Running down the rosters: Milwaukee Brewers

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With Prince Fielder’s departure assured, the last thing the 2011 NL Central champion Brewers needed was to lose Ryan Braun for a third of the season. It’s likely to happen, though, even if his appeal is still pending. The rotation should be strong enough to keep the Brewers in the race while Braun is out, but the offense seems certain to struggle in his absence.

Rotation
Yovani Gallardo – R
Zack Greinke – R
Shaun Marcum – R
Randy Wolf – L
Chris Narveson – L

Bullpen
John Axford – R
Francisco Rodriguez – R
Jose Veras – R
Kameron Loe – R
Manny Parra – L
Marco Estrada – R
Brandon Kintzler – R

SP next in line: Estrada, Wily Peralta (R), Amaury Rivas (R)
RP next in line: Mike McLendon (R), Frankie De La Cruz (R), Zach Braddock (L), Tim Dillard (R)

The Brewers’ got 155 starts from their top five last year, and they’ll probably need something similar to happen if they’re going to win 90 games again. The seven starts that didn’t go to those guys went to Estrada, who figures to reprise his swing role after a very surprising showing last season (88 strikeouts in 92 2/3 IP). The Brewers have little in the way of depth behind them, but Peralta might prove ready after going 11-7 with a 3.17 ERA in a 2011 season spend mostly in Double-A.

The bullpen wasn’t expected to include K-Rod again, but he accepted arbitration as a free agent, leaving the Brewers with an $8 million setup man. He and Axford should give the team an excellent one-two punch at the end of the games. The rest of the pen is pretty iffy, though I do like Kintzler. If the Brewers had their way, they would have spread K-Rod’s cash around to two or three veteran relievers.

Lineup A
2B Rickie Weeks -R
CF Nyjer Morgan – L
LF Ryan Braun – R
3B Aramis Ramirez – R
RF Corey Hart – R
1B Mat Gamel – L
C Jonathan Lucroy – R
SS Alex Gonzalez – R

Lineup B
RF Corey Hart – R
LF Nyjer Morgan – L
2B Rickie Weeks – R
3B Aramis Ramirez – R
1B Mat Gamel – L
C Jonathan LuCroy – R
CF Logan Schafer – L
SS Alex Gonzalez – R

Bench
C George Kottaras – L
INF Taylor Green – L
INF Cesar Izturis – S
OF Carlos Gomez – R
OF Norichika Aoki – L

Next in line: C Martin Maldonado (R), 1B Travis Ishikawa (L), INF Brooks Conrad (R), INF Eric Farris (R), INF Zelous Wheeler (R), OF Corey Patterson (L), OF Caleb Gindl (L), OF Brock Kjeldgaard (R)

So, there’s the Braun lineup and a Braun-free lineup. I’m basing the bench on the Braun-free lineup. If Braun is able to avoid his suspension, then Schafer figures to start off in Triple-A. Green would also be more likely to return to the minors if Braun can play. Otherwise, I think the Brewers will need his bat.

Schafer’s inclusion is a pure guess on my part. If Aoki impresses in spring training, then the Brewers figure to try him as a starter in Braun’s place. If not, then they’ll have to decide whether to think defense first with Gomez or try the rookie. Regardless, Gomez seems certain to play against lefties.

Gamel looks like the big key here. If he can provide a quality left-handed bat to slot behind Ramirez, it frees up manager Ron Roenicke to use Hart and Weeks at the top of the order. If Roenicke instead decides he needs a veteran presence behind Ramirez, then someone who doesn’t deserve to will hit high in the lineup. The Brewers are already treading dangerously up there, since it’s far from certain Morgan will be so good again.

Athletics hire third base coach Matt Williams

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The Athletics have hired former MLB manager Matt Williams, the team announced Friday. Williams will take over third base coaching duties under manager Bob Melvin, filling the vacancy left by Nationals’ bench coach Chip Hale after the 2017 season.

Williams is no stranger to the Bay Area, but this will be his first time sporting the green and gold. He got his start in pro ball with the rival Giants in 1987, where he manned third base and collected four All-Star nominations before jumping ship to the American League in 1997. After a one-year stint in the Indians’ organization, he returned to the NL to finish off his 17-season career and eventually hung up his cleats with the Diamondbacks in 2003.

Post-retirement, Williams has crafted a resume that almost over-qualifies him for a coaching gig. He led the Nationals to a cumulative 179-145 record from 2014 to 2015 and earned props as NL Manager of the Year after bringing the team to a first-place finish in 2014. In 2016, he split the season as a first and third base coach in the D-backs’ organization, then accepted a studio analyst position with the Giants for the 2017 season. Although he has yet to suit up for the Athletics in any role, he’s not unfamiliar with skipper Bob Melvin. The two were teammates on the Giants’ 1987-88 roster and spent some time in Arizona together when Melvin took a coaching job there in the early 2000s.

While next year’s reunion will be fun to watch (unless, I suppose, you’re a Giants fan with a long memory), Williams may not have his sights set on a coaching role forever. As the San Francisco Chronicle’s John Shea reported back in July, the 51-year-old knows what it feels like to win as a manager, and it’s a position he might be open to pursuing in the future.

“For me, my most comfortable space is in uniform,” he told Shea. “I’ve done the ownership thing and front-office stuff, and that’s fun. The most gratification I get is swinging a fungo and throwing batting practice and being on the field. It’s what you know and love. I look at myself as a teacher first and foremost. At the end of the day, I think that’s how I have my greatest influence.”