MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers' barrage of personnel changes has created opportunities for a handful of young players, and some are making the most of it.
"They have confidence," center fielder Carlos Gomez said. "I love it."
Gomez and Brewers manager Ron Roenicke have been particularly impressed by Khris Davis, who has grabbed the left field job since Ryan Braun was suspended, and Scooter Gennett, who took over at second base when Rickie Weeks suffered a season-ending hamstring injury. Both Davis and Gennett were in the starting lineup on Wednesday, with Gennett making his first Major League start as a leadoff man.
"They can hit," Gomez said. "As long as they keep it consistent, if they do this, they belong here. They have great discipline at the plate. They look like they make quick changes in their approach to each at-bat. … They look like they have 10 years in the league."
In Wednesday's 8-6 loss to the Cardinals, Davis went 3-for-4 with a run -- the first three-hit game of his career -- and Gennett was 1-for-6.
The Brewers did not plan to promote Davis, Gennett and outfielders Logan Schafer and Caleb Gindl to starting roles this season, but were forced to at times in the wake of a series of injuries and other losses. While it has created daily challenges for Roenicke and his coaches constructing a lineup, the manager sees a silver lining.
"The benefit is making a better evaluation on these guys," Roenicke said. "It's difficult when they're at Triple-A and you're guessing how their game is going to play in the big leagues. Now we get to see how it plays in the big leagues. Davis is showing me something. Scooter is showing me something."
Reliever Wooten on paternity list, prompts moves
MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers placed reliever Rob Wooten on the paternity list on Wednesday so he could hustle home to North Carolina for the birth of his first child, a daughter who arrived before dad did.
Manager Ron Roenicke reported that Rob's wife, Katie, and the baby were healthy. Because Rob's trip was planned, doctors began the process of inducing labor on Tuesday night, and things moved a bit more quickly than expected.
"He walked into the room and she was holding the baby," Roenicke said.
Right-hander Donovan Hand, was called up from Triple-A Nashville to replace Wooten, and he pitched 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief in the Brewers' 8-6 loss to the Cardinals, then was promptly optioned back to Nashville along with outfielder/first baseman Sean Halton. Wooten and outfielder Caleb Gindl are expected to rejoin the Brewers on Friday in Cincinnati.
Both Wooten and Hand were non-roster invitees to Spring Training who did not make the Brewers' Opening Day roster but have since assumed significant roles -- Wooten as a reliever and Hand as a swingman. In his first 12 Major League appearances, Wooten pitched to a 0.69 ERA, and with Brandon Kintzler in need of a break on Wednesday after pitching three of the last four days, Wooten would have been the designated eighth-inning man had family matters not pulled him away.
"When Frankie [Rodriguez] left, it changed a lot where guys' roles are," Roenicke said. "[Wooten] pitched himself into a role that's pretty important, whether it's getting out of trouble when I think we need to to win the game, or later on in the game."
Hand arrived at Miller Park about two and a half hours before Wednesday's game, in a much better mindset than when he was optioned on Saturday.
"I get it now," Hand said. "I've had a few days to digest it. It's a business. And I'm back already, so whatever."
Hand posted a 3.83 ERA in his first 20 big league appearances, and held his own in seven starts. He had not pitched consistently as a starter since 2009 at Double-A Huntsville.
"I'm not complaining one bit about it, but I never really got settled in a role," Hand said. "To do that many roles and have that many different mindsets in a three-month period, I'm pretty happy with my ERA. It is tough, but if you can do it, you can make a heck of a lot of money doing it, and you can stay in the big leagues for a long time."
Halton delivered an RBI single as part of a 1-for-4 day on Wednesday, and he said he knew the move was coming. Gindl's required 10 days in the Minor Leagues will expire before Friday, and the Brewers need a more versatile outfielder in reserve, because center fielder Carlos Gomez and right fielder Norichika Aoki are dealing with right knee injuries.
"I was lucky enough to sneak in," Halton said of his six-day stint in the Majors. "Even if it's a short stay, it's always good to contribute, and I look forward to doing that again."
Roenicke's vote for NL MVP would go to Molina
MILWAUKEE -- Is Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina the Most Valuable Player in the National League?
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke thinks so.
"Yeah, and I wouldn't just say that for this year, either," Roenicke said. "When you're voting on things, his defense should come into it. It should be 50 percent of what you're looking at, for me, because of what he does behind the plate and how he handles that staff, what he does to baserunners, the whole package.
"What percentage do the writers usually give on the MVP to defense? Very small. With this, when you're talking about a catcher and what he does to a game, he should be 50/50. That outweighs, for me, any [other player's] offensive numbers. As long as he is doing well offensively, it outweighs everyone."
Molina is leading the NL in hitting, entering Wednesday with a .336 average.
"Thanks to us," Roenicke joked.
Molina was 6-for-9 in the first two games of the series with two doubles, a home run, three RBIs and three runs, and was back in the lineup for Wednesday's afternoon series finale. In his first 12 games against the Brewers this season, he hit .417 (20-for-48).
Milwaukee finally cooled Molina down in Wednesday's 8-6 Cardinals win, as he went 0-for-4.
On Tuesday, Brewers starter Kyle Lohse made exactly the pitch he wanted to Molina -- a fastball inside -- and Molina hit a two-run home run for a 3-0 St. Louis lead. Roenicke was asked whether he simply tipped his cap or felt a need to re-examine the game plan.
"I don't think it's re-examining the plan, because we've been trying to figure out the plan," Roenicke said. "When he looks for a pitch, he can hit any pitch you throw. But if he's in just his basic approach, there are some spots you can go to. You have to get it there.
"Last night … I told [pitching coach Rick Kranitz] to check it out, and he came back and said, 'He shouldn't be able to hit that pitch.' It tells me he was either thinking along with Kyle and had a feeling we were going to come back in, or something. Because you shouldn't be able to hit a pitcher's pitch."
• Aoki was out of the starting lineup on Wednesday because of patella tendinitis in his right knee, Roenicke said. Aoki, who flew out as a pinch-hitter in Wednesday's loss, will get more rest on Thursday along with the rest of the team, and should return to action on Friday in Cincinnati.
Roenicke said head athletic trainer Dan Wright was "not worried too much" about Aoki's knee becoming a significant problem.
• With Aoki out and Gomez still recovering from a sprained right knee, Roenicke started Halton in right field and was limited to a pair of versatile infielders -- Yuniesky Betancourt and Jeff Bianchi -- as outfield backups.
Gomez ran the bases on Wednesday and hopes to be back in the lineup Friday night.