe Lopez (’09)
Cesar Izturis (’12)
Yorvit Torrealba (’12)
Yuniesky Betancourt (’11, ’13)
Elian Herrera (’14-’15)
Orlando Arcia (’16-Current)
* – manager
It’s Tuesday as I type.
It’ll be Friday as I drink liquids and eat a bratwurst…at 10am or so.
Three short days remain until Opening Day. It’s going to be a fun ride this season and I hope you’ll all have ample opportunity to get to Miller Park this year and enjoy that ride.
A man looking to enjoy a full season of Major League Baseball is the subject of today’s profile. He is backup infielder:
2011 began okay for now 32-year-old native of Venezuela, but he was placed on the disabled list on May 18th with an ulnar nerve injury. He returned in early August, but three days later was banged for the rest of the season with a groin strain.
He signed his free agent contract with Milwaukee on December 2, 2011 and was an immediate consideration for the backup utility infielder spot vacated when Jerry Hairston, Jr. signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Craig Counsell retired.
Izturis can perform capably on defense at 2B, 3B and SS, and when he was told he would be added to the 25-man roster at the end of the Spring Training it came as no real surprise. That’s because despite his defensive struggles this spring, he’s the only legitimate MLB-caliber player who could backup at shortstop that the Brewers had in camp. He’s also a switch-hitter which adds value. He can pinch hit for anybody and then double-switch into a number of positions.
Managers appreciate that kind of flexibility.
Now, having said all of that, Izturis isn’t exactly a good player anymore.
Recent track record shows a trend of injury and ineffectiveness. He’d have to overcome a bit of that history in order to stick in a normal situation, but in Milwaukee he’ll get more of a chance then he otherwise might. But if his glove doesn’t come around, he’ll be jettisoned when the team can find a more capable option.
Then again, players who can man shortstop, that come cheap, and can switch-hit aren’t exactly your standard unemployment line fodder. They tend to have jobs.
As far as 2012 is concerned though, it’ll be a success if Izturis can stay healthy, and convert outs into outs when he’s asked to give starting shortstop Alex Gonzalez a breather. He’ll need to contribute in a pinch-hitting role on occasion as well, but he’s on the team primarily because he is physically able to play shortstop. Don’t sell that point short in your mind.
The biggest concern?
If anything, it’s that the elbow nerve issue last year comes on an elbow which underwent Tommy John surgery back in 2005. It’s a minor concern really, but he missed almost three months with that injury and Father Time catches up to all athletes eventually. He hasn’t shown any issues with it so far this spring, but as far as I can tell he didn’t have any issues last spring either.
Just something to keep our collective eyes on.
Again, though, if Izturis can answer the bell and provide the services he is on the team to provide, nobody will be able to complain with much authority throughout the year.
This coming Friday is Opening Day.
Let that sink in.
In five excruciatingly long days, the teams will be lining up, coach by coach, player by player along the third and first base lines.
One player that won’t be joining the team on Opening Day this year is third baseman:
He began the year in the minors where he hit a total of .336/.412/.580, 431 AB, 76 R, 145 H, 37 doubles, 1 triple, 22 HR, 91 RBI, 55 BB, 75 K. He even stole a base in his only attempt.
Those numbers, and the fact that he played third base where Casey McGehee was struggling mightily all year, led to an outcry of “Free Taylor Green” epithets throughout Brewer Nation. Clearly, we opined, this was a guy that could be helping us. Why was he stuck at Triple-A?
The shouts would be answered eventually, though not soon enough nor completely enough to satisfy the masses.
Green ended the year as a member of the Brewers after getting called up and subsequently making his debut on August 31st. He got a hit in his first three Major League at-bats, and played well enough in September to be included as a member of the 25-man playoff roster, appearing in three post-season games.
It was a nice way to finish the year, from a career progression standpoint.
This off-season, the Brewers lost a few backups from the big league bench and there was thought that perhaps Green would break camp with the Brewers this spring. After all, McGehee hadn’t performed and both Craig Counsell (retirement) and Jerry Hairston, Jr. (free agency) were gone from the team.
Such would not prove to be the case.
The Brewers did end up trading McGehee away to Pittsburgh, but they immediately replaced him with Aramis Ramirez and then brought in extra competition for the bench. Both Cesar Izturis and Brooks Conrad can play third as well as second, two positions which Green primarily played in the minors during 2011. Conrad can also play first base and he is a switch-hitter, which proved to be a bit too much for Green to overcome.
Also working against Green was the fact that he’s still a youngish prospect-type and having him play everyday at Nashville (the Brewers Triple-A affiliate) is more beneficial to him than riding the bench in Milwaukee and only getting the occasional spot start.
Regardless, Green is still very much a part of the Brewers future plans. Conrad is older and may prove ineffective once the season rolls along, and it’s inevitable that someone will get injured during the season. So long as it’s not a shortstop type who goes down, Green is the likely recipient of any available playing time that comes up at the Major League level.
For now, however, Green must head to Nashville and do his best to repeat his 2011 season.
If he can do that, he’ll make a lot of front office types happy, a lot of fans upset he’s in Triple-A, and will be back up in Milwaukee sooner than later.
For all the things that could repeat themselves, that wouldn’t be the worst thing.
In so much as we have discussed, over the course of this countdown, how a certain jersey number can become identifiable or even in some cases synonymous with a player, that’s not always the case.
Today’s subject wears the number 11 on his jersey, which is a number he’s worn before during his professional career, however it’s not close to his only one.
Having worn 2, 3, 8, 11, 13, and 22 across the five cities he has called home through the end of the 2011 season, today’s subject has worn 11 the most times (three, Milwaukee will make four) so when he signed with the Brewers and the number was available, it’s the one he requested.
I’m talking about the new starting shortstop of your Milwaukee Brewers:
With the nickname “Sea Bass” in tow, Alexander Luis Gonzalez comes to the Cream City by way of Atlanta, Toronto, Boston (on two separate stints), and Cincinnati after having made his Major League debut for the Florida Marlins back in 1998.
(If you’re a faithful reader of the series, you’ll now know — if you didn’t before — that the new starting left side of the Brewers infield both debuted in the same year.)
A veteran of 13 big league seasons (Gonzalez skipped 2008 to handle of personal issues), the 35-year-old native of Cagua, Venezuela officially stands 6’1” and weighs 210 pounds.
Gonzalez was brought to Milwaukee by General Manager Doug Melvin when the two sides signed a free-agent contract on December 12, 2012 worth $4.25 million for one year with a vesting option for the 2013 season. The vesting option is worth $4 million and becomes guaranteed if Gonzalez makes at least 525 plate appearances by the end of the 2012 regular season. That is a benchmark easily reached in both of the previous two seasons.
What he does at the plate isn’t the reason why Gonzalez was signed by the Brewers. Instead it is his play in the field which former Brewers and current Braves radio broadcaster Jim Powell said this winter made him believe that Gonzalez was the best defensive shortstop he’d ever seen play on a regular basis.
In fact, Gonzalez’ stick might be eerily reminiscent of last year’s starting shortstop, Yuniesky Betancourt, but after we started calling Yuni B by the unfriendly “YunE6” for his lack of defensive ability, I think Brewers fans will happily accept a wash at the dish for the upgrade on the grass.
As a matter of record, though, Gonzalez’ 2011 offensive linescore looks thusly:
149 G, 564 AB, 59 R, 136 H, 27 2B, 1 3B, 15 HR, 56 RBI, 22 BB, 126 K, 2 SB, 0 CS, .241/.270/.372
While Betancourt’s 2011 ended up:
152 G, 556 AB, 51 R, 140 H, 27 2B, 3 3B, 13 HR, 68 RBI, 16 BB, 63 K, 4 SB, 4 CS, .252/.271/.381
Those are quite similar in the grand scheme of things, especially when stretched out over roughly 150 games played. 150 games is a total that the Brewers may very well need out of Gonzalez. While likely backup Cesar Izturis exists, he isn’t a capable starter anymore and there’s really not anyone waiting in the minors to help out in a pinch quite yet.
Gonzalez’ first Spring Training in the Cactus League is inarguably his best to this point, which hopefully is acting as a harbinger of things to come once the games start counting 11 days from today.
What shouldn’t be in question, despite some contrarian national voices stating otherwise, is that Gonzalez is no longer an above-average defender. I understand that he’s 35 now, but age is just a number. If he’s feeling well, that’s all that matters.
Look at Jamie Moyer competing for a job in Colorado’s rotation this spring at the age of 49. He said in a TV interview yesterday that he knows that at some point he’ll be told when it’s time to stop playing either by his body or by the hitters. He also said that since neither side is speaking up right now, he knows he can still play.
In my opinion, such is the same for any capable ballplayer.
Sure, Gonzalez UZR was down last year, but it’s hardly a death sentence. First of all, UZR fluctuates pretty wildly in enough cases, and it wasn’t like it became some grotesquely negative number in the double-digits or something. It went from 5.1 in 2010 to -0.3 in 2011.
For the record, Betancourt’s UZR was -6.9 in 2011 helped out immensely by the Brewers shifting and positioning. Betancourt was as bad as -16.7 in 2009.
Career WAR difference? Gonzalez +44.3, Betancourt -48.8. In other words, the track record exists to demonstrate that the new shortstop in Milwaukee is far superior to the previous one.
Enough about Gonzalez’ defense. What about that suspect stick?
Shaun Marcum was Gonzalez’ teammate in Toronto in 2010 when Gonzalez played half a season there and said that his offense is better than what you might expect from the numbers, and that he’s got more power than people think.
That may be true, and if it is…great. But even if it isn’t and Gonzalez strikes out 130 times and only hits 12 home runs all year, I won’t care as long as he’s playing capable defense and converting outs into outs.
His range has been on display more than once this spring. So long as a bruised heel which has now kept him out of the last two Cactus League games doesn’t become a lingering issue, I except more of the same in Miller Park and on the road.
Consistent defense from a premium defensive position? It has happened in Milwaukee before.
With Gonzalez in the field, it stands to reason it’ll happen again real soon.
It feels like I’ve only written one of these articles in over a week.
That’s probably because I have only written one article (#33 Eric Farris) in the past eight days. That’s because a significant chunk of the 30’s are consumed by coaches, plus one number is unavailable (thanks for the memories, Mr. Fingers!).
All that said, let’s get right into today’s profile:
Last year the position was manned by stalwart and lightning rod Yuniesky Betancourt. Betancourt brought relatively ineffective play, a penchant for making the routine seem incredibly difficult at times, but also a knack for coming through when you least expected it.
Yuni B. was shipped out following the 2011 season and Alex Gonzalez (who will be profiled on March 26th) was brought in to be the starter. Despite his inconsistency, the one thing Betancourt could be counted on for was answering the bell.
He started 146 games at shortstop for the Brewers in 2011. Alex Gonzalez won’t be doing that and therefore a capable backup is needed this year more than it was last year.
The thing is, the capable backup options on the 25-man roster all dried up this offseason as well as Jerry Hairston, Jr. followed his wallet to Los Angeles and Craig Counsell retired from the game altogether.
For Maysonet, opportunity is knocking loudly and clearly.
This is not just some organizational guy who continues to play at Triple-A simply because he’s been there for a while and nobody better has come along. Maysonet, 30, has seen big league time with the Houston Astros in parts of two seasons. He has started 17 games at the Major League level.
So how did he come to the Brewers anyway?
After the Astros made him a 19th round draft pick in 2003, Maysonet made his debut just over five years later on September 7, 2008. The Astros designated him for assignment to clear a 40-man roster spot in September of 2010. The Brewers, being perilously thin in the upper levels of the minors as the shortstop position scooped Maysonet up on a minor-league free agent contract which was signed in mid-December of that same year.
The Brewers have used Maysonet primarily in the shortstop role, though he is capable is playing second and even third if necessary.
He’s got the arm strength and range to play short (despite a team-high 23 errors last year), but in order to beat out fellow non-roster invitee (though 11-year MLB veteran) Cesar Izturis for the job he’ll have to contribute something offensively.
In 2011 for the Triple-A Nashville Sounds, Maysonet hit .290/.347/.386, with 111 hits in 383 at-bats. The thing holding Maysonet back though is that his batting average is what’s commonly referred to as an “empty” one. He did have 29 extra-base hits, but only three home runs. He also doesn’t run as evidenced by his two stolen bases in three attempts. As for the run production stats, he only scored 57 and only drove in 39.
In this series of profiles I am focusing on the men that have a chance to make the roster and provide a legitimate contribution either from the 40-man roster or, in this case, as a non-roster invitee. Backup shortstop is the most open competition in camp and therefore anybody in big league camp that can play the position warrants consideration.
All that being said, and while I’m not saying that Izturis is necessarily the answer either, there is a reason that Yuniesky Betancourt was the starter all year and that when they needed a backup middle infielder in July and for the balance of the season in 2011 it wasn’t Maysonet’s number was not called.
Could he change the minds of those in charge and warrant himself a spot on the 25-man roster? Sure. That’s why he’s there. He’ll even earn some points when not playing is Izturis’ poor defense continues much longer. But the problem facing Maysonet is simply an overall lack of impact ability.
Bottom line: He’s a nice piece at Triple-A and in a short-term pinch he probably could man the post for a handful of games, but I honestly feel like it would take a major event for him to beat out yet another mercenary.
After a full three days off from the Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers season preview series, we return on the day when the Milwaukee Brewers play their first Cactus League game of 2012.
Most likely by the time you read this, the Brewers will be underway against a San Francisco Giants split-squad in the first of three meetings this spring.
This is not about that, though. This is about a man whom I had the pleasure of interviewing for the Brewer Nation Podcast not too long ago and, more recently, of meeting in person at the Brewers’ On Deck event in downtown Milwaukee:
Starting second baseman Rickie Weeks was injured while running out a ground ball on July 27, 2011. With no immediate backup plan in place for a club with post season aspirations, and the trade deadline looming, General Manager Doug Melvin got to work on finding a trade target, eventually acquiring Jerry Hairston, Jr. from the Washington Nationals.
Before that, and I refuse to acknowledge the useless trade made in between, the team had an immediate need for someone that could backup at second base. Enter Eric Michael-Jay Farris.
The 40-man rosteree was called up to the big leagues immediately upon learning that Weeks would miss considerable time. Farris left his Nashville Sounds teammates behind in Oklahoma City and embarked for Milwaukee.
Farris entered the Milwaukee clubhouse and found jersey number 33 hanging in his locker. He said that he had no hand in choosing the number, and that he normally has worn a single-digit jersey throughout his career. Ironically enough, Farris’ birthday is March 3rd (3/3) so the number holds meaning anyway.
His experience in the big leagues is special and only made him hungry for a return trip and permanent stay despite coming up empty in his only big league at-bat.
The story of Farris’ 2011 season comes in the minors. He played a full season with the Nashville Sounds outside of his Miller Park visit. His numbers, in 134 games, totaled: 538 at-bats, 70 runs scored, 146 hits (26 doubles, five triples, six home runs), 55 runs batted in, 21 stolen bases in 28 attempts, 70 strikeouts, and 32 walks. His slash line was .271/.317/.372 as he produced 14 sacrifice hits, four sacrifice flies, and was hit by a pitch six times.
Farris produced all of those statistics while batting from his exclusive right side. He also throws right-handed while in the field where he is considered to be a wonderful defensive player at second base.
It was his play at shortstop, however, that raised some eyebrows with fans. Blocked by the aforementioned Weeks at second, Farris’ best path to the majors in Milwaukee is by offering some defensive flexibility. Farris experimented at short in 25 games in 2011, his first time there since appearing in two games there in 2009 for the High-A affiliate Brevard County Manatees.
If Farris can become a passable shortstop (he had eight errors in just 111 chances in 2011), a goal which he says he’s been told that he will continue to pursue in 2012, Farris could be considered a front-runner for a bench role with the Brewers in 2013. He’d also be in line as the first call up from the minors should an injury occur to either of the starting middle infielders.
Farris has soft hands though he lacks elite arm strength to ever be a long-term starter at short or third, but getting to the ball and making the routine play is enough as a fill-in and occasional starter should the need arise.
Second base is Farris’ home for a reason but versatility can be the key that unlocks the door to a job in the bigs coming off the bench in the National League. That is evidenced by the likely backups this season for Milwaukee. Cesar Izturis looks to be the primary backup at shortstop and can play second and third bases as well. Taylor Green and Brooks Conrad both have experience at first, second, and third.
So keep your eyes and ears tuned to Farris this spring and during the regular season as well to see not only how he’s hitting, but pay particular attention to where he plays defensively and how he performs.