Ned Yost led the Brewers to an 81-81 record last season, their best mark in 13 years, but the Brewers manager has bigger ideas for 2006. Yost chatted online with fans Thursday from Maryvale, Ariz., about team goals and areas of improvement and who he sees having the biggest impact on the team this season.

Ned Yost: Hello Milwaukee fans. I would like to thank you for taking time to submit your questions. Let's get started.

Base_Ball: Ned, all of Wisconsin is excited and can't wait for 2006 Brewers baseball. Is the team as anxious and excited as the fans?

Yost: Yes. The excitement level is pretty high inside the clubhouse. I think everyone got a taste of success last season and is really looking forward to a lot more of it this year.

Base_Ball_3: Ned, rumor has it that you are a fan of "The West Wing." Are you in the camp that thinks the show has tanked, or that it saved its best for the last season?

Yost: I'm really a fan of the earlier stuff.

Base_Ball_3: It seems almost unavoidable that your name will be linked to the manager position in Atlanta, should Bobby Cox retire. Does it concern you that this could become an unnecessary topic of conversation during the season?

Yost: No, it doesn't really concern me. My heart is in Milwaukee and that's all that really concerns me.

Base_Ball_3: Is there any chance Ben Sheets will be on a pitch count during the first month of the season?

Yost: It's early in the spring, but Benny is right on schedule. He looks and feels good and I don't anticipate him being on any type of pitch count once the season starts.

Base_Ball: Ned, are the coaches and players' true expectation to make the playoffs this year?

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Yost: Last season, after finishing 81-81, we looked back and saw a lot of areas that we can improve in. We can foresee a healthy Ben Sheets and by playing better defense we think we can pick up two more wins a month, which would put us in that 90-95 win range. I think everyone in that clubhouse -- barring some major injuries -- feels that mark is an attainable goal and should put us in the thick of a playoff race.

Kory_Klug: Which new player will have the greatest impact this season?

Yost: That's a good question. I've thought about that a lot this spring. What I've come up with is -- it won't be a player, it's a coach. The addition of Robin Yount is going to pay great dividends for our team.

Base_Ball_2: How do you feel about your role as one of the saviors of this franchise?

Yost: I don't really feel I've played a major role in saving this franchise. I believe Doug Melvin has taken this organization and turned it completely around by his leadership and direction.

Base_Ball: Ned, you've been around a championship team as a player. Does this team have the preseason swagger and emotion to mentally compete for the playoffs?

Yost: I don't know about swagger, but they've got a confidence about their abilities, a desire to learn with tremendous work ethic -- those are all ingredients for success.

Kory_Klug: What effect, if any, do you think the World Baseball Classic will have on the Major League Baseball season?

Yost: Barring any major injury to a star player, I doubt that it will have any effect on the Major League season. It should be exciting to watch. Our players that will be participating in the Classic are looking forward to representing their countries.

Base_Ball: Ned, what is the best thing about Spring Training at Maryvale Baseball Park?

Yost: First of all, the weather in Arizona is always great. I think the stadium here in Maryvale is as nice as any in Arizona. At Maryvale, we have eight fields that we can work on and we are able to get a great amount of work done in a short period of time. Plus, it's fan friendly.

crazyforcappy: Do you think the Central Division is going to be tough this year?

Yost: The Central Division is tough every year. The division is loaded with great pitching. St. Louis, Chicago and Houston are always tough. Pittsburgh and Cincinnati have really improved teams this season.

berniebrewer4life: How important is it to you and the players that a home game vs. the Cubs actually have more Brewers fans than Cubs fans? Also, what is your opinion of the Take Back Miller Park idea?

Yost: The last couple of seasons it actually feels that you're playing in the opposition's home park. We don't want Miller Park to be Wrigley Field North. It's important for the club to seize every opportunity when we're playing at home.

Base_Ball_2: Are you looking forward to donning the retro uniforms on Sundays?

Yost: I think all of our players know about the success that the franchise had in the early '80s wearing that uniform and they're excited about wearing them this year.

signloretta: Hits and runs aside, how often do you call for a steal vs. the runner going on his own? Are there any runners that have earned the right to go whenever they see fit?

Yost: Most of the time we put on the green light, which enables the runner to steal if he gets a jump. There are times when we put the "must steal" signal on, but more times than not -- depending on the situation -- we run the green light. Last year, Billy Hall, Rickie Weeks and, believe it or not, Carlos Lee had permanent green lights.

berniebrewer4life: After watching his second-half coming out party, is it unreal to expect a .300 season from J.J. Hardy this year?

Yost: J.J. has worked very hard this winter. He's got a full season under his belt, is completely healthy from the surgery (in 2004) and is swinging the bat really well so far this spring. I look for him to have a really good season offensively in 2006.

Base_Ball_4: What are some of the team's main goals heading into Spring Training?

Yost: We need to really improve on our team defense. We need to improve on our small ball capabilities -- bunting, moving runners over and driving runners in. And we need to improve our pitchers' offensive production.

Base_Ball_2: How is your son's career coming along? Future Brewer?

Yost: He played in Helena last season and really enjoyed it. He's here in Maryvale right now for Spring Training. He's working hard and hoping to make the West Virginia squad this season.

bman112789: Mr. Yost, I would first like to say that I think that you are doing a wonderful job as manager. What is the status of Geoff Jenkins coming off his surgery?

Yost: Geoff didn't have surgery in the offseason. He just needed an extended period of time after the season to heal. He plays so hard that he's always nursing some sort of bump or bruise. He came into camp in great shape and is feeling good.

mikeykliff: What are the odds that we could see Ryan Braun play for the Brewers this season?

Yost: Ryan was the No. 1 pick for the Brewers in last year's draft. We think he is most definitely going to be a big leaguer one day, but he still needs more time to refine his game.

Base_Ball: Ned, when I was a player in high school and legion baseball, I wanted to play in front of big crowds. As a Major Leaguer, do big crowds at Miller Park make a significant impact on the Brewer players?

Yost: Most of the time, players are so focused when they're playing the game, they don't see the crowds, but certainly feel the electricity that's generated from the stands. That always gives a big boost to a player.

Base_Ball_2: What home series are you most looking forward to?

Yost: I would have to say that the Opening Series against the Pirates considering that it is the first season that the club has opened in Milwaukee since Miller Park was built. Also, I look forward to the Cubs series.

Base_Ball_2: Ned, have you ever walked out to the parking lot before a game? I will grill you the best brat ever made.

Yost: I've thought about it a couple of times, but I've never done it. Perhaps this year could be the year.

Base_Ball_4: Do you think that lefty Zach Jackson could see some time in the Majors this season?

Yost: Zach has been very impressive so far in Spring Training. It's hard to say, but he very well could see some time with us this season. The competition for the bullpen this season is stiff -- which is a good problem to have. We anticipate him starting the season in the Minor Leagues.

Brian_Kendl: What do you normally do in Milwaukee on an off day?

Yost: Normally, I lay pretty low. I don't do much of anything.

madisonian: Great to have you back for another season. I'm concerned that Corey Hart will become the next Wes Helms: good enough to play but can't break into the starting eight. What's his ceiling? What in his game needs to improve before he can be a regular star?

Yost: Corey's always been a kid who has success everywhere he's played. In his defense, the Brewers have moved him around defensively quite a bit in the last few years. He's a kid that has a lot of power and can swing the bat for average. He is probably our best baserunner on the team. We think that in time, Corey's got a chance to be a pretty decent Major League player.

Base_Ball_2: How expendable is Bill Hall this season now that we have Corey Koskie?

Yost: Billy is not expendable. He's every bit as valuable as he ever was. He provides our team with great depth with his ability to play multiple positions. Every Major League team would die to have a player of Bill Hall's caliber on the roster.

Tim_Hanson: What's your approach to this season after last year's breakthrough?

Yost: Our approach this season is to focus on playing more fundamental baseball. We need to improve our small ball capabilities, to refine our defensive abilities and continue to play hard together as a group with one goal in mind.

sanpatso: Thanks, Ned, for a good season last year. I want to know your early impression of Dave Bush and where you think he fits in the team's plans?

Yost: We've been impressed with Dave. We like his make-up and his work ethic has been unbelievable so far. Coming from an American League team, where they don't do any hitting or bunting, he has been in the cage countless hours working on his offensive game. We like what we've seen so far of his stuff. He has a live arm with a good breaking ball. It's too early to tell what his role will be.

bman112789: What kind of impact have you noticed already from Robin Yount?

Yost: Robin's had a huge impact. He brings the credibility of a Hall of Famer to the ballpark everyday. He knows the game as well as anyone I've ever been around. He has a passion for working with our young infielders. He is the last one off the field everyday. Robin just has that knack of communicating -- the players listen and have learned a great deal so far.

Yost: I want to thank you all for your time and your questions. You can be assured that the Brewers are training hard and are looking forward to seeing you all in 2006 at Miller Park.