Velez trying to snare bench role with Brewers
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Utility player Eugenio Velez is vying for a spot on the Brewers' bench, but it's his bat, not his glove, that's keeping him in the competition.
The Brewers are seeking a player off the bench who can also play shortstop. Velez is primarily a second baseman and an outfielder.
"The main thing for me was making mental adjustments to the game, especially at the plate," Velez said. "I've worked hard in the batting cage and on the field, but I'm really working on focusing on the ball and staying focused at the plate. Up to now, it's worked."
For his career, Velez has a batting average of .241 with eight home runs, 72 RBIs, a .287 on-base-percentage and .654 OPS in 259 games with the Giants and Dodgers since making his big league debut in 2007. He spent all of the 2012 season in Triple-A with the Cardinals, and combined to hit .314 and slug .398 with an .870 OPS last season at the same level with the Blue Jays and Brewers.
Velez also sported a .295 batting average in 20 games in the Dominican Republic during the winter, and hit two home runs for the Dominican Republic during the Caribbean Series.
"I consider myself a big leaguer, but it's up to the manager to make the decision where to put me," Velez said. "It's been difficult at times because you've been in the big leagues and you know you can do the job, but I know I was sent to the Minor Leagues to work on some things. I feel like I've improved a lot, and I hope to get the opportunity to get back."
Velez admits he has something to prove. He set a Major League record by going hitless in 37 at-bats (40 plate appearances) for the Dodgers during the 2011 season. He's actually 0-for-46 in the big leagues dating back to 2010 with the Giants.
"It was a frustrating time for me," Velez said. "I had a tremendous season in Triple-A and then going to the Major Leagues and being on the bench was tough. You get an at-bat every nine, 10 or 11 days, a lot of time passes and you are expected to get a hit right off the bench every time. That was a challenge mentally, but I learned and grew from that experience."
Velez's last Major League hit came on May 18, 2010, against the Padres.
"I've forgotten about what's happened in the past, and I'm going forward to help this team," Velez said. "I'm a different person, a better prepared player than I was back then."