Morgan is coming off a breakout season
The Milwaukee Brewers are trying to make up for the loss of slugger Prince Fielder offensively, and manager Ron Roenicke says the club must begin to manufacture runs in more creative ways.
The Brewers didn't do a lot of running last year, mainly because they had big boppers Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder in the middle of the lineup. Now, with Fielder playing in Detroit, manager Ron Roenicke said it might be time to be more aggressive on the basepaths.
"I'd like to be a little more creative in what we do," Roenicke said. "It's all about how you manufacture runs. Without Prince in the lineup, we need to do some things to maybe make up for his loss.
"That has nothing to do with (new third baseman) Aramis (Ramirez) not doing what I think he's going to do. I'm very comfortable with him being the No. 4 hitter; I think he's an outstanding hitter.
"I think even last year we could have done more; we could have manufactured more runs. If we can do it, we're going to try to. Then we'll see how it goes. If we're running into too many outs and I don't like what's going on, then I'll rein them back a little bit."
Roenicke plans to use the exhibition season to push the envelope a bit with his running game. Because the games don't count, he can try some things to see how they look in live action.
"Spring training is a good test for them to see what they can do; how far we can go with being aggressive," said Roenicke. "You don't worry so much about making mistakes in spring training.
"But if they don't make mistakes here and you ask them to push things in the season, they're not going to do it. They did a great job last (spring). I just want them to continue to do what they did last year."
This doesn't mean the Brewers will run at break-neck speed on a regular basis. Carlos Gomez is by far the fastest player on the club but in essence is the No. 2 center fielder behind Nyjer Morgan.
There are others on the club capable of making their presence known on the bases, including Braun (career-high 33 steals in 2011).
"For me to come out and say we're going to steal bases this year, that's not going to happen," Roenicke said.
"But the guys we do have, they're smart enough to know if a pitcher is not paying attention to them and we can gain some advantage there, they can take a few bags and make the pitcher worry about them, also. Anytime a pitcher is worried about a guy at first base, he's not going to be as good to home. I think that's important."
Brewers Notes & Quotes
RF Corey Hart needs right knee surgery, and he will miss the rest of spring training, according to multiple media reports.
Hart was scratched from the Brewers' spring game Sunday, then an MRI revealed he had torn cartilage in his knee. Hart will have arthroscopic surgery on the knee later in the week. He is expected to miss three or four weeks and open the season on the disabled list.
"I think so; I think absolutely," manager Ron Roenicke told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about Hart missing the start of the season. "If that timing is what they say it is, then yes."
Hart missed the 2011 exhibition season because of an oblique strain. He rushed back in April and hit just .214 that month.
"Physically he was ready, but (with) at-bats he wasn't," said Roenicke. "That will probably be the same case. I don't want to rush him back."
Hart had looked solid while playing first base in defensive drills in spring camp. Roenicke had planned to use Hart on occasion in place of new 1B Mat Gamel, in particular when opponents are starting tough left-handed pitchers. Hart bats from the right side, while Gamel is a lefty hitter.
RHP John Axford's contract was renewed by the Brewers on Saturday, but the team hopes to get an extension done with him soon, according to MLB.com.
Axford had 46 saves, a 1.95 ERA, 86 strikeouts and a 1.14 WHIP in 73 2/3 innings last year.
Axford's contract was renewed at $525,000, according to MLB.com. Friday was the start of a 10-day period during which teams could "renew" contracts for unsigned, pre-arbitration players. The club could choose the salary.
Since Axford has less than two years of major league service, he is not yet eligible for arbitration.
For more than a decade, the Brewers have paid such players according to a set scale that applies bonuses above the major league minimum salary for statistical achievements and awards.
Axford will be arbitration-eligible as a Super-2 player next winter, giving him four years of arbitration.
RHP Shaun Marcum was set back a bit in camp by shoulder soreness that will push back his first exhibition start. Marcum said he has to work through shoulder soreness almost every spring and indicated it was nothing serious. Manager Ron Roenicke said he felt the same way.
C Paul Phillips, a non-roster invitee to camp, suffered an oblique strain swinging the bat in the batting cage. He was expected to be out for an extended period of time.
RHP Francisco Rodriguez, who reported to camp a few days later than the other pitchers, does not expect to be too far behind in pitching in exhibition games. Rodriguez was scheduled to throw his first live BP session on Friday and take it from there.
LHP Zack Braddock was slowed in the early days of camp by a stomach virus that put him behind other pitchers. Braddock had recovered, however, and did not expect to need much time as a reliever to catch up.
By the Numbers: 6 – Starting pitchers used by the Brewers in 2011, the fewest of any major league team.
Quote to Note: "I don't know how much weight he has gained since he came up to the big leagues, but he's huge. It's a way different body." -- Manager Ron Roenicke, referring to 2B Rickie Weeks.