Injuries happen in Baseball all the time. One man goes down, the other man has to step up.
Often times, that’s just what it is: one guy trying to fill in some shoes for a week, two weeks, or a month until the regular guy gets back on his feet and back into the game.
But what happens when the reserves begin to perform above their expectations?
The Milwaukee Brewers are about to find that out.
The stickiest of the two situations I’m referring to is currently sitting at first base.
Travis Ishikawa will be back in time to play the Chicago White Sox, and all signs point to Saturday as his return date. Since he was picked up by Milwaukee, he earned a spot as a back up first baseman, until Mat Gamel went down with a season ending injury. He performed decently, and began a marked improvement leading up to his own injury at the end of May. Since he has been injured, it has opened up the way to move Corey Hart to first base and allow Aoki to really get his swings in – swings that usually turn into hits, by the way.
So one has to wonder if the return of Ishikawa will mean even more variation in line-ups, or if Ron Roenicke will be content to keep Ishikawa as a back-up and bat off the bench and strive for some kind of consistency for a team that has had very little to speak of. Ishikawa is a bit too inconsistent to keep all the playing time at first base, so I don’t expect much of a change – my only worry is that Aoki will go back to being a platoon player in a position that he has obviously earned over a struggling and aging Hart.
Corey Hart is not a good corner outfielder anymore (truthfully he was never great out there, just the
best we had) and I defy anyone to tell me different. Any time, as my friend and colleague Lou put it, that Hart is not playing first base is time wasted.
The other position under consideration – or not, depending on how you read this – is the final spot in the pitching rotation. Marco Estrada is currently completing his rehab starts in Nashville and is set to return to the field by June 26th, about a week’s time. Roenicke seems determined to place him right back in the fifth starter’s spot, and drop Fiers to bullpen duty. I’m not sure how I feel about this.
On the one hand, the two men seem pretty equal on paper. Both have the ability to stretch a start six or seven innings. I think Fiers has better command at a younger age, however. Fiers has also struck out 22 batters in four starts with only four walks. He’s young and aggressive, which has gotten him in trouble in his two losses as a starter but I’m not as distraught about that. I’d rather have someone try to go at hitters and make something happen than to be overly cautious – especially when you’re in the position that Milwaukee is in. Force the batter to make a mistake or to take action – don’t hope you don’t make a mistake.
Estrada is not as aggressive a pitcher as Fiers is, but than again he doesn’t posses the same amount of raw, natural talent. Estrada just seems to be better suited for bullpen assignment in my mind – he’s been there before and he performs really well in situations where he has to go longer in relief. It’s not a knock on the guy, I’d just rather see Fiers in the rotation as he’s a guy that Milwaukee was grooming for a starting job over the course of his Minor League career. Either way, having two guys that can perform well as a starter and long reliever isn’t a bad problem to have – if only that was the only problem they had.
One “controversy” I haven’t mentioned yet is the return of Cesar Izturis. Izturis should be back by Friday’s opener against the Southies in US Cellular Field. I don’t care, if I can be perfectly honest. I think Ransom has done as fine a job in the field as you can ask for him at his age. In fact, considering he’s actually four years older than Izturis – who is 32 – I would say he’s a better defensive fielder. That’s the advantage you have to go with when you’re deciding between an old guy who is hitting .211 in Ransom and an old guy who is hitting .216 in Izturis. WE NEED A NEW SHORTSTOP!
The good news is the roster is beginning to look more like the one we set in April, when hopes were high and the team could begin to gel in hopes of defending their Championship run. We can only hope that means the team will begin to perform like that as well.