PHOENIX -- For the first time in years, Cesar Izturis will have to win his Opening Day roster spot. Izturis, an 11-year Major League veteran, is in Brewers camp on the first Minor League contract of his career. He's vying to be Milwaukee's backup to shortstop Alex Gonzalez, and considering the team's only other candidate, Edwin Maysonet, is ticketed for Triple-A, Izturis has a good chance to get his spot. "There's always a first time," Izturis said. "Especially in this game, which is always changing. You go up and down all the time, and you learn something every day. I'm excited to go for it."
Izturis has endured some downs in recent seasons. His OPS has dropped each of the past four years, including a 2010 season in Baltimore in which he played 150 games, started 142 of them at shortstop and batted just .230 with a .277 on-base percentage. He was limited to 18 games with the Orioles last season because of elbow and groin injuries. Izturis had surgery in May for a nerve issue in his right elbow. "I know he hasn't hit that well the last couple of years, but he's a switch-hitter, which is valuable," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "He can play all the positions -- second [base], third and short. We want to see that his arm strength comes back and that he's fine that way, and he's a good, quality guy." Izturis reported to Brewers camp on Monday, well ahead of most other veteran position players. Gonzalez and third baseman Aramis Ramirez, both former teammates, have yet to report, as have second baseman Rickie Weeks and right fielder Corey Hart. Among the other familiar faces for Izturis is Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash, who was Toronto's general manager when the Jays signed Izturis out of Venezuela in 1996 and when that team brought him to the big leagues in 2001. "It's definitely a good opportunity for me, and I want to be a part of this team," he said. "But nothing changes. I just have to play my game."