HOUSTON -- The Brewers traded Tony Gwynn Jr. to his hometown Padres on Thursday for Jody Gerut in a swap of left-handed-hitting outfielders. Gerut, 31, was hitting .221 with four home runs and 14 RBIs in San Diego this season. He'll join the Brewers on Friday in Minneapolis before the start of a three-game Interleague series. The Brewers will have to clear a spot on the 25-man roster when Gerut arrives. "Over the long haul, you want to protect yourself in case you have an injury," Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said. "If there are chances to improve the club little by little, you do it."
Melvin tried to trade for Gerut last season. It was a breakthrough 2008 for Gerut, who returned from two years of knee problems to bat .296 with 14 home runs and 43 RBIs. Gerut is off those numbers this season, but the Brewers hope he can provide some added protection against tough right-handed pitchers, possibly as a spot starter for center fielder Mike Cameron or right fielder Corey Hart. Gerut started 21 games in center field for the Padres and three in right field. Melvin conceded he was "a little concerned" that the Brewers were too right-handed. Their left-handed backups have provided little help. Chris Duffy was hitting .125 entering play Thursday, and Brad Nelson went 0-for-21 before the Brewers released him. Gerut also gives the Brewers one more candidate to hit leadoff. Melvin contacted the Padres to rekindle talks about Gerut on Monday, the same day he learned that leadoff man Rickie Weeks would need season-ending wrist surgery. "You have to look at what he can do and what he has done," Brewers manager Ken Macha said of Gerut. "He can play all three outfield positions, and he has led off. With that being said, we have three pretty darn good outfielders. But it's a long season, and you want to try to get as many good players as you can." Said Melvin: "They're different kinds of players, Tony and Gerut. [Gerut] will drive the ball, hit some homers and doubles." From the Padres' perspective, they dumped salary -- Gerut is earning $1.775 million this season and will earn a bit more than $1.3 million from the Brewers -- while gaining a player with deep San Diego roots. Gwynn's father played all 20 of his Hall of Fame seasons with the Padres and still works the team's television broadcasts. The Brewers drafted Gwynn Jr. two picks before the Padres' turn in the second round of the 2003 First-Year Player Draft. "I'm sure it will be special for him [to play in San Diego]," said Melvin, who spoke with Gwynn via telephone on Thursday. "I do hope people don't put too much pressure on him, think that he's going to get 3,000 hits like his father. That's the thing he's up against a little bit, but I said he should enjoy it, and I think he will enjoy it." The Padres could have had Gwynn six weeks ago for nothing. He missed much of Spring Training with a sore right throwing shoulder, and when the Brewers went instead with Duffy and Nelson, Gwynn was placed on waivers to get him off the 40-man roster. Brewers officials were surprised when he cleared. Gwynn admitted his disappointment but responded by hitting .309 with a .387 on-base percentage, 39 runs and 15 stolen bases in 16 tries at Triple-A Nashville. "You never saw signs of disappointment," said Mat Gamel, who was Gwynn's Triple-A teammate until Gamel's promotion to Milwaukee last week. "He was a positive guy -- seemed to always find the best in any situation. I had a lot of long talks with Tony about everything, life in general and the game of baseball. [On the field], he was really the pacesetter for us." "I'm happy for him," said Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder, Gwynn's closest Brewers teammate. "I bet he's happy. I thought he played well at [Nashville] and really stayed focused. It's a credit to him -- a show of how professional he is." Gwynn Jr. can play all three outfield spots but he never gained a foothold in parts of three seasons with the Brewers. He has a career .248 average in 242 at-bats in the Major Leagues with a .300 on-base percentage. Gwynn Jr.'s highlight came in September 2007, when he derailed the Padres' postseason plans with an RBI triple against then-closer Trevor Hoffman that tied a game San Diego would go on to lose in extra innings. The Padres missed the postseason by one victory, losing to Colorado in a one-game tiebreaker for the Wild Card. "I think if there's any place he can go and be successful, he found it [in San Diego]," Hoffman said. "He'll be admired, and it's almost like he's one of their own, because he grew up in their clubhouse." Hoffman last spoke to Gwynn in April during a rehabilitation assignment with Nashville. "To Anthony's credit, the four days I was with him in Memphis he was very determined to do things right and prove Milwaukee wrong, prove to other teams that he belonged in the big leagues," Hoffman said. "I admired the way he was going about it." Hoffman's scouting report on Gerut: "Very good guy. A student of the game, a Stanford guy. He's overcome some injuries to get back to where he is. ... He's a guy that's got some tools and works hard. I think he'll fit nicely in this clubhouse." Melvin wouldn't hint which player would be demoted to make room for Gerut. If the Brewers try to demote Duffy, who is out of Minor League options, they would have to pass him through waivers first.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.