Last Post: #9
After the twenty-one occupants of #9 last week, it is time for a return to a less-used number. In the forty-one seasons of Milwaukee Brewers history, only four players have worn #54 in parts of just eight seasons. Additionally, a couple of the #54s are actually better known for wearing a different number. With so few players, there is no need for a jump.
The first Brewer to wear #54 was a destined-to-be-controversial rookie named Gary Sheffield in 1988. Nephew of Dwight Gooden and sixth overall pick in the 1986 draft, Sheffield made his debut on September 3, 1988 at the age of 19. He started the 24 remaining games of the season at shortstop and hit .238 with 4 home runs in 80 at bats. Sheffield switched to #1 for the 1989 season and to #11 for 1990-1991. He was traded to San Diego after many criticisms of Milwaukee and the Brewers and went on to a lengthy and successful major league career.
One of the players brought to Milwaukee in the Sheffield trade was shortstop prospect Jose Valentin. After progressing through the Padres' farm system, Valentin spent most of 1992 at the Brewers' AAA affiliate in Denver. He was called up in mid-September 1992 and appeared in four games during the rest of that season. In 1993, he again spent most of the season in AAA. He earned another September callup and hit .245 in 53 at bats in 19 games. He switched to #2 for 1994 and spent six seasons wearing that number before being traded to Chicago in 2000. He also spent time with the Dodgers and Mets before calling it quits in 2008.
In November 1998, the Brewers signed minor league journeyman Hector Ramirez to one-year deal. He spent nearly a decade in the Mets farm system before passing through the Yankees, Orioles and Marlins organizations. After all that time, he finally made his major league debut with the Brewers on August 28, 1999. He threw 21 innings in 15 appearances over the final month of the season, finishing 1-2 with five holds, three blown saves, 11 walks and 9 strikeouts. In 2000, he was recalled for two weeks in May and gave up ten runs over six relief appearances. That unsuccessful stint resulted in his release and was the end of his major league career.
Prior to the 2008 season, the Brewers focused on upgrading the team's bullpen. Roughly one-third of the team's payroll was spent on newly acquired relievers. The splashiest move was the free agent signing of veteran righthander David Riske. Riske was signed to a 3-year, $13 million deal after five solid seasons. Unfortunately, injuries marred each of his seasons in Milwaukee. In 2008, he made 45 appearances while struggling with his command and a balky elbow. That elbow cost him all but one game in the 2009 season and the first two months of 2010. Once he finally returned, Riske made 23 appearances without particularly successful results, leading to his release in August.
Going into the 2011 season, the number has been assigned to minor league catcher Martin Maldonado. Obviously, he has the inside track on becoming the fifth #54 in Brewers history. His big-league prospects are cloudy at present, however, so the next occupant of #54 is still a mystery.
EDIT: A day or two after this was posted, Brewers.com updated the team's 40-man roster to show #54 had been re-assigned to RHP Sean Green.