A weird twist of fate has the Brewers in a familiar situation — they’ll presumably be heading into spring training with Mat Gamel at first base, and quite a few questions surrounding Gamel’s ability to handle the job.
Both Gamel and hitting coach Johnny Narron appeared on WSSP 1250‘s Hot Stove Weekly on Monday night, and Gamel’s sudden (apparent) promotion was a popular topic.
Understandably, Gamel is excited for the opportunity:
“Yeah, it’s awesome. I go from knowing I’m going to have to fight for a bench spot to now I’m back to fighting for a starting role again. So it’s…whatever my role is on the team, whatever I’ve got to do to help the team win games is what I’m going to do. But just knowing my chances of being between the lines again went up pretty good is…it’s unfortunate for Corey [Hart] and I wish him a speedy recovery and everything but it helps me a lot.”
If Narron’s comments are any indication, the Brewers feel just fine with Gamel manning first for the first month or two:
“Mat Gamel is an outstanding hitter, we had a lot of confidence going into last season with Mat. And Mat’s going to do a good job. We’re going to have Corey back as soon as possible, but Mat’s going to do a good job for us.”
Gamel has only seen 269 plate appearances over five seasons, but he’s fared better with consistent playing time. Last season, he was hitting .281/.333/.404 before going on a 1-for-12 skid at the plate before his knee injury that dropped his season line down to .246/.293/.348.
The Brewers are saying all the right things when it comes to supporting Gamel as a starter, but what happens when Hart is ready to return? How would Gamel respond to moving back to a bench role? He seems to think he’d be able stay on track:
“I think now I’m in a better place where if I did have to come off the bench, I think mentally I could handle it better now than I did the first couple times I was up. You know, you’re used to playing every day in the minor leagues and all that, and once you’re sitting on the bench a little bit, mentally you don’t know how to stay sharp, and I think now I’ve got better ideas how to handle that if that is the case.”
The Brewers hope Gamel can handle it better, because once Hart comes back, there won’t be many at-bats available for him — barring another injury at third base or in the outfield.