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30 in 30: Milwaukee Brewers

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The Sports Xchange, Comcast.net
Sat Mar 13, 8:07 PM UTC

Well aware that a shortage of established starting pitchers hampered his club in 2009, general manager Doug Melvin was determined not to let it happen again.

That's why Melvin brought six established starters to spring training as well as two or three other wannabes.

To assure depth, he signed left-handers Randy Wolf and Doug Davis as free agents over the winter.

"You've got 30-some games to play in spring training," Melvin said. "To have any kind of injury, we're protected now.

"You're always one injury away from being too short of talent. We like the depth that we have. We'll wait and see how that all turns out."

If the starting pitching comes together, the Brewers figure to be contenders in the NL Central. They believe their bullpen will be a strength, beginning with closer Trevor Hoffman and veteran setup men LaTroy Hawkins, Todd Coffey and Claudio Vargas.

A key to the club's success will be how young center fielder Carlos Gomez and rookie shortstop Alcides Escobar perform. Gomez was an offensive underachiever in Minnesota before coming to the Brewers in a trade for shortstop J.J. Hardy. That deal resulted in a commitment to Escobar, considered the organization's top prospect.

The Brewers also are looking for new catcher Gregg Zaun to defy the odds at age 38. With a lack of experience behind him, Zaun will be expected to catch more than 100 games, a daunting task at his age.

Second baseman Rickie Weeks also will be a key after missing most of the 2009 season because of a left wrist injury that required surgery. Weeks has been injury-prone throughout his career, and the Brewers need him to stay healthy and productive in the leadoff spot.

Right fielder Corey Hart also will be counted on to bounce back after a subpar '09 season marred by an emergency appendectomy that knocked him out for five weeks. Hart was an all-star in '08 but has sputtered since.

It will be up to third baseman Casey McGehee to prove that his unexpected rookie production (.301, 16 homers, 66 RBIs in 116 games) was not a fluke last year. If McGehee falters, prospect Mat Gamel will try to get his foot in the door.

Left fielder Ryan Braun and first baseman Prince Fielder return to the Nos. 3-4 spots in the lineup, guaranteeing plenty of pop there. Braun and Fielder combined for 255 RBI last year, tops in the majors by a set of teammates.

Milwaukee players to watch, roster breakdowns and more...

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