In a bit of a surprise move, the Brewers finalized their 25-man roster late Tuesday night by keeping first baseman Travis Ishikawa over infielder Brooks Conrad. Conrad will be assigned to Nashville. The move means Cesar Izturis is the only bench player on the Opening Day roster capable of playing a middle infield position.
Some of the justification from Ron Roenicke:
#Brewers manager Ron Roenicke on move: “Looking at the needs of what we see. Ishikawa’s definitely a plus defender and good PH off bench.”
— Todd Rosiak (@Todd_Rosiak) April 4, 2012
RR hopes Ishikawa proves this year’s Kotsay. But decision leaves Izturis as the only backup middle IF on the roster. Maysonet one call away.
— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) April 4, 2012
So at least on the surface, it appears Ishikawa got the nod because the Brewers believe he’ll be the better pinch-hitting option. It definitely helps that Ishikawa has the reputation of being a good defender at first base, too, considering Mat Gamel is still learning the position and the Brewers may want to use a defensive replacement late in games. Also, if Corey Hart’s knee injury — and inability to take grounders as a result — didn’t do it, this move would seem to signal the end of the “Hart playing some 1B” talk…at least for now.
The Brewers are rolling the dice a bit on Izturis being the only non-1B reserve infielder (what happens if Aramis Ramirez and Rickie Weeks — neither of whom is the epitome of durability — get hurt in the same game?), but Roenicke says a move will be made if the need for another SS/2B type arises. Edwin Maysonet seemed to make a positive impression on Roenicke this spring, but Eric Farris is already on the 40-man roster. Maysonet and Conrad won’t be, at least to start the year.
So the 25-man roster is set to open the year. We can argue Ishikawa-over-Conrad for the next few days if we want, but in the end, it probably won’t matter too much. A lot of digital ink was used last year complaining about Erick Almonte and Jeremy Reed making the Opening Day roster over Brandon Boggs, and none of those players wound up being a factor last season.