Brewers Monday: 2B Gennett, 3B Francisco added

MILWAUKEE — As Scooter Gennett walked into the clubhouse at Miller Park for the first time as a big leaguer, he glanced up to see his name spelled “Scotter” on the nameplate above his locker.

At this point, Gennett could care less. He’s just excited to be in the big leagues. As part of a flurry of roster moves Monday morning, the Brewers recalled Gennett from Triple-A Nashville, optioning right-hander Mike Fiers to Triple A.

The Brewers also acquired third baseman Juan Francisco from Atlanta in exchange for minor league left-hander Thomas Keeling. In order to make room for Francisco on the 25-man roster, Milwaukee released infielder Alex Gonzalez.

Gennett is in uniform for Monday’s game against Oakland, while Francisco will report to the Brewers in time for Tuesday’s game.

“It’s hard to put words on it, amazing,” Gennett said. “I’m real excited to get out there and start playing.”

One of the organization’s top prospects, Gennett was hitting .297 with one home run and 13 RBI in 50 games for Nashville. Strictly a second baseman, Gennett’s summoning will impact the playing time of struggling second baseman Rickie Weeks.

For now, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke plans to platoon the right-handed hitting Weeks and left-handed Gennett at second base.

“It won’t always be strictly lefty-right,” Roenicke said. “But in general terms, that’s what I’m thinking.”

Gennett said he wasn’t told what to expect as far as playing time, but he knows the team wouldn’t have called him up to spend a lot of time on the bench.

“I’m here to play whenever they want,” Gennett said. “Whenever that time is, I’m going to be ready and excited to go out there and play. I would say that I probably have a decent opportunity to get some playing time.”

A career .300 hitter over four minor league seasons, Gennett hit .293 with five home runs and 44 RBI for Double-A Huntsville last season. There’s never been much of a question that Gennett could hit for contact at the next level, but his ability to hit for extra base hits at the big league level is something that’s been questioned.

Gennett’s time was going to come, but he wasn’t thinking about when the call to the next level would come.

“I just thought of it as I just need to get as good as I can so when the time does come, I’m prepared and ready and confident mentally,” Gennett said. “I feel like I’m there now. The past years have been OK. I wouldn’t say I’ve really succeeded too much, maybe with numbers and stuff, but for me I can do much better. I’m just ready to start doing what I can do.”

Earlier this season, Gennett had a streak of getting on base in 39 straight games, but he wasn’t fully satisfied with how he was playing in Triple A, as he was hitting .244 in May.

“I just really tried to stay with the same approach,” Gennett said. “That’s try to get something to hit early in the count. If not, battle with two strikes. It’s been working but there’s still room for improvement. I can’t say I was satisfied with the way I played, but I think I did OK. I think I held my own. I can do a lot better.”

Francisco, 25, was designated for assignment May 30 by Atlanta. Platooning at third base for the Braves, Francisco was hitting .241 with five home runs and 16 RBI in 35 games this season.

Though he has never played first base in the big leagues, Francisco told Brewers general manager Doug Melvin he’s comfortable playing first base. A career .254 hitter with 19 home runs and 77 RBI in 209 games, Francisco spent the first three years of his career with Cincinnati before being traded to Atlanta.

“Just watching him the last couple of years, (he has) big power to all parts of the field,” Roenicke said. “He has a big swing, too. Hopefully he’ll get along with (Brewers hitting coach) Johnny (Narron) well and he’ll work and we’ll see if he can put the ball in play more. He’s a good defender. First base, I’m not sure of, but at third base, good defender.”

The Brewers took a flier on Gonzalez this past offseason, hoping the veteran infielder had enough left to contribute off the bench. When Hart and Mat Gamel both went down with injuries before the season, Gonzalez was the team’s Opening Day first baseman after starting on Opening Day at shortstop last year for the Brewers.

Coming off a torn ACL that ended his season just 24 games into last season, Gonzalez hit just .177 with one home run and eight RBI in 41 games this season. Roenicke met with Gonzalez Monday morning as the veteran infielder cleaned out his locker.

“It’s always difficult,” Roenicke said. “It’s difficult for me to have that conversation. I know what it feels like. It’s a tough time.

“I don’t know what the reasoning is that guys sometimes struggle. We got (Yuniesky Betancourt) and Yuni did really well, probably more than we thought Yuni would do early, and worked himself into playing every day. That left Alex out, which is difficult for a guy who has been playing every day for his career.”

Fiers struggled mightily in his start Sunday, allowing seven runs and five earned runs in just 1-2/3 innings. After pitching well for two months last season, the 27-year-old right-hander is 1-4 with a 7.25 ERA in 11 games this season.

Keeling, 25, was an 18th round draft pick by the Brewers in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft. The left-hander was 0-1 with a 3.18 ERA and one save in 17 relief appearances for Double-A Huntsville this season.

Figaro gets another shot: With Fiers being sent down to Triple A, the Brewers will fill Friday’s start with right-hander Alfredo Figaro.

Figaro, 28, made a spot start May 28 against Minnesota, allowing four earned runs in five innings. It was Figaro’s first start in the big leagues since 2010, but he had worked as a starting pitcher the past two seasons in Japan and previously in the minor leagues.

“When he’s come in, he’s done a pretty good job for us, and he’s stretched out to a point,” Roenicke said. “Nobody in Triple-A is lighting it up to where we’re saying, ‘Let’s bring him up. ‘ “

When Fiers couldn’t get out of the second inning Sunday in Philadelphia, Figaro came in and pitched 3-1/3 scoreless innings to lower his ERA to 3.67.

Henderson nearing return: Brewers closer Jim Henderson’s strained right hamstring is progressing well, and he’s on target to return when he’s eligible to come off the disabled list Sunday.

Henderson threw off flat ground Monday afternoon and will throw a bullpen session Wednesday. If all goes well, Milwaukee’s closer will either head out for a one-game rehab assignment or throw a simulated game to live hitters.

Without any setbacks, Henderson will be activated from the disabled list in time for Sunday’s game against Philadelphia.

“We’ll see how the bullpen goes first,” Henderson said. “It feels good though. I feel like I can pitch effectively now. It’s just the intensity will ramp up with the bullpens so we have to make sure that’s OK.”

Though Francisco Rodriguez is 3-for-3 in save opportunities in his absence, Henderson is expected to regain the job as closer when he returns.

Henderson is a perfect 9-for-9 in save opportunities and has a 0.92 ERA in 20 relief appearances this season.

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