His five-strikeout performance against the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday night aside, Brett Anderson has never been the type of pitcher who relies on velocity to blow away hitters as teammates Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff do.
Instead, the veteran left-hander is at his best when pitching to contact and letting the defense handle the rest. And while not quite as flashy, that difference in style makes him just as effective and important to the Milwaukee Brewers' starting rotation.
"Corbin and Woody, their stuff is so good it doesn’t really matter what arm they pitch (with)," Anderson said. "So it is nice to be a little different, to be left-handed, just to change up the look."
Variety figures to be a strength for Milwaukee's rotation this season. Anderson, the lone left-hander among regular starters, uses a sinker and changeup to induce weak contact, similar to the way Adrian Houser, a right-hander, pitches from the other side of the rubber.
Right-hander Josh Lindblom doesn't have impressive velocity on his fastball — he averaged 90.1 mph last season, according to Statcast — but he rose to stardom in the Korean Baseball Organization with pinpoint command of that fastball along with a handful of supporting pitches, including a biting curveball.
Even hard-throwing right-handers Burnes and Woodruff differ in styles. Woodruff relies primarily on a four-seam fastball that averages 97 mph while Burnes has evolved from a fastball-slider pitcher to one who uses an expanded arsenal to set up his slider.
"You never want to have too many of the same guy because in a three-game series it might come into play," Anderson said.
Anderson, 33, went 4-4 with a 4.21 ERA in 10 starts last season and returned to the Brewers on a one-year, $2.5 million contract at the start of spring training. A severe winter storm in Texas, combined with the COVID-19 protocols following his signing, left Anderson a little behind schedule to start camp, but has made four appearances, going 1-1 with a 1.86 ERA.
Against the Reds on Saturday, Anderson allowed six hits and a walk over four scoreless innings.
"That's what you expect from Brett," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "What I thought was noticeable last night was the pace that he pitched with. He started to make it uncomfortable for hitters."
Anderson said the expedited pace was "a little bit" intentional but had to do more with circumstance than a specific intention.
"I’m a little more methodical with runners on because I don’t want to rush and stuff like that, but with nobody on I like to get it and go and keep the defense on their toes," Anderson said. "Baseball is pretty boring for the most part, so I try to limit that and keep it going as quick as possible."
On the field
Christian Yelich drove in the Brewers' run in a 3-1 loss to the Seattle Mariners on Sunday at American Family Fields of Phoenix.
Yelich provided a 1-0 lead with an RBI single in the first inning against left-hander James Paxton.
The Mariners evened the score in the second when Wisconsin native Jarred Kelenic hit his second home run of spring on a 3-1 offering from right-hander Freddy Peralta, who struck out five while allowing five hits and a walk over 4⅔ innings.
"I thought Freddy pitched really, really well. He used a lot of breaking balls,” Counsell said. “Stuff got better kind of when he needed it. He threw 85, 86 pitches. He pitched very well. And he maintained his stuff throughout all those pitches.”
Drew Rasmussen continued his impressive spring with two strikeouts over 1⅓ scoreless innings, but Seattle pulled ahead with solo home runs by Julio Rodriguez and Jantzen Witte off Brad Boxberger (0-2) and J.P. Feyereisen, respectively.
From the infirmary
Utility man Jace Peterson's thumb injury flared up recently but he's expected to return to game action this week.
"We’ve told Jace he won’t be on the Opening Day roster," Counsell said. "So at this point, let's be very conservative about how we’re going with your thumb and let’s get you ready for the Major League season."
Around the horn
Right-hander Devin Williams will pitch roughly every third day over the rest of Milwaukee's exhibition schedule but will not make back-to-back appearances before Opening Day. Both Williams (quad) and center fielder Lorenzo Cain (shoulder) made their Cactus League debuts Saturday night and reported no physical issues. ... Luis Urias and Orlando Arcia will both see action at shortstop and third base over the final week of games, likely alternating by game as Counsell tries to gauge their abilities at those positions.
Woodruff (0-0, 4.50 ERA) is scheduled to start today against the Cleveland Indians in Goodyear, Arizona. Right-hander Triston McKenzie (0-1, 5.59 ERA) is Cleveland's scheduled starter.
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
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.
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.
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.
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).
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)
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.