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Veterans, ex-Yankees Overbay, Reynolds in mix to fill Brewers' gaping hole at first base

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PHOENIX - They're former Yankees, clubhouse neighbours and, potentially, new platoon partners with the Milwaukee Brewers.

That gaping hole at first base might be filled in 2014 by lefty Lyle Overbay and righty Mark Reynolds.

Each player signed a minor league deal with an invite to spring training, meaning they'll have to prove themselves — again — to stick around.

"It's really an uncomfortable feeling," said manager Ron Roenicke, drawing on his own experiences in the majors. "I like that there's competition but I tell you what it's a nervous time. I don't have fond memories of spring training."

This spring, it's Overbay and Reynolds who will be trying to impress Roenicke.

Reynolds, 30, has a feast-or-famine reputation with 202 homers in his seven seasons in the majors with a career .233 average. He has struck out at least 154 times in each season since 2008, including 223 strikeouts in 2009.

But Roenicke sees some hope in the stats. Last year between the Indians and Yankees, Reynolds had 154 strikeouts with 51 walks, about a 3-to-1 ratio.

"He sees pitches. He waits for the pitch he wants to hit," Roenicke said. "He's not up there hacking at everything, and I think that's the difference."

It's a little tough on Reynolds having to win a job going into his eight season in the majors. He is back in the National League though, where he came up with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2007.

"Honestly, I was just looking for the best place to get at bats. Come in and have a good spring and kind of prove myself all over again," Reynolds said.

Reynolds isn't usually that far from Overbay. They've got lockers right next to each other in the clubhouse. On Wednesday, there they were sitting next to each other taking a brief break during a sunny afternoon in the dugout during batting practice.

And there was Overbay yelling out to Reynolds across the usual morning clubhouse din to pass on a reminder that it was time for a meeting.

Overbay, 37, is back in Milwaukee for the first time since the 2005 season. It was after that season that Overbay was traded to Toronto in a deal that opened up first base for Prince Fielder.

Since then, there have been stops in Pittsburgh and Arizona before spending 2013 with the Yankees. Overbay hit .240, though he did have a renaissance of sorts with 14 homers and 59 RBIs, both highs for him since 2010.

It was with the Yankees, with the aid of hitting coach Kevin Long, that Overbay said he got the lower half of his body on track with his swing for the first two-thirds of the season.

Overbay said he got untracked again the last two months, so he wanted to focus this off-season on regaining what he lost.

"Sometimes when results aren't happening, you resort back to your other path," Overbay said Wednesday. "So those are the kinds of things I wanted to get in muscle memory, so that when I came here and I could it through this whole year."

He might potentially be the best defensive first baseman on the Brewers' roster. Overbay is also a solid clubhouse presence who appears comfortable with what he needs to do in the latter part of his career.

No guarantees yet with the Brewers. Besides Reynolds, returning veteran Juan Francisco, along with younger or less heralded players like Hunter Morris and Sean Halton are also in the mix at first.

But without taking a swing in a game, Overbay has made an impression Roenicke.

"I like what he has to say out there. I like what some of the younger guys have already come to me and said about him, that doesn't happen that often," Roenicke said. "So he's a guy that we're really happy to have in camp."

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Follow Genaro Armas at http://twitter.com/GArmasAP

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