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Brewers look at Aoki, re-sign Gomez

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Tom Haudricourt, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
January 11, 2012
— How would Norichika Aoki fit on the Milwaukee Brewers roster?

That was the question being mulled by general manager Doug Melvin and his staff Monday after the Brewers worked out the Japanese outfielder at their Maryvale training complex in Phoenix the previous day.


“We’re still in internal discussions,” said Melvin before traveling back to Milwaukee. “We’ll discuss it over the next few days to see if he’s a fit for us.”


The Brewers won the right to negotiate with Aoki by posting a winning bid of $2.5 million with the Yakult Swallows, for whom he played in Japan. They got their first in-person look at Aoki, 30, during the 75-minute workout, when he did fielding and throwing drills from center field, took batting practice and ran the bases.


A three-time batting champion in Japan, Aoki batted .292 for Yakult last year but is a career .329 hitter with a .408 on-base percentage over five seasons with the Swallows.


Melvin was accompanied at the private workout by manager Ron Roenicke, coaches Jerry and Johnny Narron, director of pro scouting Zack Manasian and special assistant Dick Groch. Team principal owner Mark Attanasio also came in from Los Angeles to monitor the proceedings.


Melvin declined to assess Aoki’s skills in particular other than to say, “It was a good workout. He’s probably the kind of player you’d expect, coming from Japan.”


Aoki was accompanied by a trainer, translator and agent Nez Balelo, who is representing him. The Brewers have until 4 p.m. on Jan. 17 to sign Aoki. Otherwise, their posting bid will be refunded and Aoki will return to Japan.


Melvin said he and his staff would make a final decision later in the week as to whether to pursue signing Aoki. But, in the event they decide to do so, they had the left-handed hitter undergo a physical exam Monday to facilitate the signing process.


“We’ll determine that in the next few days,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure he’s the right fit. We liked him. He has a good personality. It’s just difficult to tell exactly how the Japanese performance will translate into play in the United States.


“We’ll do more analysis, discuss his skills and decide if we want to make a proposal.”


Several factors are in play with Aoki and the Brewers beyond whether his skills would allow him to be successful in the majors. The club is projected to exceed its expected payroll budget, so it would have to make sense financially.


Also, the Brewers face the possibility of losing leftfielder Ryan Braun for the first 50 games of the season, which would necessitate finding a replacement. Braun will appeal a pending suspension for a reported positive test for a banned substance later this month before an arbitration panel.


Brewers, Gomez agree to deal


The Brewers and centerfielder Carlos Gomez avoided salary arbitration by agreeing to a one-year deal Tuesday. FoxSports.com reported the agreement is worth “around $2 million.”


Gomez, 26, who made $1.5 million last year, began the 2011 season as the No. 1 centerfielder but again underachieved offensively in the early weeks. Left-handed-hitting Nyjer Morgan, acquired at the end of spring training, began starting against all right-hander pitchers.


Playing only against lefties, Gomez was more productive. He missed six weeks in the second half with a broken collarbone, the result of a spectacular tumbling catch in Arizona, finishing with a .225 batting average, eight home runs, 24 RBI and 16 stolen bases in 94 games (231 at-bats).


Dabney promoted


The Brewers have promoted pitching coach Fred Dabney from high Class A Brevard County to Class AAA Nashville. Dabney replaces Chris Bosio, who left that position to become pitching coach of the Chicago Cubs.


To replace Dabney at Brevard, the Brewers hired pitching coach Mark Dewey.


Dabney spent the past seven seasons at Brevard. He joined the organization in 2004 and served as the Brewers’ interim bullpen coach for a month in 2010 after Stan Kyles underwent prostate surgery.



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