Brewers owner optimistic as workouts begin
Attanasio points to strong finish in 2012, league-leading offense as factors
PHOENIX -- Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio delivered an upbeat address ahead of his team's first full-squad workout and predicted his club was built for success this season, despite its notable changes in the pitching department.
"The first day of Spring Training is always optimistic, right?" Attanasio said, before watching the team run through drills on a sun-splashed Saturday. "Now, last year we were coming off the playoff wins and [were] division champs and had brought everybody back, so we had a very high degree of confidence with that.
"Frankly, there was some nervousness because the [fan] expectations were so high. This year, we don't have the same expectations, but I have a lot of enthusiasm, because we played so well at the end of last year. From the point we traded Zack Greinke, we had the fifth-best record in baseball, and from Aug. 20 we had the best record in baseball, along with the Athletics. That's over two months. Now we need to do it over six months."
Attanasio said he believes they can do it, largely on the strength of a league-leading offense that returns for 2013 aligned just as it was at the end of 2012.
The young pitchers who will try to keep that offense in games, Attanasio said, are "exciting."
"Our expectations are high," Attanasio said.
He expressed confidence in the club as constructed, but also spoke of "capital flexibility" to make additions, whether via free agency or trade in the coming weeks and months. The Brewers' payroll projection is somewhere in the mid-$80 million range, Attanasio said, including buyouts, deferred salary and about $2 million budgeted for in-season call-ups.
That's down from last year, when the Brewers began the season with a payroll in excess of $100 million.
"Setting a rigid number and sticking to the number, I've found, is not a good way to build a team from a business standpoint or a baseball standpoint," Attanasio said. "It's better to look at your team from a baseball standpoint and then fill in as needed. So, this year we have more flexibility, and whether we use that flexibility this year or next year depends on both how we're doing and who's available."
One notable player who remains very available is free agent right-hander Kyle Lohse, who is tied to Draft pick compensation. On Friday in Reds camp, agent Scott Boras characterized Lohse's situation as "ownership decisions at this point."
So, it was natural to ask Attanasio whether Boras has been calling directly to push his player.
"Scott's always pushing," Attanasio said. "One of the reasons Scott's such a good agent is he's always pushing everybody all the time. I think what Scott does is try to optimize situations for players, and the fact that he thinks Milwaukee is a good situation, I think speaks well of what we have going on in Milwaukee."
"Our ears are always open, but we don't want to lead our fans on in any way. There's not an active conversation."
Attanasio also spoke Saturday about Ryan Braun, saying he was "learning along with everybody else, day to day" about alleged links between his best player and the Miami-area clinic under investigation by Major League Baseball.
Braun did not speak to reporters on Saturday, a day after ESPN.com issued a report that included what it said was another document with Braun's name from Biogenesis, the shuttered anti-aging firm accused of supplying banned substances to some baseball players.
"Baseball is obviously investigating it, so we'll see how that investigation goes," Attanasio said. "Frankly, you're always going to have concerns if it's any player. But it's out of our hands, so we just have to see where it goes."