Brewers skipper Ron Roenicke has been flexible with his lineup ever since Mat Gamel tore the ACL in his right knee. Taylor Green and Travis Ishikawa, the other options to replace Gamel at first, both swing the lumber from the left side. The Brew Crew sees them as nothing more than platoon pieces, though, and rightfully so. As a result, CoreyHart will be shifted to first base on occasion.
Milwaukee would prefer not to shuffle Hart frequently between first and the outfield, but the hot hitting of NorichikaAoki has been forcing Roenicke’s hand. The left-handed-hitting Japanese import continues to impress in May (.294/.368/.431) and is hitting .394 in his last 13 games.
The fact that Aoki, 30, is succeeding against southpaws to a clip of .310 in 29 at-bats really helps his case for regular duty, possibly relegating Carlos Gomez and Nyjer Morgan to platoon duty in center field. As long as Aoki continues to produce, Roenicke is fine with leaving Hart at first base – if it’s helping the O.
Aoki sported a .340 career average in his seven-year Japanese career, which included three batting titles. He clearly knows how to handle the stick, and he displayed double-digit home run and stolen base capacity overseas. While the power and speed numbers haven’t shown up – they may if he gets comfy playing every day – his batting average contributions won’t go unnoticed for too much longer in deep mixers. -Keith Hernandez
The Nationals placed right-hander Ryan Mattheus (plantar fasciitis) on the 15-day disabled list and activated Chien-Ming Wang, who’ll be a long reliever. It’s not the role in which he and fantasy owners envisioned, but he may draw a start — or six — before 2012 ends.
Wang, 32, was doing some encouraging work in spring training before he incurred a severely strained hamstring. He was solid in his first few minor league rehab starts too, but in his last couple, he left something to be desired – perhaps because he knew the Nats didn’t need him. The Taiwanese right-hander wrapped up his farm work with a 3.52 ERA, 33 hits allowed, six walks and 18 strikeouts in 30 2/3 innings.
Wang was working his way back into form; he steadily improved his ratio of ground-outs to air-outs and by his last start was in peak shape. The sinker-baller may never rediscover the ability that helped him win 19 games with the Yankees in both 2006 and 2007, but he’s as close as he’s been in four years. Wang’s surgically repaired shoulder has given him no problems.