The Brewers are getting healthy. This is good news for Brewer fans, but bad news for a few Brewers. Jonathan Lucroy returns to action this week and he’s excepted to be joined by Zach Greinke, Corey Hart, Manny Parra, and LaTroy Hawkins (ugh). The Brewers will be faced with some interesting roster decisions within the next few weeks.
The Crew already made a somewhat interesting decision when they decided to keep three catchers when Lucroy returned to the team yesterday. Roenicke indicated that he felt he had enough outfielders on the roster to fill the void until Corey Hart returns shortly from his nagging oblique injury and Jeremy Reed was clearly the odd man out in that situation (although I think you could argue Kotsay and Almonte have done very little to show they deserved the pardon over Reed). But this sets the stage for a very interesting decision for the Brewers brass when they are forced to decide which catcher is expendable: Kottaras or Nieves.
As I discussed in my Roster Battle article, the backup catcher position has been up in the air since the beginning of camp. Nieves was brought in to push George Takei Kottaras and perhaps provide some additional defensive security as Lucroy continues to develop those skills. In my original analysis I gave the edge to Kottaras for his offensive upside, but after getting to know Nieves it appears these two are closer than I originally thought. Both have been almost identical offensively with Kottaras getting the slight edge in the early sample size, and defensively, they’ve both been good too. Based on Kottaras’ offensive upside I’d still give him the edge, but I wouldn’t blame anyone if they stuck with Nieves based on his proven defense and ability to “handle” pitchers well. Neither player has any options left, so it may be difficult to retain the services of the player that is left out, but that is the business end of the game.
The bullpen situation could become very interesting with Saito being placed on the DL and Manny Parra and LaTroy Hawkins (ugh) set to rejoin the team shortly. I keep hoping every morning I’ll see that the Brewers traded Parra or Hawkins for a Snickers and a used sock, but somewhere, somebody in this organization continues to piss into the wind and think these guys will be anything different than they’ve always been…which is terrible. Even more unfortunate is they will probably take valuable roster spots from people who actually may NOT be terrible.
With Saito going on the DL, Brandon Kintzler returned to the big league club about 17 minutes after he left it. Kintzler will most certainly be the first player sent back through the turnstiles to Nashville when Parra or Hawkins (ugh) is able to return to Milwaukee. Sean Green or Mitch Stetter would probably be the next on the chopping block. I would assume it would be Stetter because Parra would give them another lefty in the pen, and Stetter may still need some time to get back up to par since his injury last year. But again, I’d rather just see the team find a way to move Parra and/or Hawkins, but I know that is really just wishful thinking.
Lastly, when Zach Greinke finally returns debuts the Brewers starting rotation will finally be a full strength. You have to tip your hat to Marco Estrada thus far for filling in admirably in his one start, and hope he can keep it up against the Buc-holes this Sunday. But having Greinke finally make his debut may allow the team to collectively exhale knowing they should be at full strength (fingers crossed) by then. Needless to say, it will just be nice to see the whole squad together to see what they can do. We’ll keep the paper champion declaration to the Cubs fans. I want to see it for real!