MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers still have questions about Juan Francisco's ability to play first base over a full season, but there is no doubting his tremendous raw power.
From June 3, when the Brewers acquired him from Atlanta, through Wednesday, only four National League sluggers hit more home runs than Francisco's 12: The Pirates' Pedro Alvarez (18), the Reds' Jay Bruce and the D-backs Paul Goldschmidt with 16 apiece, and Washington's Jayson Werth (13).
Before the trade, Francisco was a third baseman. The Brewers are looking at him as a candidate to begin next season at first.
"We need to see enough of him to know if he is an option," manager Ron Roenicke said. "We'll see whether Corey Hart is brought back, whether Hunter Morris comes up and is your young guy. But you need to have an option -- we found out you need to have more than one option."
Hart did not play at all this season because of multiple knee surgeries, and is a free agent this fall. The Brewers also lost Mat Gamel (knee) and Taylor Green (hip) to season-ending surgeries.
Morris entered Thursday night with 22 home runs, second most in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League.
Gomez exits with knee sprain after great catch
MILWAUKEE -- In a season of devastating losses, the Brewers were holding onto hope late Thursday that they had dodged another. A Friday morning MRI exam of Carlos Gomez's right knee will reveal whether they were right.
Gomez, the sensational center fielder with a chance to become the Brewers' first Gold Glove Award winner since Robin Yount won at shortstop in 1982, left the team's 2-1 loss to the Reds after spraining his right knee making a wall-banging catch in the fourth inning. He was on crutches after the game and in serious pain, but the early word from the club's medical staff offered encouragement.
"I feel really swollen and painful right now, but the doctor took a look and [said] it's not as bad as I feel," Gomez said. "He doesn't think it's something really serious. Right now, everything has started swelling and ... it's really painful right now and we're going to find out tomorrow if there's any damage."
Gomez was hurt when he made a leaping catch for the first out of the fourth inning to rob the Reds' Brandon Phillips of a hit. Gomez's lower back connected with the wall as he went down, and he stayed down for a moment as Brewers head athletic trainer Dan Wright began jogging to the outfield.
After trying briefly to run, Gomez exited the game and headed to the training room. When infielders Mat Gamel and Alex Gonzalez suffered torn ACLs on the same road trip last May, Brewers athletic trainers conducted manual tests and knew almost immediately what they were dealing with. Head physician William Raasch performed the same test on Thursday with more promising results, according to manager Ron Roenicke.
"It's different," Roenicke said. "But you really never know until you have the MRI."
Gomez also hit his right hip on the wall.
"It's still really sore, but it's not something I'm scared or worried about," Gomez said. "I feel like when I hit the wall in the moment, my hip was really painful. But when I started walking around, it started to feel better. When I tried to run, my knee [did] not let me. I have to take the big step tomorrow and get the MRI to see if everything is fine.
"The doctor said he doesn't think we expect something bad. The way he checked my knee, he doesn't expect something really dangerous. But the way I feel, it's different. It feels painful."
The Brewers can ill afford to lose any more players. Five of their nine projected Opening Day starters have spent time on the disabled list this season, including first baseman Corey Hart, who will miss the entire year after undergoing two knee surgeries. Also out for the season are second baseman Rickie Weeks (hamstring surgery) and left fielder Ryan Braun (suspension). Starter Yovani Gallardo (hamstring) is set to return from the DL on Saturday, and third baseman Aramis Ramirez just returned earlier this week from a second stint on the DL for a sprained left knee.
Gomez had been one of the reasonably healthy ones, responding to the three-year, $24 million contract extension he signed in Spring Training by becoming a first-time All-Star and one of the bright spots in an otherwise tough Brewers season.
He is batting .288 with a team-best 18 home runs to go with 55 RBIs and 30 stolen bases, and entered the night as one of the National League's most valuable players. Gomez was worth an NL-best 6.4 wins above replacement per Baseball-Reference.com's measure, and ranked second in Fangraphs.com's measure with a 5.8 WAR.
"He's been one of our guys that's stayed healthy, and it's unfortunate to go down like this," pitcher Kyle Lohse said. "We'll hope for the best."
Brewers players receptive to expanded replay
MILWAUKEE -- Brewers general manager Doug Melvin and manager Ron Roenicke each expressed skepticism about the "challenge" system of expanded instant replay proposed Thursday at the quarterly Owners Meetings in Cooperstown, N.Y., but players generally spoke in favor of more replay in baseball.
"I think it's going to be strange, because guys have been used to the human factor for so long," catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. "But I'm a big believer in right versus wrong. I want to play the game the right way, and if they can determine the right call [via replay review] in a big situation, then that's what's right."
Currently, instant replay is limited to boundary calls involving home runs. That system would be greatly expanded under a proposal introduced Thursday by a committee including Braves president John Schuerholz and former managers Joe Torre and Tony La Russa.
The new system, which still faces several levels of approval, including a vote of MLB owners in November, would allow managers one challenge in the first six innings and two more challenges from the seventh through the end of the game. If the manager wins his appeal, he retains the challenge, but the challenge from the first six innings does not carry over. Replays would be reviewed by umpires at MLB.com headquarters in New York.
Precisely which plays will be reviewable, and which will remain non-reviewable, remains to be determined. Schuerholz said 89 percent of calls missed in the past would now be reviewable, but did not provide specifics.
Baseball expects to have the new system in place to start the 2014 season.
"I'm to the point now where I'm fine with instant replay. Let's replay more things," Roenicke said. "Actually, I'm getting tired of going out there and arguing. I am. So I'm in favor of replay.
"But I don't like the 'challenging.' And the reason why is, in the NFL it works because they've got a guy sitting up there on a monitor, he's got a headset. The head coach has a headset. What, am I going to start wearing a headset now? I don't like that. There's too many different things that happen in baseball that I don't want to have that."
Roenicke would prefer that an extra official sit in a press box booth and review close calls, similar to the system in the NFL during the final two minutes of each half.
Melvin said he was one of the few GMs -- "I think we were four GMs out of 30," he said -- who voted in opposition of reviewing home run calls. He used a slippery slope argument.
"I was afraid that if we adopted it, that it wouldn't end," Melvin said. "You'd be wanting to replay something else. That was my fear of doing it the first time, and it's what's happening. I say maybe in the future. But I'm not for doing it just because the umpires had a bad year. Maybe think through it one more year."
He added: "I'm always open to getting things right, but I'm a little concerned about totally taking instincts away from the umpires."
Players were more receptive to the news.
"I know the umpires try to do their best, try to be perfect, but as a human being, you're going to make mistakes," said the Brewers' other catcher, Martin Maldonado. "It makes so much difference when you get a call right."
Maldonado was involved in one of the Brewers' most controversial calls of the year on April 24 in San Diego, when he made the game-ending out for making contact with what he and the Brewers believed should have been ruled a foul ball. Instead of getting at least one more swing with a runner at second base, the Brewers lost, 2-1, and snapped a nine-game winning streak.
"I know that's a tough call for the umpire, who is behind you and behind a catcher standing up," Maldonado said. "But you don't want to end a game like that."
Said Lucroy: "Guys are going to have to get used to it, for sure. Hopefully it doesn't make the games longer than they are, where everybody is waiting 10, 15 minutes for a call to be made. But think about it -- if we had this, that dude [former Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga] would have a perfect game. Whole playoff scenarios could be altered."
Weeks undergoes surgery for torn hamstring
MILWAUKEE -- Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks took the surgical route for his torn left hamstring, undergoing a procedure Thursday that will require a 4-6 month rehabilitation, but should have Weeks ready for the start of 2014 Spring Training.
Dr. James Andrews performed the surgery in Pensacola, Fla. It was one of two options presented to Weeks after a tendon in his hamstring tore from the bone on Aug. 7 in San Francisco. Because the tendon in question -- the semitendinosus -- is sometimes harvested and used in ACL repairs, Weeks could have simply strengthened the surrounding muscle and played on. The other option was surgery in which the tendon was re-attached to the bone.
The advantage of the surgical option, Brewers head athletic trainer Dan Wright explained last week, "is it allows you to get back to the normal anatomy, so to speak. That's the advantage -- you try to get the leg as back to normal anatomy as you can. Without doing that, the leg can still heal and function, but theoretically you're working on two-thirds of the hamstring as opposed to the full hamstring.
"Rickie's a strong guy. He's one of our best, most compliant, most dedicated guys. There's no question he's going to make a full recovery."
When he returns, Weeks will be entering the final guaranteed season of his contract. The remainder of this season amounts to a tryout for second-base prospect Scooter Gennett.
Weeks will earn $11 million in 2014, the final guaranteed season of his four-year, $38.5 million contract, and he has an $11.5 million vesting option that will become guaranteed if he is healthy at end of 2014 and has 600 plate appearances next year, or 1,200 plate appearances in 2013-14 combined. Weeks, 31 next month, batted .209 with 10 home runs in 399 plate appearances this season.
• Injured infielder Taylor Green was in Milwaukee on Thursday to be examined by head team physician William Raasch. Green, who had hip surgery in April, is expected to return to Phoenix on Friday with clearance from Raasch to begin running.
"It's going great," Green said. "You just have to stay with the rehab timetable."
He expects to be back to 100 percent by November or December, ready to play winter ball. Green has been rehabbing in Phoenix with fellow injured Brewers Gamel, Mike Fiers and Hiram Burgos.
• The Brewers aired a pregame tribute Thursday to former Milwaukee Braves shortstop Johnny Logan, who was laid to rest earlier in the day. He died Friday at 86.