Macha says he'll let 'em run
After a season spent extolling the virtues of staying put, Brewers manager Ken Macha said he’ll embrace the running game in 2010.
The philosophical shift is driven by personnel changes this winter, particularly a Nov. 6 trade that sent shortstop J.J. Hardy to the Twins for speedy center fielder Carlos Gomez, freeing shortstop for top prospect Alcides Escobar and closing the door on a pursuit of outgoing free agent Mike Cameron.
Hardy had a down year in 2009 but he still averaged 20 homers over the past three seasons, and Cameron has topped 20 homers eight times in his career including both of his two years in Milwaukee. Gomez, meanwhile, stole 33 bases as the Twins’ regular starter in 2008, and Escobar swiped 42 bases in 109 games last season at Triple-A Nashville.
The Brewers also expect speedy second baseman Rickie Weeks to return after a 2009 season lost to wrist surgery, and right fielder Corey Hart (assuming the trade rumors don’t turn into an actual trade) should “have his legs under him” after missing time last year following an appendectomy. There’s also left fielder Ryan Braun, who stole 20 bases in 2009 despite hitting in front of slugger Prince Fielder.
“We’ve got some guys that can run this year, so it’s going to be a little different,” Macha said on Tuesday at the Winter Meetings. “The games may be a little more exciting with the guys who do get on base. … We’ve got five guys in the lineup who are definite stolen base threats.”
Macha conceded that he’s concerned about losing Cameron’s and Hardy’s power, but Weeks’ return should help in that area and the Brewers also picked up veteran catcher Gregg Zaun, who’s no Johnny Bench but should provide more homers than outgoing free agent Jason Kendall.
In 2009, Macha’s first season at the helm, the Brewers swiped only 68 bases, third-fewest in the Majors ahead of the Braves (58) and Cubs (56). Macha said he discussed the topic with general manager Doug Melvin near the end of the regular season, when Macha was offered assurances that he would be back for the second year of his contract.
Macha pushed back against the notion that he favored a station-to-station approach.
“I think you’re branding me as, ‘This is your type of baseball,’ but, no,” Macha said. “I try to do what’s best for the players that we have there. I think you look at the club we have [for 2010] and there’s going to be a little more activity on the bases this year.”
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