Wednesday's Frosty Mug

Some things to read while exploring your options.

The Brewers open spring training play a week from tomorrow against the Giants, but that's no longer the most interesting game of the first week. The Brewers play the A's in Phoenix the next day, and Ben Sheets is scheduled to start for Oakland (FanShot). The outing will be Sheets' first game appearance of any kind since the end of the 2008 season.

I'll admit that it looks like I was wrong in my assumption that Sheets would show up out of shape and unprepared to pitch for a team this spring. Jeff Fletcher of MLB FanHouse has a profile of Sheets, who is saying all the right things and sounds like he's feeling strong.

Carlos Gomez's 2010 performance might be one of the biggest questions facing the Brewers this season. HotStove.com recently asked Jared from Right Field Bleachers and I if the Brewers should have done more to shore up the position coming into camp. I'm not very optimistic about Gomez's ability to put it together at the plate, but I think it's worth noting that there weren't a lot of better options available.

Of course, expectations for Rickie Weeks in 2010 are also up in the air. At Beyond the Box Score, Dan Turkenkopf took a look at the theory that wrist injuries affect hitters' power even after they've returned to the lineup. Certainly, there's evidence behind the claim.

As the Brewers work their way through position battles in camp, it's looking increasingly likely that they'll open the season with an all-lefty bench. Craig Counsell, Jody Gerut, Joe Inglett, Hernan Iribarren, Trent Oeltjen and George Kottaras are all left handed, and there's a pretty good chance that all the bench spots will be filled by that group. Even if Matt Treanor beats out Kottaras for the backup catcher spot, it's unlikely he'd be used as a pinch hitter very often.

Speaking of catchers, both Tom Haudricourt and Adam McCalvy profiled Gregg Zaun yesterday. Haudricourt has a great look at the efforts Zaun is making to learn a new pitching staff, and McCalvy has a look at the backup catcher spot, including one thing I hadn't heard before: Matt Treanor's contract allows him to opt out and become a free agent if he's not on the roster by late March. Haudricourt currently has Kottaras and Treanor (in that order) ahead of Jonathan Lucroy and Angel Salome on the depth chart.

Zaun, by the way, missed workouts yesterday with an illness, but could return today.

Neither are very likely to make the team, but the Brewers do have some great stories in camp: Tom Verducci included Chris Capuano and John Halama on his list of players to root for this spring (FanShot). Capuano is healthy for the first time in two years, and threw a bullpen session yesterday.

In contractual minutiae, the Brewers agreed to contracts with John Axford, Josh Butler, Lorenzo Cain and Alex Periard yesterday. All four are pre-arbitration players, and unlikely at best to break camp with the team.

In other camp minutiae:

If all of this text-based evidence of spring training isn't enough for you, John Steinmiller has pictures of yesterday's activities.

Prince Fielder is one of a handful of players who have yet to report to camp, but his swing will probably be ok without the extra work. Matt Klaassen of FanGraphs has spent some time recently attempting to develop a hitting stat similar to FIP for pitchers, and Fielder was baseball's second best hitter, according to his preliminary findings.

In the minors:

I'm not sure if the Brewers are getting better or everyone else is getting worse, but the new CAIRO projections are out and they have the Brewers winning 83.8 games, significantly up from the 80.9 they were given last time. 83.8 puts them in a dead heat with the Cubs for third place, behind the 90.6 win Cardinals and 85.5 win Reds.

It's an epidemic, folks. After half a week of listening to complaints from Haudricourt, Channel3000.com is treating the weather in Arizona as a story.

Speaking of Brewer spring training coverage, MLB Network's 30 in 30 series will cover the Brewers on March 20th, so mark your calendars/set your DVR accordingly.

Elsewhere on the site, Jordan continues to do great work with the BCB Community Projections. First base is now open for your consideration, and via the magic of Google Forms, it's now possible to submit your prediction without even having to leave the site.

Around baseball:

Cardinals: Yahoo is reporting they will sign Felipe Lopez.
Phillies: Signed Brad Wilkerson to a minor league deal.
Tigers: Designated reliever Casey Fien for assignment.

Here are a handful of slices of life from various spring camps:

This might be the coolest graphic I've seen all week: Wezen-Ball has a timeline of MLB stadiums.

Happy birthday today to 2009 Timber Rattler Corey Kemp, who turns 24. Kemp was projected to be the starting first baseman for Brevard County this season, but recently announced his retirement.

Oh, and today is a Woot-off Day.

Drink up.

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