Who is Mat Gamel?

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 1, 2012 - 6:36 PM

He's the Brewers' new first baseman, the replacement for Prince Fielder.

MARYVALE, ARIZ.

The Brewers approached spring training with two gaping holes in their lineup, two enormous potholes that threatened to swallow their chances of capturing back-to-back division titles for the first time in 30 years. To return to the postseason, Milwaukee pinned its hopes on an unlikely duo of little-known saviors: Shyam Das and Mat Gamel.

Das did his part. Pressure's on you now, Mat.

"I don't think of it as pressure," Gamel said. "To me, it's the opportunity I've been waiting for."

Gamel, a 26-year-old infielder who has mostly been stuck in Class AAA since 2008, is the Brewers' new first baseman, which comes as a bit of a shock. He's no Prince Fielder, Gamel is quick to acknowledge. Heck, he's barely a first baseman.

But Gamel, a lifelong third baseman until last year, is the player that Brewers General Manager Doug Melvin entrusted with Fielder's job, if not quite his role. And if he solves that challenge for Milwaukee as effectively as Das did their Ryan Braun problem -- Das is the arbitrator who overturned Braun's 50-game suspension for testing positive for elevated testosterone last October -- the Brewers might yet survive their winter of upheaval.

Fielder signed a $214 million contract with Detroit in January, robbing Milwaukee's lineup of a 40-homer presence whose personality was as large as his belly. Melvin reportedly considered aging sluggers Hideki Matsui or Raul Ibanez, and rumors persist that right fielder Cory Hart could inherit the job. But Melvin ultimately placed his faith in Gamel, whose 28 home runs in the minors last season were a career high, and a sign there might not be as big a drop-off as Brewers fans fear.

"You don't replace a guy like Prince, and I'd never ask him to do that," said Ron Roenicke, who led Milwaukee to a 19-victory improvement and into the NLCS in his first season as Brewers manager. "But if we can keep him relaxed and focused, he can make a big dent in [Fielder's] numbers. He's got the talent to be a part of a winner."

And the Brewers figure they can compensate in other areas, too. Melvin signed former Cub Aramis Ramirez, who has averaged 28 home runs a year since 2005, to upgrade third base, where Casey McGehee had lost the job to Jerry Hairston by the time the playoffs started. Second baseman Rickie Weeks, who hit 20 home runs last year despite missing 44 games because of a badly sprained ankle, is healthy again.

Mostly, the Brewers are counting on a solid pitching staff and a decent lineup to absorb the loss of Fielder. Controversial as it was, Braun's victory in the arbitration room means there won't be an MVP-sized vacuum in the lineup for two months, enabling Roenicke to pencil in something like the 33-home run, 33-stolen base season that the 28-year-old turned in last season.

Meanwhile, Milwaukee allowed the fewest runs by far of any team in its division, and the new left side of the infield -- Ramirez and Alex Gonzalez, replacing McGehee and Yuniesky Betancourt -- figures to cut that number even more. The rotation is deep and intact, and Roenicke believes righthander Shaun Marcum might be on the verge of reaching the elite class of teammates Zack Greinke and Yovani Gallardo. John Axford and Francisco Rodriguez are a killer combination in the bullpen.

"People see [Braun] and Fielder and think we won just by hitting homers," said Hart, who hopes to return from knee surgery before Opening Day. "But we've got one of the best pitching staffs in the game."

And then there's Gamel, a career .301 hitter and .521 slugger in Class AAA, waiting to make the big jump. He changed his approach this winter, hired a personal trainer and reported to camp in better shape than ever before. He's had chances before -- McGehee beat him out at third base two years ago -- but he never has been counted upon like this.

"It's up to me to step up. It's up to me to prove that I deserve the opportunity," Gamel said. "It's not about replacing Prince, it's about helping this team win."

He'll do plenty, his teammates believe.

"If you watch him, you would think he's been in the big leagues for years," Hart said. "This doesn't faze him. He's going to be fine."

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions
Final(10)2345678910RHE
Cleveland0020110004111
Minnesota «0110010115112
@Ballpark Replay
Preview | Matchup | Lineup | Log | Wrap | Box
W:J.Burton(3-5) L:K.Crockett(4-1)
HR: CLE- M.Brantley (20) MIN- O.Arcia (19), K.Vargas (9)

ADVERTISEMENT

Los Angeles - WP: C. Kershaw 14 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - LP: E. Jackson 5
Boston - WP: J. Tazawa 5 FINAL
Baltimore - LP: D. O`Day 3
Milwaukee - LP: J. Broxton 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: J. Holdzkom 4
Toronto - LP: M. Buehrle 3 FINAL
NY Yankees - WP: H. Kuroda 5
Washington - WP: D. Fister 3 FINAL
Miami - LP: T. Koehler 2
Chicago WSox - WP: J. Quintana 4 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: J. Hellickson 3
NY Mets - WP: Z. Wheeler 5 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: J. Teheran 0
Cleveland - LP: K. Crockett 4 FINAL
Minnesota - WP: J. Burton 5
Detroit - WP: J. Verlander 10 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Vargas 1
Seattle - WP: T. Walker 10 FINAL
Houston - LP: B. Peacock 5
Arizona - LP: C. Anderson 3 FINAL
Colorado - WP: J. Lyles 15
Cincinnati - LP: D. Holmberg 1 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: J. Lackey 2
Philadelphia - LP: D. Buchanan 1 FINAL
Oakland - WP: J. Lester 3
Texas - WP: L. Bonilla 12 FINAL
LA Angels - LP: H. Santiago 3
San Francisco - LP: T. Hudson 0 FINAL
San Diego - WP: O. Despaigne 5
San Diego 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Dallas 9/21/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Houston 9/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Baltimore 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Green Bay 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Indianapolis 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Oakland 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 9/21/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 9/21/14 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
(5) Auburn 20 FINAL
(20) Kansas State 14
Connecticut 14 FINAL
So Florida 17
Old Dominion 11:00 AM
Rice
Troy 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Georgia Tech 11:00 AM
Virginia Tech
Eastern Mich 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Iowa 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Maryland 11:30 AM
Syracuse
Tulane 11:30 AM
Duke
Hawaii 1:00 PM
Colorado
Marshall 1:00 PM
Akron
North Carolina 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 2:30 PM
SMU
Rutgers 2:30 PM
Navy
Central Mich 2:30 PM
Kansas
Utah 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 2:30 PM
FIU
Fla Atlantic 3:00 PM
Wyoming
Indiana 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 3:00 PM
Minnesota
Texas State 3:00 PM
Illinois
Massachusetts 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 5:00 PM
Washington
Appalachian St 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Middle Tennessee 6:00 PM
Memphis
Utah State 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Idaho 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 6:00 PM
Toledo
(14) So Carolina 6:30 PM
Vanderbilt
(4) Oklahoma 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 7:00 PM
Houston
(22) Clemson 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9:00 PM
Arizona
Louisiana 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(25) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(12) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:00 AM
NC State
Duke 9/27/14 2:00 AM
Miami-Florida
North Carolina 9/27/14 2:00 AM
(22) Clemson
Colorado 1 FINAL
Real Salt Lake 5
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Calgary 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 9/21/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Montreal 9/26/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 9/26/14 9:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/27/14 5:30 PM
Winnipeg
Brt Columbia 9/27/14 8:30 PM
Calgary
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How sure are you that the Twins are on the road to improving?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close