But although they may be young in terms of their big league service, Jeremy Reed, 29, Brandon Boggs, 28, and Chris Dickerson, 28, are all in their prime years as players.
Reed is the "veteran" of the bunch, with his 476 games over seven seasons with the Mariners, Mets, and Blue Jays more than doubling the combined seasons and games logged by his competition. As the only one not currently on the Brewers 40-man roster, Reed faces an uphill battle -- but that's been his M.O. since his first Major League camp.
"Last year was my first year as a non-roster guy, but basically my whole career, I've been on the roster but in the same situation," Reed said. "Obviously, the roster spot is a huge thing to have in your corner, because decisions are a lot easier to be made for the positive if you do what you expect of yourself. But in the same sense, I think having some service time and having some experience in the role that they're looking for can really help."
2010 Spring Training - null
Sights & Sounds
Spring Training Info
The fourth outfield role can be an unpredictable one. It often means coming off the bench for clutch pinch-hit at-bats after not playing for days at a time, but it also includes spot starts at any of the three outfield positions. Reed has experience on all fronts, plus some experience at first base, and he has developed a work ethic that centers on preparation for any circumstance.
"Having a solid routine is very key," Reed said. "You never know what might happen on a daily basis. A lot of the starters, they pretty much know they're playing every day. I try to prepare myself like I'm playing every single day. It's just maybe for one at-bat, or defensively, or pinch-run. Whatever it may be. Just staying ready at all times."
Reed's approach is paying off this spring, as he brings a .382 average into Sunday's action, logging a team-high 20 games and a second-best 11 RBIs -- trailing only Boggs as Roenicke gives his outfield candidates ample opportunity to make an impression.
"He's done everything well," Roenicke said. "Offensively, he's had great at-bats, whether it's against a lefty or right-hander. He's had big at-bats with people on base in tight ball games that he's gotten hits. He showed power. He showed he's disciplined at the plate. And he's got good instincts defensively, also. He's a smart player. Knows where to play guys. He can play all three outfield positions. So he's been impressive."
It doesn't get much more glowing than that, but Reed takes nothing for granted, embodying the baseball axiom that it isn't just practice that makes perfect, but perfect practice.
"I try to prepare as best as possible in the offseason to give myself the best chance to fight for a job," Reed said. "I put a lot of effort, a lot of time into getting prepared, and it's definitely paid off. I feel like I'm having a good spring, and hopefully I'm opening up some eyes and they see that there's something in me that can help this club win."
Roenicke acknowledges that standing on the 40-man roster is a consideration when selecting the men to open the season in a big league uniform, but he's committed to taking the best 25 players north on April 1, other issues notwithstanding.
For Reed's part, the chance to play for Roenicke is a welcome opportunity, having closely observed what Roenicke did as Mike Scioscia's bench coach and third-base coach over the past 10 years.
"I've always enjoyed watching the way Anaheim plays the game, and he's definitely brought that over here," Reed says. "We had tremendous teams when I played [in Seattle], with great talent, and we couldn't crack those guys. They do the little things right and they play hard every day. They take the extra base. They're always attacking you. He's definitely brought that over here. I haven't been around these guys very long, but you can tell guys are excited to play for him."
Roenicke and Reed are well suited for each other. The former's background as a role player gives him the kind of insight players in Reed's position appreciate when it comes to using his bench wisely and keeping his players fresh. And Reed clearly embodies the kind of balance between an aggressive, but intelligent, approach on the field, earning the high marks from his manager.
"He's a good, solid player," Roenicke said. "He knows how to play, he can play all the spots in the outfield and came up as a center fielder. If you look at his history in the Minor Leagues, the guy has always hit. That means a lot to me. I know he's having good at-bats and he's hitting well here [in Spring Training], but you need to also look at history."
The fourth outfield spot may end up being the toughest decision Roenicke has to make with regards to the Brewers' roster, as all three candidates are showing themselves as legitimate contenders. Reed has a lot of history in the role, and though his career has had its share of ups and downs, he's not ready to consider the alternative if he's not booked on the plane to Cincinnati for Opening Day.
"I generally try to stay away from the negative side of things and focus on the positive," Reed said. "Right now I'm here, and I plan on staying here."
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less