PHOENIX -- The toughest of Milwaukee's three seasons with Ron Roenicke at the helm reinforced to Brewers brass that that he was the right manager for the job.
Instead of letting Roenicke enter this season as a lame duck, general manager Doug Melvin on Saturday exercised an option on Roenicke's contract for 2015 and added another club option for '16. Roenicke, 57, led the Brewers to winning records in his first two years on the job, including a run to the National League Championship Series in 2011, before the team went 74-88 in a '13 season that included devastating injuries to the middle of the lineup and the suspension of star outfielder Ryan Braun.
"It could have been a complete train wreck," Melvin said. "It could have really derailed and [been] an overall disastrous season. While we're not happy with last year, I thought that he kept things together pretty well and focused on what his job was."
Asked what impressed him about Roenicke during the team's tough year, Melvin cited, "The critical leadership qualities that a person has of 'Let's try to keep this together. Let's still go out and play the game and play it hard.'"
Players marked Roenicke's extension with an ovation during the team's daily morning meeting.
"He stayed position [last year]. He never gave up on us," said right-hander Yovani Gallardo, who is poised to make his fifth consecutive Opening Day start. "I think he had a lot to do with us performing the way we did in the second half. He makes his rounds during [batting practice], going around to guys just to make sure you aren't down on yourself, that you're not giving up on yourself. That's the most important thing, because once you give up on yourself in this game, you're in trouble. He made sure we all kept that confidence."
With Saturday's move, Melvin and Roenicke both have guaranteed contracts through 2015. Roenicke negotiates his contracts himself.
"It just makes you feel like the club is behind you," he said of the extension. "I feel that way, but sometimes just doing this help. It helps with the players. It was nice when I walked in there today.
Generally mild-mannered and player-friendly, Roenicke's positivity was tested during the team's 6-22 month of May, and again in July when Braun was suspended for the remainder of the season for his ties to Biogenesis. But the team rallied late, going a respectable 36-32 after the All-Star break thanks in part to contributions from young players like right-hander Wily Peralta, left fielder Khris Davis and second baseman Scooter Gennett.
All three will be counted on to contribute in 2014 as the Brewers look to rebound. Signing right-hander Matt Garza to a four-year, $50 million contract in late January signaled that top club officials believe they have the talent in place to compete for a position in the postseason.
"This allows him to go into the season without the [worry of] 'last year of a contract,'" Melvin said. "I think that's always going to be uncomfortable doing that. We have the confidence that he's still going to do his job regardless, whether we picked it up or not. The stability is important."
Said Roenicke: "A lot of times, you're doing things for the future and you're not sure if you're part of the future. My job is to try to win ballgames, and win as many as I can, and sometimes if you're rebuilding, it gets difficult. So I think any time you feel good going into the next year about what's going to happen [contractually], it makes my job better."
This marks the third time Roenicke and Melvin have negotiated a contract. Roenicke was named the 18th manager in club history on Nov. 4, 2010, replacing Ken Macha, and in '12, he signed a contract extension through the '14 season with a club option for '15.