Re-thinking the opening day 25-man

By now, Ned Yost has likely come to the inevitable conclusion that 3B Corey Koskie won’t be ready to play opening day (the Journal-Sentinel’s take and The Cooperstown Kid blog shed some light on the situation).
Even if Koskie does see some playing time in Arizona (which at this point seems highly unlikely), odds are he’ll be so rusty that he’ll need to be weened into a starting role. More likely is that Koskie will miss almost all of Cactus League, and either wind up on the 15-day DL or a rehab start at the beginning of the season. This means that Doug and Ned will get to choose from either Tony Graffanino starting at third or promoting prospect Ryan Braun to a starter. Of course, a lot depends on how each does during Cactus League…but the logjam in the OF may impact Braun’s chances.
Locks for the 25-man include the 5 starters (Sheets, Suppan, Capuano, Bush, and Vargas), 2 catchers (Estrada and Miller, if healthy, or Rivera), 5 infielders (Fielder, Weeks, Hardy, Graffanino and Counsell), 6 outfielders at this point (Hall, Jenkins, Hart, Mench, Clark, and Gross), a closer (Cordero), and at least 5 setup men (Wise, Turnbow, Capellan, Shouse and one from among Sarfate, Balfour, Villanueva, Jackson, and Hendrickson). With Koskie off the 25-man and the Brewers only carrying 5 infielders back to Milwaukee on April 2nd, a 6th setup man can be added; adding Braun to the infield would mean that the Brewers would only have 11 pitchers to start the season…so the choice for the 25th spot would now seem to be either Braun or an extra reliever–likely Sarfate or Balfour.
But carrying 6 OF’s instead of the typical 5 and 5 IF’s instead of the typical 6 makes me wonder–“can we convert an OF to an IF?” Billy Hall could, of course, but the decision has already been made to make him a permanent OF, which would likely be postponed only if Hall struggles defensively in spring training; as Counsell can fill in nicely in the middle at either 2B or SS, the need would be for a corner IF. Of course, with Jenkins and Mench slotted to platoon in LF, and Hart a lock for RF, only Gross and Clark would remain candidates. Gross, like Fielder, hits left-handed, so training him to be a backup to Fielder would seem to be only for defensive purposes; Clark, on the other hand, seems to be the last choice of the six to hit as an OF, hits right-handed and might be useful as a spot fill-in in the infield…at least at 1B. Plus, at 6’2″ tall, Clark would have sufficient range.
Damian Miller filled in at first the other day during an intrasquad game before straining a muscle, implying that the Brewers are figuring that Graffanino will be needed at 3B come April and are looking for a backup at first…seems that Clark should be given a look as well.
David Hannes
Copyright 2007

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