The Brewers’ starting lineup figures to lean right this season, but manager Ken Macha said Tuesday that he could end up with an entirely left-handed hitting bench.
“It tests the manager, whether he can sit one of the right-handers down and get the left-handers in [the lineup],” Macha said.
Many of the starting positional players haven’t even reported to camp yet and things could change over six weeks of Spring Training, but the Brewers for now project to have six right-handed hitters in the regular lineup (second baseman Rickie Weeks, shortstop Alcides Escobar, third baseman Casey McGehee and an all-righty outfield of Ryan Braun in left, Carlos Gomez in center and Corey Hart in right. Catcher Gregg Zaun is a switch-hitter, and Prince Fielder bats left-handed.
Then comes a bench that could have plenty of lefty bats. Craig Counsell is a lock to be the primary backup infielder and Jody Gerut is back as the fourth outfielder. The leading candidate for the other infield spot is probably waiver pick-up Joe Inglett (organizational veteran Hernan Iribarren is out of options and could be an interesting candidate, too), and the Brewers will give nonroster invitees Jim Edmonds and Trent Oeltjen a chance to win the final outfield spot. Among the potential backup catchers is George Kottaras, who could have an edge over prospects Jonathan Lucroy and Angel Salome because of his experience and over the experienced Matt Treanor because Treanor isn’t on the 40-man roster.
Counsell, Gerut, Inglett, Iribarren, Edmonds, Oeltjen and Kottaras all bat left-handed.
The key, Macha said, would be sprinkling some of those left-handed hitters into the lineup to balance the bench.
“We’ll see how that plays out,” he said.
Some other notes from Macha’s Tuesday morning chat with reporters:
Left-hander Chris Capuano, the former All-Star and 18-game winner attempting a comeback from his second career Tommy John surgery, was among the Brewers pitchers scheduled to throw off a mound Tuesday. Macha was looking forward to it.
“I have to give this guy some credit with the amount of work he’s put in to get to this particular point,” Macha said. “Not just that, talking about him with Doug [Melvin, Milwaukee’s general manager] and Gord [Ash], the assistant GM, this guy is a pretty established Major League pitcher. … I think he’s got a particular passion for the game and he’s going to play it all out. Good for him.”
Capuano is not considered a candidate for the Opening Day roster because he has only pitched six games since re-injuring his left elbow in March 2008. He finished last season at the Brewers’ Class A affiliate and will probably need some extensive time in the Minors this season to prove he’s healthy.
But he is not limited in camp, and the Brewers are holding out some hope that he could help the big league club in the future.
“It would be nice to strike some gold from somebody,” Macha said.
The first full-squad workout won’t be until Saturday, but the hitters are scheduled to see some live batting practice from pitchers on Friday morning. That should be an interesting day for someone like Edmonds, who hasn’t faced live pitching since the 2008 postseason with the Cubs.
Weeks stopped by camp over the weekend, but he’s been away since taking his physical to deal with what Macha called a, “dental issue.” Counsell and Iribarren reported on Tuesday morning, leaving only Braun, Escobar, Fielder and Minor Leaguers Luis Cruz and Logan Schafer yet to make an appearance.
Former Brewer Darryl Hamilton stopped by Tuesday as a representative of the Major League Players Association to discuss some rules issues with the players. Among the topics was baseball’s continuing efforts to speed the pace of games and some tweaks to the rules about pitchers licking their fingers on the mound (but not on the pitching rubber). Deep stuff.
Strength and conditioning coordinator Chris Joyner introduced a new drill Tuesday that forced some smiles. Pitchers balanced on one foot on a foam square and underhanded a baseball back and forth. Then it was on to everyone’s favorite Spring Training exercise: pitchers fielding practice.