PHOENIX -- Yes, Mat Gamel is happy to be producing for the Brewers as the club's Cactus League leader in home runs and RBIs.
But his reasoning was a little surprising.
"If I don't produce, I don't think I make the team," Gamel said.
The Brewers were hoping to spare Gamel that sort of anxiety this spring, publicly anointing him Prince Fielder's heir as far back as November, two months before free agent Fielder signed with the Tigers. The idea was to eliminate the sort of "produce or go home" pressure that might have hung over Gamel in parts of the past four seasons.
Manager Ron Roenicke reiterated Saturday, after Gamel hit a grand slam and a solo home run against the Padres, that Gamel did not enter this spring needing to prove anything. That he did, Roenicke said, was a positive for the player.
"No matter what, I'm always critical of myself," Gamel said. "No one wants to come out here and not produce. I feel good right now. I'm ready to get the show on the road."
The key to his productive spring has been good health. Gamel's three previous Spring Trainings were derailed by injuries, costing him a shot at an Opening Day roster spot in 2010 and '11. To avoid a similar setback, Gamel worked over the winter with personal trainer Grady Zapata, shedding the excess weight he carried into the previous season.
Gamel also cut his hair, and outfielder and resident style expert Ryan Braun noted that Gamel was dressing better.
"He's a different guy this year," Roenicke said. "I think he's decided that he has to bear down to do this job right. He got himself in good shape coming in. I know the average still isn't good and where he wants it, but I like his at-bats. I like his hands, his setup. I like everything I see there."