Roenicke getting to know players, staff

Roenicke getting to know players, staff

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Brewers' new manager came from outside the organization and didn't bring along any of his "own guys" for the coaching staff. That means Ron Roenicke still has a lot of work to do before the mitts start popping in Spring Training.

"I've probably talked to about half the guys now," Roenicke said Tuesday at baseball's Winter Meetings. "I just got off the phone before this with our newest addition, [pitcher Shaun] Marcum, and had a nice conversation with him. All of the conversations so far have been great.

"You know, it's hard when you go into a place and you don't know anybody. I certainly would like to go into Spring Training with at least having a conversation with all the guys."

He's talked with Ryan Braun but not Prince Fielder. Marcum but not Yovani Gallardo. Roenicke is working his way through the roster.

"I think it's more just introducing myself and getting a feel for them and if there's anything that they think we need to address to help this team," Roenicke said. "When I talked to Ryan Braun it was, "Hey, what can we do better? Are there things we need to address to make sure that in September that we're still in this thing?'"

Braun only suggested minor tweaks, Roenicke said.

Just as important -- more importantly, perhaps -- Roenicke will have to find a comfort level with his coaching staff. New managers often bring in a former colleague or two, but Roenicke did not. Hitting coach Dale Sveum was already under contract when Roenicke was hired Nov. 2, and Roenicke met eventual bench coach Jerry Narron and pitching coach Rick Kranitz for the first time when he interviewed them for the job.

Roenicke has never met third-base coach Ed Sedar or first-base coach Garth Iorg in person, but has spoken with both men on the phone.

"It's still early, but pretty soon here we need to talk about Spring Training and how we want it to run," Roenicke said. "It's a lot of getting to know the people and how we want to go about it.

"It's just not what I want, because what I want sometimes doesn't fit into the program someone is doing. Maybe there's a compromise there. I try to listen."

At first, Roenicke was hesitant about picking so many unfamiliar names for his staff.

That feeling didn't last long, he said.

"I thought, 'This is going to be hard,' but once I started having conversations with them, it's going to be easy," Roenicke said. "I really like the things they are telling me."

On other topics Tuesday:

• Roenicke indicated he would prefer an experienced backup for 24-year-old catcher Jonathan Lucroy and offered free agent Bengie Molina as the type of player he would love to have. But Molina's intentions for 2011 remain unclear, and Roenicke perhaps was alluding to the Brewers' interest in 33-year-old Wil Nieves. FoxSports.com reported late Tuesday that the Brewers were close to a free-agent deal with Nieves.

To be clear, Roenicke never said the Brewers were courting Molina. But the two were together with the Angels from 2000-05, so the fondness comes as no surprise.

Roenicke said he sees Lucroy catching 100-120 games next season.

"The other guy, whoever his backup is going to be, is going to get some playing time," Roenicke said.

Having a veteran "will just help that young guy understand what it takes to be that total package catcher," Roenicke said. "It's not just blocking balls. It's not just throwing out runners, but it is about game calling, and it is the communication that you have with a pitcher, and when he's struggling and in between innings you walk over to talk to him about what's going on and try to get him back on the right track.

"That takes a lot of experience. But when you have an experienced guy out there helping you with it, it makes it a lot easier."

At the moment, Milwaukee has three catchers on the roster in Lucroy, George Kottaras and Minor Leaguer Martin Maldonado. Kottaras is out of options and batted .203 with 10 home runs last season in 212 at-bats. He threw out four of 48 would-be basestealers, or 8.3 percent.

• Roenicke has been in all of the internal Brewers meetings this week and was asked whether he expects to write Fielder's name on his Opening Day lineup card. Fielder has been a staple of trade rumors for months.

"I expect to, yes," Roenicke said, "because I think somebody as high-quality a player that he is, I don't think those guys move as often as you think they will. I think that if we have him, we have a tremendous lineup, which I am looking forward to. And so I'm planning on him being there, and if it doesn't happen, it's because of something else really good that we're going to get back."

This marks the third consecutive year that Roenicke has attended the Winter Meetings. He was the Angels bench coach for the past two and said that things are different as a manager.

"As a coach, you know, you just kind of have to listen and learn more," Roenicke said. "As a manager so far, you've got a little bit of input, and I think you're asked different questions that mean more, I guess."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.