Lorenzo Cain’s slow return to action has been slowed even more by a sore right quadriceps, but the veteran outfielder expects to be ready when the regular season begins April 1.
Cain was held out of action all of last week because of the injury, manager Craig Counsell said. He returned to the field Monday but, instead of going through the usual workout regimen with his teammates, spent the day doing light running and working with the team’s medical staff.
“We’re kind of in the process where we’re gaining information every day, and what happens today determines how much we can push it tomorrow,” Counsell said. “He’s going to be slowed by this. And we’re getting to the point where the schedule gets a little tight here. I think we still have time to get ready for the season, but when you’re missing a week on the field, for any player it starts to make the schedule and having good days important.”
Counsell planned to take a measured but steady approach with Cain this spring after he played all of four games in 2020 before deciding to opt out of the remainder of the season. The hope was the approach would allow Cain, 34, to get his legs under him and build himself into the physical shape necessary to handle center field for the bulk of a normal 162-game schedule.
With clubhouses and most workouts off-limits to media because of the coronavirus pandemic, injury information has been hard to come by this spring. The extent of Cain’s injury is minor, but the level of impact seems greater than first reported last week when Counsell said that he expected Cain to see action after the team’s second scheduled off day on March 17.
That’s still the plan for now, and Counsell is confident that while the timeline is tight there will be enough time for Cain to get the game action needed to prepare him for the season.
“You want him to be able to play in games,” Counsell said. “I think that’s important after you missed the amount of time he has. … I’m still comfortable with him appearing after that off-day and things being fine. I think we still have plenty of time after that off-day.”
Cain said he usually likes to get between 50 and 60 at-bats in spring games. Even though he might not hit that number this season, he says it won’t be an issue.
“I plan on being on the field Opening Day,” Cain said.
News of Cain’s injury broke the same day as reports the Brewers had agreed to terms with outfielder Jackie Bradley, Jr., who passed his physical and officially signed his two-year, $24 million contract Monday.
Cain doesn’t view the Brewers addition of Bradley, who like Cain is a Gold Glove-winning center fielder, as a challenge as he enters the penultimate season of a five-year, $80 million contract signed in January 2018.
“I feel like I’ve shown what I can do day in and day out, year in and year out, as far as center field,” Cain said. “If what I’ve done in the past is not enough, then hey, what can I say?”
Bradley said he and Cain hadn’t spoken too much yet but was looking forward to getting to know his new teammate and letting the lineup decisions take care of themselves.
“I’m going to be focused on helping the team any way I possibly can and, wherever I’m playing, let’s go,” Bradley said.
On the field
Mario Feliciano hit a two-run triple in the sixth as the Brewers rallied for a 10-9 victory over the Los Angeles Angels at American Family Fields of Phoenix.
Staked to an early lead after the Brewers scored four runs in the first inning, Brandon Woodruff allowed back-to-back solo shots to Anthony Rendon and Justin Upton to lead off the second in his first Cactus League appearance.
“I need to clean up getting ahead and not being so predictable,” said Woodruff, who also struck out Angels slugger Mike Trout in the first inning. “That’s what I did with those back-to-back homers. That’s something going forward that’s an easy fix.”
Woodruff had been slowed by a sore back that kept him out of the Brewers’ first week of games.
“He has no issue,” Counsell said. “We’re good with him.”
Upton hit his second in the day in the fourth, a two-run blast off left-hander Brent Suter, who allowed two hits and recorded a pair of strikeouts over two innings in his second spring appearance.
The Brewers scored three times in the fourth on a solo home run by Brice Turang, RBI double by Omar Narvaez and run-scoring single by Avisail Garcia to take a 7-4 lead. The Angels pulled even in the fifth on Jordan Adams’ three-run homer.
Jose Rojas put the Angels ahead with a solo home run off Justin Topa in the fifth. Jo Adell singled and scored on Juan Graterol’s double to make it a 9-7 game.
Mark Mathias cut the deficit to a run with an RBI single in the sixth and scored along with Tyrone Taylor on Feliciano’s triple.
Garcia finished with three hits and Manny Pina had a pair for Milwaukee, which improved to 5-3 in Cactus League play.
“I thought we had really good at-bats, especially in the first inning,” Counsell said. “It wasn’t necessarily a big hit there but taking what the pitcher gives us. That’s going to be a rally some days, you score without a home run. We had one in the first inning that ended up with four runs on the board.”
On the (back) field
The Brewers and Angels also played a “B” game Monday, allowing them to get some extra work for their pitchers as game innings start to dwindle. Drew Rasmussen, Hoby Milner and Aaron Ashby were among those who saw action for Milwaukee.
From the infirmary
Luis Urias is expected to return to the lineup later this week after straining his left hamstring running into a double play during a game last week. “We’re looking at this short-term,” Counsell said. “He’ll be back on the field right away and hitting right away. Basically, he just took two days off.” ... Utilityman Tim Lopes was placed on the 60-day injured list with an oblique injury, a move that also cleared a spot on the 40-player roster for Bradley. Counsell said Lopes suffered the injury during an at-bat against the Padres on March 3.
Right-hander Adrian Houser gets the start for the second time this spring when the Brewers host the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday at American Family Fields. Houser allowed a hit and struck out one batter in a scoreless inning of work against Cleveland last week in his Cactus League debut. Left-hander Alex Wood (0-0) is scheduled to start for the Giants.
Here’s everything you need to know as Milwaukee Brewers kick off spring training in Arizona
Here's everything you need to know as Milwaukee Brewers kick off spring training in Arizona
WHO'S ON THIRD
After Keston Hiura moved to first base to make way for Kolten Wong, third base remained the only position without an obvious starting candidate.
The Brewers brought Travis Shaw back on a minor-league contract, hoping he can return to the form in 2017-18, when he hit 63 home runs with 187 RBI. While Luis Urias (above) and former top-prospect Daniel Robertson are likely to get a shot at winning the job, too.
Acquired last winter in a trade with Seattle, Omar Narváez (above) was supposed to give the Brewers a much-needed offensive boost while admittedly being a work-in-progress behind the plate. Instead, Narvaez was one of many Brewers hitters to struggle last season but surprised the Brewers’ coaching staff and front office with his defensive improvements. He’s back again in 2021 but will have to battle for a job with the likes of Manny Piña, Jacob Nottingham and Luke Maile.
With Brett Anderson returning on a one-year deal, the Brewers will open camp with all five spots of their starting rotation seemingly filled. But as history has shown, it’s rare to get through an entire season with just five starters. So who’s waiting in the wings if and when the Brewers need a replacement? Eric Lauer (above) and Freddy Peralta will try to earn spots in the rotation this spring, as will former UW-Stevens Point standout Jordan Zimmermann, who is in camp on a minor league deal.
PLAYERS TO BE NAMED LATER
It was a quiet offseason for the Brewers, but they weren’t unique in that regard. Across baseball, trades and signings seemed to be few and far between as players and teams both waited out a winter of uncertainty. Now that camps are open, there’s a greater likelihood of trades and with more than 100 free agents still unsigned, the Brewers’ roster could have a new face or two before the season gets underway.
WILL IT LAST?
Baseball is back, but for how long? That might be the single biggest question this spring, not just for the Brewers but baseball as a whole. The pandemic still rages on and though vaccinations are on the rise, one infection can quickly become an outbreak that leaves an entire team sidelined indefinitely. Players resisted requests and suggestions to delay the start of spring training, and the regular season, by a month believing they proved last year they can complete a season safely. But the margin for error is still slim and another full-blown shutdown of spring training, which would ultimately impact the regular season, remains one large outbreak away.
SPRING TRAINING ROSTER
Teams are allowed to have up to 75 players in major league camp at any given time and the Brewers go into camp with all 40 of their roster spots filled along with 20 non-roster invitees. Once the regular season begins, active rosters will revert to the original 26-player limit that was planned for 2020 before the pandemic suspended operations. Teams still are allowed to add an additional player to the active roster for doubleheaders and can have a taxi squad of up to five players — including one catcher — on all road trips. Rosters will expand again in September, but only by two spots for a total of 28.
Pitchers (31): Brett Anderson, Clayton Andrews*, Aaron Ashby*, Alec Bettinger, Phil Bickford, Ray Black, Zach Brown*, Corbin Burnes, Jake Cousins*, J.P. Feyereisen, Dylan File, Josh Hader, Blaine Hardy*, Adrian Houser, Thomas Jankins*, Eric Lauer, Josh Lindblom, Hoby Milner*, Freddy Peralta, Angel Perdomo, Drew Rasmussen, Miguel Sanchez*, Ethan Small*, Brent Suter, Justin Topa, Quintin Torres-Costa*, Bobby Wahl, Devin Williams, Brandon Woodruff, Eric Yardley, Jordan Zimmermann*.
Catchers (6): Mario Feliciano, Payton Henry*, Luke Maile, Omar Narvaez, Jacob Nottingham, Manny Pina.
Infielders (11): Orlando Arcia, Zach Green*, Keston Hiura, Tim Lopes, Mark Mathias, Jace Peterson*, Daniel Robertson, Travis Shaw*, Brice Turang*, Luis Urias, Daniel Vogelbach, Kolten Wong.
Outfielders (11): Lorenzo Cain, Dylan Cozens*, Derek Fisher, Avisail Garcia, Tristen Lutz*, Billy McKinney, Garrett Mitchell*, Corey Ray, Pablo Reyes*, Tyrone Taylor, Christian Yelich.
* — Non-roster invitee
Manager Craig Counsell’s coaching staff will have a different look in 2021. Third-base coach Ed Sedar has transitioned into a new, advisory role while longtime bullpen catcher Marcus Hanel’s contract was not renewed by the team after last season.
Sedar will be replaced on the staff by Quintin Berry, who had been the Brewers' minor-league outfield and base-running coordinator for the last two seasons after concluding his 13-year playing career serving as a player/coach with Class AAA Colorado Springs in 2018.
Néstor Corredor and Adam Weisenburger will replace Hanel and Robinson Diaz as the team's bullpen catchers.
The rest of Counsell's staff will remain intact moving forward, including hitting coaches Andy Haines (above left) and Jacob Cruz. Chris Hook and Steve Karsay will handle Milwaukee’s pitchers and bullpen, respectively, and Pat Murphy returns for a sixth season as Counsell’s bench coach.
Jason Lane, the Brewers’ first base coach last season, returns, too, though Counsell planned to decide during spring training where Lane and Berry would be used in games this season.
Manager — Craig Counsell (7th season). Bases — Quintin Berry (1st season), Jason Lane (5th season); Bullpen — Steve Karasy (3rd season); Bench — Pat Murphy (6th season); Hitting — Jacob Cruz (2nd season); Andy Haines (3rd season); Bullpen catchers — Néstor Corredor (1st season); Adam Weisenburger (1st season).
CACTUS LEAGUE SCHEDULE
The Cactus League schedule underwent a last-minute adjustment earlier this month with the elimination of split-squad games. The Brewers will play 27 games in Arizona — 14 at American Family Fields and 13 on the road — and wrap up their exhibition slate with a pair of contests against the Rangers at Globe Life Park on March 29 and 30 before returning to Milwaukee ahead of their April 1 regular-season opener against the Twins at American Family Field.
February: 28 — @ Chicago White Sox. March: 1 — at Diamondbacks; 2 — vs. Athletics.; 3 — at Padres; 4 — vs. Cleveland.; 5 — at Rockies; 6 — vs Cubs; 7 — OFF; 8 — vs. Angels; 9 — vs. Giants; 10 — at Athletics; 11 — vs. Royals; 12 — at Cubs; 13 — vs. Rangers; 14 — at Mariners; 15 — vs. Padres; 16 — at Dodgers; 17 — OFF DAY; 18 — at Angels; 19 — vs. Diamondbacks; 20 — at Reds (7 p.m.); 21 — vs. Mariners; 22 — vs Cleveland; 23 — vs. Dodgers; 25 — at Giants (8 p.m.); 26 — vs. White Sox; 27 — at Royals; 28 — at Reds; 29 — vs. Rangers (Arlington, Texas); 30 — vs. Rangers (Arlington, Texas).
(NOTE: Unless otherwise noted, all games start at 2:10 p.m. local time prior to March 14 and 3:10 p.m. after, due to Arizona not observing Daylight Savings Time)
IF YOU GO
Unlike previous seasons, fans will not be able to watch the team’s workouts, which take place on the complex’s ancillary fields. That means no opportunities for kids — little and big alike — to get autographs and pictures. The team store at American Family Fields will be open and the team announced last week that a limited number of fans — up to 23% of capacity at the 10,000-seat stadium — will be allowed to attend games when Cactus League play gets underway.