Bianchi, Murphy asked to give outfield a try

PHOENIX -- The Brewers are mulling whether to carry four or five outfielders at the start of the season and have already asked infielders Jeff Bianchi and Donnie Murphy to give the outfield a shot this spring, manager Ron Roenicke said.

Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez and Norichika Aoki are the team's starters from left to right field, and Logan Schafer is penciled in as the top backup. Mat Gamel was supposed to serve as a versatile fifth outfielder, available to play the corner infield positions and corner outfield positions, but that changed in January when first baseman Corey Hart underwent knee surgery, then changed again this month when Gamel suffered a season-ending knee injury of his own.

"If we don't have that [fifth option] that can go out there on defense, it limits us sometimes in using Schafer earlier in the game," Roenicke said. "We're looking at that, figuring out which is the better way to go -- with the extra infielder or that fifth outfielder."

Bianchi or Murphy could fill that need as hybrid players -- Bianchi has already expressed a willingness to give the outfield a shot, and Murphy played a Minor League game there. Another possibility is Bobby Crosby, who played a game in right field for the A's in 2009, but Crosby remained sidelined Thursday by a left thigh strain. Bianchi, Murphy and Crosby are all right-handed hitters; Schafer hits lefty.

Bianchi, a natural shortstop, hit .188 in 33 games with the Brewers last season. He is already on the 40-man roster and is out of Minor League options. Crosby and Murphy are non-roster invitees. As of Thursday, the Brewers had yet to ask another utility infield candidate, Taylor Green, to try a similar transition.

"I don't see him doing that, although you don't know," Roenicke said. "If we decide we need that left-handed bat and that's what we want, then we'll probably have a discussion with him and get him out there working on it."

If they go instead with a true fifth outfielder, the leading candidate is 24-year-old Caleb Gindl, who is already on his usual Spring Training tear. Gindl was 5-for-9 through Thursday.

"He and Schafer, they're always doing good things in Spring Training," Roenicke said.