Things came down to just about the final at bat between second baseman Brooks Conrad and first baseman Travis Ishikawa, but it was Ishikawa that prevailed. He earned the final spot on the Brewers 25 man roster to start the season when many assumed it would be Conrad because of his ability to play the middle of the infield.
Conrad will start the season out at Triple A Nashville as he signed a minor-league deal with an invite to Spring Training. Manager Ron Roenicke made it clear that should something happen to anyone of the middle infielders he'll be called up.
Here is the offical 25 man roster for you:
Pitchers (12): RHP John Axford, RHP Tim Dillard, RHP Marco Estrada, RHP Yovani Gallardo, RHP Zack Greinke, RHP Kameron Loe, RHP Shaun Marcum, LHP Chris Narveson, LHP Manny Parra, RHP Francisco Rodriguez, RHP Jose Veras, LHP Randy Wolf.
Catchers (2): Jonathan Lucroy, George Kottaras.
Infielders (6): 1B Mat Gamel, 2B Rickie Weeks, SS Alex Gonzalez, 3B Aramis Ramirez, UTIL Cesar Izturis, 1B Travis Ishikawa.
Outfielders (5): LF Ryan Braun, CF Nyjer Morgan, RF Corey Hart, OF Carlos Gomez, OF Norichika Aoki.So, what was the difference? Most assumed that with his ability to really play any positon in the infield that Conrad was an easy choice and it was just a foregone conclusion, but that's not what happened.
What most didn't take into consideration and the biggest reason I think Ishikawa won out is the defensive side of the game. Gamel looked good at the plate during Spring Training, good enough that he'll be given every chance to be the everyday starter at first base out of the gate. However, it appears that they are worried enough about his glove at first base to keep Ishikawa in the mix.
So far this spring Ishikawa has a perfect fielding percentage, meaning he's yet to commit an error and his RF is 3.67. Conrad wasn't bad by any stretch either, having commited only 2 errors in his 68 chances during his 33 games played.
He's a very solid defensive player throughout his career and that could be needed if Gamel can't maintain his good defensive numbers from this Spring.
Through last nights games Ishikawa was batting .259 with an OPS of .866 versus Conrad's .204 average with an OPS of .806.
Just looking at the numbers I ask you if you still think Conrad deserved the spot over Ishikawa?
It's also clear that he's earned the respect and trust of the manager and look how that worked out for Mark Kotsay last season? Without his pinch-hitting and spot starting duty I'm not so sure Milwaukee doesn't have a few more losses on it's record last year.
Perhaps the better question should've been between Cesar Izturis and Conrad? Look at their numbers, especially on the defensive end. Izturis has struggled more than anyone in the field, but with him being a switch hitter and probably a bit more rangy than Conrad he won out.
Yes, it's true you can't always look into Spring Training as a sign of things to come, but that's usually at the plate and not in the field. Fielding errors come from habbits and lapses in consentration and those are things that aren't just going to go away because it's the regular season in front of us.
In the end I was always impressed by what Ishikawa brought to the plate and the field, more so that Conrad, but I also felt that many fans were looking at the wrong two players in comparing who should or shouldn't be on the roster and I'm left wondering if we won't see Conrad up sooner than later to replace Izturis?