Brewers to work out Aoki

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Tom Haudricourt, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Thursday, January 5, 2012
— The Milwaukee Brewers will work out Japanese outfielder Norichika Aoki this weekend in Phoenix to determine whether they will pursue signing him for 2012.

General manager Doug Melvin on Wednesday confirmed the workout but didn’t disclose the exact day or time it will be held at the team’s training facility because it will be closed to media and fans.

“It’s going to be a private workout,” said Melvin. “We want to take a look at him and visit with him.”

The Brewers won the right to negotiate with Aoki, 29, by posting the winning bid of $2.5 million to his team, the Yakult Swallows, in December. A left-handed hitter known for making contact as a leadoff type, Aoki has won three batting crowns in Japan.

Last season with Yakult, Aoki batted only .292 but the previous season he hit a career-best .358 with 209 hits.

The Brewers have until Jan. 17 to work out a deal with the 5-foot-10, 170-pound Aoki should they choose to negotiate. Otherwise, they will be refunded their posting bid and he will return to Yakult.

“We don’t have a lot of time,” said Melvin. “We want to withhold judgment on him until we’ve seen him. He’s more of a contact guy. We’ve had reports on him.”

Aoki played mainly in center field in Japan but is viewed more as a leftfielder in the majors. The Brewers might need left-field help if Ryan Braun is suspended for the first 50 games of the season for a reported positive test for a banned substance.

Braun is appealing that finding and his case will be heard later this month by an arbitration panel.

Aoki is represented by agent Nez Balelo, who also represents Braun. But Melvin said Aoki was not pitched to the Brewers as a possible replacement for Braun should he be suspended.

“Nez told us before the winter meetings that he represented this player and expected him to be posted,” said Melvin. “He said he might be a guy we’d be interested in, so we put in a bid on him to see what would happen.

“You never know what the winning bid might be.”

Melvin said the team has not been informed when Braun’s appeal might be heard. Because drug test results are supposed to be confidential, the appeal process is private.

Therefore, if Braun wins his appeal, there will be no announcement by Major League Baseball. If he loses his appeal, MLB will announce the 50-game suspension.

“We don’t know anything about it,” said Melvin. “We’ve just got to wait and see what happens. Hopefully, it won’t drag out too long because we’d like to know as soon as we can.”

Last updated: 7:36 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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