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BASEBALL: Ishikawa snags Milwaukee Brewers' final roster spot
After a year spent in the minor leagues and on injured reserve, Travis Ishikawa will be back on a Major League roster this season.
The Milwaukee Brewers announced Wednesday that they would be keeping Ishikawa, a Federal Way High School graduate, for their final 25-man roster spot. Ishikawa was selected over Brooks Conrad and will be the primary backup at first base for Mat Gamel, Milwaukee's first-year starter following the offseason departure of former starter Prince Fielder. Ishikawa can also play outfield and pinch hit for the Brewers.
Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke hopes Ishikawa develops into this year's Mark Kotsay, the veteran outfielder who was a favorite of the skipper last season.
"We're losing what we felt was a great pinch-hitter last year in Kotsay," Roenicke told MLB.com. "We're looking at a guy (in Ishikawa) who's got some experience, and he's done a nice job for San Francisco in the Major Leagues."
After spending nine seasons with the San Francisco Giants, the first baseman signed a minor league deal with the Milwaukee Brewers in December. Ishikawa was a Giants' draft pick out of Federal Way in 2002 and was a key reserve on San Francisco's World Series team back in 2010.
Ishikawa played 281 games for the Giants since 2006 and is a plus defender at first base who can play left field in a pinch. He's 20-for-75 (.290) lifetime as a pinch-hitter.
Milwaukee, the defending National League Central Division champions, open the 2012 season Friday against the world champion St. Louis Cardinals at Miller Park at 1:10 p.m.
The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Ishikawa had a solid spring for the Brewers in Cactus League play in Arizona. He hit .259 in 54 at-bats with two home runs, eight RBIs and 11 runs.
Ishikawa is coming off shoulder surgery in June 2011 on his non-throwing arm. He suffered the injury while playing right field for the Fresno Grizzlies, the Giants' AAA affiliate.
Ishikawa was hitting .251 with three home runs, 18 RBIs and 14 doubles in 56 games for the Grizzlies before the shoulder injury.
He was designated for assignment by San Francisco following spring training last year after spending the previous two seasons and parts of two others, on the Giants' Major League roster.
During San Francisco's World Series season in 2010, Ishikawa hit .319 (15-for-47) as a pinch-hitter and was regarded highly enough to start Game 4 against the Texas Rangers. Ishikawa also drew a key walk in Game 3 of the National League Division Series against Atlanta that fueled a ninth-inning rally.
During the entire 2010 postseason, he played in a total of 10 games and finished 2 for 10 at the plate with two runs, a double and an RBI during the playoffs.
The 28-year-old Ishikawa appeared in 116 games in 2010 for the Giants during the regular season when he hit .266 in 128 at-bats with 42 hits, 11 doubles, three home runs and 22 RBIs.
Ishikawa spent a bulk of the 2009 season as San Francisco’s everyday first baseman after an impressive spring training. In 2009, Ishikawa hit .261 with nine home runs and 39 RBIs in 120 regular season games.
He also spent time with the Giants during the 2006 and '08 seasons. Ishikawa has a lifetime batting average of .265 with 15 home runs, 80 RBIs, 30 doubles in 603 at-bats during his four-year Major League career.
Ishikawa was a 21st round draft choice by the Giants out of Federal Way in 2002. But he wasn’t the normal 21st rounder. The Giants dished out $955,000 to sign the first baseman. It was the highest bonus awarded for a player drafted after the first round at the time.