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Brewers build on young pieces, keep eye on relief market for NL Central pennant race

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MILWAUKEE - The Brewers addressed a need at the non-waiver trade deadline without giving up one of their top young players, holding to a philosophy this season that has carried them into a pennant race.

Milwaukee picked up left-handed hitter Gerardo Parra from Arizona for two minor leaguers, and may still look around in August to add a right-handed reliever.

Otherwise, general manager Doug Melvin appears just as content watching the organization's home-grown talent play integral roles in the chase for an NL Central title. Those players include left fielder Khris Davis, second baseman Scooter Gennett and starting pitcher Wily Peralta.

Davis, 26, was second on the team in homers with 17 going into Saturday's game at St. Louis. Gennett, 24, was second on the team in hitting at .302.

Touted right-hander Jimmy Nelson, 24, has the kind of potential that makes him an intriguing prospect for a trading partner looking to swap a veteran.

"We are always going to embrace our younger players," Melvin said by phone this weekend from Florida, where team brass was visiting the Class A affiliate in Brevard County.

A dismal 2013 season marked by injuries and Ryan Braun's suspension gave the Brewers their first long look at Davis and Gennett. Peralta, a 25-year-old right-hander with a 3.52 ERA and team-high 13 wins, had a 3.99 ERA in 2013 after the All-Star break.

"We anticipated what could be a difficult season early on in the year," Melvin said. "At that point, it gave an opportunity to the younger guys."

It's a point of pride for Melvin, who has heard some detractors criticize Milwaukee's player development system.

In the off-season, the Brewers added starter Matt Garza in free agency. Parra arrived at last week's non-waiver trade deadline to help add a little more balance to a predominantly right-handed hitting lineup. He's also a two-time Gold Glove winner to pair with Carlos Gomez, last year's Gold Glove-winning centre fielder.

The plan calls for using Parra to back up and spot start at all three outfield positions. Right fielder Braun and All-Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy are also Milwaukee draft picks.

To be sure, Melvin isn't averse to a big deal, either. In 2008, the Brewers picked up CC Sabathia from the Cleveland Indians in July, only to see him declare for free agency and sign with the Yankees the following December.

Conversely, the small-market Brewers didn't dismantle when things were going poorly last season. The hope this spring was to stay healthy and build on the success on the mound that started in the second half of 2013. It has happened, for the most part.

"We try to avoid the total rebuild. That's just our philosophical decision because we can't afford to be so bad," Melvin said.

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