By Gregg Hoffmann Special to Published Jan 17, 2002 at 5:07 AM

GM Dean Taylor finally pulled the trigger on a deal. Expect him to take a few more shots in the near future.

The Brewers signed free agent infielder/outfielder Eric Young to a two-year contract plus a club option for 2004 Wednesday.

Young, 34, batted .279 with six home runs, 42 runs batted in and 31 stolen bases last season for the Chicago Cubs. He is currently ranked ninth among active players with 377 career stolen bases and has posted three 50-plus stolen base seasons including a career-high 54 in 2000 for Chicago. He has ranked in the top six in the National League in stolen bases in each of the last seven seasons.

"Eric is a quality, proven lead-off hitter," said Taylor. "He knows what it takes to get on base and will be a valuable part of our club in 2002 and beyond."

Young also plays second base or outfield, so if the Brewers are going to play him every day they are going to have to move another player or two. Perhaps Mark Loretta or Ron Belliard will be traded to make room at second base.

Loretta has been on the block, but he can play more than one infield position while Belliard primarily has been only a second baseman. But, Belliard has been working some at shortstop and third base this winter.

The Young deal also could mean Taylor is finally getting close to pulling the trigger on the deal that would send Jeromy Burnitz to the Mets. Young could play center field with Jeffrey Hammonds moving to right.

If the Brewers get pitcher Glendon Rusch, he will become one of their starters. Outfielder Jay Payton has been rumored to be included. He could become a reserve outfieder.

Another rumored deal that would bring Alex Ochoa back to the Brewers in a three-way trade also was circulating Wednesday.

Tough to K

Young is the second toughest batter in the Major Leagues to strike out, having fanned just 323 times in 5,178 plate appearances. That's a ratio of one strikeout every 16 trips to the plate, which ranks behind only St. Louis' Fernando Vina, 16.3. Young is also second among active players in walk to strikeout ratio at 1.51 walks per strikeout behind only Arizona's Mark Grace (1.7).

Those are welcome stats for a team that set a strikeout record in 2001. Young likely will lead off for the Brewers.

In his nearly 10-year Major League career, Young has posted a .289 batting average while playing for the Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers and Colorado Rockies. He has appeared in 1,237 games and was named to the National League All-Star team in 1996 while with the Rockies.

Of course, Young's age will be questioned. He also has been injured in the past, and the Brewers have been injury-plagued.

Young will be introduced to the Milwaukee media at an 11 a.m. press conference Thursday. Look for coverage of it on The Brew Crew Review news and message board by Thursday evening. If the Brewers do make other deals, look for those on that board and for comments on them in next week's column.

A big book of plans

Scott Jenkins excused himself for a second while he reached across his desk to grab a file as big as the Milwaukee phonebook before it was downsized.

"This is it," said the man who makes sure Miller Park works right for the Brewers. "These are the guidelines for everything from broadcasting and press facilities, to hospitality receptions to the game itself.

"When I took this job with the Brewers, I naturally was excited about Miller Park in general, but one of the things I was most excited about was that we would be hosting an All Star Game," added Jenkins.

"It's going to be a lot of work, but this building was made to host an event like this. Major league baseball also has a great staff that works with us. This is a very mature event that has been put on for a long time."

Jenkins will be in charge of the actual operations of Miller Park for the big event. The Brewers brought former television reporter and political public relations person Lynn Sprangers on board to coordinate the overall All Star efforts.

Sprangers is working with MLB officials on everything from promotions to the various festivities that will be held for the All Star event. In addition to the game itself on July 9, the Futures Game will be played on July 7 and Home Run Hitting contest on July 8 at Miller Park. Those events attract almost as many people as the actual All Star game.

A Fan fest will be held at the Midwest Express Center, a VIP reception at the new Helfaer Field on the grounds of the old County Stadium and several other events will be held around the area. More details will be announced over the upcoming months.

The Brewers also are putting together an All Star book. Your truly has written the chapters on the first All Star game in 1933, as well as the 1955 and 1975 All Star games played in County Stadium. Stay tuned for more information about when that book will be available.

Working out the bugs

Jenkins is glad the Brewers had a year of operating Miller Park before taking on the All Star event. "We could have done it last season, but it sure helped to have a year to get the bugs out of the building," he said.

One of those bugs led to a power outage that postponed a game. "We went over everything after that and found a few things that could have caused future problems," Jenkins said. "I don't know if you can ever guarantee that nothing like that will happen, in any building, but we feel very confident."

The retractable roof also sprung a few leaks in places. "I don't know if we ever will have a perfectly dry building during big rains," Jenkins said. "It is such a big roof, but we made great progress during last season and have done even more since then."

Old Man Winter has been very cooperative this off-season. The Brewers re-sodded the field in mid-October. "We were a little concerned because the season was pushed back a week or so by the Sept. 11 tragedy," Jenkins said.

But, the prolonged fall, and relatively mild winter, have done wonders for the turf. "The frost didn't go into the ground until pretty late," Jenkins said. "We have left the roof open most of the winter. The turf should be in beautiful shape."

Blanco gets stitches

Catcher Henry Blanco received some stitches in his right elbow after suffering minor cuts when a car he was riding in overturned in his home country of Venezuela last Monday.

Blanco is playing winter ball in Venezuela this off-season. He is expected to be fine for the opening of spring training in a few weeks.

Winter tour

By the time this column runs on OMC next week, the Brewers will be halfway through their winter tour of the state. That tour culminates Friday, Jan. 25, with the annual Diamond Dinner at the Pfister Hotel.

Gregg Hoffmann writes The Brew Crew Review on Thursdays and The Milwaukee Sports Buzz on Mondays for OMC.

Gregg Hoffmann Special to
Gregg Hoffmann is a veteran journalist, author and publisher of Midwest Diamond Report and Old School Collectibles Web sites. Hoffmann, a retired senior lecturer in journalism at UWM, writes The State Sports Buzz and Beyond Milwaukee on a monthly basis for OMC.