Olmsted optioned as Brewers mull bullpen options
Quartet of right-handers competing for two openings as camp winds down
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Brewers' bullpen race was down to four pitchers for two spots Saturday when the team optioned hard-throwing right-hander Michael Olmsted to Triple-A Nashville.
With Olmsted out of the mix, it left a quartet of right-handers vying for two jobs: Donovan Hand, Alfredo Figaro, Brandon Kintzler and Mark Rogers.
"We're trying to figure who that last spot's going to be, and there's a couple other guys that we feel right now are ahead of [Olmsted]," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said.
The Brewers plan to begin the season with a standard seven-man bullpen, and five spots are spoken for by closer John Axford, left-handers Michael Gonzalez and Tom Gorzelanny and right-handers Burke Badenhop and Jim Henderson.
The picture for the remaining jobs could become clearer when Rogers starts a split-squad game on Sunday against the Rockies at Maryvale Baseball Park. Roenicke will attend that game, and is looking for Rogers to display the sort of mid-90-mph velocity he showed the Brewers last July and August, when Rogers was 3-1 with a 3.92 ERA in seven starts.
The zip on his fastball has been missing this spring, costing Rogers a chance for a spot in the rotation. He is out of Minor League options, so Rogers will either have to make the team, be placed on the Opening Day disabled list or be exposed to the waiver wire if Milwaukee tries to slip him through to the Minors.
"I think it's important to see exactly where he is [and how that impacts] our next decisions," Roenicke said.
The Brewers have been puzzled by Rogers' spring struggles, Roenicke said, and have been unable to find any medical explanation.
"I don't want to say it's health, but we need to get the velocity back," Roenicke said. "Whether that's health or whether that's building up arm strength, I can't answer that exactly. But we need to get the velocity back."
Kintzler (4.91 ERA in nine games) is already on the 40-man roster and has an option remaining. Hand (eight scoreless appearances this spring spanning 11 innings) and Figaro (2.08 ERA, .178 opponents' average) are non-roster invitees and would have to be added to the 40-man.
Green wants to play, but club exercising caution
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Brewers manager Ron Roenicke put the brakes on infielder Taylor Green's Saturday morning claim that he was only a day or two away from returning to action from a hip injury.
"He's still sore, but he's tough and he'll go out and play through it, and you can't do that with where he is right now," Roenicke said. "There's a difference between hitting a ball off your shin, and you've got a big old knot on your shin and playing through the pain -- it's different when there's a little tweak or injury."
Roenicke described Green's injury as "some kind of a deep hip strain," an ailment that struck during batting practice earlier this week at a particularly bad time for a player trying to win a bench job. A stint on the Opening Day disabled list remains a possibility.
Green, a two-time Brewers Minor League Player of the Year, has been frustrated by his setback, calling it "stupid."
"These opportunities don't come along too often," he said. "It's tough timing, but it is what it is. I've been through stuff like this before, so I'll get through it."
Brewers' bench becoming clear with week to go
TEMPE, Ariz. -- There were still some big "ifs" in play Saturday, but the Brewers' bench was coming into focus with more than a week remaining before Opening Day.
If infielders Jeff Bianchi and Taylor Green remain sidelined by hip injuries through the final week of camp, if the Brewers stick with their plan to start the season with 13 position players and 12 pitchers, and if they don't find any intriguing options on the waiver wire -- club officials have a close eye on that -- then there would be room for outfielder Khris Davis, catcher/first baseman Blake Lalli and middle infielder Donnie Murphy to all make the team.
That trio would join outfielder Logan Schafer and backup catcher Martin Maldonado on the bench.
Schafer is a sensational defender and a left-handed hitter. Lalli also hits left-handed and would give the Brewers extra coverage at catcher, freeing Maldonado to be used as a right-handed pinch-hitter earlier in games. Both Lalli and Maldonado could back up first baseman Alex Gonzalez while Corey Hart recovers from knee surgery. Murphy would give the club coverage all over the infield.
And Davis would give the Brewers right-handed pop. He hit his sixth Cactus League home run in Friday's loss to the Cubs.
"I think his chances are pretty good," manager Ron Roenicke said of Davis. "He's a guy that has made us definitely consider him on the 25 [man roster] if the role fits, if what he does, which is a left fielder and right-handed hitter, if that fits in with the five bench guys we're going to carry."
Another outfielder, Caleb Gindl, also remains active in big league camp and has a chance to make the team. But like Schafer, Gindl bats left-handed.
The wild card is that waiver wire, which will be filled with players this week as teams make their final roster decisions. The Brewers have had success with waiver acquisitions during general manager Doug Melvin's tenure, from outfielders Brady Clark and Scott Podsednik early in Melvin's tenure to third baseman Casey McGehee more recently.
Roenicke indicated the team was open-minded about its targets at this time.
"Is it better than what we're looking at here?" he said. "Is it a better utility man? Is it a better swing man between first base and outfielder? Is it a better veteran off the bench? Because when you're asking a guy like Davis to come off the bench, I have no idea if he can hit off the bench. He can hit when you're playing him and he's getting a lot of at-bats, which he is [now]. That's what puts us in a position where if we can get something that fits better as far as being versatile, we'll look at it."
Roster considerations could come into play. The Brewers have 39 players on their 40-man roster, and Lalli, Murphy and bullpen candidate Alfredo Figaro would all have to be added if they make the cut.
• Brewers pitching coach Rick Kranitz, who has been attending his daughter's wedding in San Diego, is expected back in camp on Sunday morning and will travel with a split squad to Peoria, Ariz., for Wily Peralta's start against the Padres.
• Center fielder Carlos Gomez is still dealing with some lower back tightness, but is expected back in the lineup for one of Sunday's split-squad games. He left Maryvale Baseball Park on Saturday morning to tend to a family matter.
"He's still a little bit tight, so we're being overly cautious probably," Roenicke said.