The help: Getting to know some new names on the Brewers’ injury-prone roster
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With just over 90 games remaining, it’s fair to say that this Brewers season has been, if nothing else, interesting. The team has scored 10 more runs than last year’s team to this point. Ryan Braun is somehow having a better statistical campaign, despite missing Prince Fielder’s support in the lineup. A 34-year-old Japanese slap-single-hitting outfielder hit a game-winning home run after which he and his translator were both pied. Corey Hart can actually play a decent first base, too.
Of course, the most interesting (and frustrating, deflating, and awful) aspect of this Brewers team is the flurry of injuries the opening-day roster has sustained since April. Everything from ACL tears to bizarre suitcase-related hand injuries have taken trusted players off the field, and undoubtedly cost the Crew more than a few games.
But, somehow, the team is still somewhat afloat in the division, thanks in part to some unlikely assistance from a grab-bag of misfit minor leaguers, journeymen, and prematurely promoted prospects. If you haven’t been watching lately, here are some of the strange names that have occupied the scorecard at some point this season, and their impact on the Brewers.
Edwin Maysonet—SS, 2B, 3B
Pre-2012 career highlights: .276 BA, 1 HR, 21 hits in 46 games (two seasons) with Astros.
Brewer contributions: After enduring a sloppy season of pop-ups and fielding errors with cherubic Yuniesky Bentancourt at shortstop, Milwaukee made improving the position a priority by signing defensive wunderkind Alex Gonzalez and capable veteran backup Caesar Izturis. The re-tooling worked great… until Gonzalez tore his ACL in early May, and Izturis strained his hamstring some three weeks later. Enter Plan C: Edwin Maysonet. While he hasn’t quite become a household name in his 30 games as Milwaukee’s emergency shortstop, Maysonet has been quietly steady, both with his .250 BA and his mere two fielding errors in 135 innings split between shortstop, second, and third base.
Cody Ransom—SS, 3B, 2B, 1B
Pre-2012 career highlights: 74 hits, 10 HR, 41 RBI in 231 games (nine seasons) with Giants, Astros, Yankees, Phillies and Diamondbacks.
Brewer contributions: In a move also made to account for Gonzalez’s injury, Doug Melvin combed the waiver wire (or his grammar school yearbook?) and nabbed 36-year-old infielder Cody Ransom, who had recently been designated for assignment by the Diamondbacks. In 20-plus games, he’s disappointed with the bat, but, surprisingly, he’s proven a valuable glove, with tremendous defensive plays at all four infield spots.
Pre-2012 career highlights: Four putouts in three games for 2011 Brewers. Struck out in his first and (at the time) only career at-bat.
Brewer contributions: Of all the Brewers temps, Maldonado has made the biggest impression, and even has a shot of keeping a spot on the Brewers roster when Jonathan Lucroy returns from his freak luggage injury. Much to the dismay of female Brewers fans and Randy Wolf, Maldonado’s excellent play both behind the plate and beside it has threatened George Kottaras’ backup role, whom the backstop has out-homered, out-hit, and plain out-performed in half the games and seven fewer at bats than his Canadian catcher counterpart.
Brooks Conrad—1B, 2B, SS, 3B
Pre-2012 career highlights: 14 HR, 56 RBI, seven SB and 76 hits in four partial seasons with Athletics and Braves.
Brewer contributions: In many ways, Conrad inherited Craig Counsell’s role on the team. For one, he was plugged into all infield positions. Also, he took over in the epic slump department. After a 0-27 slump and two separate demotions/promotions, Conrad finally got a hit, then a couple more before being sent back to Nashville with a batting average resembling a breathalyzer result of a person who’d narrowly escaped citation.
Taylor Green—1B, 2B, 3B
Pre-2012 career highlights: 10 hits in 37 AB (.270 BA), one RBI for 2011 Brewers. Two fruitless post season plate appearances.
Brewer contributions: The highly touted Green first came to Milwaukee last August. Back then, he played well in limited opportunities, even making the playoff roster. This season saw him starting in the minors, then being called up to platoon at first base with Travis Ishikawa and Conrad (who were already filling in for an injured Mat Gamel). Now that Hart has emerged as the go-to option at first, Green’s playing time is even more limited, yet he’s found time to crack his first two MLB homers this season.
Pre-2012 career highlights: 2 IP, 2K, 3 BB for 2011 Brewers.
Brewer contributions: Originally brought up from the Sounds to fill in for a few Marco Estrada starts (who, himself, was replacing an injured Chris Narveson), the 27-year-old rookie is making it tough to hand Estrada the No. 5 spot when he comes back soon. In four starts and a relief appearance, Fiers has an impressive 3.64 ERA, with a pair of quality starts and an astounding strikeout (24) to walk (4) ratio.
Pre-2012 career highlights: None.
Brewer contributions: Though last Tuesday’s spot start (in place of Shaun Marcum) is the young hurler’s one and only Major League outing to date, Thornburg made an admirable transition from AA Huntsville to big league pitcher… until giving up three straight homers in this sixth inning and getting yanked. Now demoted (or “promoted” if you take into account he was optioned to AAA), he got his first Major League start, first strikeout, and first hit under his belt. He even learned a few lessons along the way—namely, not to throw three dead center fastballs to big league hitters. Rest assured, he’ll be back in Milwaukee again.
Pre-2012 career highlights: 20 2/3 IP, 11 ER, 21 K in 32 games spanning portions of three seasons with 2006-07 Pirates and 2011 Phillies.
Brewer contributions: We’ll let you know when one happens.