Nine years later, Overbay aims to rejoin Crew
Onetime fan favorite locked in position battle at first base as non-roster invitee
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Lyle Overbay was a fan favorite with a near cult-like following while with the Brewers from 2004-05. He hopes to be one again this season.
Overbay first must make the team.
Nine years after he last wore a Brewers uniform, Overbay signed a Minor League deal with the team in January.
"I loved my time here; they embraced me, and every part of it was fun," Overbay said.
He is a non-roster invitee to big league camp this time around, with a wide open position battle on his hands.
Overbay is competing with Mark Reynolds and Juan Francisco for two roster spots. Each brings something to the table, but reasons also exist for why each does not already have a secure job.
Reynolds and Francisco can also play third base, Reynolds more so, and offer more power. Reynolds is the only right-handed bat of the three. Overbay is easily the superior defender of the three and the best overall hitter, though he lacks the pop of the other two.
Overbay likes his chances, and, after making the Yankees' roster a year ago as a non-roster invitee, he understands the process. He said the Brewers and manager Ron Roenicke had been very upfront, as had he.
"They understand where I'm coming from as far as trying to get ready for the season," said Overbay, who will most likely be granted his release if he does not make the Opening Day roster. "And if there is anything they want to see from me, that's fine.
"I'm here to show them what I can do. But I can't try too much to impress."
Overbay has already left an impression, particularly in the field, after Brewers first basemen led the Major Leagues a year ago with 21 errors. But Roenicke has also taken note of Overbay's at-bats, despite a .182 average (4-for-22) through Sunday's 6-5 loss to the D-backs.
"I think his at-bats have been outstanding," Roenicke said before Sunday's game. "He's had quite a few lineouts. He's done a lot of things really well."
Overbay also provides the veteran presence any team would want in its clubhouse. But in his current situation of job uncertainty, it is difficult to provide much leadership.
"You come in and you hear veteran leader, but this is not my team," said Overbay, who like most of his teammates defers to the likes of Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez and Rickie Weeks.
Overbay hit 16 home runs, had 87 RBIs and a .301 average in 2004 and 19 homers, 72 RBIs and a .276 mark the following year. In his 13 seasons and with six teams, Overbay has a .267 average with 147 homers, 342 doubles and 640 RBIs in 1,466 games.
How Roenicke and general manager Doug Melvin will make the final decisions on first base is anyone's guess. But with two weeks left, Overbay and fellow non-roster invitee Reynolds could be considered the favorites. Or not.
"It's not going to be an easy decision; Francisco is in the mix, too," Roenicke said. "It is going to be tough."
Chris Gabel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.