Notes: Gross storms out of the gate
Pinch-hit specialist off to flying start for Milwaukee
MILWAUKEE -- It's only going to get more difficult for Brewers outfielder/pinch hitter extraordinaire Gabe Gross as the season wears on, his manager, Ned Yost, figures.
Gross got off to a 5-for-10 start in pinch-hit opportunities this season before a strikeout in Thursday's loss to the Reds. His three pinch-hit home runs leave Gross already one shy of Bob Hamelin's franchise record, and Gross' nine RBIs were third-best on the team entering play on Friday night.
Quite an introduction to his new team.
"If anything, I'm excited about the fact that the hits I've had have all been pretty big hits," said Gross, who got the start on Friday night as Milwaukee's center fielder and leadoff man. "That's been the most important thing to me, to contribute and know that I'm helping the ballclub."
But other ballclubs are starting to notice. Yost was surprised to learn that the Houston Astros, Milwaukee's opponent earlier this week, did not have a scouting report of any kind on the 26-year-old Brewers newcomer.
"Not one," Yost said. "They're going to figure out how to pitch to him just like everybody else. I'm not saying Gabe's not a good hitter, I'm saying that it's going to get tougher now. When you start as good as he has, these teams are going to focus on him. It's not going to get easier."
Gross knows that's the case. He's had 221 at-bats over the last two seasons with the Blue Jays, and entering this season, he has faced just one of the 16 National League clubs -- three at-bats against Milwaukee last season.
"The more I hit, and scouts get to see me, the more scouting reports will be out there on me," Gross said. "But at the same time, I get to see more pitchers and get to know them a little bit better. They're going to make adjustments to me and I'm going to make adjustments to them."
Yost said there was nothing physically wrong with his regular center fielder, Brady Clark, who was 3-for-9 with three runs scored, two RBIs and two walks in his last three games, including an 0-for-3 night on Thursday with two sacrifice flies. Gross made his second start of the season in center field on Friday night and promptly led off the game with his fourth home run.
"You can't let Gabe get stagnant on the bench," Yost said.
Lineup moves: As promised, Yost bumped rookie first baseman Prince Fielder back up to the No. 5 hole for Friday's game.
Fielder started the first two games this season in the five-hole but went 0-for-9 with seven strikeouts and was dropped to the seventh spot in the lineup. Fielder immediately caught fire, hitting safely in 11 of the last 13 games entering play on Friday and batting .392 (20-for-51) with 10 RBIs over that span.
"This was the plan all along," Yost said. "We were going to let him go to the seven, get him comfortable and get him back to the five. He's going to be a 3-4-5 hitter throughout his career. He's not going to sit in the seven spot."
No worries: Veteran Corey Koskie batted in the No. 5 hole for much of the last two weeks, yet through his first 13 games with the Brewers, Koskie has no home runs and no RBIs.
Still, Koskie is batting a respectable .268, and Yost said Koskie's solid swing mechanics will help him get out of an early-season funk.
"He's real relaxed, and he throws his hands at the ball," Yost said. "He uses his hands as good as anybody on this team. Him and Billy [Hall]. ... If I could teach a hitter to swing, I would say, 'Watch Corey Koskie.'"
Traffic alert: Lane closures on Miller Park Way will affect Brewers fans traveling to games beginning this weekend.
On Saturday and Sunday, all northbound lanes between Burnham St. and Mitchell St. will be closed from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., affecting travel to and from the Brewers-Reds games. From Monday through next Friday, lanes will be closed from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., affecting inbound travel for Wednesday's Brewers-Braves afternoon affair.
On the air: Brewers television play-by-play man Daron Sutton will debut a weekly radio show at 8 a.m. CT on Saturday on WAUK-AM 1510. The hour-long show is called "Baseball Saturday with Daron Sutton," and will air whether the Brewers are at home or on the road.
Last call: Right-hander Dan Kolb felt no ill effects from his bullpen session on Thursday night and was considered available to pitch in Game 2 of the series, according to Yost. Kolb had not pitched in more than a week because of mysterious elbow stiffness that doctors were not able to fully explain. ... Yost called another clubhouse meeting on Friday afternoon, but said that the tone was much different than the gathering he called on April 13 in St. Louis. This time, Yost addressed "housekeeping issues," including a reminder to players of the importance of participating in Autograph Fridays at Miller Park. ... The Brewers are accepting donations of children's books this weekend. Fans may drop off new or gently used books, or contribute a $5 donation at the Brewers Drive for Charity tables located inside the home plate entrance to Miller Park. All donations and proceeds will benefit the Neighborhood House of Milwaukee, and the first 5,000 fans to donate an item will receive a Ben Sheets collectible pin.
On deck: The four-game series between Milwaukee and Cincinnati continues on Saturday when Brewers right-hander Dave Bush faces Reds lefty Brandon Claussen. The Brewers won all five games in which they faced Claussen last season.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.