MARYVALE, Ariz. -- Is it actually possible to get younger by taking a year off?
Jim Edmonds, 39, sure looks it. He's about to complete one of the spring's most impressive comebacks, winning a spot on the Milwaukee Brewers' opening day roster after taking the entire 2009 season off.
"Kids and golf," he says. "Spent some time on the beach with my kids.
"I haven't gotten a chance to do that in 15 years."
He's leaner than when we last saw him in 2008, fading away with San Diego and the Cubs. He's toned. He's hitting .293 with a .383 on-base percentage in the Cactus League with two homers and 12 RBI in 16 games.
"I think the year off not only helped me get healthy, but it gave me a fresher mind and body," says Edmonds, a four-time All Star who has eight career Gold Gloves. "I was able to get all the negativity out of my mind.
"Now, I'm not worrying about whether it's a lefty or righty pitching, matchups, anything."
When we last saw him, he had a strained calf, suffered a concussion, got into it with Tony La Russa, his former manager in St. Louis. He was flat-out worn out.
"Trying to keep up with all the doubters and the negativity, it was tough to hit," he says.
Now, he's been one of the most pleasant surprises in the Brewers' camp. He's not going to win a starting job, not with slugger Ryan Braun in left, Corey Hart in right and speedy Carlos Gomez in center. But in a right-handed-heavy lineup, Edmonds' lefty bat will find plenty of playing time the way things stand now.
"I can see him getting 250 at-bats," Brewers manager Ken Macha says. "I don't think that will be a problem. If he plays two or three times a week against right-handed pitching, that's 75 games right there, times four at-bats ... 250 at-bats, I can see that happening easily.
"His defense has been terrific. I'm good with him in left field, center field or right field. His arm is still very good, and accurate."
Macha already is envisioning Edmonds hitting second in the lineup when he's in there.
"I just want guys who will get on base for Braun and Prince Fielder," the manager says.
Besides, there's precedent for this sort of thing in Milwaukee. Outfielder Gabe Kapler did the same thing as Edmonds in 2008, winning a job after not playing in '07, and hit .301 with eight homers and 38 RBI. Kapler wound up parlaying that into two more one-year, $1 million-plus contracts in Tampa Bay.
Sunblock Day: Oh man, temperatures in the 80s. Are we sure spring training is wrapping up this week? It's just starting to heat up. Only problem is, so are the allergies.
Likes: Ricky Weeks, healthy. ... Milwaukee starter David Bush getting past the arm fatigue issues that plagued him in 2009 as he was coming back from a micro tear of his right triceps muscle that sidelined him from June through August. Bush right now probably slots in as the Brewers' fourth starter behind Yovani Gallardo, Randy Wolf and Doug Davis. Fifth starter? Brewers manager Ken Macha still has a lot of ifs, but it's between Manny Parra and Chris Narveson after Jeff Suppan was put on the disabled list with a sore neck. ... Prince Fielder going over his iPod with Brewers reliever LaTroy Hawkins and recommending tunes early Monday morning. ... Brandon Morrow feeling great after throwing the simulated game for Toronto the other day. Would love to see him take advantage of his new gig in Toronto after pitching out of Seattle's bullpen the past few years. ... Livan Hernandez in the Nationals rotation? Love to see old people still productive. ... Colorado is looking for a middle reliever, ala what Oakland will get with Chad Gaudin. ... Can't wait for the Butler-Michigan State Final Four game Saturday. ... Ya know, if you get your spinach sautéed with olive oil and garlic, it's not bad.
Dislikes: All these ads I keep seeing about the World Cup this summer on ESPN, the only thing that makes them tolerable is the music, U2's City of Blinding Lights. That's as much attention as I will be paying to soccer for the summer, thank you very much. ... Spring is almost over and I have not even been to Waffle House once.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Just 'cuz I don't run my mouth
"Don't mean I got nothing to say"
-- Drive-By Truckers, Marry Me