MILWAUKEE (AP) Coaches can be fond of reminding players about how adversity creates opportunity. For the Brewers this year, there has been plenty of both.
Amid losses, injuries, and the shadow created by the Ryan Braun doping suspension, a couple young players have emerged with hopes of sticking in the big leagues for the long haul.
Second baseman Scooter Gennett is among the league leaders since Aug. 1, batting .386 during that period. Left fielder Khris Davis is hitting nearly .300 with nine homers since rejoining the team on July 23, replacing Braun on the roster.
All-Star Jean Segura has already established himself as one of the top shortstops in baseball. The 23-year-old was hitting .304 with a National League-leading 39 stolen bases entering Thursday's games. The Brewers, who were off, play next on Friday against the Cubs.
"The thing about Scooter, Khris and Segura is they bring energy. They're still excited. They're in their boyhood stages yet," Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said. "I love it when a player brings a kid's mentality."
This has all been welcome news for the team, of course. Braun, the 2011 NL MVP, was suspended July 22 for the rest of this season for taking performance-enhancing drugs. A month later, he apologized and there were more PEDs headlines.
Besides that, Mat Gamel and Corey Hart have missed the season with knee injuries. Rickie Weeks went down for the year with a strained left hamstring in August. Aramis Ramirez has missed about two months during two different stints on the disabled list.
Going into Friday, the Brewers were 60-79, fourth in the NL Central.
"I look at our ballclub right now, and it's unfortunate how our season turned out," Melvin said. "But that's allowed us the opportunity with the other circumstances and with injuries to look at these younger guys."
Gennett - he of the baseball nickname and 5-foot-10 build - isn't wasting his shot at second with the veteran Weeks sidelined, even if it's not the way he wanted to get on the field.
He has a spark that Melvin likes, such as when the 23-year-old infielder this week ranged to his right in the hole and slid to one knee against the Angels before bouncing up a split second later with a strong throw to get the runner at first.
"Shoot, I could sit here all day," Gennett said when asked what inspired him to pursue a baseball career. "But it boils down to just how I always wanted to play baseball and never let anybody tell me what I could or couldn't do. I made my own decisions with work ethic and how much time I put into it."
Manager Ron Roenicke wants Gennett draw more walks, especially if he uses him in the leadoff position. Gennett on the year is hitting .328 with five homers and 14 RBIs in 134 at-bats with eight walks.
Davis is hitting .279 with nine homers and 21 RBIs. Davis swings with so much intensity at the plate, he nearly spins around like a corkscrew when he misses. When he connects, it can be epic: His two-run homer to left-center off Pirates ace Francisco Liriano this week traveled an estimated 428 feet.
Segura is hitting .304 with 12 homers and 46 RBIs, though he's tailed off a bit since June. The Brewers acquired him at the 2012 trade deadline after sending Zack Greinke to the Los Angeles Angels.
Manager Mike Scioscia is well aware of what the Angels gave up.
"Jean's skill set is terrific," Scioscia said. "Right now, there's no doubt he's having a terrific year. His challenge is going to be a like a lot players who come up and have that good first go-around, is to keep searching for consistency and do it year in and year out."
Segura figures to be a mainstay for years to come. Davis, Gennett and other players getting a look down the stretch may have to impress again in spring training.
Melvin notes two of the club's current "veteran" leaders - catcher Jonathan Lucroy and All-Star outfielder Carlos Gomez - are only 27, too.
"In the individual mind of the player, a lot of time the player is performing to get to the big leagues," Melvin said. "When they get to the big leagues, the aspect of doing little things to help the team win becomes more important in their minds."
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