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Several factors making roster construction difficult for Brewers

The SportsXchange

It is looking more and more like the Milwaukee Brewers will keep two first basemen and two second basemen on their Opening Day roster, which would make for some complicated decisions filling out the bench.

As evidence of that plan, manager Ron Roenicke gave veteran infielder Mark Reynolds a start in right field March 19 in an exhibition game against Seattle. Reynolds played only three innings in right field in the majors, back in 2007 with Arizona.

"We're looking at what we could go into the season with and figuring we need to be versatile if we can help it," said Roenicke. "Say we go in with two second basemen and two first basemen, if we can have somebody more versatile in those four, then it should help us.

"(Reynolds) has played quite a bit of right field, especially in the minor leagues, so we're going to see. I'm looking at what can happen during the season, and if this is the way we end up going, it could help."

Making roster construction more difficult is the lack of versatility the Brewers have in second basemen Rickie Weeks and Scooter Gennett, neither of whom plays another position. First base candidate Lyle Overbay made four starts in right field last year for the New York Yankees but the Brewers don't need outfield help from him.

Roenicke conceded that he would be able to carry just one extra outfielder -- and that would be Logan Schafer -- if the Brewers keep Weeks and Gennett at second base as well as two first basemen. By clearing two spots on their 40-man roster, it appears the Brewers will add Reynolds and Overbay, who are non-roster players at present.

But Juan Francisco is a candidate at first base as well and is having a strong camp (.346, three homers).

Those decisions must be made soon because Overbay has an opt-out date of March 22 and Reynolds two days later, meaning they have to be added to the roster within 48 hours of those days or become free agents. Keeping Reynolds and Overbay would make it impossible to keep Francisco, who is out of minor league options.

With an extra first baseman and second baseman, backup catcher Martin Maldonado and Schafer as the fourth outfielder, the Brewers would have just one bench spot remaining if they go with a 12-man pitching staff as planned. That player would have to be able to play shortstop to backup Jean Segura.

The top candidates for that last spot are Jeff Bianchi and Elian Herrera, both of whom are on the 40-man roster. Bianchi would seem to have the advantage because he is out of options and shortstop is his natural position. Bianchi also can play third base as well as the outfield in an emergency.

NOTES, QUOTES

--1B Sean Halton was sent outright to Triple-A Nashville to clear a spot on the 40-man roster. Halton had already been cut from major league camp.

--RHP Jim Henderson, the team's closer, was struggling during exhibition play and looking to find some kind of groove. Through five games, he had allowed eight hits and six runs in five innings (10.80 ERA).

--INF Jeff Bianchi made a strong bid for what might become the only utility infield spot on the bench. In 16 games, Bianchi was batting .371 with five RBIs and five stolen bases while playing quality defense in the field.

--RHP Francisco Rodriguez was pitching with a very sore left foot, the result of stepping bare-foot on a cactus. Rodriguez said while painful it would not stop him from preparing for the regular season.

--LHP Wei-Chung Wang, a Rule 5 draft pick from Pittsburgh, made a strong bid to make the bullpen. Wang pitched six scoreless outings covering 8 1/3 innings before finally allowing three runs in 2 2/3 innings against Colorado.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Some of these games, we've made a lot of mistakes but some of the pitches don't look so bad and they go down and hammer it. It's baffling at times. We're not making good pitches. If you make good pitches here, you're going to get people out." -- Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke, on the overall struggles of his pitching staff this spring.
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