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.
The Mariners announced that the club claimed Kaleb Cowart off waivers from the Angels. Interestingly, the Mariners list Cowart as both an outfielder and a right-handed pitcher. Cowart has never pitched professionally, but the Mariners will try him as a two-way player next season, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reports. Cowart was a highly regarded pitcher in high school.
Cowart, 26, has played all over the field, spending most of his time at third base and second base, but also logging a handful of innings at first base, shortstop, and left field. He hasn’t hit much at all, owning a career .177/.241/.293 triple-slash line across 380 plate appearances in the big leagues. It makes sense to try another angle.
Shohei Ohtani, of course, is helping to popularize the rebirth of the two-way player. In his first year in the majors after having played in Japan for five years, Ohtani won the AL Rookie of the Year Award by posting a .925 OPS in 367 plate appearances along with a 3.31 ERA over 10 starts. Don’t expect Cowart to hit those lofty numbers, but additional versatility could prolong his life in the majors.