The Week in Review: March 7 – March 13

Each Sunday night throughout the season I’ll be looking back at the previous week – who performed well, who wasn’t so good, what to look for next week and other points of interest from the week.

Will this Sound be a Brewer this year?

The Brewers continued spring training this week, and the big story was the news that Zack Greinke had broken a rib playing basketball and will not be ready for opening day. In addition to that injury news, other players (Corey Hart, Manny Parra, Mark Rogers, Jonathon Lucroy) continued to try to get back on the field, while a few more (Ryan Braun, Yuniesky Betancourt) tweaked a couple things, but nothing too major.

Who’s Hot?

The big story this week, hitting-wise, was the emergence of Erick Almonte as a legitimate candidate for the last bench spot, the same bench spot that I suspected Luis Cruz had all but locked up. Apparently, I was wrong. Almonte was huge this week, going 12/18 (.666) with 2 home runs and 5 RBIs. For the spring, Almonte is now hitting .444/.459/.806 with 3 home runs and is tied for the spring lead in RBIs with 9.

Another player who played well while playing for a potential bench spot is Brandon Boggs. For the week, Boggs went 8 for 18 (.444) with a home run and 7 RBIs. Boggs also has 9 for the spring, tied with Almonte for the team lead.

Jeremy Reed also went 9 for 20 and knocked in 3 runs.

Yuniesky Betancourt and Carlos Gomez both continued to hit well, which has done nothing other than make me nervous that they are using up all of their good swings before the games matter. Nevertheless, Gomez has a spring OPS of .933 and Betancourt has a spring OPS of 1.006. Unfortunately, Gomez has yet to take a walk this spring. Betancourt actually has two, so we can take that as a good sign, I guess.

On the other side of the ball, Brewers starters started to heat up a little bit. Yovani Gallardo pitched 3 and 2/3 innings on Friday, giving up only one run and striking out 4. On Monday, he looked even better – 3 innings, 2 hits, 5 strikeouts, and high praise from Ron Roenicke who said “I’m serious, that’s as good as I’ve seen in spring training, ever.” Later in the week, Gallardo was named Milwaukee’s opening day starter, a move most expected after the Greinke injury was revealed.

Chris Narveson, who slots in as the starting pitcher for the home opener after the Greinke injury, also had a good week. On Thursday, Narveson gave up 4 hits in 3 and 2/3 innings while giving up one run and striking out a pair. For the spring, Narveson has given up just one run in 7.2 innings, which is good for a 1.17 ERA – the best among the five Brewer starting pitchers.

Brandon Kintzler and Kameron Loe also continued to pitch well. Kintzler has also given up just 1 run in 7.2 innings this spring, and Loe has yet to yield a run in six innings of work. Kintzler is probably making some people think long and hard about giving him that last bullpen spot. Unfortunately for him, his main competition – Sean Green – also holds a 0 ERA in five innings of work.

Who’s Not?

Luis Cruz, who I mentioned as the leading candidate for the last bench spot last week, went just 2 for 12 and didn’t knock in any runs. For the spring he is now hitting just .200. Craig Counsell continues to struggle with the bat, and after getting a hit today, he is hitting .111 for the spring.

Randy Wolf also had another bad start on Wednesday, and gave up 5 runs in the first inning for the second time this spring. Through two starts, Wolf has given up 10 runs in 3 innings – an ERA of 30. Shaun Marcum also got roughed up a little bit yesterday, giving up 4 runs in 3.2 innings.

Also, Yuniesky Betancourt, despite his success with the bat, has 3 errors already this spring. We knew it was coming, but, come on man.

Injury Update:

You all know the big news about Zack Greinke, so I won’t talk about that. In today’s game, Caleb Gindl sprained his knee and will be evaluated on Monday. Yuniesky Betancourt also left the game with tightness in his right thigh. Betancourt’s injury is thought to be minor, and Gindl’s, while a little more serious, is not severe. Ryan Braun left the game on Saturday with a rib cage strain, but he claims he feels better than ever.

Other guys continue to get better. Corey Hart has been making quite a bit of progress on his strained oblique, according to Ron Roenicke, and should start swinging a bat in the next few days. It looks at this point like Hart will be ready to go on opening day.

Jonathon Lucroy’s case isn’t quite as optimistic, but Roenicke also said that he could be ready for opening day if he doesn’t suffer any setbacks.

Mat Gamel could start playing in Cactus League games this week, as he was scheduled to take live batting practice today. His chances to make the team have probably been pretty seriously diminished, however, this far into spring training.

Manny Parra and Mark Rogers continue to work their way back. Rogers threw live batting practice on Friday, and was excited about it. He says his next work could be in a spring training game. Rogers appears the most likely candidate to be the Brewers’ fifth starter until Greinke can return.

Position Battles:

Backup Catcher – Although Wil Nieves performed pretty well this week, from an outsider’s point of view, it appears that George Kottaras is going to win the job. Kottaras has 27 at bats this spring to Nieves’ 20 (and Mike Rivera’s 12), and he has hit well. After a pretty good week, Kottaras is now hitting .333/.379/.593 for the spring with a home run and five batted in. He has struck out a team high 8 times, however. Nieves, after going 2 for 2 today, is now 7 for 20 on the spring, good for a .350 average. He also picked up his first RBI today. Defensively, Kottaras is, surprisingly, doing slightly better than Nieves. Kottaras has thrown out 1 out of 5 base stealers, while Nieves has gotten just 1/7.

Perhaps a stronger indicator is that Roenicke showed what he said could be the opening day lineup (sans Hart/Lucroy) on Saturday, and he penciled in George Kottaras in the number 8 spot as the catcher.

Backup Infielder – I mentioned already that Erick Almonte seems to have gotten a step up, after he raked all week and Luis Cruz was pretty bad. Cruz still has the advantage in versatility and defense, as Almonte can’t really play the middle infield any longer, but perhaps Roenicke believes he will be okay with just Craig Counsell up the middle. Personally, I still think it would be a pretty good idea to have another guy on the bench that could play shortstop or second base, so don’t count out Cruz yet.

Twelfth Pitcher – This one seems to have come down to Brandon Kintzler and Sean Green, at this point. Both are pitching lights out this spring, and it will be a good one to watch down the stretch. Mark DiFelice also continued his good spring, but he kind of seems like a longshot. Mike McClendon could also sneak back into the discussion if he has a couple of good outings.

What to pay attention to next week:

Keep an eye on all of the previously mentioned position battles, as none of them are set in stone. It also looks like Mark Rogers and, if he’s lucky, Corey Hart could return to action this week. If those two players can return and play well, Brewer Nation will feel a little better about this injury-riddled spring training. Also, watch to see if Carlos Gomez can finally give in and pick up a walk. Please.

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