The Week In Review, March 21-27

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 Marco become the biggest Estrada on the Brewers since the legendary Johnny?

As we get closer to opening day, the Brewers worked toward filling the last few spots on the roster – a couple bench spots and places in the bullpen, plus replacements for injured regulars Corey Hart, Jonathan Lucroy, Manny Parra and Zack Greinke. The team also made a couple of surprising trades. As the starters get in their final tune-ups before the season starts, let’s check out the week.

Who’s Hot?

Bench candidates Jeremy Reed and Erick Almonte continued to rake, and were rewarded with their hot hitting when they were each informed on Sunday that they would make the opening day roster. Almonte figures to stick around for awhile, but it is unclear if Reed will stay on the roster after Corey Hart is activated from the disabled list. Regardless, Reed went 6 for 14 (.429) with two runs batted in. Almonte had a huge week, picking up 11 hits in 16 at bats (.688) with three RBIs. Hopefully Almonte can keep up the good hitting once the season starts and he isn’t getting regular at bats.

Yovani Gallardo continued to have an outstanding spring, throwing seven innings in a minor league game when Monday’s big league game was rained out, and then on Saturday he threw five innings and struck out nine batters, while giving up a walk and four hits.

Taking advantage of the Brewers’ uncertainty with their fifth starter situation, Marco Estrada stepped up and had two excellent starts this week, making it very difficult for Ron Roenicke and Doug Melvin not to give him a shot in the April 6th game when they will first need a fifth starter. On Tuesday, Estrada, a non-roster pitcher, pitched 4.1 innings, giving up no runs on three hits and a walk while striking out four. He followed that up by giving up two runs on seven hits and two walks in six innings while striking out four.

Who’s Not?

It’s hard for me to get down too much on any of the Brewers’ regulars at this point, as all that really matters, as evidenced by Corey Hart a season ago, is that they make it to the regular season without getting injured. Unfortunately for some, it’s also the time for roster cuts to start happening. The biggest loss this week was when Brandon Boggs was informed he would not make the major league roster. This must have come as hard news for Boggs, who probably thought he would make the team after Milwaukee traded Chris Dickerson on Friday, only to acquire Nyjer Morgan on Sunday morning. Boggs will have to clear waivers before he can be assigned to triple A.

The guy left off the roster in favor of Erick Almonte was shortstop Luis Cruz. Cruz had a pretty good spring, but it was difficult to ignore the amazing spring that Almonte put together. Almonte is not the fielder that Cruz is, but Cruz cleared waivers and was sent to triple A. Look for Cruz to join the major league roster if something happens to Rickie Weeks, Yuniesky Betancourt, or Craig Counsell.

Trade Update!

As I just mentioned, the Brewers made a somewhat surprising trade on Friday, trading Chris Dickerson (shortly after I questioned whether or not he should be given a chance at starting) to the Yankees for swingman Sergio Mitre. Mitre had been in the running for the back end of the Yankee rotation earlier this spring, but he struggled a bit and fell out of the race. Mitre has started 64 games over his seven year career, and made 53 appearances out of the bullpen. With Manny Parra on the shelf, Mitre will probably serve as the longman out of the bullpen while Parra recovers. What happens to him after that is unclear, but we’ll see what happens.

By unloading Dickerson, the Brewers appeared to open up a spot on the 25 man roster for Brandon Boggs, but they surprised some by swapping minor league infielder Cutter Dykstra this morning to the Nationals for outfielder Nyjer Morgan. Morgan had a down year last year as a 29 year old, batting .253/.319/.314 with 24 RBIs and 34 stolen bases. In 2009, however, Morgan hit .307/.369/.388 with 3 homers, 39 RBIs, and 42 stolen bases (though he led the league after being caught stealing 17 times) in a season split between Pittsburgh and Washington.

Morgan probably won’t get a ton of playing time, but he is a left handed hitter, so the idea of a strict lefty/righty platoon between Morgan and Carlos Gomez isn’t out of the question.

Injury Update:

Zack Greinke and LaTroy Hawkins were both officially placed on the DL this weekend, retroactive to March 22, so they could be activated as soon as April 6th. It is unlikely that either will be ready by then, and almost certainly not Greinke, but both are expected back reasonably soon.

Casey McGehee made Brewer nation hold their collective breath this week after being struck in the kneecap by a pitch on Thursday, but there was no structural damage and, after taking a couple days off, returned to the lineup on Sunday.

Jonathan Lucroy and Corey Hart continue to progress, and neither has been placed on the DL, but it looks quite unlikely that either will be ready for opening day. Lucroy could be cleared to play in minor league games early this week, and Hart will probably be ready to go shortly after Lucroy.

Roster Battles:

I already mentioned the infield and outfield spots, so, if Lucroy and Hart open the season on the DL, the position players on the opening day roster will be like this: Catchers George Kottaras and Wil Nieves, infielders Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, Yunieksy Betancourt, Casey McGehee, Craig Counsell, and Erick Almonte, and outfielders Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez, Mark Kotsay, Nyjer Morgan, and Jeremy Reed.

The Brewers have eight relievers remaining in major league camp. If Marco Estrada does indeed make the major league roster, then one of them will have to go. The remaining relievers in camp are John Axford, Zach Braddock, Mitch Stetter, Takashi Saito, Kameron Loe, Sean Green, Brandon Kintzler, and Sergio Mitre. If Estrada is put on the roster, expect either Kintzler or Stetter to get optioned to triple A. If not, the idea has been floated of a “bullpen game” on September 6th, that could be started by someone like Mitre, who would then only go three or four innings before turning it over to the rest of the bullpen.

What to Watch For Next Week:

Real baseball! Excitement is in the air. The Brewers only have a couple of things left to figure out before Thursday – whether or not Lucroy and/or Hart will be put on the DL, and whether or not Marco Estrada will make the roster. We’ll also get to see the debuts of new Brewers Nyjer Morgan and Sergio Mitre. That’s about it, for the time being. Enjoy the beginning of the season.

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