With Fielder gone, Brewers look at Gamel at 1B

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 01, 2012
Prince Fielder's departure from Milwaukee is Mat Gamel's big chance. The 26-year-old converted third baseman is slated to become the Brewers' starting first baseman this season. ''I'm not trying to replace him,'' he said of Fielder. ''I'm not trying to be in his shadow. I'm just trying to come do what I do.'' So far this spring training, he's looked promising. Gamel was drafted as a third baseman, but moved to first base last year for two reasons: He wasn't a particularly good defensive third baseman and Milwaukee was preparing for the possibility of Fielder leaving as a free agent after the 2011 season. With Fielder in Detroit, first base is Gamel's job to lose. ''When he was a third baseman, he was OK with third base, the throwing got him in trouble more than anything,'' Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. ''But, as far as moving and catching the ball, he's always been pretty good at that.'' Roenicke acknowledges that there is still pressure on Gamel, though. ''I think there is,'' Roenicke said. ''It's hard to imagine a young guy whose going to take over that position to not to feel a little bit of pressure there. ''We're trying to make it as easy as possible for him because it's not fair to put the pressure as though you're stepping in for Prince or you going to be able to handle it, that's not fair to do that to him'' Prior to the 2011 season, Gamel had started five career minor-league games at first. ''I know last year, they were happy with his progress there, and he was improving all the time,'' Roenicke said of the reports he was getting. ''What I've seen down here (is) pretty good.'' Roenicke added the more experience Gamel gets, the better the team will be there. ''The only thing about Prince is, he paid attention. He had the experience of being there. He wasn't caught out of position very often which comes with experience that Gamel doesn't have.'' If Gamel can help make up for the offense Milwaukee lost when Fielder signed with the Tigers, what he does in the field might not matter much. A left-handed hitter like Fielder, Gamel had four previous stints with the Brewers, who drafted him in the 2005. His longest stretch was in 2009 when he appeared in 61 games. In the minors last season, he batted .310 with 28 home runs and 96 RBI in 128 games. As a major leaguer, he has a .222 average with five home runs and 23 RBIs. Two other spots on the Brewers' infield have new starters this season. The Brewers signed free agents Aramis Ramirez to play third and Alex Gonzalez shortstop. Heading into the season, Ramirez, Gonzalez and second baseman Rickie Weeks have 31 years of major-league experience to Gamel's one. ''Just from practice, it seems like we all work well together,'' he said. ''So, it's just going to take time us playing together, and getting used to how each other plays.'' Just in case, the Brewers are having 6-foot-6 right-fielder Corey Hart play some first base during spring training. Gamel understands that and doesn't view Hart as a threat. He might sit against a tough left-handed pitcher. ''Why should it bother me?'' Gamel said. ''It's just another position for him to work at. I'm not approaching it like he's coming in trying to play first base or he's coming over here to potentially take a job from me.'' NOTES: Roenicke said that right-hander Shaun Marcum would be backed off a day on his throwing routine due to a touch of bursitis. Roenicke added that it was not as bad as it was last year. ''He says he has it every spring,'' Roenicke said. Marcum said it wasn't an issue and wouldn't disrupt anything. ''Nobody needs seven starts to get ready, usually five or six is plenty,'' he said. ''I think everybody gets aches and pains and soreness. It's just part of the job. It's not a problem. We're just being cautious. No need to try to be a hero.''
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