I double-checked how many days it is until pitchers and catchers report to Maryvale Baseball Park so that I could update the blog's Facebook page with the information.
After discovering that it's 25 days away, that naturally got me thinking about the 25-man roster and how it will shake out when the team heads north to face the Detroit Tigers at Miller Park to close out spring training.
Yes, they don't have to have it down to 25 men at that point, but by then they pretty much know what they're going to do.
Let's review what we know today, Sunday, Jan. 24:
Assuming everyone is healthy on April 5 and no trade has been made involving them, the following men (alphabetically, by position) are locks* to make this team:
SP - Doug Davis, Yovani Gallardo, Randy Wolf
RP - Todd Coffey, LaTroy Hawkins, Trevor Hoffman, Mitch Stetter, Claudio Vargas, Carlos Villanueva
C - Gregg Zaun
INF - Craig Counsell, Alcides Escobar, Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks
OF - Ryan Braun, Jody Gerut, Carlos Gomez, Corey Hart
I also think that Jeff Suppan will be on the big league roster for certain, I just can't say for certain whether he will be in the rotation or the bullpen.
First of all, you may be asking yourself where Casey McGehee is on my list.
To be honest, despite his success last year, I can't guarantee him a spot on the roster. If he comes into spring training this year as cold as he was hot last year, and Mat Gamel plays like this year's McGehee...suffice it to say that I don't see them both on the 25-man roster since they both need to be playing most every day.
If Gamel plays lights out and McGehee doesn't come back strong from his surgery, it could very well be McGehee that starts the year with Don Money and the Nashville Sounds. It would be a harsh reality, but that's what can happen in this game.
Getting back to the point, if you count the players I listed above, it totals 19 when you include Suppan.
That leaves a total of six spots to be decided, but the competition isn't nearly as open as that number would make it seem.
Looking more closely, you will find that given a standard 12 pitcher (five starters, seven relievers)/13 hitter breakdown of the roster, that what is available are two spots in the rotation, one spot in the bullpen and four spots for hitters.
Before you complain that those numbers add up to seven, keep in mind my belief that Suppan make the roster. If he does, he would take either one of the rotation spots or the open bullpen spot.
Regardless, we need to better analyze who will be competing for the open spots. Let's begin with the rotation.
As I said, Jeff Suppan stands to make this team and will be competing for a spot in the starting rotation and just might have the inside track given his experience and his salary. Should he pitch his way out of that spot, the other men who will be eager to take his (and the other) place include 2009 rotation hold overs Dave Bush and Manny Parra.
Some guys also will be competing in the "longshot" category.
One guy trying to revive his Major League career after spending 2009 pitching in Japan in Kameron Loe is Chris Capuano, who is trying to make it back following his second Tommy John surgery, along with the Brewers' own late-season standout Chris Narveson.
Last spring, Narveson pitched very poorly and cleared waivers on his way back down to the minor leagues. Had the team tried to send Narveson back to AAA prior to the end of last season, you can bet that he wouldn't have made his flight to Tennessee.
Still another name that might be brought up is former Oriole farmhand Chris Waters. He is the outer fringe of the longshots and is most likely slated directly for Nashville to start and provide much better depth than the team had last year.
I won't be discussing people not signed to a contract with Milwaukee. Should anyone sign between now and the time I do my podcast, I'll discuss the player or players at that time.
By the way, other than performance, I will be more than happy to give my point/counterpoint on whether individual players will or will not make the roster that takes the field for the pomp and circumstance of Opening Day, but for that early analysis, you’ll have to download our upcoming podcast which will be recorded just prior to the start of spring training.
So, assuming that Suppan and either Gamel or McGehee are on this club, we have five open spots to fill.
One of them will definitely be a backup catcher; a competition for which will be limited to those who know how to catch.
This list includes 2009 AAA starter Angel Salome, 2009 AA starter Jonathan Lucroy, and free agent signees George Kottaras and Matt Treanor. This leaves a totals of two spots for the pitching staff and two spots for the bench. I spoke about the rotation first, but ’ll get back to the bullpen in a bit as I talk about the position players.
If you’re with me, then you think having two backup non-catcher infielders and two backup outfielders just makes sense for the sake of balance if nothing else. It also helps you get your backups more regularity in their at-bats and spot starts. With Craig Counsell and Jody Gerut having been brought back to handle two of those jobs (one IF and one OF job, respectively), that leaves one more of each position to fill.
(Sidebar: Personally, I think the Brewers made a good signing in bringing back Jody Gerut. If you’ve read anything I’ve written at the Brewer Nation site itself , listened to any podcast where he is brought up or sat near me at a game where Gerut plays whether you knew you were nearby or not, you might be shocked to hear that admission.
I was shocked to say it, but the more I thought about it, the more my optimistic nature influenced my brain. “Gerut can backup all three OF positions”, my brain would think. “Gerut hits left-handed,” my brain would opine. “Gerut had pretty good numbers to finish the year once he played more consistently,” my brain would suggest. Well, color me gullible because I started to listen.)
For the infield we have heard a few names that could be under consideration for the IF spot.
They include Hernan Iribarren, Adam Heether, and the loser of the battle for the hot corner. As I've stated elsewhere for some reasoning, I think that Iribarren has the inside track for that position as he is out of options. It also doesn't hurt that he has played both 2B and CF, though reports are that he doesn't play CF very well as he is a natural 2B.
As for the final OF spot?
Right now, the team could go in a few different directions. They claimed Trent Oeltjen off of waivers from Arizona, they have a couple of young OF prospects that they could conceivably bring up I guess, but I’ve also been told that they are keeping tabs on a few inexpensive free agents like the very capable Frank Catalanotto, who is quite adept at pinch-hitting.
(Sidebar: Catalanotto also had one of the biggest karaoke-inducing walkup themes of the year in The Outfield's "Your Love". After the music cut in the stadium, you could hear the fans singing along for at least a line or two. Loved it.)
High-ceiling prospect Logan Schafer was given an invitation to spring training as well, but since he isn't even on the 40-man roster yet, it would take nothing short of a miracle or disaster for him to be the fifth outfielder this year.
A final name to remember is Norris Hopper. While he wasn't given a formal invitation to the big league side of spring training, he will obviously be performing on the minor league side and, should an injury or ineffectiveness rear its ugly head, he could easily spend some time with the Brewers.
Then again, with Gerut's ability to play all three OF positions and Iribarren being able to backup CF in an emergency, they might decide to keep Adam Heether as he can play at least LF along with some IF positions. The 13th man on the bench will be an interesting decision indeed.
Back to the pitching spots that are available.
I already made mention that Suppan will make this team in my opinion. If he makes the rotation, that means either Dave Bush or Manny Parra is out and, in my opinion, off the team.
Though I started this article on Jan. 23, as I finish this up it is the evening of Jan. 24, Bush has signed a one-year deal with a salary that isn't guaranteed until Opening Day. I do think, though, that Bush would have to perform very poorly toward the end of spring training to miss the ballclub. Again, the "why" to that point will be in the podcast.
As for Manny Parra, if he fails to make the rotation, the Brewers might be able to stash him in AAA simply so that he can continue to start. Parra's mental makeup has been questioned by Brewer Nation at times, so who is to say how he would handle a perceived demotion. The only real option in his case would be to tell him that he pitched the worst of the three and he's needed for depth. Hopefully, though, he pitches great so that his maturation can contiinue at the big league level. Having said that, Parra is out of minor league options which presents a problem if he isn't pitching well enough to make the rotation.
As for the other bullpen spot, the main candidates at this point appear to be Chris Smith, Chris Narveson, Rule 5 Draft Pick Chuck Lofgren, the potentially rehabbed David Riske, and a handful of others that will be involved in the discussion but will probably fall short.
The bottom line in the bullpen is that there are a bunch of candidates and only one (possible) spot available. The team can probably start Riske off in the minors on a rehab assignment to give themselves a bit more time to decide if they aren't quite sure, but performance will have a big effect on the 'pen.
Then again, in every competition it's nice if there can actually be true competition. The best performer will win the majority of the time. Yes, track record factors in, but in the end he who is performing tends to get the opportunity to continue.
But isn't that kind of what we're going for here?