Sat. Final: Brewers 7, Dodgers 4
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The look on Milwaukee utilityman Brad Nelson's face said it all -- pure unadulterated joy.
It wasn't just because his three-run homer in the ninth inning helped the Brewers pull out a 7-4 victory Saturday night in their spring training finale against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Once he returned to the clubhouse, he got the official word from general manager Bob Melvin that he had made the 25-man opening day roster.
"When you haven't heard anything, you don't really know," Nelson said. "It's an awesome experience to make the 25-man roster coming out of spring training. I was content with how the spring went and everything, but this is the icing on the cake. It's a great way to end spring training. It's a great feeling. It's a great day."
Non-roster invitee Erick Threets was brought in by Dodgers manager Joe Torre to close it with two out and runners at first and second. But former Dodger Craig Counsell lined the left-hander's first pitch through the box to drive in the tying run. Two pitches later, Nelson drove his fourth homer of the spring way over the center-field fence.
"That's a pretty good exclamation point for Brad Nelson," first-year Brewers manager Ken Macha said after his team concluded the spring 22-10.
Nelson batted .354 with 19 RBIs in 33 at-bats. The 26-year-old first baseman/outfielder had seven at-bats in nine games for the Brewers last season and was on their roster for the NL division series against Philadelphia. He batted .286 with 18 homers and 78 RBIs for Triple-A Nashville, his eighth season in the minor leagues.
"I knew this was my first chance to really come in and make the team," Nelson said. "In the past, you come in as a young guy and it's like you're almost waiting to get sent down. But now I'm out of options, so I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. And it worked out. It's a feel-good story to look back on. The year you make it, there's going to be a lot of memories I've already had -- and there's more coming up."
Carlos Villanueva, projected to be the Brewers' emergency closer because of Trevor Hoffman's strained right oblique muscle, got the victory with a scoreless eighth.
Wes Littleton, the ninth Brewers pitcher, got three outs for his second save. Littleton has already cleared waivers and will start the season in Triple-A.
The loss went to Ramon Troncoso, who was brought in to protect a 4-3 lead for Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw threw 48 pitches over three hitless innings and struck out four in the final tuneup for his season debut next Thursday at San Diego.
With two days off before next Tuesday's season opener at San Francisco, Macha decided to have all seven relievers on his projected 25-man roster throw an inning apiece against the Dodgers.
Milwaukee's Ryan Braun, who hit 71 homers during his previous two big league seasons, hit his first of the spring in the seventh against Eric Stultz to cut the Dodgers' lead to 4-1. Braun has been limited to 25 at-bats because of a strained ribcage.
The Dodgers have one more game Sunday at San Francisco before opening the season Monday at San Diego against Jake Peavy. Among the players who won't make the trip up to the Bay Area are Manny Ramirez, Rafael Furcal, Orlando Hudson and Russell Martin.
"We're going out of our way not to go on a bus to San Diego," Torre joked.
Milwaukee finished the exhibition season with a team batting average of .280 and 50 home runs to go along with a team ERA of 4.63. Jeff Suppan gets the opening day assignment Tuesday at San Francisco.
Notes:@ Former Mets manager Willie Randolph has returned to the dugout as Milwaukee's bench coach, continuing a popular trend by clubs to put ex-managers on their coaching staffs. In 2006, Joe Torre had four with him in the Bronx -- Larry Bowa, Tony Pena, Lee Mazzilli and Joe Kerrigan. "Having been in the hot seat, you do see things differently now," said Randolph, who spent eight seasons as Torre's third-base coach and one as his bench coach before taking the Mets job. "It's just a different mind-set and it gives you a totally different perspective. You really still try to stay in manager mode, but you just kind of filter it through the real guy."
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)