PHOENIX -- A year ago, the Brewers knew little about outfielder Norichika Aoki beyond some video from Japan and a brief tryout camp. Today, they like him enough to make him the club's leadoff hitter.
Stressing that things can change, manager Ron Roenicke indicated on Thursday that he's leaning that way, saying Aoki would begin the year batting leadoff with second baseman Rickie Weeks in the two-hole.
"And then we'll see how it goes," Roenicke said. "[Aoki] can do a lot of different things. He sees a lot of pitches, which is really important for me. He'll walk. He stole a lot of bases last year. All of those things are important in the leadoff spot, but the biggest thing, really, is getting on base."
Aoki, who was greeted with hugs and smiles upon reporting to camp on Thursday morning, is coming off a solid debut season in which he batted .288 with 10 home runs, 37 doubles, 30 stolen bases and a .355 on-base percentage. He also adjusted to a new language, culture, clubhouse and style of play.
"He really had an impressive year last year," Roenicke said. "Last year, he came in here knowing he had to show us something. This year, that's a little different. Because of the type of person he is, I know he'll still go about it that way, but there is a difference. I think he should enjoy it more."
Weeks has started 595 career games in the leadoff hole and owns a .356 on-base percentage from that spot. He has appeared in 122 games as a No. 2 hitter with a .225 average and a .313 on-base percentage.
By batting him second in front of left fielder Ryan Braun and third baseman Aramis Ramirez, the Brewers would try to induce a more steady diet of fastballs for Weeks, a good fastball hitter.
Braun would follow in the three-hole, then cleanup hitter Ramirez. With Corey Hart sidelined at least the first month by a knee injury, catcher Jonathan Lucroy is a candidate to hit fifth, followed by first baseman Mat Gamel. Center fielder Carlos Gomez and shortstop Jean Segura will cover the seventh and eighth spots, depending on whether Roenicke is comfortable with a young player like Segura in front of the pitcher.
Healthy Narveson: 'Feels like a new arm'
PHOENIX -- Brewers left-hander Chris Narveson has never been so happy to be just one of the guys.
Eight and a half months after major shoulder surgery, Narveson deemed himself completely healed and said he is a full, unrestricted participant in the Brewers' starting rotation derby. Only one thing was out of the ordinary during Narveson's latest mound session on Wednesday.
"I turned around and three of the trainers were sitting over there watching, just to see how I looked," Narveson said. "They were like, 'Man it looks great. Effortless.' It's always fun to get that good feedback and see the progression. … When you look back and see smiles and laughs, you know everything looks good."
He felt good, too.
"It feels like you've got a new arm," Narveson said.
If he continues in good health, Narveson is a good bet to win one of the openings in the starting rotation behind right-handers Yovani Gallardo and Marco Estrada. Narveson began last season as Milwaukee's No. 5 starter, but made only two starts before he was shut down with the shoulder injury. On May 1, he had surgery for a torn labrum and rotator cuff, and his season was over.
Looking back, Narveson said the shoulder was already an issue at the start of Spring Training.
"It was kind of off and on. It's so hard because you're competitive," Narveson said. "It never felt like something that was a big deal. It was always like, 'OK, you need to strengthen and do your maintenance programs.' But as it went on, one day it would feel not bad and the next day it was, 'Oh, man.' It would go back and forth. Then, it obviously got to a head where after that [April 5] Atlanta game, you couldn't get loose, you couldn't do much."
Narveson surrendered five runs on four hits in four innings that day.
"Next thing you know, you wake up the next day and it's hard to pick [the arm] up," he said. "It got to the point where you really knew something was wrong."
He'll aim to make up for lost time in 2013 as part of a remade Brewers starting rotation. Only Gallardo and Narveson are back from the five-man group that began 2012; Zack Greinke, Randy Wolf and Shaun Marcum are gone.
"I've been there and I know I can do it," Narveson said.
Brewers expand 'demand-based' pricing initiative
PHOENIX -- The Brewers on Thursday announced a major expansion of "demand-based pricing," a program the club debuted on a limited basis over the past two seasons.
After offering the program for nine games last year, the Brewers will use demand-based pricing for all 81 home games in 2013 in three seating categories: loge outfield, loge bleacher and terrace reserved.
The Brewers say the system helps teams more accurately price tickets for individual games and provides fans with more price options by adjusting ticket prices in real time based on demand and changing factors such as team performance, pitching matchups and weather. The company with which the Brewers partnered for the program has similar systems in place at 19 other Major League ballparks.
"Over two-thirds of the teams in Major League Baseball have implemented demand-based pricing with many clubs using this system for every seat in their stadium," Brewers chief operating officer Rick Schlesinger said in a statement. "We tested this program in 2011 with three games before expanding to nine last year, and we were pleased with the response from fans who participated. Demand-based pricing rewards fans with the best deals when they plan their ticket purchases in advance, and the program also protects Season Seat Holder value. In addition, we are able to accommodate more fans with attractive pricing options for seats that otherwise may go unsold."
The Brewers say the best deals go to fans who purchase tickets early. Individual ticket sales begin at 9 a.m. CT on Feb. 23 via Brewers.com and other outlets. For more information about demand-based pricing, see the special section of Brewers.com.