Where's the Bench?

So we spent a lot of time and internet space discussing three players this spring: Chris Duffy, Brad Nelson and Casey McGehee. They had excellent springs (for whatever that's worth), and they beat out the likes of Mike Lamb and Tony Gwynn Jr. to earn three spots on the Brewer bench.

Since Opening Day, however, we haven't discussed them much at all. In fact, they've hardly been seen since then. Duffy, Nelson and McGehee have a combined 16 at bats in the Brewers' first 12 games. For context, Craig Counsell has 15 by himself, and Yovani Gallardo, Dave Bush and Jeff Suppan also combined for 16.

There are positives and negatives to this, to be certain. Certainly, while all three of these players had solid springs, none of them earned the right to unseat any of the regulars they're backing up. We all knew coming into the season that Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, Corey Hart, Rickie Weeks and Mike Cameron would get the vast majority of playing time, and justifiably so. With that said, Mike Cameron is the only member of that group that's even received one day off this spring. At times it even looks like management is making an effort to keep the bats away from these guys: Over the weekend, McGehee entered one game as part of a double switch but was pinch hit for when his turn came up, and Jeff Suppan was allowed to hit for himself in the seventh inning yesterday with all three of these guys on the bench.

None of the guys on the end of the Brewer bench should be playing everyday. With that said, I think each of them should be playing a little more: maybe one start a week, for the following reasons:

Rest. Corey Hart blames his September 2008 slump on being worn out. He came to camp in better shape in 2009, but could probably still use an off day every now and then. Ryan Braun says his intercostal muscle is fine, but even if it is Braun could probably use a breather from time to time, especially since he was thrown back in head first after missing most of camp. On a day-to-day level, keeping all of the regulars in the Brewers lineup gives them the best chance to win each day. But on the grander scale, giving them a breather every couple of weeks might help keep them fresh for August and September.

Refocus. Sometimes a day off and some extra work in the cage can help a player get things going in the right direction. Prince Fielder is 2 for his last 20. Ryan Braun is six for his last 37 and has just two extra base hits in that stretch. Both players are very valuable to the team in the long run, but getting them a day to correct themselves could make them even more valuable once they're back.

Remove rust. If something were to happen to one of the Brewer regulars, odds are one of these three guys would be called upon to pick up the slack. How sharp can one expect Brad Nelson to be when he hasn't faced live pitching in a week or more? None of these guys are All Stars in waiting, but asking them to step up and hit in key situations when they've barely been used isn't a realistic expectation.

Each of the three players in question have at least three spots in the field where they can play. I know some people will disagree with me on this, but I feel like it's in the team's best interest to find all three of them an opportunity to start a game an average of once a week. What do you think?

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