Last year on Sept. 1, the Brewers promoted catcher Vinny Rottino, pitchers Mitch Stetter, Chris Spurling and Carlos Villanueva and outfielder Mel Stocker. Three days later, they promoted catcher Mike Rivera, and on Sept. 10, after Triple-A Nashville was eliminated from the playoffs, they added outfielders Tony Gwynn Jr. and Laynce Nix.
Rivera and Nix are already on the roster this year, and Rottino and Stetter are safe bets to rejoin the team on Sept. 1, when the Brewers play a day game against the Mets. Other candidates already on the Brewers' full 40-man roster include right-handers Mark DiFelice and Tim Dillard, who have already pitched for the Brewers this season, infielders Russell Branyan (currently on the disabled list with an oblique strain), Joe Dillon, Alcides Escobar, Hernan Iribarren and Brad Nelson and outfielder Gwynn.
The decisions are easier when a team is in the pennant race, assistant general manager Gord Ash said.
"When you're way out of it, you're looking to bring guys up to audition, and you have to tell a veteran, 'You're not going to play,'" said Ash, referencing shortstop Royce Clayton's position in September 2002 when the Brewers wanted a look at a young Bill Hall.
"When you're 'in it,' as we are, you're looking for parts to help you win a game," Ash said. "Nobody is going to come up and play a position to audition for next year. It's much different. The guys who come up know they might sit for a few weeks and then get one at-bat or throw to one hitter. But that could be the turning point in a game."
Ash said there would be at least one surprise, a la Stocker, a Minor League veteran who was promoted all the way from Double-A Huntsville last September mostly to provide speed off the bench.
"I'll leave it to you to figure out who that will be," Ash teased.
If it's a player not currently on the 40-man roster, a corresponding move will be in order. At some point, the Brewers are expected to move left-hander Chris Capuano (Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery) to the 60-day DL, and right-hander Yovani Gallardo could be similarly moved if the Brewers determine he will not be able to make it back this season from right knee surgery.
Neither Ash nor Melvin would give any hints, so observers could only guess from among the candidates who are not on the roster. Possibilities include Randy Choate or Erasmo Ramirez, left-handers with big league experience who would give manager Ned Yost at least three southpaws out of the bullpen, a luxury he enjoyed last September after the Brewers traded for Ray King. Another Nashville pitcher of note is right-hander Joe Bateman, who has not allowed a run in any of his last 12 appearances and has a 2.23 ERA in 46 appearances between Double-A and Triple-A this season.
The intriguing bats include Jay Gibbons, the former Oriole who inked a Minor League deal with Milwaukee last month and could provide some left-handed power if Branyan is not healthy enough to return to action on Sept. 1. Earlier this year, Melvin also predicted that third-base prospect Mat Gamel would likely be promoted in September for a taste of the big leagues, though Gamel has slumped since the All-Star break.
Gamel was hitting .384 on July 1 but batted . 243 in July and was hitting .215 through 18 games in August.