PHOENIX -- The Brewers are in no rush to name a replacement for departed leadoff hitter Norichika Aoki, manager Ron Roenicke said Friday.
Aoki, the pesky left-handed hitter who had filled that role for most of the past two seasons, was traded to the Royals in December. The Brewers got a promising left-hander in return (Will Smith) with five years of club control, but they were left without any prototypical leadoff candidates.
Shortstop Jean Segura has been mentioned, as has center fielder Carlos Gomez. But since neither player walks very much, he would have to hit his way to an acceptable on-base percentage, Roenicke conceded.
"We'll see how Spring Training goes, and the comfort zone of guys," Roenicke said. "We'll try some different things, maybe, in spring, and see how it looks.
"But it's an important spot because you've got really good 3-4 [hitters in Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez] and depending where [Jonathan Lucroy] hits, five. It's important [for the top] two spots [to] get on."
Braun had the Brewers' highest on-base percentage last season (.372), followed by Ramirez (.370) and Aoki (.356). Second baseman Scooter Gennett also posted a .356 OBP, but he may be more likely to begin his first full season in the big leagues hitting lower in the order.
Gomez's on-base percentage last season was a career-best .338, and Segura's was .329.
Boisterous Garza a hit in Brewers' clubhouse
PHOENIX -- If you thought Matt Garza would quietly feel his way around his new team, think again.
"I didn't realize how much fun he would bring to the table," Brewers catcher Martin Maldonado said. "He's like, 'Boom -- I'm here.'"
Pitcher Tyler Thornburg, whose locker is next to Garza's, used one of the same words.
"He's like, 'Hey guys, I'm here -- boom,'" Thornburg said. "He's definitely an extroverted guy, and so far he's been a lot of fun."
"It's something that we probably need to keep the young guys loose," Maldonado said.
Manager Ron Roenicke feels the same way, and he has been happy to see and hear Garza's boisterous clubhouse presence. Last year, Roenicke worried about the Brewers being a bit too reserved, and he urged some of the team's more outspoken players, including center fielder Carlos Gomez, to have fun.
"[Garza's] personality is not a guy who comes into a new organization and just sits quietly and watches," Roenicke said Friday, on the eve of the Brewers' first full-squad workout. "His personality, he's all over the place. He's vocal. He's laughing. But what I like about it is he really works hard. I think that's a great combination to have; you have fun when you have fun, but when [he] needs to bear down, he'll bear down.
"I think it's good to have personalities on the team, it's good to have characters on the team. He's a guy I think is going to fit in and really help us with his personality."
There's also Kyle Lohse, who pitched for the Brewers last season but signed so late in Spring Training that he needed some time to feel his way around the clubhouse. This year, Lohse should be comfortable to play more of a leadership role, Roenicke said.
"We talked this winter, and he would like to be a little more vocal and I would like him to be vocal," Roenicke said. "I think that will work out well."
In the interest of giving veterans a bigger say, Roenicke rearranged the Brewers' Spring Training clubhouse. Instead of going by uniform numbers, the more veteran players tend to occupy lockers on the west end of the room, where Roenicke sets up for the daily morning meeting. All of the projected starting pitchers, the two regular catchers and the most established relievers all occupy one bank of lockers at stage right.
"We thought it was a good way to do it," Roenicke said. "The way we had it before when it was numerically, I was always wanting to talk to Yovani [Gallardo] in the meetings, and 'Yo' was always stuck all the way back in that corner. … Now, the veteran group is right there."
Roenicke: Braun passes media test
PHOENIX -- Brewers manager Ron Roenicke believes Ryan Braun passed the test in his first meeting with the national media.
Braun answered questions for about 10 minutes after reporting to Brewers camp on Thursday, once again broadly expressing regret for "mistakes" and acknowledging that he failed a drug test in 2011. Roenicke read the media coverage and watched video of the session and believes Braun handled it well.
"I keep saying, this is really a good young man," Roenicke said. "It's a shame that with sometimes where you are, and with him being the superstar that he is, that he's going to be booed in so many places.
"For one, when I was young, I couldn't even imagine booing a player. Opposing player, whatever. When I was a kid and my parents took me to a ballgame, I can't even imagine booing somebody, and if I did, my dad would have taken care of it. I just don't understand it."
• Roenicke and general manager Doug Melvin will lead a Brewers contingent to a meeting with Major League Baseball officials on Monday in Scottsdale, where teams will get further information about baseball's new replay system. They will meet at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, the home of the D-backs and Rockies, where the system was tested in the Arizona Fall League.
Among the coaches expected to make the trip are bench coach Jerry Narron and "eye in the sky" John Shelby, who might end up being in charge of monitoring replays in the regular season and calling to the dugout when he believes Roenicke should challenge a call.
• The Brewers on Friday called over some players from Minor League minicamp to face big league pitchers in the first live batting practice of the spring. It's too early for the Major League hitters, who just reported to camp, to step into the batter's box, though catcher Lucroy took some cuts Friday against Donovan Hand.
"Our guys will get plenty, more than they probably would like," Roenicke said. "It's a tough day on the hitters when you have to hit against live pitching."
• Roenicke was surprised by the number of position players who reported for duty before Friday's formal report date. As of Friday morning, only Ramirez, Jason Rogers, Kentrail Davis and Eugenio Velez had yet to appear. Velez was working on a visa issue.
"We have plenty of time," Roenicke said. "There's more games than there's ever been, and it's a long time for the regulars. I think some of the young guys, when they're at home, they're getting in more work than they would here."
• Right-hander Alfredo Figaro took a pitch off his right thumb during a bunting drill this week and was set back a few days. It's a bruise, and it's not serious, Roenicke said. Figaro believes he will be able to pitch by Monday. Also on the medical front, Tom Gorzelanny played catch Friday for the first time since a minor offseason shoulder surgery.
• Smith has been garnering rave reviews. Roenicke called Smith's last bullpen session, "incredible."
"His fastball is down in the zone with life on it, great breaking ball, he's got that bulldog mentality, a big, physical guy," Roenicke said. "He goes hard in all of our workouts and our rotations and he talks a bit in our meetings, so I think he's getting more comfortable."