PHOENIX -- Last year at this time, right-hander Marco Estrada was toiling in the Brewers' Minor League minicamp with little chance to make the Opening Day roster.What a difference a year makes. Today, Estrada essentially has his spot locked up as the Brewers' long reliever and just-in-case starter. "Last year, I didn't think I had a shot," he said. "My goal was just to get in the best shape that I could, and hopefully sometime down the line I would get an opportunity to get called up. Things changed." Things changed when Zack Greinke cracked a rib playing basketball. Prospect Wily Peralta wasn't ready to step in, and Estrada got a call. "It happened really fast," Estrada said. "I had maybe pitched one game over there when they called me over here and said they needed somebody to start." He responded by going 3-2 with a 3.70 ERA in seven regular-season starts, and posting a 4.38 ERA in 36 often bullpen-saving relief appearances. "I feel good, but I'm not acting any different now," he said. "I'm doing all the same things as last year, because nothing is guaranteed."
NFL MVP Rodgers visits Brewers camp
PHOENIX -- How was this for a power trio behind the Brewers' batting cage: Two-time American League MVP Robin Yount, reigning National League MVP Ryan Braun and NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers, sharing a laugh at Maryvale Baseball Park.A few dozen fans took in that scene on Wednesday, when the Green Bay Packers quarterback was in Brewers camp to shoot a commercial for the team with his buddy Braun. Rodgers was vocal in his support of Braun last week, when an arbitration panel overturned Braun's 50-game suspension. Via Twitter, Rodgers said Braun's critics "picked the wrong guy to mess with." He criticized ESPN, which originally reported in December that Braun faced a suspension, and also lashed out at what he called "idiots" arguing that Braun's defense hinged on a technicality.
On Wednesday, Rodgers declined multiple media requests to expound on that support, simply telling one Associated Press reporter, "I had a lot of fun."Wearing a light blue shirt and jeans, Rodgers borrowed one of Braun's gloves and shagged fly balls during batting practice. He later stood with Yount and Braun while Milwaukee right-hander Mark Rogers threw live batting practice. "I didn't even see him back there until I was done, and then it was like, 'Whoa, is that who I think it is?'" Rogers said. "Pretty cool to see him here." Rodgers visited the Brewers on several occasions last season. He and Braun are both California natives and have struck up a friendship in recent years.
Position battles limited in Brewers camp
PHOENIX -- Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said the team plans to break camp with 12 pitchers and 13 position players, essentially meaning that two bench spots and two bullpen spots are up for grabs this spring.Three bench spots are spoken for by backup catcher George Kottaras and outfielders Carlos Gomez and Norichika Aoki. Veteran infielder Cesar Izturis is likely to win a job as the backup shortstop, leaving one infield spot for candidates like Taylor Green or Brooks Conrad. Green broke through with the Brewers last season and made the team's playoff roster, and Conrad is a Major League veteran in camp as a non-roster invitee. Of the 12 pitching slots, 10 are spoken for by the team's five returning starters and relievers John Axford, Francisco Rodriguez, Jose Veras, Kameron Loe and Marco Estrada. That leaves two openings for a list of candidates that includes left-handers Zach Braddock and Manny Parra and right-handers Brandon Kintzler, Tim Dillard and Mike McClendon, among others.
Zack Greinke and Randy Wolf are scheduled to pitch in the Brewers' Cactus League opener Sunday against a Giants split squad. Greinke will probably start that game. Closer John Axford is also scheduled to pitch. Manager Ron Roenicke has been pleased with Mark Rogers so far in camp, saying, "The ball is coming out really well." Rogers underwent surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome on both wrists last year. "Now, will he get back to the 97 or 98 [mph] that he threw for them in the two starts two years ago? I don't know that," Roenicke said. "But the ball is coming out of his hand really well, and I think he is pleased with the progress, as we are." Rogers will begin the season on the suspended list. He tested positive for a banned stimulant last season. Right fielder Corey Hart has been working every other day at first base, a position he could man occasionally in 2012 to spell Mat Gamel. Hart began his professional career as a first baseman and "looks really good," Roenicke said. Hart could see action in five or six Cactus League games at first.