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Gennett fine with utility role

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Todd Rosiak
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Friday, March 17, 2017

If Scooter Gennett had his way, he'd become the Milwaukee Brewers' next super utility player.

To that end, he's made it known to the powers that be that he's ready and willing to stretch his versatility to its limits this spring. Having already played third base, left field and right field in addition to second base, Gennett is now hopping in and getting some pregame defensive work at shortstop, first base and center field.

“We were talking a little bit and obviously those are the spots they want me to get most of my work and that's why I've been there,” said Gennett, referring to third, left and right field.

“But I told them, 'If I'm going to play multiple positions, why not play all of them? Short, first, center—just in case.' You never know what could happen. Get them to see me out there and make a couple plays and see me make a couple plays and then it's in the back of their minds like, 'Hey, he can do it.' That's what I asked them—just kind of expanding it a little more.

“Because if I'm playing four I might as well play eight. Throw some catching gear on, throw a bullpen. Whatever.”

Clearly, Gennett was joking about pitching and catching. But the Brewers already have one super utility guy on the team in Hernan Perez, and his versatility got him into the starting lineup in some way, shape or form almost every game in 2016—and at every spot but pitcher and catcher.

While the idea of Gennett playing seven spots as well might seem intriguing on the surface, the Brewers want him to focus on mastering third, left and right for now.

“I mean, you can put him at a position in a game and that doesn't mean anything to me,” said manager Craig Counsell. “We have to focus on a couple of things to let him improve a little bit, especially from the pregame work perspective. That's all that's planned, for sure.

“Things can change, but that's all that's planned.”

Gennett had two starts at third and two starts in left field heading into Wednesday, when he made his first start in right against the Colorado Rockies at Salt River Fields. He handled his first chance—a pop fly—without issue before being burned on a drive by former teammate Mark Reynolds.

The ball was hit hard and right at Gennett, who started in initially only to see it sail over his head and to the wall.

“That was tough,” he said. “I didn't think he hit it that good. You never know with that guy—sometimes he'll hit it off the end and it'll go 5 feet and then he'll hit one good and it'll go 700. When he hit it I started coming in and I heard (Keon) Broxton go, 'Back, back! I'm like, 'Chill, man, I've got this.' Then it's over my head.

“It was good, though. That was one of the first balls I've gotten like that. I've gotten them in (batting practice); it's a little different in the game. What pitch it is, how it comes off the bat. I talked to Eddie (Sedar) and Kirk (Nieuwenhuis) a little bit and they gave me some advice about balls over the head, to kind of just drop step and get a read on it rather than making an initial reaction that could be wrong.

“So I'm getting advice from all areas. It's just applying that. Learning new things, you mess up, you learn what you need to do and you fix it.”

Gennett came into camp with a positive attitude about his position switch and that hasn't changed, Counsell said.

“He's been good about it from the start and that hasn't changed,” he said. “I think that's one thing I don't ever question about Scooter, his attitude is always, 'Let's go. Let's do it.' That never really changes and it hasn't changed in this process, either.”

All the moving around hasn't affected Gennett's hitting.

“And it shouldn't. Scooter is a good hitter,” said Counsell. Gennett was hitting .467 through six games entering Thursday. He missed several games first with a wrist issue and then due to a family medical issue that has since stabilized.

“I think he's at a place offensively where we would like him to, and he would like to, go to the next step. He's got three full years in the league, and he's still a young player. Let's take that next step offensively and see if there's another level in there.”

Waiting game: Counsell was asked if he was seeing any separation among the seven candidates for the five spots in the starting rotation.

Considering he's shown no interest in divulging his opening-day starter, and the fact Wily Peralta has made just one two-inning appearance this spring, Counsell not surprisingly didn't bite.

“There's a lot of time left,” Counsell said. “From my perspective, we're not close. I know you guys want news stories, but we're not close yet. We're at 60, 65 pitches still for these guys. We've got a ways to go. They all have three starts left. We have a ways to go.

“Everybody's doing well and they're preparing themselves. That's how we're looking at it. It's not time for those decisions yet. That's just the bottom line, so that's where we're at.”



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