Corey Hart is not expected to be healthy until late May. Mat Gamel just underwent his second major knee surgery in two years. So the Brewers have been scrambling for a first baseman and are considering all sorts of different options.
One of those options is Alex Gonzalez, who has never appeared at a position other than shortstop in his 14-year major league career but was asked to take some reps at first base this spring and has impressed the Brewers’ decision-makers so far.
“You either have good instincts or you don’t,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke told Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel on Saturday evening. “Alex has really good instincts. … So, those guys are able to pick up those new positions faster than the guy who may have plenty of tools but doesn’t have the instincts to play them.”
Gonzalez has hit just .243/.277/.383 over his last 682 major league plate appearances, but the 36-year-old boasts a bit of power and the Brewers seem to think his defense at first will be more than adequate.
Gonzalez is 4-for-11 with one home run and three RBI through five Cactus League games.
CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury reports that Phillies outfielder Nick Williams has been working out daily with free agent starter Jake Arrieta in Austin. The right-hander, who won the 2015 National League Cy Young Award, still remains teamless with spring training less than a month away. Williams has been trying to sell Arrieta on joining the Phillies.
Williams said of Arrieta, “He loves it here [Austin]. He has told me he likes working with young guys. I’m like, ‘All right, come on up.’ But I’m not writing the check. I don’t know what he wants. I don’t really dig into that because I’m not really in his position.”
On GM Matt Klentak’s hunt for pitching help, new manager Gabe Kapler said, “The pursuit is very real. I have a lot of trust that we’ll either go in [to spring training] with a new toy or we will pass on the opportunity because we’re better off giving this collection of pitchers a really healthy look because we thought that we could go acquire that piece a little bit later on this season or in the offseason next year.”
Arrieta, who turns 32 years old in March, went 14-10 with a 3.53 ERA and a 163/55 K/BB ratio in 168 1/3 innings last season with the Cubs. The Cubs, Cardinals, and Brewers have been linked to Arrieta this month.
Presently, the Phillies’ starting rotation figures to include Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, and Vince Velasquez along with some combination of Nick Pivetta, Ben Lively, Zach Eflin, Mark Leiter, and Jake Thompson. Arrieta would certainly amount to a big upgrade in the starting rotation and could make the Phillies a more attractive landing spot for Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, who become free agents after the 2018 campaign. The Phillies are expected to be in the mix for either or both players.