MILWAUKEE (AP) — Two years after Prince Fielder left, the Brewers are still looking for his replacement at first base.
Milwaukee hasn't been settled at the position since Fielder departed as a free agent following the 2011 season. Traditionally a position of offensive strength, the Brewers' first basemen collectively had the lowest batting average (.206) and on-base percentage (.259) in the majors last season.
The plan going into this spring training is to mix and match at first base, with veterans Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay the most notable candidates.
"They said it took 20 years for Brett Favre to replace Bart Starr," general manager Doug Melvin said. "I hope it doesn't take 20 years to replace Prince Fielder here in Milwaukee at first base."
The good news for Melvin is that the Brewers appear set at several key positions up the middle. Center fielder Carlos Gomez won a Gold Glove last year, and speedy Jean Segura is one of the best young shortstops in the league. Jonathan Lucroy is a steady presence at catcher, hitting a career-high 18 homers to go with 82 RBIs last year.
"Three guys that are going to be here for a while," Melvin said. "So, if there's a position that I have to mix and match, I'm glad it's not those three positions."
To be fair, the Brewers thought they had a suitable replacement in 2012 when Corey Hart moved to first and hit .270 with 30 homers. But Hart missed 2013 with a right knee injury and then signed with Seattle this offseason.
Milwaukee had to move players such as Yuniesky Betancourt and Alex Gonzalez out of position to play first. Juan Francisco, primarily a third baseman, started 62 games at first for the Brewers after being acquired from the Braves.
"Last year, we had about nine guys out there, none of them really played first," Melvin said. "I said we need to find a first baseman who can play first so, Mark and Lyle bring experience."