Brewers' Ron Roenicke still sorting out leadoff spot

Share on Facebook Comments Comments Print Print
By Tom Haudricourt and Todd Rosiak
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
March 18, 2015

PEORIZ, Ariz.--After giving Scooter Gennett a long look in the leadoff spot in exhibition play, Milwaukee Brewers manager Ron Roenicke switched Tuesday to Carlos Gomez.

Roenicke said he’d like to pick either Gennett or Gomez and stick with him for the most part during the regular season.

“I still go back and forth on that,” said Roenicke. “I think Scooter has been doing a pretty good job at it. I’d like to have a couple of guys doing it down here so I don’t go Scooter the whole spring and then opening day go with Gomey.

“I talked to Gomey today. I’d rather him at least do it a few times. Then, whichever way we go will be OK. If we decide we’re not going to do it with Gomey, then (Gennett) is probably the guy to do it.”

Gomez was the Brewers’ primary leadoff man last season, batting first in 106 games. He batted .276 with 20 home runs, 50 runs batted in, .356 on-base percentage and .844 OPS.

Gennett batted leadoff in 23 games, hitting .323 with two homers, 14 RBI, .351 OBP and .856 OPS.

“When I’m in the leadoff spot, it helps my approach,” said Gennett. “We’re a pretty aggressive team, and when me and Gomey both are in the leadoff spot, we’re not really true leadoff guys. We like to swing and we make contact. I think if I’m able to work the count more and see more pitches, it will only help me. So I like it.”

Asked what kind of OBP he looks for in a leadoff hitter, Roenicke said, “.320 doesn’t work for me. I think you need to be .340 or more. I know in today’s game it has changed. On-base percentage is way down.”

Roenicke said he’d prefer not to alternate Gennett and Gomez in the leadoff spot.

“The issue with Scooter is, is he going to hit left-handers?” he said. “If he hits them, you don’t worry about changing. If he doesn’t, then whoever goes in there for him, if he is the leadoff guy, do you make a change in your (overall) lineup?”

Gennett, a left-handed hitter, has batted .128 with a .291 OPS in the majors against lefties, albeit in only 83 plate appearances.

Should he decide to bat Gennett leadoff, Roenicke said Gomez “maybe fits in” fifth in the lineup. Catcher Jonathan Lucroy would bat second, with rightfielder Ryan Braun third and Aramis Ramirez fourth.

“I talked to Gomey today and when he’s doing things right, really bearing down in his at-bats, he can hit third or fourth, and he likes hitting third or fourth,” said Roenicke. “I’m hoping we can see consistent, tough at-bats and we’ll see.”

Gomez provided exactly that in a 6-4 victory over San Diego, looking for a change-up from San Diego’s James Shields and hammering it out to left for a three-run homer in the second inning.

“That’s the thing that I’m happy about, when I go to the plate looking for one pitch in specific and he throws it and I crush that ball,” said Gomez. “It doesn’t matter if it’s an out, but if I put a good swing on it, I’m happy.”

Gomez said he would hit leadoff if best for the team but made it clear he envisions himself a middle-of-the-order force at some point.

“Fifth, fourth, third, leadoff, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “But I’m preparing myself mentally and physically to be in the middle of the lineup. It’s about winning, and whatever Ron puts in the lineup that day, he thinks is best to go and compete, but I dream about (hitting in the middle).

“I’m getting so close to being the player that I believe that I can be, so I want to continue to learn. I’ve been dreaming about hitting third. Ryan is one of the best players in the game and that doesn’t mean I want to take that spot, but I want to get better to be around there.

“Aramis is not going to be here next year. I want to be the guy to be behind or in front of Ryan because we want to be ‘the man’. I’m putting in my mind my goals. One of them is dreaming about being an all-star. I had a Gold Glove, something I dreamed about when I was a little kid. Now I start to go to the MVP and get a championship. It’s not impossible. We have the materials. We have a great team to go and compete.”

Right-hander Matt Garza, who started for the Brewers against the Padres, faced Gomez often while pitching for the Chicago Cubs from 2011-’13 and said he’s not the same undisciplined hitter he was back then.

“He was awful,” said Garza. “You’d see him, ‘OK, three pitches.’ Now he’s a battler. He’s really worked hard at his craft. That’s how guys earn respect. Not only inside the clubhouse but outside of the clubhouse.

“You see his improvement and how much time he’s put into it, and I think he’s really, really just touched his potential. The better discipline he gets at the plate, he’s like a dynamite stick with no fuse. You light it and it’s going to go boom sometime. He’s fun to be around, fun to play with.”

Share on Facebook Comments Comments Print Print