MILWAUKEE -- Blame the injuries all you want, but the simple fact is the Brewers have not pitched or hit well this season.
Losing two starting position players in Alex Gonzalez and Mat Gamel to torn ACLs over a matter of days is a big challenge to overcome. But it will be even more difficult if the Brewers don't improve significantly on the mound and at the plate.
"We're not pitching and we're not hitting," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said before Monday's series opener against the Reds. "Regardless of who we have out there, if we don't do those things better, we're not going to have a good year."
Entering Monday's game, the Brewers ranked 28th in the Majors with a .228 batting average. Their 4.88 ERA was 27th in baseball, and the Brewers' had the Majors' second-worst WHIP at 1.52.
A year ago, the Brewers finished ninth in the Majors in ERA and third in WHIP. Milwaukee also led the National League in home runs and slugging percentage last season.
"I know Alex was doing a very good job for us offensively, and I know Mat Gamel was doing a nice job for us offensively, but still the bulk of it needs to be better," Roenicke said.
That sentiment is not lost on his players, and Roenicke knows they're not happy about how they've performed so far this season.
But that does not make it any less important for the Brewers' hitters and pitchers to get on track quickly before falling too far behind the first-place Cardinals in the NL Central. Especially with all the injuries that have hit the club in the last week.
"Obviously, it's still early. We can only say that for a few more games, but you've got to stay positive," right fielder Corey Hart said. "You're going to have plenty of trials throughout the season, and of course we've been hit with a lot of them early.
"We have a good team. We just have to stay focused and stay the course, and know that you can't dwell. You feel bad for everything that's happened -- our heart goes out to all the guys [who are hurt]. You don't want to be cut this short, this early."
Hart said on Saturday that the loss of Gonzalez, a terrific defender, was particularly tough.
"We're out there trying to fight, and it was hard to focus because all we could think about was Gonzalez and what might happen," Hart said. "We become closer than teammates. We become friends, like a big family. This could be the second significant injury -- actually the third significant injury -- and we have to fight through that."
Roenicke to go with hot hand in center, first
MILWAUKEE -- As injuries impact the Brewers all over the diamond, manager Ron Roenicke will decide who starts in center field and at first base based on performance.
With Mat Gamel out for most if not all of the season with a torn ACL, the Brewers will use Travis Ishikawa, Taylor Green and Brooks Conrad at first base. Being the only right-handed hitter among the group, Conrad's spot in the platoon is pretty well set.
"We'll see how it goes and who's hot," Roenicke said. "Conrad will probably play against most left-handers and the other two will switch off."
In center field, where Carlos Gomez is on the 15-day disabled list with a minor hamstring injury, time will be split between Nyjer Morgan and Norichika Aoki.
With both being left-handed hitters, their playing time may fluctuate more than the rotation at first base.
"Same thing," Roenicke said. "We'll just try to do matchups and who we think is going to hit that starting pitcher that night better. And if somebody gets hot, they'll probably play a little bit more."
Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun is teaming with Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers to launch a new restaurant in Brookfield, Wis. The restaurant, which will feature American cuisine, will be named 8*twelve.
The new restaurant is the second that Braun has been involved with in the Milwaukee area, along with Graffitto in Milwaukee's Historic Third Ward.
The Brewers avoided two potential issues on their return trip from the West coast Sunday night, both of which would have forced them to fly into Chicago and bus back to Milwaukee.
The club's departure plans were initially hurried to get back before a midnight "curfew" at General Mitchell International due to construction at the airport. After working around that issue, heavy rain in Milwaukee nearly rerouted the Brewers again, but they arrived home as scheduled.
Though he was not listed as the Brewers' starting pitcher until hours before the game, Marco Estrada was scheduled to pitch Monday night against the Reds all along. A miscommunication led to Yovani Gallardo being listed for the series opener against the Reds (on regular rest), and Estrada for Tuesday's game. Gallardo will pitch Tuesday night.
"Marco's throwing as well as any of them are," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "So I don't think there's a reason to skip him."
General manager Doug Melvin told Trenni Kusnierek of 620 WTMJ radio in Milwaukee that the Brewers had talked to veteran free-agent first baseman Derrek Lee. Referring to the rumor of the Brewers potentially signing Lee, Melvin added, "That's not going to happen."
Jordan Schelling is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.