PHOENIX -- For the first time in years, Cesar Izturis will have to win his Opening Day roster spot.Izturis, an 11-year Major League veteran, is in Brewers camp on the first Minor League contract of his career. He's vying to be Milwaukee's backup to shortstop Alex Gonzalez, and considering the team's only other candidate, Edwin Maysonet, is ticketed for Triple-A, Izturis has a good chance to get his spot. "There's always a first time," Izturis said. "Especially in this game, which is always changing. You go up and down all the time, and you learn something every day. I'm excited to go for it." Izturis has endured some downs in recent seasons. His OPS has dropped each of the past four years, including a 2010 season in Baltimore in which he played 150 games, started 142 of them at shortstop and batted just .230 with a .277 on-base percentage. He was limited to 18 games with the Orioles last season because of elbow and groin injuries. Izturis had surgery in May for a nerve issue in his right elbow. "I know he hasn't hit that well the last couple of years, but he's a switch-hitter, which is valuable," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "He can play all the positions -- second [base], third and short. We want to see that his arm strength comes back and that he's fine that way, and he's a good, quality guy." Izturis reported to Brewers camp on Monday, well ahead of most other veteran position players. Gonzalez and third baseman Aramis Ramirez, both former teammates, have yet to report, as have second baseman Rickie Weeks and right fielder Corey Hart. Among the other familiar faces for Izturis is Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash, who was Toronto's general manager when the Jays signed Izturis out of Venezuela in 1996 and when that team brought him to the big leagues in 2001. "It's definitely a good opportunity for me, and I want to be a part of this team," he said. "But nothing changes. I just have to play my game."
Brewers to pursue Greinke, with or without agent
PHOENIX -- The fact that free-agent-to-be Zack Greinke doesn't have an agent will not stop the Brewers from approaching him about a contract extension, said general manager Doug Melvin. He's been in this position before.Melvin cited December 1998, when he negotiated an $8.5 million deal with free agent Rafael Palmeiro. Earlier this month, Melvin told ESPN.com that he met Palmeiro at a hotel down the street from Rangers Ballpark and had the player write his proposal on a napkin. After getting ownership approval, they had a deal. "I like [Greinke] and I think more players should take control of their situation," Melvin said. "He's involved in a lot more than people think. You see him out here watching all of the other guys throw -- some pitchers go in, shower and go home. This guy is part of everything. He loves the game, and that's how it should be." Greinke's deal will be more complicated than Palmeiro's. Greinke is due to earn $13.5 million for the second straight season, and could command a deal in the neighborhood of the Tigers' Justin Verlander (five years, $80 million). Verlander was two seasons shy of free agency when he signed and Greinke is only one.
Lineup options lead with Weeks, Hart
PHOENIX -- Brewers manager Ron Roenicke is already sketching out lineups, and they all have second baseman Rickie Weeks or right fielder Corey Hart in the leadoff hole."I thought they both were very good at it last year," Roenicke said. "We talk about them not being the prototypical leadoff man, but I saw both of them, for me, succeed at that job. I think any way we go is fine." Roenicke prefers center fielder Nyjer Morgan in the two-hole, where he can bunt and move runners over. Then comes left fielder Ryan Braun, assuming he's not suspended to start the season, and new cleanup hitter Aramis Ramirez. Weeks or Hart would hit fifth, and Roenicke said he's not concerned about three right-handers hitting in succession in the middle of the order. The rest of the lineup could hinge on how first baseman Mat Gamel handles his big break. Gamel could hit as high as sixth or as low as eighth, said Roenicke, who wants to break in the 26-year-old in a low-pressure spot while he establishes himself. Shortstop Alex Gonzalez and catcher Jonathan Lucroy will fill in around Gamel. Roenicke plans to give Gamel more Spring Training at-bats than most of the other regulars. "Whatever it takes for me to get him mentally confident in knowing he can hit at the big league level, that's our aim," Roenicke said. There is plenty of time to make decisions. The Braun situation remains unsettled, and the Brewers do not play their first Spring Training game until March 4.
Left-hander Jed Bradley, No. 97 on MLB.com's Top 100 prospects list, is nursing a minor groin strain, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. He threw on flat ground Monday, and the setback is not considered serious. Bradley was also delayed at the start of last year's Arizona Fall League by a groin tweak. Bradley is the only pitcher in camp limited by an injury, Roenicke said. Right-hander Brandon Kintzler agreed to terms on a 2012 contract, leaving five unsigned players with three or fewer years of big league service. They are catcher Jonathan Lucroy and pitchers John Axford, Zach Braddock, Mike Fiers and Chris Narveson. The Brewers have scheduled a Thursday morning press conference to introduce Japanese import Norichika Aoki. Correcting an item published Monday, a Brewers official said that right-hander Mark Rogers was granted a fourth Minor League option this winter and thus has one remaining. That means the Brewers can option Rogers to a Minor League affiliate once he finishes serving his 25-game suspension for a banned stimulant.