Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers: #45 Travis Ishikawa
We sit 45 days away from Opening Day so today we’ll take a look at the man who will wear #45 on his back this season as a member of the Brewers:
Ishikawa spent no time in the big leagues in 2011 and the time he spent prior to that was a mixture of starting and entering games as a pinch-hitter and/or defensive replacement. For instance, 2009 was the season with the most big league service time for Ishikawa. He played in 120 games, and fielded in 113 of them. He only got 88 starts that season, but logged 817.1 innings and only had three errors in 803 total chances.
He was designated for assignment by the Giants in March of 2011 and, after clearing waivers, was assigned to Triple-A Fresno. It was at Fresno where Ishikawa hurt his non-throwing shoulder while playing right field. He had surgery and was signed as a minor-league free agent by the Brewers in December.
It is versatility and defensive ability (especially at first base) which will allow him to make the Brewers’ 25-man roster should be do so. Milwaukee is very anxious to get Spring Training underway so that they can find out what they have in Mat Gamel. If Gamel proves capable at first defensively, Ishikawa likely will begin the season at the Brewers Triple-A affiliate, Nashville. He’ll be an insurance policy.
In that scenario, Taylor Green likely heads north with the team. The other way Green makes the team is if he proves to be an adequate defender at first, a position which he doesn’t have a lot of experience, and then they can stash Ishikawa anyway. That’s the beauty of a minor-league contract.
Clearly, though, first base is matter of some competition this spring. We’ll get more into the battle when I preview Gamel though by the time I profile Green the decision might be made.
With position players reporting to Spring Training by the end of this week, however, the watchful eyes of the coaching staff will be paying very close attention to how things unfold before them.
Having lost Prince Fielder in free agency, whomever wins the job will face scrutiny and doubt if they struggle early. Gamel will be given an opportunity, this is certain, but whether Doug Melvin and Ron Roenicke decide that it makes more sense to back themselves up with the better bat or better glove, and what kind of difference exists between the options in those categories, will make the difference.
The other thing working in Ishikawa’s favor is that he’s dealt with a bench role before and the team could decide to keep him over Green simply so that Green gets to play everyday at Nashville.
In other words: Pay attention if you’re interested because this one is far from settled and might not be for some time.