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First-base battle a focus in Brewers' camp

The SportsXchange

PHOENIX -- Much of the focus in the Milwaukee Brewers' spring camp will be on the right side of the infield.

Who will emerge from a crowded field at first base?

Will emerging Scooter Gennett move past injury-prone veteran Rickie Weeks to be the No. 1 second baseman or will they share the position?

Those are two major questions that must be answered over the next six weeks. With free agent first baseman Corey Hart now playing for the Seattle Mariners, the Brewers must figure out first base -- a position that became a revolving door of journeymen last season, resulting in a horrendous .629 on-base-plus-slugging percentage -- lowest in the majors.

Looking for some experience at the position, the Brewers invited veterans Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay to camp to join a group, including defensively challenged, strikeout-prone Juan Francisco and prospects Hunter Morris, Jason Rogers and Sean Halton. Reynolds is a converted third baseman, who has seen considerable action at first base in recent years, while the 37-year-old Overbay -- the Brewers' starter at the position in 2004-05 -- provides reliable defense but probably not as much at the plate.

Gennett took over at second base in early August of last season after Weeks was lost with a hamstring injury and played very well, both offensively and defensively. Gennett batted .324 in 69 games and showed he could handle himself in the field but Weeks still has a year and $11 million remaining on his contract, which would make for an expensive bench player.

The Brewers' stance entering camp is that both players will get a shot to win the second-base job but something resembling a platoon is not out of the question. What makes it even more difficult to keep both players is that Gennett and Weeks do not play other positions.

Another focus of camp will be Khris Davis' quest to show he should be the everyday left fielder. The Brewers are moving embattled star Ryan Braun to right field to open left for the young slugger, but if Davis is injured or takes a pratfall in camp, manager Ron Roenicke will have to look at other players such as Caleb Gindl and Logan Schafer.

Beyond figuring out the alignment of their starting rotation behind veterans right-handers Kyle Lohse, Matt Garza and Yovani Gallardo, the Brewers also have some bullpen jobs to be won. One spot was recently accounted for with the signing of veteran righty Francisco Rodriguez, signing on for his third stint with the club, but there are some middle-relief jobs up for grabs with a large field of candidates getting their chance.

As always, health will be a big focus of camp, particularly at third base with veteran Aramis Ramirez. The Brewers have no experienced backup for Ramirez, who sprained a knee in camp last spring and was never the same the remainder of the year.
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