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Gamel injury leaves Brewers even more up in the air at first base

By Scott Miller | Senior Baseball Columnist
With Mat Gamel likely out for the season, post-Prince Fielder life for the Brewers just got more difficult. Now, it's on to Plan B ... or Plan C ... heck, the Brewers aren't even sure.

The immediate short-term fallback is ex-Giant Travis Ishikawa, who is already on the roster and is hitting .172 with two homers and five RBI in 16 games. Though Ishikawa isn't much of an offensive threat, he's very good defensively -- which, as bad as Milwaukee's pitchers are going, is not small thing.

After that?

The Brewers are expected to recall veteran utilityman Brooks Conrad, who most recently played in the majors with Atlanta, from Triple A Nashville in time for Friday's series opener in San Francisco.

Manager Ron Roenicke is expected to broach the subject of first base with right fielder Corey Hart, who could play the position in a pinch, because the Brewers are fairly deep in outfielders with Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez, Nyjer Morgan and Norichika Aoki.

Also, general manager Doug Melvin indicated this week that the Brewers may check in with veteran Derrek Lee, 36, who remains unsigned after hitting .267 with 19 homers and 59 RBI in 113 games for the Orioles and Pirates last year.

"It keeps your scouting staff working, keeps our minds going, keeps your development people working," Melvin said. "For now, we'll fill from within. Travis will be out there. Making trades isn't as easy as people think."

This entire game isn't as easy as people think. Gamel, 26, had waited for an opportunity like this in Milwaukee's organization for seven years. He came up as a third baseman. He learned to play the outfield at one point because, well, with Fielder anchored to first base, he wasn't going to play there.

But with Fielder entering his walk year in 2011, Gamel went back to first base at Nashville. Just in case. He clubbed 28 homers, hired a personal trainer this winter and came to camp in terrific shape.

He started slowly, but the Brewers saw better at-bats lately. He was hitting just .246 with one homer and six RBI in 21 games, but Roenicke and his staff saw sparks.

Then he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, and two things happened.

One, it crushed Gamel.

Two, it set the Brewers back because now they will be unable to evaluate him in 2011.

"At the end of the year, we've still got to know who our first baseman is," Melvin said. "That's why this year was a big year for him, with the opportunity.

"We still would like to think it's Mat. But you would like to have more information."
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