Out-Of-Options Cruz Vies For Brewers Utility Role





PHOENIX—Veteran Luis Cruz, a shortstop by trade who has dabbled as a second baseman, also became a part-time outfielder in spring training.

"I like it out there," the 27-year-old said. "I'm comfortable out there."

Cruz has played all three outfield posts during winter ball in his native land, spending virtually every offseason in the Mexican Pacific League. He entered Brewers camp this spring vying for a bench role, so the decision-makers wanted to gauge his versatility.

"If he's going to be our utility guy, then he needs to be able to play some outfield," rookie manager Ron Roenicke said. "We need to have some guys who are versatile."

Cruz has no minor league options remaining, so he would have to clear waivers and accept an assignment before he could be sent to the minors.

Much of Cruz's outfield instruction came from his father Luis Sr., who played in the outfield for 18 seasons in Mexico, retiring at age 42. The elder Cruz was nominated for the Mexican baseball hall of fame this year and still coaches back home in Navojoa.

"Everything I learned in the outfield came from him," Cruz said. "He retired in 2001 and I started playing (there) in 2003, so we didn't get to play together."

The Brewers claimed Cruz on waivers from the Pirates following the 2009 season, and he spent all of last season with Triple-A Nashville, surfacing in Milwaukee only in September.

He earned team MVP honors for the Sounds by batting .281/.309/.414 with 10 home runs, making the Pacific Coast League all-star team and leading PCL shortstops in assists (405), putouts (214) and double plays (104).

To make sure he was rested and ready for spring, Cruz turned down another chance to play in the Caribbean Series for Mexico, which won the title.

"This is a big spring for me," he said. "They have to make a decision on me. I don't want to put pressure on myself. I feel really confident in what I can do. I will play hard and see what happens."

MICROBREWS

• Third baseman Wayne Dedrick received a 50-game suspension for a second positive test for a drug of abuse. The 2008 30th-round pick sat out 2010 with a knee injury.

• The Brewers signed lefty-hitting catcher James Skelton to a minor league deal. He owns a career .396 on-base percentage in the minors and dabbled at second base last season in the Pirates chain.