Friday, February 16, 2007

Corey Koskie Likely Done; Ryan Braun Awaited

With Milwaukee Brewers third baseman Corey Koskie still struggling with discomfort related to post concussive syndrome, here's a little advice to third base prospect Ryan Braun: 'Rookie, strap yourself in.' Koskie may be through.

A position player or two began arriving early with pitchers and catchers at the Brewers Cactus League camp in Phoenix this week, but sadly the 33-year-old Koskie was nowhere in sight. Koskie continues to suffer from lingering queasiness and vertigo related to a freak fielding fall that took him out of action July 5. A slick glove man earning $3.5 million a year, Koskie was hitting .261 with a dozen homers when he went down.

Braun ordinarily would be a long shot to make the club, especially with veteran Tony Graffanino already on the roster. But Graffanino, 34, who owns a .269 lifetime batting average, has never played full time in 12 major league seasons and was brought in last year strictly as a reserve.

Braun, meanwhile, projects as a potential five-tool player and 4-hole hitter, and recently batted .326 with six homers in the Arizona Fall League. A No. 5 overall pick two years ago, Braun, 23, immediately mastered double A pitching last season, hitting .303 with 15 homers in 231 at-bats at Huntsville.

Koskie likely would have held off Braun until 2008 while the young prospect developed his defense, but those familiar with Koskie's condition warn that preliminary indications are that the oft-injured veteran not only is unlikely to play during spring training, but will be hard pressed to show up by opening day. Koskie has been on the disabled list five times since 2002, and may yet have to sit out for months dealing not only with his acknowleged dizziness, but headaches, irritability, difficutly concentrating and other manifestations.

Such a dubious prognosis, once confirmed, would force Koskie to consider stepping aside -- and soon. With his everyday play in doubt, it becomes difficult to imagine his hanging around as a deep reserve or pinch hitter. Even if Koskie took a year's hiatus to recover, at his advanced age a comeback would not only be difficult, it could put his health at risk for the extended future.