SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Utility player Eugenio Velez is vying for a spot on the Brewers' bench, but it's his bat, not his glove, that's keeping him in the competition.
The Brewers are seeking a player off the bench who can also play shortstop. Velez is primarily a second baseman and an outfielder.
"The main thing for me was making mental adjustments to the game, especially at the plate," Velez said. "I've worked hard in the batting cage and on the field, but I'm really working on focusing on the ball and staying focused at the plate. Up to now, it's worked."
For his career, Velez has a batting average of .241 with eight home runs, 72 RBIs, a .287 on-base-percentage and .654 OPS in 259 games with the Giants and Dodgers since making his big league debut in 2007. He spent all of the 2012 season in Triple-A with the Cardinals, and combined to hit .314 and slug .398 with an .870 OPS last season at the same level with the Blue Jays and Brewers.
Velez also sported a .295 batting average in 20 games in the Dominican Republic during the winter, and hit two home runs for the Dominican Republic during the Caribbean Series.
"I consider myself a big leaguer, but it's up to the manager to make the decision where to put me," Velez said. "It's been difficult at times because you've been in the big leagues and you know you can do the job, but I know I was sent to the Minor Leagues to work on some things. I feel like I've improved a lot, and I hope to get the opportunity to get back."
Velez admits he has something to prove. He set a Major League record by going hitless in 37 at-bats (40 plate appearances) for the Dodgers during the 2011 season. He's actually 0-for-46 in the big leagues dating back to 2010 with the Giants.
"It was a frustrating time for me," Velez said. "I had a tremendous season in Triple-A and then going to the Major Leagues and being on the bench was tough. You get an at-bat every nine, 10 or 11 days, a lot of time passes and you are expected to get a hit right off the bench every time. That was a challenge mentally, but I learned and grew from that experience."
Velez's last Major League hit came on May 18, 2010, against the Padres.
"I've forgotten about what's happened in the past, and I'm going forward to help this team," Velez said. "I'm a different person, a better prepared player than I was back then."
Opening Day start would be club record for Yo
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo would set a team record for Opening Day starts with five in a row if he's selected to pitch against the Braves on March 31 at Miller Park.
Ben Sheets started four Opening Day games in a row and six total (2002-05, 2007-08) for the Brewers.
"If the opportunity is there, it would mean a lot to anybody in that situation," Gallardo said. "It shows the kind of responsibility that you have for your organization and what they think of you. This is the only organization that I've been with. They've helped me through a lot of things, and the way I look it, adding something like that to the resume is an honor."
Gallardo made his first Cactus League start Friday and allowed one hit in two scoreless innings against the Giants in an eventual 4-3 loss. He struck out one hitter in the 25-pitch effort.
"The first time out you just want to make sure you are around the strike zone," he said. "I think I was able to do that today with mostly fastballs. I threw some curveballs for first pitch, something I was going to be working on."
The Brewers travel to Boston and Philadelphia after the opening season against Atlanta.
"The way I look at it, I have to be ready to pitch when it's going to be my turn," Gallardo said. "That's the good thing with the five guys we have here. It's something that doesn't bother us. We all want to get the ball and go out there and get started."
Brewers seek clarification on home-plate collisions rule
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Brewers coaches and front office officials had a few questions for Joe Garagiola Jr., Major League Baseball's executive vice president of baseball operations, who was in camp on Friday morning to discuss the new guidelines for home-plate collisions.
Rule 7.13, announced by Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association on Monday, states that catchers are not allowed to block home plate without the ball in hand. It also says that runners must not deviate from their path to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher.
On Thursday against the A's, Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy charged home from second base on a single to left field by Khris Davis to set up a play at the plate in the third inning. Oakland catcher Derek Norris set up in front of home plate and inside the baseline to receive the throw on the play. The ball bounced away from Norris allowing Lucroy to score.
"Even though the catcher was in front of the plate, the ball was there first and he probably would have been OK," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "If nobody takes advantage of what the exact rule is, we'll be fine. If people just go out and play baseball, the rule is going to work out. But if somebody says 'Well, I have the ball first and I can sit in front of home plate,' well, you know, now we start having problems."
K-Rod expected to be in camp soon
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Reliever Francisco Rodriguez has received his work visa in Venezuela and is expected in Brewers camp soon.
"I don't know the exact timing of it. He's supposed to fly in [Friday] and work out [Saturday]," manager Ron Roenicke said. "That was the plan a couple of days ago."
Rodriguez, 32, signed a one-year deal with the Brewers earlier this month. He has amassed a 3.15 ERA and 131 strikeouts in 125 2/3 innings during his 134 appearances with Milwaukee.
Roenicke said he's not sure how much Rodriguez has thrown during the offseason, but he's looking forward to getting him in camp.
"He's had a lot going on in his country," the manager said. "I don't know what he has done."