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Aguilar pushing to earn final roster spot

First baseman's fate likely depends on number of pitchers
March 24, 2017

Editor's Note: MLB.com took a stab at the Brewers' Opening Day roster before the start of Spring Training, and again at the halfway point of Cactus League games. With 10 days to go, here's another look: GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Jesus Aguilar's big Spring Training prompted the Brewers to try something

Editor's Note: MLB.com took a stab at the Brewers' Opening Day roster before the start of Spring Training, and again at the halfway point of Cactus League games. With 10 days to go, here's another look:
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Jesus Aguilar's big Spring Training prompted the Brewers to try something new Friday, one of several signs they are seriously considering the slugger for a spot on the Opening Day roster.
The new idea was Eric Thames -- who signed a three-year deal to be the Brewers' first baseman -- starting a Cactus League game against the Reds in right field. Manager Craig Counsell characterized it as "related" to Aguilar's strong offensive showing in camp.
"[Thames] is not going to play right field Opening Day or anything," Counsell said. "But he was an outfielder [before playing three seasons in the Korea Baseball Organization] and has played a lot of outfield. As you kind of go through scenarios during the season, there's scenarios where he could play the outfield.
"So, to have a little recency to his outfield play, that's kind of the point of it."
Aguilar, claimed off waivers from Cleveland just before the start of camp, forced his way into consideration by batting .500 (23-for-46) with a 1.457 OPS and five home runs this spring. In Friday's 12-11 loss to the Reds, Aguilar went 4-for-4 with four singles.
"It's good stuff," Counsell said. "We're looking at each other in the dugout. Kirk Nieuwenhuis is like looking up at the sky every time he hits."

Aguilar's Opening Day fate may hinge on how the Brewers set their pitching staff. As of Friday, 10 days before their April 3 season opener at home against the Rockies, Milwaukee still had competitions for at least two, and maybe three, spots in the starting rotation, as well as three or four spots in the bullpen.
The Brewers also were still debating whether to open with seven or eight relievers. Because of the makeup of the rest of the roster, that decision could determine whether Aguilar makes the team.
If it's a seven-man bullpen, Aguilar is in. If it's an eight-man bullpen, Aguilar is probably out.
"Here's how I would phrase it: It's safe to say we are going to need eight relievers at some point in the first three weeks," Counsell said. "The problem that often happens, because we've been together for a long time [in Spring Training], it feels final. The roster is final for one day. It's a final roster for April 3. And last year, we made a roster move after the first day of the season."
That's true -- the Brewers designated reliever Ariel Pena for assignment after one regular-season game last season.
They also added a reliever -- Carlos Torres -- two days before Opening Day in 2016. Counsell's point was that things can change fast at this time of year, as players from other teams' camps become available.
"I certainly wouldn't rule it out," Brewers GM David Stearns said when asked if that could happen again. "The last 10 days of Spring Training, talks about the teams accelerate a little bit. Generally on more minor moves, but there are larger discussions that occur as well. So it's certainly a possibility. We brought in Carlos Torres at the end of camp last year, and oftentimes, there are under-the-radar players who are out there."
While Stearns & Co. continue to debate, here is an updated guess of a possible Opening Day roster:
Catchers:Jett Bandy , Manny Pina
Andrew Susac was knocked out by a neck injury, so this became a relatively easy call. Pina, who is out of options, has already been advised he made the club.
Infielders: First baseman Thames, second baseman Jonathan Villar , third baseman Travis Shaw and shortstop Orlando Arcia.
Outfielders:Ryan Braun , Keon Broxton , Domingo Santana , Kirk Nieuwenhuis
Bench:Hernan Perez, Scooter Gennett, Aguilar
Perez is a certainty, and characterizing him as a bench player is probably unfair based on how regularly he figures to play. Because Aguilar is limited to first base, Gennett looks like a good bet, though non-roster invitees Eric Sogard Ivan De Jesus Jr. are still in consideration.
Starting pitchers:Junior Guerra, Zach Davies, Wily Peralta, Matt Garza, Jimmy Nelson
Guerra and Davies are in, and the rest of the list reflects how those pitchers were lined up as of Friday. Noticeably absent from this educated guess is Chase Anderson, who had a 1.98 ERA last September, and Tommy Milone. Both remain in the running, but could also wind up in the bullpen.
Bullpen:Neftali Feliz , Carlos Torres, Corey Knebel , Jacob Barnes , Jhan Marinez , Tyler Cravy, Chase Anderson
Southpaws Milone and Brent Suter and right-handers Taylor Jungmann and Rob Scahill still have hope.

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