Crew's camp battles winding down
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- A flurry of formal moves and informal advisements left the Brewers' Opening Day roster nearly set Sunday, eight days before Milwaukee's Opening Day game against the Braves.
After Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay were informed Sunday morning they would make the team, Milwaukee had only two camp battles still brewing: Jeff Bianchi or Elian Herrera for the final bench spot, and four relievers (Zach Duke, Tyler Thornburg, Wei-Chung Wang and Rob Wooten) vying for three openings in the bullpen.
The Bianchi-Herrera decision is important because the pick will be the only backup infielder who can play shortstop. Bianchi can play anywhere on the infield proficiently and can man left field in a pinch, is out of options, and has had a big spring. Herrera is a switch-hitter who can play anywhere on the infield and is more versatile than Bianchi in the outfield, but has one Minor League option remaining.
The bullpen decision may have already been made, though manager Ron Roenicke was not ready to make it public Sunday, when Thornburg, Duke and Wooten finished the Brewers' win over the Reds.
If the Brewers send Thornburg to Triple-A Nashville to be a starter, and opt to make a long-term investment in Wang, a Rule 5 pick from the Pirates who must make the team or be offered back to Pittsburgh, they would open the season with three left-handed relievers in a seven-man bullpen. Roenicke does not view that as a problem.
"If we kept all three lefties, [only] one would be a specialist," he said, referring to Duke.
The Brewers must make a decision on Duke by 11 a.m. CT on Tuesday, the deadline for teams to inform an Article XX(B) free agent -- those whose Major League contract expired last fall and signed a Minor League contract for 2014 -- whether he will make the Opening Day roster. If the player does not make the cut, the team must either release the player or pay a $100,000 bonus to send him to the Minors. A player who accepts the assignment -- which Duke indicated he would do -- gets a June 1 opt-out added to his contract.
Other areas of the team are all but set. Yovani Gallardo, Kyle Lohse, Matt Garza, Marco Estrada and Wily Peralta are pegged for the starting rotation, though the order behind Gallardo and Lohse has not been set in stone. Closer Jim Henderson and setup men Francisco Rodriguez, Brandon Kintzler and Will Smith account for the four bullpen spots already spoken for.
Jonathan Lucroy and Martin Maldonado will share catching duties. Reynolds and Overbay are set to platoon at first base and Scooter Gennett and Rickie Weeks at second, with Aramis Ramirez at third base and Jean Segura at short. Logan Schafer will be the only backup outfielder behind left fielder Khris Davis, center fielder Carlos Gomez and right fielder Ryan Braun.