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Brewers keep both backup catchers

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Tom Haudricourt
April 12, 2011
— The Milwaukee Brewers solved their dilemma Monday as to which backup catcher to keep upon the return of Jonathan Lucroy.

They kept both, at least for now.


In activating Lucroy from the 15-day disabled list, the Brewers opted to designate outfielder Jeremy Reed for assignment rather than part with either of the two catchers already on the roster, Wil Nieves and George Kottaras.


The move probably delayed for two weeks the decision as to which catcher to send out. Rightfielder Corey Hart is expected back by then from an oblique strain, and the Brewers probably won’t be able to keep three catchers on their roster.


The move also gives general manager Doug Melvin time to look for a trade for Nieves or Kottaras rather than risk losing either through waivers. Neither has a minor-league option remaining.


In the meantime, Melvin said Kottaras could fill the role of left-handed hitter off the bench, the duty previously assigned to Reed. After making the roster during spring training by batting .400 with a team-high 14 RBIs, Reed was 0 for 7 as a pinch-hitter.


“We felt with (Nyjer) Morgan and (Mark) Kotsay, we’re protected in the outfield,” said Melvin. “Jeremy wasn’t getting a lot of playing time and probably wasn’t going to, the way Morgan has been playing.


“Jeremy made the club as a bat off the bench. George can do that, and with the extra catcher it’s easier to pinch-hit for the catcher. George is still going to do some catching, too.


“George has improved his catching. It’s a tough situation with what we have. He’s out of options and Nieves is in the same situation. Until we know Jonathan is back and healthy, which we think he is, we can do it this way.”


Kottaras is batting .294 with three RBIs in 17 at-bats, and Nieves is batting .231 with no RBIs in 13 at-bats.


Lucroy, who broke his right pinkie finger in the first week of spring camp during a defensive drill, played in four games with Class AA Huntsville on rehab assignment. He was deemed ready to rejoin the Brewers and will do so for the start of a nine-game trip today in Pittsburgh.


In the four games with Huntsville, Lucroy batted .273 with four RBIs, but thanks to six walks he had an outstanding .529 on-base percentage.


Melvin pointed out that the Brewers will be able to ease Lucroy back into the No. 1 catching role after missing all of spring training.


Because Reed had been sent outright to the minors previously, he has the right to become a free agent instead of reporting to Class AAA Nashville. Melvin said Reed has until Wednesday to notify the club of his plans.


“It’s difficult coming off the bench after getting regular at-bats in spring training,” said Melvin. “It’s a lot harder.


“We’ll go with this until Corey comes back. Then we’ll have to make another decision.”


Lucroy, 24, began the 2010 season with Huntsville before being promoted shortly afterward to Class AAA Nashville. He was summoned by the Brewers on May 21 when starting catcher Gregg Zaun was lost for the season with a shoulder injury and soon moved past Kottaras to be the regular behind the plate.


In 74 games with the Brewers, Lucroy batted .253 with four home runs and 26 RBIs. He threw out 15 of 52 runners (28.8 percent) attempting steals.


Lucroy was the first player to return to action of the five who began the season on the disabled list. After two perfect innings Saturday with Class A Wisconsin, left-hander Manny Parra (back injury) was moved up to Nashville, where he will begin an assignment Tuesday night.


Hart will take batting practice with the Brewers today in Pittsburgh and within a few days should be cleared for a rehab assignment with Nashville. Hart hopes to rejoin the Brewers for the next home stand, which begins on April 22.


Reliever LaTroy Hawkins has made one appearance for Class A Brevard County as he works his way back from shoulder surgery and will be moved up to Nashville at some point.


Saito placed on DL


The Brewers have placed right-handed reliever Takashi Saito on the 15-day disabled list with a left hamstring strain.


The team has recalled right-hander Brandon Kintzler from Triple-A Nashville, and he will join the team in Pittsburgh today.


Saito has made two appearances this season, including a rough outing against Atlanta last week in which he gave up a pair of home runs. Saito signed a $1.75 million, one-year contract in the offseason.



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