CINCINNATI -- While No. 1 catcher Jonathan Lucroy continues working back from a fractured finger, the Brewers plan to split time between backups Wil Nieves and George Kottaras based on performance, manager Ron Roenicke said Thursday.Nieves got Opening Day duties because he worked well in spring with right-hander Yovani Gallardo, and he is expected to also handle Shaun Marcum on Saturday night as the Reds are pitching a left-hander, Travis Wood, and Kottaras hits left-handed. So Kottaras will likely wait until Sunday to catch left-hander Randy Wolf, reprising a duo from most of last season. After that, playing time will be dictated by who's swinging a hot bat. "If George swings the bat like he did in Spring Training and catches like he did, he'll be in there more often," Roenicke said. "Wil, I know will [do a good job defensively]. Wil's a good defensive catcher, and he also swung the bat pretty good in spring." When Lucroy returns, one of the catchers will have to be sent down, and both Kottaras and Nieves are out of options. Lucroy is playing Minor League games in Arizona and will report to Class A Brevard County to start the season. That club's opener is April 7.
Back-to-back jacks by Weeks, Gomez historic
CINCINNATI -- Sure, the Brewers were bummed about Zack Greinke's place on the Opening Day disabled list. But they showed Thursday, in historic fashion, how they'll try to get by in his absence.Rickie Weeks and Carlos Gomez delivered back-to-back home runs in the Brewers' first two at-bats of 2011, sparking a three-run rally in Milwaukee's regular-season opening inning for an early lead against the defending National League Central champion Reds. Weeks hit Cincinnati starter Edinson Volquez's eighth pitch of the season to the left-field seats for his 22nd career leadoff home run and the first by a Brewers hitter leading off a season. Gomez turned on a sinker two pitches later for a booming homer to the second deck, making the 2011 Brewers the first team since the 1969 Reds to get back-to-back home runs to begin a season. Weeks and Gomez joined Pete Rose and Bobby Tolan, who took the Dodgers' Don Drysdale deep to begin the '69 season. "It was a great start, obviously," Weeks said. "To go 1-2 like that, get a couple of runs on the board -- that's good for any ballclub." He didn't necessarily step to the plate intending to ambush a Volquez fastball. "It's Opening Day, so honestly, everybody is kind of blacked-out out there," Weeks said. "It's just one of those things where you try to see the ball and hit it. I thought he did a good job of mixing his pitches after the fact." The Brewers were not finished in their big first inning. Ryan Braun walked, Prince Fielder singled and Volquez finally recorded an out on Casey McGehee's sacrifice fly.
"It's great," Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo said. "I think it shows the kind of hitters we have here, all the talent we have in this room. It's a good feeling. The boys were swinging the bat today, from Day 1."Braun also homered, and Weeks and McGehee finished with two RBIs apiece, but the Brewers took a disheartening loss in the bottom of the ninth inning, when Reds catcher Ramon Hernandez delivered a walk-off three-run home run. Gomez wasn't deterred. "If we keep playing like we played today, we'll be in October," he said. "Believe it."
Uecker healthy, ready to call Crew's 2011 slate
CINCINNATI -- Bob Uecker is calling his 40th consecutive Brewers Opening Day game on Thursday and revealed that, if not for one fortuitous doctor's visit, his streak would be over.Uecker underwent major heart surgery last April to repair a leaking aortic valve, and his return was slowed by a staph infection. By October, Uecker was feeling well enough to accept an invitation to speak at a dinner in Florida, but before traveling, he went in for one last checkup. That's when his doctor discovered that the infection had opened another leak in Uecker's aorta. He immediately scheduled a second surgery. "Had I not gone for that checkup, I would have died," Uecker said. "No doubt. Oh, no doubt. They found that hole where the staph infection had settled in and ate a hole in the new valve they put in. It was pumping blood out of my heart chamber." The second surgery was difficult, but deemed a success, and Uecker returned to a normal broadcast schedule in Spring Training. He's scheduled to call all 162 games in 2011 with broadcast partner Cory Provus. "I don't know if I'm back to normal," Uecker said. "My chest is a little sore yet, where they break you open. Once was OK, twice is a little harder. Other than that, I feel good. ... I feel stronger. I'm back swimming again [one mile per day]. I love doing that. I felt strong this spring, working-wise." After dropping 24 pounds last season, Uecker is back to an Opening Day weight of 190. "That was my 'sitting weight' when I played," he deadpanned. That sense of humor never suffered during Uecker's trying 2010. He'll put it to work on the Brewers Radio Network this season, just like he's done every season since stepping into the booth midway through the 1971 season. He's done every Opening Day game since, and calculated that Thursday marked his 56th Major League opening day if you count his days as a player. "Fifty-six years," he said wistfully, "and I'm still not in the lineup."
Opening Day prep a whirlwind for Roenicke
CINCINNATI -- Rookie Brewers manager Ron Roenicke was too busy before his first Opening Day to be nervous about it.Roenicke, a first-time skipper after 11 seasons on Angels manager Mike Scioscia's coaching staff, jumped between coaches' meetings, pitchers' meetings, catchers' meetings and hitters' meetings on Thursday, and that was all before the team took the field for batting practice. "Yeah, I feel different," he said. "I think, though, there's so much to do to get ready that I'm locking in. I haven't had a chance just to sit down and think about it." Roenicke received a "Go get 'em" text message from Scioscia on Wednesday night. Roenicke signed a two-year contract with a club option for 2013. Brewers bench coach Jerry Narron, who writes the lineup card in beautiful calligraphy, made an extra copy for Roenicke to keep. "There will be [jitters]," he said about three hours before game time. "They're not there yet, but they will be."