With Opening Day just two weeks away, the Milwaukee Brewers have a few roster decisions to make before beginning the 2015 season on April 6 at Miller Park against the Colorado Rockies.
Here’s how the 25-man roster could look:
Starting pitchers (5): Kyle Lohse, Matt Garza, Wily Peralta, Mike Fiers, Jimmy Nelson
Analysis: The Brewers have had their five-man rotation set since they traded Yovani Gallardo to Texas in January. Fiers was scratched from his start Thursday due to shoulder weakness, but the right-hander is on track to be ready for the season after pitching in a minor-league game Sunday. Milwaukee lacks depth past its top five starting pitchers. It is still unknown the direction the Brewers would go if an injury occurred, but the starting five is currently set in stone.
Bullpen (7): Francisco Rodriguez, Jonathan Broxton, Will Smith, Jeremy Jeffress, Brandon Kintzler, Neal Cotts, Tyler Thornburg
Under consideration: Chris Perez, Rob Wooten
Sent to minors: Michael Blazek, David Goforth
Disabled List: Jim Henderson
Analysis: Six of seven bullpen spots are spoken for, as Rodriguez, Broxton, Smith, Jeffress, Kintzler and Cotts will be on the Opening Day roster.
As he attempts to regain lost velocity after shoulder surgery, Henderson will either begin the season on the 15-day disabled list or in the minor leagues. That leaves Thornburg, Perez and Wooten competing for the final bullpen spot.
After missing most of 2014 with an elbow injury, Thornburg has a 2.79 ERA in 9 2/3 innings this spring. He is stretched out to be a long reliever, as he has thrown at least two innings in each of his last three spring outings. The 26-year-old has a minor-league option, which could lead the Brewers to keep Perez to maximize organizational depth.
The Brewers must inform Perez whether he’s made the big-league roster by March 31. He is owed a retention bonus of $100,000 if he is sent to Triple-A Colorado Springs. Perez would then be able to opt out of his contract on May 1 and June 1 if he is still in the minor leagues. The former closer has thrown the ball well this spring, posting a 2.84 ERA in six appearances over 6 1/3 innings.
Although Wooten has a 0.90 ERA this spring, it is hard to see a scenario where Milwaukee keeps the 28-year-old over Thornburg or Perez. Wooten has two minor-league options left and will likely begin the season in Triple-A. He’ll pitch for the Brewers at some point in 2015.
Catcher (2): Jonathan Lucroy, Martin Maldonado
Sent to minors: Juan Centeno, Nevin Ashley
Analysis: There’s no decision here. Lucory is healthy and ready for Opening Day, while Maldonado provides the Brewers with a more-than-capable backup. Unlike last season, Milwaukee has a third catcher on the 40-man roster in Centeno.
Infielders (7): Adam Lind, Scooter Gennett, Jean Segura, Aramis Ramirez, Luis Jimenez, Hector Gomez, Matt Clark
Analysis: With the Brewers planning on keeping a seven-man bullpen, there are five bench spots to be had. Maldonado and Gerardo Parra will grab two of those openings, leaving three openings for five candidates.
Jimenez, who is out of options, is likely to make the club. He can cover the Brewers at third base and first base, something that is important with the injury history of Ramirez and Lind. Either Gomez or Sardinas will be on the roster, as a backup shortstop is needed. Gomez is out of options, which is one of the reasons he’s the favorite to land the utility job. Just 21 years old, Sardinas could stand to benefit from further seasoning playing every day in Triple-A.
The final spot on the bench is likely to come down to the left-handed hitting Clark or the right-handed hitting Rogers. Either would be kept for their bat off the bench, leaving the Brewers to decide if they want a right-handed or a left-handed option. Rogers is hitting .370 in 27 at-bats this spring, while Clark is hitting .361 with three home runs in 36 at-bats. Clark may win out based on the power he brings to the table.
Outfield (4): Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez, Khris Davis, Gerardo Parra
Under consideration: Logan Schafer
Sent to minors: Shane Peterson, Matt Long, Bryan Petersen
Analysis: Braun, Gomez, Davis and Parra are locks to make the team. The only chance Schafer has of making the Opening Day roster is if the Brewers decide to keep five outfielders. That seems unlikely at this point, especially with Parra’s ability to cover all three outfield spots.