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McGehee able to earn his keep: For Lamb it’s sheer disappointment

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McClatchy Tribune
April 1, 2009
— Sometimes, a player actually can win a job with a standout performance in spring training.

That’s not always the case, what with roster machinations and minor-league options, but it became true Tuesday for Casey McGehee. With the Milwaukee Brewers’ decision to cut veteran infielder Mike Lamb, McGehee claimed a reserve infield spot on the team’s roster.


“If that is the case, it’s a dream come true, especially with the season opening in San Francisco. That’s pretty much my home city,” said McGehee, who hails from Santa Cruz, Calif.


“It’s really special for a lot of reasons. It’s true to what they said about giving me an opportunity. That’s all I wanted. I feel I’m ready to help a major-league team.”


McGehee has been an offensive standout throughout camp while showing he can play third base, second base and first base. McGehee also did some catching in the minors, making him available in an emergency at that position.


Without McGehee, the Brewers would not have a right-handed hitter on the bench other than backup catcher Mike Rivera.


“Part of the discussion was, in total, what can this guy do for the team?” manager Ken Macha said. “There’s a whole bunch of things you’ve got to add up to see what the guy brings to the table.


”The question is, how is his spring training going to translate into what’s going to happen during the year? We don’t have a crystal ball on that one. But it’s hard to go out there and say, ’Hey, go out and have a great spring and you make the team,’ and you have a spring like he has and not make the team.“


Entering the Brewers’ night game against San Diego, McGehee was batting .370 with six home runs and 15 runs batted in. The news came a day after McGehee socked a walk-off two-run homer to beat Seattle, 9-7.


The Brewers did not make an official roster move with Lamb, saying only that an announcement would come today.


”There are a couple of scenarios that could happen as far as waivers are concerned,“ Macha said. ”Either you’re putting him on one waiver or the other waiver.“


Lamb, who batted .250 with two homers and 12 RBI in 52 exhibition at-bats, said he was given the option of accepting an outright assignment to Class AAA Nashville or asking for his release. Depending on his decision, he will be placed on outright waivers or release waivers.


Asked if he was surprised by the move, Lamb said: ”Yes and no. Yes, because every indication I had from the offseason leading into spring training was that I was going to be on the team and see playing time at third base, depending on how Billy (Hall) did.


“Then, when I got to spring training, I started going into games in the seventh and eighth inning. And I went almost a week without playing third. It just wasn’t adding up.”


The Brewers signed Lamb last September after he was released by Minnesota with another year left on his contract. The Brewers re-signed Lamb over the winter and were obligated to pay only the minimum $400,000 salary, with the Twins picking up the rest of his $3 million salary.


“I wasn’t totally shocked but I never dreamed I’d get released again,” Lamb said. “I don’t think I merited that. I thought I played decent enough. My batting average wasn’t that great but I certainly don’t think I was overmatched.


”I don’t want to go to Triple-A to be somebody’s insurance policy. I don’t think I deserve that.“


Lineup shuffle


Shortstop J.J. Hardy and rightfielder Corey Hart have been moved up and down the lineup during their seasons with the Brewers, and this year might bring yet another shift.


The lineup against San Diego had Hart batting second and Hardy batting fifth, and Macha said he was thinking about going that route during the season. At the start of camp, those players were in the opposite spots.


In fact, other than Craig Counsell subbing for Hall (tooth extraction) in the seventh spot, the first eight hitters against the Padres could line up that way for the season opener in San Francisco.


Hardy’s strong spring showing (.439, 4 HR, 15 RBI, .500 OBP through Monday) has convinced Macha he can provide enough coverage that teams will think twice before pitching around Prince Fielder.


In turn, that allows Macha to move Hart behind Rickie Weeks at the top of the order. Batting Hart second could take advantage of his speed and help keep the top of the order out of double plays, something to which the slower Hardy can be vulnerable.


”I’ve been very impressed with J.J., how he’s handled everything this spring,“ Macha said. ”I think he’s got tremendous plate coverage. We’re going to see how this fits.“


Hardy chafed early last season when former manager Ned Yost batted him ahead of the pitcher. Batting fifth, he would be in front of Mike Cameron, who has power but also is prone to striking out.


Would pitchers be prone to pitching around Hardy if Cameron is in a funk? Possibly, but that could happen in other spots in the lineup as well.


”I like the two-hole, but before I was comparing the two-hole to hitting in front of the pitcher,“ Hardy said. ”I think the five-hole is definitely going to give me more RBI opportunities, which is good for me.


“I think the two-hole is going to allow Corey to steal a lot more and get into scoring position for Ryan (Braun) and Prince. Unless this team plans on hitting the pitcher sixth, I’m for it either way.”



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