Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Mat Gamel Tears ACL, Out for the Year

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Folks, in last night’s game (May 1, 2012), Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Mat Gamel ran to catch a foul ball in San Diego.  There’s a drainage ditch there, right where the stands meet the field and wall, that’s caused problems before — but the Padres organization has yet to fix it.   This piece of information is essential to have when you consider that Gamel, in stumbling, then falling due to the drainage ditch, tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and is now projected to be out for the entire year.

This is really bad news for Gamel.  He’s only 26.  He’s had a rough go of it in the Brewers organization; for whatever reason, every season the Brewers minor league system seemingly had Gamel playing a different position.  He started out at third base, had a flirtation with the outfield for a while, and then eventually was moved to first base last year due to the Brewers’ certain knowledge that Prince Fielder would leave after the 2011 season due to Fielder’s demands for a huge payday — one the Brewers couldn’t provide.

So here Gamel is; he’s finally ensconced in the major leagues, playing every day, at first base.  Then he has this injury due to something the Padres really should’ve fixed at least four years ago — this odd drainage ditch right near the wall at Petco Park, which has caused players to miss time or be put on the disabled list (DL) before — and is now out for the entire year.  Gamel’s season ends with a .246 average, 1 home run, 6 RBI, 3 SB, 4 walks, and 15 strikeouts in 21 games played.

As for the Brewers, they’re now in crisis mode according to several sources — Brewers Extra Innings announcer Dan O’Donnell (a show on the Brewers Radio Network, carried by Brewers flagship radio station WTMJ-AM in Milwaukee, WI), FSN Wisconsin announcers Craig Coshun and Jerry Augustine (the latter a former Brewers pitcher during their glory days in the late 1970s/early 1980s), and Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Brewers beat writer Tom Haudricourt (see this link for more details) — as their only extant options are these: move RF Corey Hart to first base on a long-term basis, or sign and/or trade for someone else who’s capable of hitting big league pitching.

Now, some of you might be saying, “What about Brooks Conrad, who’s hitting quite well in AAA ball?”  While Conrad is hitting exceptionally well thus far — a .400 batting average, 5 HR and 13 RBI — the season is still young, and Conrad’s lifetime batting average of .229 in three-plus years of playing time isn’t exactly reassuring.**  Conrad, 32, can play a number of positions, which is definitely a plus, and is a credible short-term answer, along with current Brewers utilityman Travis Ishikawa (the latter a strong defensive first baseman).  But a long-term answer, he probably isn’t.

At this point, if I were the Brewers organization, I’d immediately start working Corey Hart out at first base.  I’d have him start playing late innings at the position, to get used to it (this, incidentally, would help keep his big bat in the game in later innings, too).  And until he was ready to play full games at first base, I’d probably divide the playing time between Conrad and Ishikawa as the best available options.

But this season doesn’t look too good right now, not with two substantial, season-ending injuries already in Gamel and pitcher Chris Narveson, which is one reason O’Donnell was panicking tonight on his radio show.  (Bad enough that the Brewers are now 11-14 and just lost a game to former Brewers pitcher Jeff Suppan, now of the Padres, even though Suppan hadn’t pitched in the major leagues since 2010.  Or that Rickie Weeks is only hitting .180 and looks horrid at the plate.)


Note: For those of you saying, “Well, Barb, you keep extolling Vinny Rottino, and his stats aren’t that great, either!,” here’s my answer: Rottino’s not had a solid chance to play every day, or even every third or fourth day, in the majors.  Conrad has.  ‘Nuff said.

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 2, 2012 at 10:18 pm

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