Lopes and the Brewers change their attitudePosted: Thursday February 28, 2002 1:05 PM
Updated: Monday March 04, 2002 3:30 PM
Throughout spring training, CNNSI.com will feature regular dispatches from Sports Illustrated staffers assigned to scout camps in the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues.
By Jeff Pearlman, Sports Illustrated
Team: Milwaukee Brewers
Weather: Hot and sunny. Strong burn potential.
Player I Saw Whom I Really Liked: Ray King. A couple of years ago, I covered a Cards-Cubs game in Chicago. Back then, King's main function on the club was to catch for the pitchers as they warmed up before innings. Nowadays, one of the game's most gregarious characters is a big-time middle man. He appeared in 82 games last season and should see the same type of action in 2002.
Around the Horn: Without question, all eyes in camp are on Jeffrey Hammonds. The 30-year-old center fielder signed a three-year, $27 million deal with the team before the start of last season, then blew out his shoulder after playing in just 49 games and missed the rest of the year. Hammonds has been on the DL seven times in nine seasons. For Milwaukee to compete without Jeromy Burnitz, who was traded to the Mets, they need Hammonds to be the star he was with Colorado two years ago. He expects to be in the lineup on Opening Day. ... Although he's little more than a pinch hitter, Lenny Harris should prove invaluable. Last year with the Mets, he was a positive vocal leader on a team that, well, didn't need a positive vocal leader. But the young Brew Crew does. "I'm here to guide," says Harris. "It's a job I don't mind." ... Eric Young, the team's new 34-year-old second baseman, has gray whiskers emerging from his beard. "Gosh," he said. "Have I really been around so long?" Um, yup. ... The Brewers' clubhouse chef serves the best burritos in baseball. ... Last season manager Davey Lopes wasn't exactly the media's choice as the most communicative skipper in the league. He was intimidating. Gruff. Short. And his team had a terrible attitude. Players quit by August. Burnitz was miserable. This spring Lopes told a group of writers that he would try to be more accommodating. The Brewers may not compete in the rough NL Central, but at least they're happier. "Night and day from last year," says Hammonds.
Sports Illustrated senior writer Jeff Pearlman will check in periodically with reports from his tour of spring camps. Click here to send a question to his Spring Training Mailbag.