PHOENIX -- Brewers backup catcher Martin Maldonado needed a smaller jersey when he reported for the start of an important Spring Training.
At the behest of club officials, Maldonado dropped 26 pounds over a busy winter by eating better and playing a lot of baseball. His Indios de Mayaguez team won the Puerto Rican Winter League, then advanced all the way to the Caribbean Series final before falling to champion Mexico.
After only four days off, a noticeably trim Maldonado reported for duty at Maryvale Baseball Park.
"Not that I was overweight last year, but I wanted to come into camp ready," Maldonado said. "I feel like I'm in the best shape of my life since I signed."
Maldonado is one of the Brewers backups expected to get extensive playing time in the Cactus League in an effort to compensate for sporadic at-bats in the regular season. Last year, Maldonado essentially sat out much of Spring Training because he backed up star Puerto Rico catcher Yadier Molina in the World Baseball Classic.
The time off set Maldonado back. Catching right-hander Wily Peralta every fifth day, Maldonado batted .169 in 67 games.
"I think it's important for the extra guys … they need more at-bats than the starters do," manager Ron Roenicke said. "They've got to feel really good about their offense, because when they get into [the season], it's one at-bat here or there. For Maldy, whether we catch him once a week or every five days like we did last year, it's hard to stay consistent."
Roenicke noticed Maldonado's offseason conditioning, saying, "He looks great."
Maldonado had help from his wife, Janelise, who he says is an excellent cook.
Melvin touts emergence of Crew's arm strength
PHOENIX -- Watching the likes of Johnny Hellweg, Jimmy Nelson, Will Smith and Kevin Shackelford throw bullpen sessions during the Brewers' first official Spring Training workout this week, general manager Doug Melvin was struck by the number of big men in Milwaukee's camp.
The team has prioritized big-framed power pitchers in recent years as it seeks to improve its pipeline of arms. In a Tuesday sit-down with Brewers beat reporters, Melvin referenced a baseball preview magazine that included a chart from FanGraphs.com, listing the number of starters on each team who were 25 or younger last year and averaged at least 93-mph fastballs.
The Brewers had three (Wily Peralta, Hellweg and Nelson), tied with the Marlins and Rays for most on the list. It's notable that Hellweg and Nelson combined for only eight starts, but the Brewers also had Tyler Thornburg just barely miss the cut at 92 mph.
What mostly struck Melvin was this: Fourteen teams had zero starters on that list.
Melvin also said he had data showing the Brewers pitchers ranked fourth in the Majors last season in fastballs above 95 mph.
"That surprised some of our coaches, because you have the perception that all these other teams have hard throwers," said Melvin.
He added: "We've got some bigger, physical guys that we maybe didn't have in the past. Some of the 'arm-strength' guys that we've had in our Minor Leagues are here and are going to get the opportunity. … But they have to learn to pitch, too, and that's part of it. We've talked about the fact that we have to be patient with guys. You have to be patient with pitchers more than anybody."
No movement on Segura extension, but Crew open
PHOENIX -- The Brewers are open to the idea of an extension for second-year shortstop Jean Segura but have yet to re-engage with his agent, general manager Doug Melvin said Tuesday.
Assistant GM Gord Ash has been the Brewers' point man so far with agent Joe Klein, who revealed last year that the team had offered an extension. Those talks did not progress. Melvin met again with Klein in Milwaukee in September and agreed to revisit the matter in 2014.
"We haven't had any conversations [about an extension since then]," Melvin said.
For a commitment to make sense for the Brewers, it would probably have to cover at least one of Segura's free-agent years. That would mean a minimum of a six-year deal.
The Brewers have signed players like Ryan Braun, Yovani Gallardo and Jonathan Lucroy to similar long-term contracts in recent years.
"We're always open to them," Melvin said. "We've locked up some [players], some we didn't. We didn't get Prince [Fielder]. We offered him a deal earlier on to buy into free agency, but it just depends what players want. Not a lot of them want long-term deals that will take away free agency, and we like to get deals that have at least a year of free agency if we can."
Segura, acquired from the Angels in July 2012 in the Zack Greinke trade, made the National League All-Star team in his first full Major League season. He finished the year hitting .294 with 42 extra-base hits and 44 stolen bases. He could serve as the Brewers' leadoff hitter this season.
• Melvin has spent very little time discussing with his staff the upcoming rules changes governing instant replay and home-plate collisions, because neither initiative has been finalized. He and other GMs will meet with Major League Baseball officials in the coming weeks for further clarification.
Until then, the Brewers are proceeding with business as usual.
"We said there's no sense talking about it every day," Melvin said. "When we have a final meeting with Major League Baseball, then we'll get together with our group."
• Melvin, Ash, Roenicke and Brewers coaches have been meeting one-one-one with every player for a few minutes. Melvin wants to give every player an opportunity to ask, in private, whatever is on his mind.