Milwaukee right fielder Norichika Aoki accounted for the Brewers' only home run on opening day at Miller Park on Monday. Bernie Brewer's butt didn't hit the left-field slide for Ryan Braun, Rickie Weeks or Aramis Ramirez, each of whom had over 20 dingers last season. Meanwhile, Aoki's third-inning blast would have been 10% of his entire 2012 home run output.
Of course, the Brewers aren't relying on Aoki for his power - and he also helped the team by drawing a walk and beating out a fielder's choice.
"He can do it all," said manager Ron Roenicke. "He bunts for hits, he slaps it around, and when you're not expecting it, he drives one for a homer. He's a really important part of our lineup in the leadoff spot."
Brewers fans are holding their collective breath over any news involving star left fielder Braun and Biogenesis, a Florida anti-aging clinic linked to performance-enhancing drug use among professional athletes. If fingered in an investigation, Braun could face a 50-game suspension, which would significantly diminish Milwaukee's chances of competing in the National League's Central division.
The Brewers need their role players to contribute consistently, particularly with first baseman Corey Hart on the disabled list. Obviously, the bullpen needs to improve over substantially better average than the .230 he put up in 2012. And Alex Gonzalez, Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura will need to share the burden of producing runs in the bottom half of the order with the reliable Jonathan Lucroy.
Even if Hart gets healthy and Braun avoids suspension, success will depend on those guys, along with Aoki, generating some early-season confidence.