MILWAUKEE -- Onetime Padres teammates Mark Kotsay and Trevor Hoffman were planning to take their families on a late-February ski trip, but Kotsay's plans just changed. The veteran outfielder and first baseman finalized a one-year contract with Hoffman's most recent team on Friday, when the Brewers opened a spot on their full 40-man roster. Milwaukee designated right-hander Roque Mercedes for assignment to make room for Kotsay, who agreed to terms a day earlier and thinks he found a perfect fit. The Brewers, seeking another left-handed bat with some power for the bench, plus an emergency backup for first baseman Prince Fielder and a veteran presence for a young club, apparently agreed. They'll pay Kotsay $800,000 in 2011, plus up to $450,000 more in incentives.
"It's a great fit for me in the National League, because I think I'll be able to use my tools a little more efficiently than I did in the American League," said Kotsay, who has been in the AL since 2003, save a half-season stint with the Braves in '08. "The last couple of years, I didn't get the opportunity to pinch-hit that often, so I'm looking forward to that opportunity." Kotsay is a career .312 pinch-hitter but has only amassed 99 pinch-hit plate appearances over parts of 14 Major League seasons. In Milwaukee, barring an injury to one of his teammates, he'll almost certainly see more opportunities off the bench. Right fielder Corey Hart started 138 games last season even though he lost some playing time early in the year to Jim Edmonds. Left fielder Ryan Braun started 153 games. Fielder started 160, and has started at least 150 games in each of his five full seasons. "I know Prince is going to play 160 games, but if I can help him through the season a little and if I'm able to stay fresh and healthy, I can be an asset to the club," Kotsay said. "I have the experience from playing 14 seasons, so hopefully I can help some off the field, too, as far as the mental grind that we go through." He'll pair with an old teammate as the Brewers' primary pinch-hitters. Kotsay and Craig Counsell played together for the Marlins from 1997-99, Kotsay's first three seasons in the Majors. He was Florida's first-round Draft pick in 1996. Kotsay remembers getting advice then from veterans like John Cangelosi and Jim Eisenreich. Now he figures he'll look for advice from Counsell, who has 119 pinch-hit at-bats for the Brewers over the past four seasons. "I don't think it will be too big an adjustment, because I went into last season [with the White Sox] in the mindset of a utility player," Kotsay said. "I ended up playing more than I anticipated, had a good Spring Training and kind of settled into that [designated hitter] role. I got off to a terrible start and then slowly grinded my way back over the summer months." He ended up batting .239 last season with eight home runs in 327 at-bats. Kotsay will wear No. 25 with the Brewers. To clear a spot for him on the roster, the Brewers had to risk losing a pitcher they just reacquired two months ago. Mercedes originally signed with the Brewers out of the Dominican Republic in 2005 but was traded along with outfielder Cole Gillespie to the D-backs for Felipe Lopez in 2009. The Brewers reacquired Mercedes, now 24, via the waiver wire in December. Now the team has 10 days to trade Mercedes, release him or try to get him through waivers and to the Minor Leagues.