Brewers mulling strategy for final bench spot

The Brewers are mulling whether to carry four or five outfielders at the start of the season and have already asked infielders Jeff Bianchi and Donnie Murphy to give the outfield a shot this spring, manager Ron Roenicke said.

Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez and Norichika Aoki are the team’s starters from left to right field, and Logan Schafer is penciled in as the No. 4 outfielder. Mat Gamel was supposed to serve as a versatile No. 5, available to play the corner infield positions and the corner outfield positions, but that changed in January when first baseman Corey Hart underwent knee surgery, then changed again this month when Gamel suffered a season-ending knee injury of his own.

“If we don’t have that [fifth option] that can go out there on defense, it limits us sometimes in using Schafer earlier in the game,” Roenicke said. “We’re looking at that, figuring out which is the better way to go — with the extra infielder or that fifth outfielder.”

Bianchi or Murphy could fill that need as hybrid players — Bianchi has already expressed a willingness to give the outfield a shot, and Murphy played a Minor League game there. Another possibility is Bobby Crosby, who played a game in right field for the A’s in 2009, but Crosby remained sidelined Thursday by a left thigh strain. Bianchi, Murphy and Crosby are all right-handed hitters’ Schafer hits lefty.

As of Thursday, the Brewers had yet to ask another utility infield candidate, Taylor Green, to try a similar transition. Green is a lefty hitter.

“I don’t see him doing that, although you don’t know,” Roenicke said. “If we decide we need that left-handed bat and that’s what we want, then we’ll probably have a discussion with him and get him out there working on it.”

If they go instead with a true fifth outfielder, the leading candidate is 24-year-old Caleb Gindl, who is already on his usual Spring Training tear. Gindl was 4-for-8 through Wednesday.

“He and Schafer, they’re always doing good things in Spring Training,” Roenicke said.

Regarding Crosby: He tested his strained quadriceps in a straight-line running drill the other day and still felt discomfort. The Brewers want Crosby, who was out of baseball the last two years, to be 100 percent healed before he plays in the Cactus League.

“Today he is going to go out and do everything and see where he is,” Roenicke said. “We’re hoping this thing doesn’t go much longer. I wouldn’t think it would, but I also told him we have to make sure it’s gone before he plays again, because if he pulls it again, we’re talking a long time now.”

Roenicke said there is plenty of Spring Training remaining for Crosby to get on the field and make the team.

“That’s what I told him, I said, ‘I understand where you need to be back on the field, but we’ve got a long time to go,'” Roenicke said. “I’m not going to really bear down on [evaluating] these extra guys until the last couple of weeks of spring. … I don’t want to make any quick decisions here.”


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