PHILADELPHIA -- Brewers manager Ron Roenicke's defense of Carlos Gomez in the two-hole something like this: Who else is supposed to do it?
Gomez entered Wednesday's game against the Phillies with a .242 on-base percentage, 92 points below the average National League No. 2 hitter. But center field backup Nyjer Morgan remains sidelined by a right thigh bruise and regular right fielder Corey Hart is still working back from the disabled list, so Roenicke doesn't believe he has a better fit than Gomez.
"I saw a lot of improvement in Spring Training, and I know it's Spring Training, but, again, it's the quality of the at-bats," Roenicke said. "I saw him a lot when he was in Minnesota, and in Minnesota he was chasing a lot. Guys can change. ...
"It's being able to have that relaxed state he had in Spring Training. He knew he was going well, and that's why I say he still can do that in the regular season. Somehow, his mind has to get into that state again. Maybe it's moving him back seventh of eighth in the lineup to get him that way, I don't know."
There are some positive signs. According to the FanGraphs.com, Gomez is swinging at the fewest number of pitches outside the strike zone of his career -- 21.1 percent. Last season, he swung at 39.2 percent of pitches outside the zone.
Roenicke also argued that Gomez's defense -- he made two more nice running catches in Tuesday's win -- helps overcome some of his offensive shortcomings, and means he's going to remain the regular center fielder.
But Gomez could drop in the lineup after Hart returned from his Minor League rehabilitation assignment later this week. And, eventually, if the Brewers prefer Hart in a run-producing slot, catcher Jonathan Lucroy could be another option in the two-hole, Roenicke said. Lucroy had a .379 on-base percentage in the Minor Leagues.
"I think he's going to be a good hitter -- so does [hitting coach Dale Sveum]," Roenicke said. "Just, right now, I don't want to do that to him. I want him to relax, I want him to worry about the pitching staff and get really comfortable with all that. We may come to a point, halfway through the season, where he can [hit second]."