MILWAUKEE -- After losing three first basemen to injuries, the Brewers will begin the season with a pair of shortstops filling that role.
Alex Gonzalez has long been pegged as the team's Opening Day starter at first, and recently-re-signed Yuniesky Betancourt has emerged as his primary backup, with backup catcher Martin Maldonado also in play. The Brewers will not make their announcement until the completion of Saturday's exhibition season finale, but there were hints Friday that they will break camp without catcher/first baseman Blake Lalli on the roster.
Betancourt has played only shortstop, second base and third base in the big leagues, yet appeared at first in his first exhibition game with the Brewers on Thursday.
"He did good," said first-base coach Garth Iorg, the team's infield coordinator. "I think we'll just continue to work on it. The thing that's nice is him and Alex both have great hands. Now we have some interchangeable parts if something happens."
Gonzalez was a natural at first base in Spring Training, and Iorg believes Betancourt will be able to make a similarly smooth transition as he learns to find the bag to receive throws and to position correctly on cut-offs.
"It's a small curve for those guys. We just have to get out and do it," Iorg said.
This is not exactly how the Brewers drew things up. Back in January, the plan was for Corey Hart to start at first base with Mat Gamel as a backup at first, third and the outfield. But Hart needed right knee surgery, then Gamel needed right knee surgery himself. Taylor Green was originally pegged as Gonzalez's backup, but Green was placed on the disabled list this week with a left hip injury.
The Brewers' plan could change as other teams set their rosters and make players available. On Friday, for example, the A's designated first baseman Daric Barton for assignment.
Narveson to start season out of bullpen
MILWAUKEE -- Brewers left-hander Chris Narveson will begin the season in a long-relief role, a precautionary move, manager Ron Roenicke said, to aid Narveson's comeback from last year's shoulder surgery.
That means the team's five-man starting rotation is set: Yovani Gallardo, Marco Estrada and Wily Peralta are tentatively scheduled to start against the Rockies from Monday-Wednesday, leaving Kyle Lohse and Mike Fiers to pitch the first two games of the following series against the D-backs, though not necessarily in that order. Lohse is coming off a severely abbreviated spring, so the Brewers will monitor his next bullpen session before finalizing his spot.
Narveson will not start Saturday's exhibition finale as originally scheduled, Roenicke said.
"We want to back off him a little bit," Roenicke said. "He's fine. He'll probably 'piggyback' Lohse when he makes that first start."
Narveson had surgery last May 1 to repair a torn labrum and torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder. He has not had any setbacks, Roenicke stressed.
The left-hander was having a solid Spring Training before he allowed six earned runs on eight hits and five walks in 3 2/3 innings against the A's on March 25. That happened to be the same day the Brewers signed Lohse, giving them the luxury of moving one projected starting pitcher to long relief.
"He's OK, but he's been really pushing through this thing in Spring Training, through the surgery," Roenicke said. "In the long run, it's probably going to help him to limit his innings at the start."
Lohse completes wild week by signing contract
MILWAUKEE -- Friday brought another example of just how frenzied a week it's been for new Brewers starter Kyle Lohse: He finally got around to signing his contract.
The team had only a letter of intent in place when Lohse took the mound against the Rockies on Thursday afternoon, covering all sides from a legal perspective. By Friday afternoon, longtime Brewers senior administrator Barb Stark had completed all of the paperwork for Lohse to sign.
"It's a good thing nothing bad happened," Lohse said.
A lot has happened for Lohse since Monday, when he agreed to a three-year, $33 million contract with Milwaukee. There was a bullpen session Tuesday, a 3 2/3-inning start against the Rockies on Thursday and some house shopping followed by a series of marketing and public relations duties on Friday, when the Brewers returned to Miller Park for the first of two exhibitions against the White Sox.
Now all that's left to determine is a date for Lohse's official Brewers debut. There is an outside chance he pitches Wednesday against the Rockies, manager Ron Roenicke said, but it appears much more likely that Lohse starts Friday or Saturday against the D-backs instead.
"Based on the timing of everything, I don't want to throw everybody off just because I'm over here," Lohse said. "I know we have the rotation set-up for that first series, and I'm willing to do whatever they ask of me. I'm ready to jump right in there. I've done the work. [Thursday] was a big day to show everybody where I'm at, and I think I passed that test.
"It doesn't matter when it is that I jump in, as long as it's in those first five games. It's a long season so there's still time for me to get those 30-plus starts in, and I'm shooting for those 200-plus innings."
The Brewers released four Minor League players on Friday including 2008 fourth-round Draft pick Maverick Lasker, a right-handed pitcher. He was limited to 11 games last season by a back injury. Also released were infielder Carlos George (46th-round pick in 2008) and right-handers Joel Pierce (seventh round in 2010) and Michael White (13th round in 2010).