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Mailbag: The Cordero conundrum

Mailbag: The Cordero conundrum

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If Francisco Cordero does not return, would the Brewers likely seek a replacement via free agency or trade, or would they look within the organization?
-- Don T., Waukesha, Wis.

If Cordero were to go, I am sure the Brewers would rather look within the organization, but the candidates are sparse unless you are willing to hand the job back to Derrick Turnbow.

Veteran Luther Hackman led Triple-A Nashville in saves but was out of the organization by season's end (and now is suspended for the start of 2008 for allegedly using performance-enhancing drugs). Greg Aquino was second on that team in saves and has closing experience with the Diamondbacks, but was ineffective in stints with the big league Brewers last season.

Seth McClung has a closer's fastball, but command has historically been an issue for him. Free agent Scott Linebrink could be an option, but you would have to pay big bucks to re-sign him, and he is unproven in the ninth-inning role.

On one hand, the Brewers have been very deft in the last decade or so at finding unlikely closers. On the other hand, they never have had anyone as good as Cordero in that role. When general manager Doug Melvin says he wants to re-sign Cordero, he isn't blowing smoke. I wouldn't rule it out just yet.

If we have an abundance of starters (Ben Sheets, Jeff Suppan, Yovani Gallardo, Dave Bush, Claudio Vargas, Carlos Villanueva, Chris Capuano, Manny Parra) and with Sheets being often injured, what do you think about Sheets being the closer (like John Smoltz did a few years ago)? Perhaps that could keep him healthy all year.
-- Jason W., Milwaukee

Most pitchers will tell you that working in relief is more taxing to your arm than starting, especially for a late-inning man who gets up and down several times in a game. The other problem is that Sheets usually takes at least an inning to find his fastball velocity. He is not a guy who takes the mound and fires a 96-mph fastball on his first pitch. As a closer, if your game is power, you have to be able to do that.

Wasn't Dave Bush a closer in college? Have there been any rumblings about making him a reliever? He might look good in the eighth inning.
-- Tim S., Sun Prairie, Wis.

Depending on what kind of moves Melvin makes this winter, I think there is a chance that Bush heads to Spring Training as a reliever. He went to Wake Forest University as a catcher but converted to closer, but then moved into a starting role after the Blue Jays drafted him.

This sample is too small to take much away from it, but I will offer it anyway: In the Major Leagues, Bush has made five relief appearances and has a 7.88 ERA. He has surrendered nine hits and three walks with six strikeouts in eight relief innings. But Bush is tremendously smart and studies scouting reports perhaps more than any other Brewers pitcher. I could see him adapting to relief and having success in that role.

What are your thoughts on Ted Simmons making his coaching debut as bench coach over Frank Kremblas and Don Money? Is this the right move, or did the Brewers just jeopardize their future with Kremblas, who sounded pretty disappointed about not getting the job?
-- Mike E., Milwaukee

Kremblas was disappointed, and you can't blame him. This is the second year in a row that he has been passed over for a big league coaching job after yet another successful season managing the Triple-A club.

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That said, manager Ned Yost said the opportunity to add Simmons was too good to pass up. Simmons is regarded as one of the smartest people in baseball. He was one of the Padres' top scouts and knows the National League as well as anyone. He has a calm, steady personality, which is perfect for the bench coach role. Dale Sveum, who gave up the bench spot to move back to the third-base coaching box, supported the move. Everything just fell into place.

What do you think about the Brewers going after Andruw Jones? His fielding is awesome, and he can hit. I know he will want a lot of money, but signing him would be a huge lift to our team in center field.
-- Buck F., Richland Center, Wis.

Melvin keeps saying he is looking for on-base percentage over slugging. Jones, who may be seeing a nine-figure contract, just doesn't fit the profile of what the Brewers are looking for.

Why is there no talk about moving Corey Hart into center field next year? He seemed to play quite well out there when Bill Hall was going through his rough hitting streak.
-- Connor B., Madison, Wis.

I asked Melvin about this last week, and his preference is to leave Hall in center. He reserved the right to change his mind, but said the organization asked Hall to make a position switch once and is not interested in asking again.

This shows you how far this ballclub has come recently: On Curt Schilling's blog, he listed 12 teams [besides the Red Sox] he would be interested in playing for next year. The Brewers are one of those teams, the others being large markets and proven winning teams. That is incredible. I know the Brewers are deep on starting pitching and they likely would not take the risk on Schilling, but I am proud to be a Brewers fan when A+ class free agents want to come to Milwaukee.
-- Sam K., Menoomonee Falls, Wis.

I agree on both counts. The Brewers may touch base with Schilling, but the odds of his signing with Milwaukee are only slightly better than my odds of winning the closer's role. But Schilling's interest is a symbolic sign that the Brewers are gaining prominence. Teams such as the Yankees and Red Sox and Dodgers and even the Cubs have a huge advantage in the free-agent market not just because they have money to spend. Players want to go to those markets, and that is the first step in finding a match.

What are the chances that Matt Wise will be back with the team in 2008?
-- Randy S., Cornell, Wis.

Slim, according to Wise himself on the last day of the season. He is arbitration-eligible and, like outfielder Kevin Mench, is probably one of the guys the Brewers are considering letting go. I think he would like to be back, and when he's healthy and "right" he is one of the league's better sixth- and seventh-inning relievers. He just wasn't right in the second half of '07.

What's up with Tony Graffanino? Is he in the plans for next year?
-- Bob W., Chicago

Because he needed a bone graft before doctors repaired his ACL, Graffanino will not be healthy until May or June. He may have to hook on with a club on a Minor League contract and prove he's healthy before helping down the stretch.

With Geoff Jenkins and the "Jenkins Jungle" leaving, what will replace the Jungle? My roommate and I were thinking "Hart's Haven."
-- Andy B., Pewaukee, Wis.

Duly noted. Any other ideas out there?

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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