SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Jeff Bianchi is the first to admit he's a bit sketchy on his Italian heritage.
"I know my great-grandfather came over from Italy," said Bianchi. "I've tried to do some research on my family tree. It's actually been a lot of fun."
Bianchi, who speaks few words in Italian, nevertheless will be leaving the Milwaukee Brewers' camp Sunday to play for Italy in the World Baseball Classic. The infielder decided not to miss that international experience despite the fact it's an important spring for him with the Brewers.
Bianchi, 26, is out of minor-league options, which means the Brewers would have to get him through waivers to send him back to the minors. Because he started 13 games at shortstop last year and looks ready to play in the major leagues, he likely would be claimed.
Yet, the competition for utility infield spots looks fierce in the Brewers' camp. Alex Gonzalez certainly will fill one of those jobs. Beyond Bianchi, you have Taylor Green, Donnie Murphy and Bobby Crosby, who has yet to play because of a thigh injury.
Bianchi said he is trying not to get caught up in the game of roster roulette.
"I've tried to play the GM role in the past and it doesn't work out too well," said Bianchi, who batted .188 with three homers and nine RBI in 69 at-bats last season in three stints with the Brewers.
"You start getting caught up in everything. Your mind starts going different places. So I try to avoid that. As best I can, I'm going to go out day by day and just worry about what I can control. Just compete every day the best I know how. Everything will take care of itself."
Manager Ron Roenicke said a player such as Bianchi could find a niche in the major leagues.
"He was up three times last year, so he's got some experience," said Roenicke. "He got some big hits for us. He handles the bat OK, does a lot of little things I like a utility man to do."
Bianchi, who missed all of one season in the minors and most of another with injuries, just wants to stay healthy and give himself a chance to make the club.
"I've had an injury-plagued past, so I feel blessed to be healthy and able to play," said Bianchi, expected to be Italy's starting shortstop. "I don't take things for granted anymore."
Early morning special: Right-hander Mark Rogers was given an interesting assignment -- a 9:30 a.m. start against Team Italy at Maryvale Baseball Park. Roenicke said he wanted Rogers in more of a low-key environment to work on his command.
"Just to get him a little different atmosphere," said Roenicke. "We don't want him going out trying to do too much. We really want him getting his fastball back, commanded well, and be able to get his off-speed stuff over for strikes."
That objective was not realized. Rogers walked the first three batters in the first inning, though he held it to one run by retiring the next three. He issued a leadoff walk in the second before putting down three in a row. With his pitch count up, that was all he was allowed to go.
"He's trying to find a rhythm and being able to let it go. He's aiming the ball," said Roenicke. "We need to get him to free up and let it go.
"He pitched good when he came up (last year) but spring trainings have been a little difficult for him. He may be a guy that just takes longer to work out the cobwebs or whatever it is."
The Brewers' lineup against Italy consisted mostly of players from the minor-league camp, including some of the top prospects in the system. Clint Coulter, Victor Roache and Mitch Haniger, all first-round draft picks (or supplemental first round) from last year, were in the lineup, as well as second-rounder Tyrone Taylor.
Roache still was recovering from major wrist surgery when the Brewers drafted him out of Georgia Southern, but farm director Reid Nichols said he is healthy now and swinging the bat well. And he said Taylor has recovered fully from the ailing shoulder that cut short his first pro season.
"He's going to be a good player," Nichols said of Taylor. "I like him."
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