Brewers prepare for homecoming
The Brewers' opener always is a welcome sign of spring, regardless of how good or bad the team is.
This year's opener will be a 3 p.m. contest with the Houston Astros at Miller Park on Friday, April 9. You can read more details of the home opener in next Thursday's Weekend Sports Buzz. The Brewers open the overall season on Monday, April 5, at St. Louis.
The Astros and Chicago Cubs seem to have put some distance between themselves and the rest of the National League Central over the winter. The Cardinals could also hang with them in the division.
Milwaukee has a chance to battle with the remainder of the teams in the division for fourth place. The key for the Brewers will be their pitching, where there are a lot of question marks between No. 1 starter Ben Sheets and closer Dan Kolb.
"It helps to know who you have at those two spots, but we have a lot of spots to determine to get from Ben to Danny," manager Ned Yost said in a spring training interview.
The pitching situation became a little more clear this week when the Brewers traded starter Wayne Franklin and reliever Leo Estrella for some minor leaguers, but Yost still has some decisions to make.
The position players look more set. Here's a look at them:
Left field -- Geoff Jenkins is sporting a contract extension and should be able to concentrate on baseball. He'll bat cleanup in most games. The key to Jenks is remaining healthy.
Center field -- Scott Podsednik has to prove that his near Rookie of the Year season was not a fluke. If it wasn't, Po should spark the Brewers as the leadoff hitter.
Right field -- Ben Grieve started to hit late in spring training and will start against most righthanded pitchers. Brady Clark and Keith Ginter will see time against lefties, although Yost emphasized he will not go with a strict platoon.
Third base -- Wes Helms hopes to build on his power and run production stats from last season. Ginter will likely back him up.
Shortstop -- Craig Counsell will give the Brewer some leadership at this position, but expect Bill Hall to also see action after having a good spring.
Second base -- Junior Spivey will give the Brewers a little speed and experience at second, but don't be surprised if GM Doug Melvin doesn't get an offer he can't refuse for Spivey as the season goes on. Ginter will be waiting in the wings, or perhaps even Rickie Weeks, if the youngster has a hot start in the minors.
First base -- Lyle Overbay indicated in spring training he can hit and field, but in his own way. "I can't be Richie Sexson," Overbay said of the man he is replacing at first. "I can only go out and play my own game."
Catcher -- Chad Moeller should see most of the time, but Gary Bennett had a hot spring and also will see action. Moeller calls the trade to the Brewers, "the chance you hope will come along your way."
The Brewers will need early production from these position players and their pitchers, since they play contenders in the first 20 games of the season.
Bucks in playoff drive
Most prognosticators would not have said at the start of the season that the Bucks would be playing very long in April, but coach Terry Porter's team has surprised a lot of people.
However, the Bucks have been going in the wrong direction for a team heading into the playoffs. They need to stabilize and get back to playing the type of team basketball that had them winning on a consistent basis earlier in the season. They also need to get healthy.
Tuesday's win should give fans some hope that the Bucks are ready to build momentum. It would be nice to have the Bucks earn the fourth spot in the NBA Eastern Conference playoff race because they would get the home court advantage in the first round. They have struggled on the road all season, so if they do not get that advantage they could face a first round elimination.
The Name Game
The Wave's Dan Green and Chris Morman were named goalkeeper and defensive player of the week respectively in the Major Indoor Soccer League. Green went 2-0 with a 4.00 goals against average and .789 save percentage for the Wave over the weekend. Morman was big at both ends of the floor in Milwaukee's 2-0 weekend, scoring three points and blocking six shots ... UWM's Dylan Page earned honorable mention All American basketball honors ... UWM's Ben Stanczyk earned Horizon League Baseball Player of the Week honors after extending his hitting streak to seven games and earning a win and a save on the mound.
Beyond Milwaukee Sports
Rich Melzer of UW-River Falls was picked the National Association of Basketball Coaches Player of the Year. Melzer is the second WIAC player in history to win the honor. He was selected to the second team State Sports Buzz All Collegiate Team ... Jeff Dotson, a UW-Stout goalie, was selected to the coaches' All American hockey first team ... Chester Jahnke set a UW-La Crosse home run record with his 24th career homer over the weekend.
The Bucks host LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Bradley Center.
The Admirals host Cincinnati at 7 p.m. Saturday, also at the BC.
The Wave entertain Philadelphia at 7 p.m. Friday at the U.S. Cellular Arena, in its last regular season home game. The Wave ends its regular season Saturday at Philadelphia and then starts playoff action.
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