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Crew surprises with Opening Day roster

Source: Brewers nearing deal with lefty reliever Jennings
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

SAN DIEGO -- They're snapshots, really. The anticipation of each baseball season lends an aura to Opening Day rosters, but they are really just that. A roster for one game on Opening Day.

The Brewers have proved that with personnel moves following a single regular-season game in each of the past two seasons. And still, it looked mighty strange on Wednesday when the team released its list of 25 players who will step to the foul lines on Thursday afternoon at Petco Park.

SAN DIEGO -- They're snapshots, really. The anticipation of each baseball season lends an aura to Opening Day rosters, but they are really just that. A roster for one game on Opening Day.

The Brewers have proved that with personnel moves following a single regular-season game in each of the past two seasons. And still, it looked mighty strange on Wednesday when the team released its list of 25 players who will step to the foul lines on Thursday afternoon at Petco Park.

This is it:

Pitchers (11): Matt Albers, Chase Anderson, Jacob Barnes, Jhoulys Chacin, Zach Davies, Oliver Drake, Josh Hader, Jeremy Jeffress, Corey Knebel, Brent Suter, Brandon Woodruff

Catchers (2): Jett Bandy, Manny Pina

Infielders (8): Jesus Aguilar, Orlando Arcia, Ji-Man Choi, Hernan Perez, Travis Shaw, Eric Sogard, Eric Thames, Jonathan Villar

Outfielders (4): Ryan Braun, Lorenzo Cain, Domingo Santana, Christian Yelich

Disabled list: Boone Logan, Jimmy Nelson, Stephen Vogt

Yes, that is four first basemen and only 11 pitchers, after talk all spring that the Brewers would carry 13 pitchers for much of the coming year, and angst about whether they could keep out-of-options Aguilar or spring star Choi, with Braun joining Thames in the first base pool. In the end, all four of those players made the cut.

The final subtractions were relievers J.J. Hoover and Taylor Williams. Hoover, who was charged with one earned run in 10 Cactus League appearances, was a victim of being on a Minor League contract, and will be assigned to Triple-A Colorado Springs. Williams, who also had a stellar camp, was optioned to Triple-A.

In the interest of preserving depth, and to have a reliever effective against left-handers to replace the injured Logan, the Brewers went with Drake, who is out of options, for the final bullpen spot.

Why the small relief corps? The Brewers enter the season with a fresh bullpen and an off-day coming Easter Sunday, and Woodruff is available in relief for the first four games. He will exit the bullpen for the starting rotation after Monday's home opener, the start of a stretch of 20 games in 21 days.

Relief reinforcements will be required, and help could come from outside the organization. General manager David Stearns has made last-minute bullpen additions something of a tradition. Last year, he added Jared Hughes on the eve of Opening Day. The year before that, Carlos Torres.

Now, the Brewers are poised to make it three years in a row.

After they set their roster on Wednesday, MLB Network's Ken Rosenthal reported the Brewers were nearing a deal with left-hander Dan Jennings, who was just released by the Rays. Jennings has a 2.90 ERA over six Major League seasons with the Marlins, White Sox and Rays.

"We're continuing to explore," Stearns said. "Obviously, this time of year, there's a lot of activity. There's a lot of guys who were either released out of non-roster invite deals or guys who were released out of non-guaranteed Major League deals. I do think we're getting some traction in that area."

While they keep working, Choi will enjoy his second Major League Opening Day. He made it with the Angels two years ago.

"We thought having the extra position player made sense," Stearns said. "I don't know how long we're going to be able to do this. Clearly, this isn't something that you can do for long stretches in a Major League season, but Ji-Man had a heck of a spring. The option helps."

Stearns added, "Ji-Man understands his roster situation. He's very excited to be on the team on Opening Day. Like any player with options, he understands there is flexibility to go up and down."

Choi batted .409 in Spring Training with three home runs, including a grand slam.

Video: MIL@LAD: Choi hits a grand slam in the 6th

"This sets our roster for, really, a day. That's how it works," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "But, the major contributors could not be here on that day."

Counsell himself is a good example. When he scored the winning run in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series, he'd never cracked an Opening Day roster in the Majors.

Counsell didn't have that experience until the following year.

Was it a bit of a letdown?

"It was, frankly," he quipped. "It was the '98 Marlins. We weren't very good."

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.

Milwaukee Brewers