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Minors Report: Hernan Iribarren

Minors Report: Hernan Iribarren

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Seeing Hernan Iribarren belt a pair of home runs in 2007 Spring Training games did not exactly thrill some Brewers scouts.

Iribarren is, after all, supposed to be a pesky hitter, not a power hitter. He never has hit more than five homers in a Minor League season, and was regarded as a high-average hitter who could play a solid, if not flashy, second base.

"Coming out of camp last year, he had the 'big man' approach," said head pro scout Dick Groch. "He hit a few home runs in Spring Training and then he had to get back to hitting the way Iribarren hits.

"He's an eye-hand hitter. So was Wade Boggs, George Brett, Pete Rose, Rod Carew. Those are the comparisons. It's not going to look pretty, but he's 3-for-4. It's a matter of productivity."

Iribarren went on to bat .307 in his first year at Double-A Huntsville with a Southern League-best 12 triples and 18 stolen bases. He finished better than he started after shrugging off the "big man" approach, hitting .344 in July, .383 in August and .556 in two games in September.

In six Minor League seasons since signing with Milwaukee as an undrafted free agent, Iribarren is a .324 hitter. He started working in center field last summer, an addition that the Brewers believe will give him a better chance to play in the big leagues. Iribarren will probably play at Triple-A Nashville in 2008.

"Our people here feel that it is a better position for him," Groch said.

Any position sounds good to Iribarren if it means a trip to the big leagues. He has not gotten much work in the outfield this spring because the Brewers are auditioning center fielders for April, when Mike Cameron serves a suspension.

"This is my third Spring Training so I feel good, more comfortable," Iribarren said. "I think playing the outfield, I have more opportunity. At first, I was disappointed. But in the end, after thinking it through, it was good for me. It's going to open more doors and make it easier to get to the big leagues."

Second base is blocked in Milwaukee by 25-year-old Rickie Weeks.

"I know they like Rickie," Iribarren said. "I just have to wait for my opportunity."

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Getting a look: Laynce Nix got his first Cactus League start in center field against the Mariners on Wednesday, going 0-for-3 and recording a pair of putouts.

Nix is the only player left in Milwaukee's camp from the July 2006 trade that sent Carlos Lee and Nelson Cruz to the Texas Rangers for reliever Francisco Cordero and outfielders Kevin Mench and Nix. The Brewers removed Nix from the 40-man roster in December, but then re-signed him to a Minor League contract with an invitation to big league camp.

Nix has not been mentioned in the mix of players competing for center field duties while Mike Cameron serves a suspension in April. But he could provide some insurance at Triple-A Nashville against injuries, and will be counted on to tutor Iribarren in center field.

"I really like the defensive side of his game," Brewers manager Ned Yost said of Nix.

Nix missed the start of last season after suffering a strained right oblique muscle during Spring Training. He also suffered a toe injury late in the 2006 season, meaning Yost & Co. have had scant opportunities to see Nix play.

He's a career .279 Minor League hitter with 91 home runs and 415 RBIs in 599 games.

Getting their hacks: The Brewers needed work for five big league pitchers on Wednesday so they staged an informal "B" game in Minor League camp. Mat Gamel, Steve Sollmann, Steve Moss, Adam Heether, Brendan Katin, Guilder Rodriguez, Jovanny Felix and Ned Yost IV were among the young hitters who took part.

Names in the game: Among the Minor League coaches on hand for Wednesday's "B" game was Norberto Martin, who is entering his third season as a coach for Rookie-level Helena and his fifth season in Milwaukee's Minor League chain.

Martin played seven seasons in the Majors for the White Sox, Angels and Blue Jays. He chatted briefly with reliever Salomon Torres, who was born in the same city in the Dominican Republic (San Pedro de Macoris).

He said it: "It's tough in big league camp for the first time. It's a whirlwind for the kid. He gets drafted No. 1, goes and plays, goes to the Arizona Fall League, goes to the rookie development camp and then comes here. He hasn't had a chance to just sit back and take a break." -- Yost, on 2007 first-round draft pick Matt LaPorta

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

{"content":["spring_training" ] }
{"content":["spring_training" ] }