COMMENTARY | Real-live baseball is finally happening, and the Milwaukee Brewers are a few games into their 2013 exhibition season. It's obviously not about wins and losses, but rather seeing how far players progress throughout spring training and weeding out the ones who won't make the opening day roster.
It's exciting for baseball fans to see the Brewers back out there, especially considering the new faces on the pitching staff and the sudden position battle that has erupted over at first base. And with the World Baseball Classic quickly approaching, there are only a few more days for us to see several players in Milwaukee's camp before they are required to travel to their respective teams.
Even with a limited look at some of the top talent on the squad -- at least in a Brewers' uniform -- there are plenty of reasons to follow Milwaukee during its time in Maryvile. Here are some early signs of positivity following the first weekend of play down in Arizona.
1. Carlos Gomez's approach at the plate
One of the most frustrating things for Brewer fans is how Carlos Gomez goes about his business at the dish. Even with his blazing speed, Gomez hasn't shown much patience at the plate throughout his career and doesn't lay down a bunt nearly as often as he should.
But in Gomez's first four plate appearances this spring, he drew a walk. While Gomez is starting to look for his pitch at the plate and accept the fact that not everything is hittable, he still has the mindset that he wants to take everything deep. However, Gomez understanding the value of raising his on-base percentage and wreaking havoc on the base paths is a step in the right direction.
2. Alex Gonzalez is already catching on at first base
With both Corey Hart out with a knee injury and Mat Gamel done for the season with a torn ACL, the Brewers will get to plug in several different players at first base during spring training, and that includes shortstop Alex Gonzalez.
Gonzalez signed on believing he would back up young Jean Segura, but manager Ron Roenicke would like a veteran player like Gonzalez to bring some stability to the lineup at first base rather than take a risk with an unproven minor league player. Of course, the catch is Gonzalez learning how to play the position, something he didn't appear to be too keen about in the beginning.
But Gonzalez seems to be warming up to the idea of playing first, and he even made a nice pick Sunday afternoon against the Cleveland Indians. We'll see how Gonzalez continues to progress and if he will ultimately win the job while Hart is sidelined.
3. Michael Olmsted is turning heads
With at least one spot in the bullpen up for grabs, the Brewers are looking for someone to make a statement during spring training and bolster the unit. So far, that man has been 25-year-old right-hander Michael Olmsted.
Before exhibition play even began, players and coaches alike were impressed with Olmsted's velocity and imposing presence -- he's 6'6" and 245 pounds -- on the mound. So far, Olmsted has thrown 2 and 2/3 scoreless innings and struck out five batters. Even though he has never played higher than Double-A ball, he has pitched extremely well in the minors over the past two years and appears to be a real steal for Milwaukee after being acquired from the Boston Red Sox in the offseason.
4. Youngsters are impressing
Even if some players enter spring training knowing they won't make the big league roster come opening day, it's still encouraging to see some younger prospects make a lasting impression to show that the farm system is heading in the right direction. For the Brewers, Caleb Gindl, Scooter Gennett and Jean Segura have all swung the bat well in the early stages of exhibition play.
Only Segura is locked into the opening day roster of the three, but it's his bat more than his glove that has people worried entering the season. Meanwhile, Gindl and Gennett may each be on the outside looking in, but both could figure into the long term plans for Milwaukee. Most importantly, Segura impressing at the plate will go a long way in instilling confidence in the club and its fans.
5. Ryan Braun sent a message
For the second year in the row, Ryan Braun has entered spring training with a microscope over him due to allegations regarding performance enhancing drugs. The chip on Braun's shoulder continues to grow, and in his first plate appearance in exhibition play, he parked one over the center field wall.
Braun responded pretty well to the criticism last season when he was runner-up in the MVP voting after successfully appealing his 50-game suspension for elevated levels of testosterone. Now, he wasted no time in showing people he's unaffected by the noise from this offseason by cranking one out of the park. A motivated Braun is a promising sign for Brewer fans and a scary proposition for the rest of the league.
Dave Radcliffe lives in a little known Milwaukee suburb and is a self-proclaimed Wisconsin sports expert who has contributed to JSOnline and as a featured columnist among other sites and publications.
You can follow Dave on Twitter @DaveRadcliffe_ .