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  cover story - april 2014

Expectations high for 2014 Brewers

By GREGG HOFFMANN
Special to KeyMilwaukee.com

key coverFROM THE PRINCIPAL owner to Hank, the adopted canine mascot, the Milwaukee Brewers are optimistic they can improve on their 74-88 record of last season.

"Our overall perception is that other teams in the division got weaker and we got stronger,” Brewers owner and principal owner Mark Attanasio said. “We'll see if that's true, but we clearly got stronger."

More about Hank later, but Attanasio and the Brewers have legitimate reasons to be optimistic. First, Ryan Braun, who was suspended for PED use last season is back and ready to move on.

“I made a huge mistake,” Braun said. “I deeply regret it. I wish I could change it.

“I recognize I don’t have an opportunity to do that, so all I can do is focus on the present, focus on the future, look forward to this year and go out there and do the things that I’ve done in the past.”

Braun will move to right field to replace departed Norichika Aoki, and promising Khris Davis is slotted for left field. Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura had breakout seasons in 2013 and hope to continue their All Star caliber performances.

Gomez ended a 31-year drought for the Brewers by winning a Gold Glove in center field and on offense set career highs with .284, 24 home runs and 73 runs batted in.

“Last year was a great year for me,” Gomez said. “I feel real good about the team this year and want to help us win.”

Segura, who hit .294 and finished second in the National League with 44 stolen bases said, “I want to keep improving. I’m a young player (24) and am still learning.”

Aramis Ramirez, who was plagued by injuries last season, returns at third base and, if he can stay healthy, will add to run production.

key coverQuestions at second and first base were addressed in the spring. Scooter Gennett and Rickie Weeks were sharing time at second. A trio of veterans – Juan Francisco, Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay – were vying at first. By opening day, Overbay and Reynolds were on the roster.

It’s the second time around for Overbay, who was the first baseman before Prince Fielder came up from the minors. “I feel great here,” Overbay said. “I enjoyed Milwaukee, the organization and fans the first time around and hope I can help the team win.”

Jonathan Lucroy has developed into a team leader at catcher and is backed up by Martin Maldonado.

Veteran Matt Garza has been added to a starting rotation that already included Yovani Gallardo, Kyle Lohse, Willie Peralta, Marco Estrada and perhaps Tyler Thornburg. Several pitchers are in the mix in the bullpen, with Canadian Jim Henderson at closer.

I think we have more depth in pitching than we've had in the past," said GM Doug Melvin. “You can’t have too much pitching.”

key coverAs for Hank, the pooch mentioned at the start of this story, he wandered into the Brewers’ spring training camp in Maryvale and immediately endeared himself to the players and fans. They named him after former Brave and Brewer great Hank Aaron. He drew a great deal of national publicity, raced in a Sausage Race (as the real “hot dog”) and added to the overall optimistic, upbeat attitude on the club.

Hank traveled to Milwaukee weeks before the opening game March 31 against the Atlanta Braves and will be living in the home of one of the Brewers’ executives. His “position” during home games this season has yet to be determined.

Cover photo, photos of racing sausages and of Carlos Gomez running by Scott Paulus of the Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Club. Batting cage photos by Gregg Hoffmann.

 

   

 


   
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