SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Right-hander Donovan Hand might not make the Brewers' Opening Day roster, but his strong Spring Training is dramatically increasing the likelihood of a Major League debut sometime this season.
In fact, the club discussed promoting Hand on several occasions last year, manager Ron Roenicke said, opportunities that instead went to another strike-throwing righty, Mike McClendon.
"When we were talking about who to bring up, I heard a lot of good things about [Hand] last year," Roenicke said. "We had talked about whether to bring him up or not. He's a guy you know is going to throw strikes, he has a nice repertoire of pitches at different velocities, and his fastball is enough to 'play' in the big leagues.
"So, there's a lot of guys who have talked him up pretty high this year so far -- including me. He's in the picture."
Hand, 27 next month, has been quietly effective in the Minors, with a 3.60 ERA in 210 appearances, including a 3.88 ERA in parts of three seasons at Triple-A Nashville. He is a non-roster invitee to his first Major League camp.
In his first five Cactus League appearances spanning six innings, Hand has allowed two hits and no runs. He attributes his solid spring to lessons learned last October and November in the Venezuelan Winter League.
"I'm a country boy from Alabama," Hand said. "I didn't know the language too well, and all of a sudden, I'm over there pitching in front of 30,000 people. I left that game thinking, 'If I can pitch here, I can pitch anywhere.' I learned a lot over there."
Hand was a starting pitcher in Venezuela, so he had plenty of innings to work on his curveball.
"It did give me a head start," said Hand, who was back in the U.S. to marry his wife, Haley, in December. "I've always wanted to be over here [in big league camp]. I'm not a guy who throws 95, 96 mph, so I can't impress you with one outing. Hopefully, the body of work is what they see, and if some point in the season they need somebody, I'm the guy."
Graffanino visits camp, offers Gamel encouragement
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Former Brewers infielder Tony Graffanino visited his old club on Tuesday and sought out Mat Gamel to deliver inspiration: Yes, it is possible to come back from a second ACL reconstruction.
Graffanino tore his ACL with the White Sox in 2002 and tore it again with the Brewers in '07. He was briefly back in the big leagues at '09, at age 37.
"I told him he can do it," said Graffanino, who visited Maryvale Baseball Park as an ambassador for Unlimited Potential Inc., a Christian ministry. "I know it's frustrating. For him, he worked so hard after rehabbing the first one, and then to come back and have it happen again so quickly, it's tough. I had five years in between.
"But when it happened the second time, I was frustrated, old, not as good as I once was. He's much younger. I gave him my number and told him to call me if he has any points of frustration, needs encouragement."
Gamel will be 28 in July. He is facing his second straight year of rehab, having first torn his ACL last May 1. He was expected to be the Brewers' Opening Day first baseman this year while Corey Hart recovered from his own knee surgery, but suffered another tear last month and underwent another surgery last week.
Just like Graffanino, Gamel's second tear came on a mundane movement.
"You can tell when something's not right," Graffanino said. "That's what he said, that something was moving in there. You kind of hold your breath when that starts happening. Hopefully, this time, it will be better, tighter."
Graffanino tore his ACL the second time while leaping for a line drive in Colorado. It was his final play in a Brewers uniform.
"But I made the catch," he joked.
Command issues continue to plague Rogers
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Mark Rogers said he was "a little off" against the Rangers on Tuesday. He has 2 1/2 weeks left in Spring Training to turn it on.
Rogers threw only 18 of his 42 pitches for strikes and recorded four outs against the Rangers on a frustrating Tuesday afternoon at Surprise Stadium. His final line: 1 1/3 innings, six hits, six runs (three earned), four walks and one strikeout.
He topped out at 89 mph on the ballpark radar gun during a 25-pitch first inning, and with four more walks, he has issued 10 free passes in six official Cactus League innings.
"I don't know how to put it into words. I just didn't feel like myself today," Rogers said. "I never got into a groove."
Rogers is one of three relatively inexperienced candidates for two openings in Milwaukee's rotation. Of the three -- Rogers, Mike Fiers and Wily Peralta -- only Rogers is out of Minor League options. He has been dealing with a bout of "dead arm" recently, perhaps a result of reporting to early to Maryvale Baseball Park.
"I've been putting in the work," Rogers said. "I've just got to continue to work through it. My last bullpen [session] was outstanding, probably my best of the spring, but I wasn't able to transfer it over. I've just got to get my consistency back. That will come with more repetitions."
Manager Ron Roenicke was puzzled after the Brewers' 12-3 loss, but said he was keeping an open mind until the club gets closer to its roster decisions.
"I can't make a judgment on that right now -- I mean, the way he's throwing right now, he needs to get better, yes," Roenicke said. "I don't know if he's feeling better. I don't know. I talked to him after his last outing, so we'll see what's going on."
Younger Roenicke impresses dad with hit in debut
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- An otherwise lousy afternoon for the Brewers did feature one highlight: Lance Roenicke, the 24-year-old son of the manager, singled sharply to center field in the eighth inning of a 12-3 loss to the Rangers.
"Pretty neat," Ron Roenicke said. "And a pretty good at-bat. He saw live pitching for the first time [Monday] in live [batting practice]. So it's pretty good."
Lance Roenicke batted again in the ninth and lined out to shortstop. An outfielder, he was the Brewers' 25th-round pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft and split last season between rookie Helena and Class A Wisconsin. Ron Roenicke was able to make the hour-long drive north to Appleton, Wis., for three of Lance's games last summer and fall, when the Timber Rattlers won the Midwest League championship.
Lance just reported to the Brewers' Minor League Spring Training last week. Instead of staying with Dad, he's living at the team hotel with the rest of the team's farmhands.
• Second baseman Rickie Weeks was scratched from the Brewers' lineup on Tuesday, but Roenicke said there was no need for concern. Weeks wanted to play Wednesday's night game against the Rockies, but wasn't quite ready to work three days in a row. So Scooter Gennett started Tuesday against the Rangers instead.
• The Brewers are planning another round of camp cuts on Wednesday, when the team plays its first night game of the year against the Rockies in Scottsdale, followed by a day off. When they return Friday, 16 exhibitions will remain before Opening Day.
• Right-hander Burke Badenhop, who has faced the minimum 15 batters in five spring innings (including the Brewers' exhibition against Team Canada), was originally listed to pitch against the Rangers, but will work on Wednesday night against the D-backs instead. Fellow relievers John Axford and Jim Henderson, fresh off stints with Canada's World Baseball Classic entry, are also scheduled to pitch Wednesday.