Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers ’14 – #14 Jeff Bianchi

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TWO WEEKS! You’re officially allowed to start freaking out, if you haven’t done so already. It’s so close that we can almost taste it. It’s certainly close enough to feel, despite the reluctance of Mother Nature to loosen her icy grip on the nation’s heartland. Thankfully, with Miller Park’s roof and heating system, they’re able to raise the “inside” temperature roughly 30 degrees over outside temps.

So even though it might be cold in two weeks, the thoughts of tailgating and baseball should keep us warm through the balance of the month of March.

Not worried about Wisconsin’s weather — at least not yet — is the man who’s been wearing number 14 during the warm Cactus League season…

Jeff Bianchi.

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Jeffrey Thomas Bianchi is a 5’11” infielder who was originally drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 2nd round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft. In other words, this is a guy who’s carried quite a bit of expectation with him throughout his professional career. I outlined his injury troubles last year which helps to explain his delay in debut and his limited successes since then, but he’s been fairly injury prone throughout.

That includes 2013. Bianchi was asked to play in the 2013 World Baseball Classic on behalf of Team Italy but was unable to participate after an early groin injury and a resultant bout of hip bursitis. It was a shame too, as Team Italy was a the surprise of the tournament and could have used the man slated to be their starting shortstop.

Bianchi rehabbd throughout much of the month of April and made his season debut after finally being activated from the DL on May 2. The Pennsylvania native contributed a little bit at the plate and offered some necessarily defensive flexibility, even covering 5.1 innings in left field over parts of three games.

The situation for 2014 though is something of a different set of circumstances. Bianchi is being challenged by a couple of different players who are new to the organization. Both Elian Herrera and Irving Falu have been playing a bit of round robin with Bianchi this spring, covering innings at second base, third base, shortstop and the outfield. And while Bianchi is limited as best in the outfield, Elian Herrera has been playing centerfield as well as the corners.

Herrera has been hitting well (.296/.367/.556) this spring and is more versatile overall in the field, but for his part Bianchi has hit too (.310/.355/.448 at time of posting) and is the best defensively at shortstop of the three.

In a perfect situation the Brewers would be able to structure the 25-man roster such that they can keep both Bianchi and Herrera. However, the roster pinch that exists due to the desire to keep two first basemen and possibly two second basemen could severly hamstring the Brewers’ ability to maximize the flexibility on their bench. The pain could be eased by optioning Scooter Gennett to Triple-A to start the season, but that’s reliant on Rickie Weeks proving he’s worthy of another chance at holding down the every day job at the keystone.

But we’re not here for that discussion. All that Jeff Bianchi can do is try to excell in the areas he can control. He can’t control how Herrera, Falu, Weeks, Gennett, or anyone else plays. He can only perform to the best of his ability and hope that, coupled with his track record of dependability, that’s enough.

The clock is ticking, though, and a decision looms.

Miss anyone along the way? Catch up on the Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers profiles to this point:

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