By Jon Heyman
March 05, 2009

1) Every team talks about how together it is in spring training.This one really seems to be together. And if it is, that could be because the core of the team -- Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, Bill Hall, Corey Hart, J.J. Hardy and Rickie Weeks -- are 20-somethings who came up in the organization. "We're all great friends,'' Hardy said. "We get along off the field, and that makes it fun when we come to the ballpark.''

They had loads of fun at the park on this day by holding what they dubbed a "Clubby Olympics,'' where the clubhouse attendants test their baseball skills for cash prizes. The entire team gathered on the field for the festivities, but Fielder and Mike Cameron, who's 36 but fits into any clubhouse, seemed to be the ring leaders.

2) You don't get to the Hall of Fame by accident."Trevor Hoffman is here before everyone else, and he leaves after everyone else,'' Hardy said. For a 40-year-old closer, Hoffman is in hellacious shape. If he doesn't continue his streak of at least 30 saves, it won't be for a lack of trying.

3) Some early injuries may hurt. Pitching import Braden Looper is now iffy for Opening Day after being shelved by a ribcage strain. Hall is out with a calf strain. And Eric Gagne has one-upped them both, with leg and shoulder injuries.

Star pitchers CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets are gone, but not forgotten. If the players don't lament the losses, it's still hard to forget the defections of a former Cy Young winner who led the team into the playoffs for the first time in 26 years (Sabathia) plus the All-Star game starter (Sheets).

The fifth starter spot could be up for grabs if Looper can't make it, with SethMcClung, Chase Wright and Nick Green the leading candidates. The starting depth is an obvious concern. The bullpen is wide open after Hoffman, CarlosVillanueva and lefty specialist Mitch Stetter. McClung will join them if Looper's in the rotation. But after that, it's anyone's guess. New manager KenMacha listed about a half-dozen other candidates.

Corey Hart is playing like he wants to move to the next level. According to Macha, he's hitting the ball hard and consistently to center field and right-center field. Young third baseman Casey McGehee, who's looked good defensively at third and homered to left field against the Rockies. McGehee's in a trio playing third while Hall recuperates, but if he can help, it'll be a big bonus, as the Brewers acquired him on waivers from the archival Cubs.

Alcides Escobar. He's your prototypical shortstop with special tools. Macha says he has the range of Alfredo Griffin and the arm of Shawon Dunston ("a cannon,'' the manager says). But Macha also says he needs another year of seasoning. "He's a terrific prospect,'' Macha said "but he needs to play at Triple-A.''

Macha is starting fresh after four successful years in Oakland, followed by two years off. Macha's time in Oakland was marked by a lot of victories but marred by a rocky relationship with general manager Billy Beane. When Brewers GM Doug Melvin called him, Macha told him, "I just want to manage. I don't care how much money, I don't care how many years ... I just wanted to get back in.'' He got a two-year deal, happily accepted and is thrilled to be back in the game.

How about Dave Bush? Sent to the minors (bushes, if you will) last year, he returned to pitch as well as anyone on the staff besides Sabathia and earned their first and only postseason victory in 26 years.

Trot Nixon is here, and his game-winning home run against the Rockies was his first hit of the spring. It was a long shot, signifying his chances to make the club unless he continues to hit like that.

Hoffman is doing everything possible to make sure he succeeds, and he probably will.

"Barring injury, he's going to win thee Cy Young awards,'' veteran catcher JasonKendall said about young starter Yovani Gallardo. Said Gallardo about Kendall, "He's pretty good with predictions. So hopefully, he's right about one more.''

Their offense is young and dynamic. Braun is one of the best young hitters in baseball, Fielder is a major threat who's already hit 50 home runs in a season, and Hardy is a terrific hitter. Said Hardy, "We're going to try to score as many runs as possible to take the pressure off the pitchers.''

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