Mark Reynolds, Lyle Overbay will be Brewers' first basemen
PHOENIX—The Milwaukee Brewers finally have clarified their situation at first base.
Both Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay were informed Sunday morning they would be added to the 25-man roster. The moves need to be finalized by Saturday.
There was no formal announcement regarding Juan Francisco, but his locker was cleaned out Saturday and the Brewers were waiting to hear if he cleared waivers or was claimed by another team.
Reynolds, 30, and Overbay, 37, had signed minor-league deals with the Brewers in the offseason to bolster first base, a position that was troublesome throughout 2013 when eight players were used.
“We’re going with two guys that their track record is what we’re looking at,” said manager Ron Roenicke. “We feel we have better defense that way. I’ve been frustrated a little bit with the way we’re playing our defense, as has Doug (Melvin).
“We really feel like we’re going to pitch well this season. And because of that, we feel like we need to play good defense. When they talk about your defense being strong up the middle, we think we should be.
“I know how important it is at first base, to make plays there and pick up your pitching staff. That’s kind of what we’ve done. Reynolds is the versatile guy that Francisco was with first and third, and they’re kind of the same guy as power numbers and strikeouts.”
The Brewers were within a 48-hour window in which they needed to inform Overbay of his status with the team while Reynolds’ window was scheduled to open Monday.
“Excited to get out there,” Reynolds said. “I think we’ve got a good team. Now we’ve got to get this thing rolling and go play some games.”
Reynolds got off to a slow start this spring but has rebounded in the last week and is hitting .250 with two home runs and a team-leading 11 RBI.
“I had to come in and prove myself. First time I’ve really had to do that,” said Reynolds, who has 202 homers over seven previous major-league seasons.
“I started out really slow, but that bloop double that guy lost in the sun (last week) sparked it for me. It’s amazing. After that hit I’ve been hitting the ball on the barrel a lot more consistently.
“I don’t know how these things go, but I’d rather feel good now than a month ago. But it’s tough when you’re trying to make a team—you want to make a good impression.”
Overbay, meanwhile, has struggled at the plate. He entered Sunday in an 0-for-26 slump but went 3 for 4 with a pair of doubles to raise his Cactus League average to .179. The Brewers clearly are factoring in his value as an experienced defender at first base.
“I’m excited,” said Overbay, now in his second stint with the Brewers and still the franchise single-season leader with 53 doubles in 2004. “I probably could have made it a little easier for them. I’ve always said if I have to make a team by hitting then I’d be in trouble.
“It was between me and Juan, and I think they know what they’ve got (in both). The only thing I’ve got on Juan is I’ve got experience at first base.”
Overbay, like Reynolds, was helped by his track record in the final analysis.
“Spring training is to get in shape. Spring training is not to see who you think should be on the team. If you did that, there would be some weird stuff happening every year,” he said. “Any of these guys, the veterans, could walk in and hit .200. Does that mean you don’t keep them on the team?
“Spring training is not on numbers. It isn’t. That’s the misleading thing that people don’t understand. The people that I look up to in this game always say, ‘Do not be misled by spring training,’ and it’s the truth.
“There is that occasion when you have two guys coming in and you’re not familiar with them and then you may make a decision on spring training.”
In an interesting twist, the pair also played together last season with the New York Yankees.
“It’s a package deal, I guess,” Overbay joked.
Francisco, meanwhile, was enjoying a strong spring, hitting .346 with three homers and six RBI. He also displayed uncharacteristic patience by drawing eight walks, second-most on the team behind Rickie Weeks.
But Francisco remained a liability in the field at both first and third base, and might wind up being a fit as a designated hitter for an American League team.
“Juan, he has improved. We all saw it,” Roenicke said. “Is some of it because he was coming out of winter ball? I don’t want to downplay what Juan did here because Juan did everything he could to help himself make this team. But the skill set, we feel, of the other two really fits better with what we’re trying to accomplish.”
Reynolds will be paid $2 million this season and Overbay $1.5 million. The Brewers will owe Francisco one-fourth of his $1.35 million salary, or $337,500.