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Hot-hitting Gamel earns promotion

Hot-hitting Gamel earns promotion
It was a blueprint that worked for Prince Fielder, and the Milwaukee Brewers hope it will do likewise for Mat Gamel.

The Brewers summoned Gamel, their top offensive prospect, to the majors Wednesday night in anticipation of using the third baseman as their designated hitter in interleague play.

To make room on the roster for Gamel, the Brewers sent reserve outfielder Brad Nelson outright to Class AAA Nashville. Nelson, who was hitless in 21 at-bats this season, including 14 pinch-hit appearances, has the right to decline the assignment and become a free agent.

In the coming weeks, the Brewers have three interleague series on the road, where the designated hitter will be used. The first of those series is May 22-24 in Minnesota.

Rather than wait for those series, the Brewers opted to summon Gamel from Nashville and let him get his feet get wet with some at-bats off the bench and perhaps an occasional start.

"He'll probably get some pinch-hits, get acclimated a little bit to the big leagues," said manager Ken Macha. "He may get a start. We'll see how that all plays out.

"This kid is probably our best prospect. I don't think the plan is to have him sitting on the bench."

General manager Doug Melvin said the decision was made for a two-fold reason: Gamel's strong offensive showing at Nashville and the lack of production from young hitters on the bench.

Beyond Nelson, Chris Duffy is 1 for 7 as a pinch-hitter and Casey McGehee 2 for 7.

"Our pinch-hitters are barely batting .100," said Melvin. "We can't keep doing that. We're going into St. Louis this weekend, a big series.

"Instead of bringing Gamel in when we get to Minnesota, we thought while we're going on this road trip it's a good time to get his feet wet. I didn't give Ken any orders. He doesn't have to play him (before interleague play).

"We did this four years ago with Prince and it worked out well. He got his first taste of the major leagues. After interleague play, we'll re-evaluate and see where we are."

Gamel, 23, ranked among the Pacific Coast League leaders in most offensive categories. In 33 games with Nashville, he was batting .336 with eight home runs, 31 runs batted in, 11 doubles and a triple.

Gamel accumulated 20 extra-base hits, 21 walks and 34 strikeouts in 119 at-bats, with a .428 on-base percentage and .647 slugging percentage.

Selected in the fourth round of the 2005 June draft, Gamel is not known for his defense. He committed an astounding 53 errors at Class A Brevard County in 2007 and 32 combined last season at Class AA Huntsville and Nashville.

Gamel committed eight errors this season but most came in the first few weeks and reports said he was playing better in the field recently.

"He's had some errors down there," said Macha. "I thought in spring training he wasn't really terrible out there. The reports are that if he just has to react on the ball, he winds up making a good play.

"Most of his errors have been balls hit right at him and he's got to think about what he's going to do with the ball. This gives (infield coach) Willie (Randolph) an opportunity to work with him."

Bill Hall, who has started 27 games at third base, has begun to struggle again against right-handed pitching (.215 batting average). But Melvin said the Gamel move doesn't signal a platoon or the possibility of trading Hall to open the position.

"We're not talking about a trade at this point," said Melvin. "That's not what this is about."

Left-handed-hitting Craig Counsell made his seventh start at third base Wednesday night against the Marlins. Counsell has been swinging a hot bat, hitting .328.

Melvin said Nelson deserved a chance off the bench by batting .354 with four homers and 19 RBI during spring training.

"He's been in the organization a long time and we gave him a shot," said Melvin. "I told him it was unfair that we put him in a position that young guys struggle in."

Nelson has 72 hours to take the assignment to Nashville or declare his free agency.

"We'll see what happens," said Nelson. "You need to see what's out there."


Mat Gamel was among the Pacific Coast League's hottest hitters at the time of his call-up:

Walks 21 T-3rd

Slugging .647 3rd

OPS 1.075 3rd

RBI 31 4th

Doubles 11 T-4th

Total bases 77 4th

Home runs 8 T-5th

Runs 25 T-5th

On-base % .428 9th

Batting avg. .336 13th

Copyright 2009, Journal Sentinel Inc. All rights reserved. (Note: This notice does not apply to those news items already copyrighted and received through wire services or other media.)

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Added: May 14, 2009

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