Some things to read while not opening the mail.
We are eight days away from pitchers and catchers reporting to Maryvale, but this morning I learned something that surprised me about the 2013 team. Despite having Gold Glove Award winner Carlos Gomez in center field, Jeff Zimmerman of The Hardball Times reports that Brewer defenders turned just 59.7% of fly balls into outs in 2013. They were one of just three teams to post a mark under 60%.
So keeping the ball out of the air might be one of the primary challenges for members of the Brewers' starting rotation in 2014. The rotation still hasn't been officially set, but about two thirds of the voters in this Reviewing the Brew poll think Kyle Lohse should get the ball on Opening Day.
Matt Garza was second in that vote the last time I checked, and the people who are that excited about having him as a Brewer may also be excited to learn that Garza t-shirts are now available in the Brewers team store.
Garza t-shirts might have been one of the items on the truck as the Brewers loaded their last shipment to Maryvale for spring training yesterday. The JS has video of the occasion, and Grant Brisbee of SBNation.com was terrified by the sight of the Racing Sausages wrapped in plastic for the journey.
There's a strong chance a new reliever will also be sent to Maryvale before spring training, although hopefully they won't also arrive wrapped in plastic. Jonathan Judge of Disciples of Uecker asks if it really matters which pitchers are added to the bullpen.
If the Brewers don't add a veteran reliever before Opening Day then it certainly improves Michael Blazek's chances of making the team. Yesterday The Brewer Nation profiled him as part of their "Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers" series.
Sometime between now and Opening Day the Brewers will also have to make a decision at first base, where they have somewhere between three and six players vying for what's likely to be two spots on the Opening Day roster. Fred has penciled Mark Reynolds into one of those spots, and yesterday he attempted to determine the veteran slugger's best platoon partner.
In the minors:
- Ryan Topp of Disciples of Uecker has a look at the Brewers' much-derided farm system and three suggestions to make it better.
- Martin Maldonado went 2-for-4 with a double, drove in a run and scored in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico's 5-4 win over Venezuela in the Caribbean Series, clinching a bid in the elimination round (box score). Irving Falu went 0-for-4 in the game.
- Mayaguez now faces host country and top seeded Venezuela again on Friday with a berth in the championship game on the line.
- Jason Arndt of Brewers Farm Report has stories on recent minor league free agent signees Pete Orr and Lucas May.
Back in Milwaukee, the Brewers reeled in another corporate sponsor for one of their ballpark promotions this week. Rich Kirchen of the Milwaukee Business Journal notes that Wauwatosa's WaterStone Bank will partner with the team for their "K's for a Cause" promotion, which will make a donation to the Sojourner Family Peace Center for every strikeout recorded by a Brewers pitcher at Miller Park in 2014.
So the "K's for a Cause" sign will remain in right field, but in 2014 someone new will be taking care of the grass underneath it. Yesterday the Brewers hired longtime Timber Rattlers groundskeeper Eddie Warczak as the new Grounds Manager at Miller Park. Warczak was at the helm in Appleton in 2008 when Wisconsin won Sports Turf Managers Association Professional Baseball Field of the Year.
Dodgers: Signed infielder Justin Turner to a minor league deal.
Indians: Signed first baseman Bryan LaHair to a minor league deal.
Marlins: Are expected to sign pitcher Chaz Roe to a minor league deal.
Nationals: Signed catcher Koyie Hill to a minor league deal.
Orioles: Signed reliever Evan Meek and outfielder Jack Cust to minor league deals.
Today in former Brewers:
- Yesterday was Hank Aaron's 80th birthday, and a portrait of him is going into the Smithsonian.
- Grant Brisbee of SBNation.com's attempt to find the best picture of a batter getting hit by a pitch led him to a new appreciation of Norichika Aoki. The post also includes painful moments for Aramis Ramirez and Jean Segura.
- The MLBPA has hired Jeffrey Hammonds as a Special Assistant for Player Program Development (h/t @BNightengale).
- Nick Michalski of The Brewers Bar remembers Pete Vuckovich, Rollie Fingers and Warren Spahn, the three pitchers who have won a Cy Young Award in Milwaukee.
And in baseball economics: We've previously reported that the Rangers were expected to announce a new ballpark naming rights sponsor this week. The building formerly known as Rangers Ballpark in Arlington is now Globe Life Park in Arlington.
Finally, with help from Brewerfan.net and the B-Ref Play Index, we'd like to wish a happy birthday today to:
- 2013 Helena Brewer Charlie Markson, who turns 23.
- 2012 Wisconsin Timber Rattler Chad Thompson, who turns 23.
- 2003 Brewer Peter Zoccolillo, who turns 37.
- Green Bay native, UW-Whitewater alum and 1996-2000 Brewer Bob Wickman, who turns 45. We covered his birthday in Today In Brewer History two years ago.
Plunk Everyone also notes that Wickman's 38 career hit batsmen are the most ever for a pitcher born on February 6.
Now, if you'll excuse me, my date is here.