His coaching staff includes four organizational holdovers -- hitting coach Dale Sveum, bullpen coach Stan Kyles, third-base coach Ed Sedar (who moved from first base) and first-base coach Garth Iorg (who had been a roving instructor in the Minor Leagues). It also includes three newcomers in bench coach Jerry Narron, pitching coach Rick Kranitz and "eye in the sky" John Shelby.
MILWAUKEE -- With apologies to the Brewers' Jonathan Lucroy, who did a fine job behind the plate last season, you can expect most of the focus to be on the hurlers when pitchers and catchers formally report to Spring Training in Phoenix, Ariz., today. The team rebuilt its starting rotation over the winter by trading for Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, bolstered the bullpen with free agent Takashi Saito and appears much more well-armed than the Brewers staffs that finished with one of the three worst ERAs in the National League in each of the past two seasons. "I'm happy for the team," second baseman Rickie Weeks said last month. "They made some great moves this year to help us get to that next level and go deep into the playoffs. It sounds good on paper, but we have to work it out."
That process begins this morning, when Brewers pitchers and catchers report, and continues Thursday, when the group takes part in its first formal workout at Maryvale Baseball Park. Position players will report by Monday, and the 2011 Brewers will take part in their first full-squad workout on Feb. 22. That day will mark new manager Ron Roenicke's first opportunity to address everybody at once. The former Angels bench coach was hired in early November to replace Ken Macha, and promised a more aggressive approach on offense.
As for the players, newcomers begin with Greinke and Marcum, each acquired in a December trade to bolster a starting rotation that needed help. Yovani Gallardo, an All-Star last season, is back, along with left-handers Randy Wolf and Chris Narveson, giving the Brewers a solid starting five, but perhaps not the depth they thought they had in 2010. That depth didn't translate to wins; the team went 77-85 and never contended in the NL Central. Milwaukee hopes 2011 is different. "I told the fans at the end of last season that we were going to be accountable by bringing some pitching in, and I think we've done that," principal owner Mark Attanasio told fans at "Brewers On Deck." "Relative to expectations, I don't want to jinx anything, but I think we've put a team together that can compete into September and October, and we're going to give it our best effort." If you want position battles, the Brewers might not be your thing this spring. Besides the set starting rotation, the bullpen looks pretty full with closer John Axford ready for his first full season in that role, and a group of relievers likely to include Saito, LaTroy Hawkins, Zach Braddock, Kameron Loe, Manny Parra and someone like Sean Green, Mike McClendon, Brandon Kintzler, Justin James or Rule 5 Draft pick Pat Egan. On the diamond, the Brewers are planning to play Lucroy at catcher, with first baseman Prince Fielder, second baseman Weeks, third baseman Casey McGehee, new shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt (acquired in the Greinke trade) and outfielders Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez and Corey Hart. Two bench spots should be filled by veterans Craig Counsell and Mark Kotsay, who won World Series rings with the 1997 Marlins, and another could go to outfielder Chris Dickerson. So unless you're really interested in the final bullpen opening or the last spot or two on the bench, the real drama will come March 31, when the Brewers visit the defending NL Central champion Reds for Opening Day. Or April 4, when the Brewers play their home opener against the Braves. They're hoping the drama builds into October. Stay tuned, because Miller Park should be an interesting place this summer.