The Brewers’ bench once looked like a place where veterans and youngsters alike go to end their careers. Rotating through such light hitters as Juan Nieves (.140), Carlos Gomez (.224), Brandon Boggs (.158), Craig Counsell (.172), and Josh Wilson (.241), perhaps the biggest bench disappointment was 35-year-old OF Mark Kotsay.
Through June, Kotsay looked like he would never live up to even his modest $800k salary. April and May brought difficulties as Kotsay adjusted to a limited bench role, but his worst month would come in June when he hit just .194 with a .226 slugging percentage. As injured bullpen arm Takashi Saito reached the terminal stages of his DL stint, Kotsay, set to earn a $100k incentive bonus, must have been considered internally as a prime candidate for release.
Kotsay must have received the message. This month, he’s gone 10-25 with 2 HR and 6 RBI. His biggest contribution: a walk-off 2 RBI single to take the Brewers past the Reds tonight, 8-7. Kotsay also chipped in with a solo home run in the sixth, which temporarily gave Milwaukee the lead. Kotsay’s prowess at the plate could not come at a better time, either, as Ryan Braun has sat out the past six games with a calf strain.
Ron Roenicke claims he saw the turnaround coming. “Early in the season, I know his batting average wasn’t real good, but he was really hitting the ball hard. We went into Chicago, and he got a little out of (sorts) there and stayed that way for a couple of weeks. He bounced out of it. He put together some unbelievable at-bats today. To hit that last one, a fastball in, that was impressive.”
It sure impressed Reds starter Mike Leake, who called the loss “by far the toughest one of the year.”
The bench continues to present problems for the Brewers. Counsell has value because of his versatility in the field, but his .172 average coming off his unproductive pinch-hit at bat tonight would be the worst mark of his career. Carlos Gomez, who has settled into a full platoon with Nyjer Morgan in center, has still failed to use all of his talent at the dish. George Kottaras and Josh Wilson have been somewhat productive, but the Brewers still lack a clutch player to bring in at critical junctures. Hopefully, everyone else on the pine was taking notes from Kotsay today.