Overbay hopes to make most of second chance in Milwaukee
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
PHOENIX--A quick glance around the Milwaukee Brewers’ clubhouse reveals a somewhat unsettling fact to Lyle Overbay.
Although he doesn’t necessarily look—or feel—like it, at 37 he is the oldest player in the room.
“Sometimes,” Overbay said with a chuckle when asked if that thought ever hits him as he walks through.
“I’m like, ‘When did it happen?’ because it hits you so quick. I’ve been blessed on fooling them, I guess. I’m doing something. I don’t know what it is, but it’s working.”
There are 12 other 30-somethings with the Brewers this spring, with Kyle Lohse and Aramis Ramirez at 35 closest to Overbay chronologically.
While Lohse and Ramirez are both expected to play big roles this season on what the Brewers are hoping is a playoff-caliber team, Overbay is trying to make it as a non-roster invitee in his second stint with Milwaukee.
The first time around, he was a doubles machine and a fan favorite, a solid player who held down the fort ably at first base before the emergence of Prince Fielder.
Now, he’s hoping to stick around at the very least as part of a platoon at first base, a position that proved to be a train wreck for the Brewers last year. Also in the mix are another veteran non-roster invitee in Mark Reynolds along with holdovers Juan Francisco and Sean Halton and prospect Hunter Morris.
Overbay has made two starts this spring, and on Sunday went 2 for 2 with a walk and a run scored to raise his average to .429. With so many players to look at over at first base, manager Ron Roenicke has his hands full trying to divide up the starts, innings and at-bats.
Overbay understands, and after 13 years in the major leagues knows how to maximize the opportunities he does get.
“It’s just more seeing pitches for me, and I’ve been taking a lot of pitches,” he said. “Yesterday I think they were all fastballs, but I want to see the off-speed pitches. That’s why I’m not real impressed and I’m not taking yesterday as a positive.”
Overbay hit .240 with 14 home runs and 59 runs batted in 142 games with the New York Yankees last season, so he should be able to produce offensively in occasional starts against right-handed pitching.
The real value Overbay can bring, should he make the final 25-man roster, comes with the glove. The left-hander is deft around the bag to say the least, and could prove to be a valuable guy to insert into games late when Milwaukee is nursing a one-run lead.
“If he can play high-quality defense, it makes a big difference,” said Roenicke.
Again, a lot of it comes down to the fact Overbay has seen just about everything possible at one point or another.
“I think it’s just preparation before the play happens, and there’s a lot of plays that I know,” said Overbay. “I think that’s where experience is big, because you’re able to react to that. I’m sure there’s a play or two that I haven’t done, but for the most part I’m thinking about it. Runner on first, and you’re thinking of all these situations.
“That’s the experience—if you’ve gone through it all then you know.”
For the first time since, well, he was younger, Overbay has avoided early-camp soreness. He credits some revamped off-season workouts.
“These 22-year-olds don’t even know what that means,” Overbay joked when asked about aches and pains.
“I’m usually pretty sore but, knock on wood, the last couple weeks I haven’t felt that. I used our strength guy in New York this off-season and he got me going. I’m interested to see how it goes, because I’ve never really had a baseball guy as far as doing my workouts with specific stuff.”
Overbay also brings major value in the clubhouse, where he willingly shares his knowledge with youngsters like Halton and Morris. He learned the value of picking the brains of the veterans when he was coming up with the Arizona Diamondbacks and learning from the likes of Mark Grace.
“I’ve grown up with some good first basemen,” he said. “You find it kind of hard to find good first basemen as far as knowledge. That’s why I want to pass along the knowledge that I’ve got to them.”
Put those little things together with an overall game that still plays and a 14th big-league season could most definitely be in the cards for Overbay.
“He’s pretty good right now,” said Roenicke. “I don’t know Lyle that well other than what I’ve heard coming in here. But just being here for a week and a half, he’s a true professional. He does the right things, he pays attention to right things out there in the field.
“He’s doing his part of what he needs to do. Regardless of the age, I don’t see that influencing our decisions right now.”