PHOENIX — Jordan Zimmermann didn’t stay unemployed very long.
The veteran right-handed pitcher, released Friday by the Milwaukee Brewers, signed another minor league contract with the organization Saturday and is expected to open the season at the team’s alternate training site in Appleton.
“I knew this is where I wanted to be,” said Zimmermann, an Auburndale native who starred at UW-Stevens Point before embarking on his major league career. “I feel like this is a good fit for me, so I wasn’t looking to go anywhere else.”
Zimmermann, 34, had been in camp as a non-roster invitee after signing a minor league deal in February. The contract required the Brewers to agree to add him to their 26-man Opening Day roster, pay a $100,000 retention bonus or release Zimmermann, which would allow him to seek opportunities with another club.
“It all comes down to a business move,” Zimmermann said Saturday morning. “They obviously wanted to keep me around but didn’t want to pay the money and I understand.
“The fact that they wanted to keep me around means a lot to me and that’s kind of what went into my decision in coming back. I feel like I have a lot left and I can help this team at some point during the season.”
What his role would be hasn’t been established. Zimmermann was in the process of stretching out his arm, most likely to provide some length out of the bullpen and depth for the starting rotation.
It’s been a bit of an adjustment for a player who’d started in all but two of his 277 career appearances.
“We’ll stretch him out and then see where it takes us and see what our needs are,” manager Craig Counsell said. “I don’t know if I see him at the 100-pitch mark or anything like that. We’ll stretch him out and see where that takes us.”
Prior to his appearance Saturday against the Royals, Zimmermann had appeared in four Cactus League games. He allowed four runs on six hits over three innings in his first two outings but followed that with three scoreless innings in his next two appearances.
“He’s been pitching well,” Counsell said. “He’s healthy and I think it’s just a matter of time until he helps us.”
On the field
Zimmermann gave up three runs over two innings and Miguel Sanchez allowed the tying run to score on a ninth-inning wild pitch as the Brewers and Kansas City Royals played to a 6-6 tie at Surprise Stadium.
Lorenzo Cain had two hits, including his first home run of the spring. Jackie Bradley Jr. also finished with two hits in his return to action after missing more than a week with wrist inflammation.
Right-hander Brandon Woodruff allowed two runs and struck out seven over 4⅓ innings in is final tuneup before taking the mound against the Twins on Opening Day.
“Everything went well,” Counsell said. “It was another good start for Woody and he feels really good with what he’s doing.”
Cain’s home run came in the second game of his first back-to-back appearances of the season.
“Today I felt my best as far as seeing the ball and really kind of letting my swing go as much as I could,” Cain said. “I thought it was a solid day for me.”
From the infirmary
Outfielder Tyrone Taylor suffered a left thigh bruise when he collided with Dustin Peterson chasing down a foul ball in the seventh inning.
“It’s kind of a major issue,” Counsell said of Taylor, who remained in the game for the remainder of the inning. “He took a knee or a head to his side pretty hard. ... We’ll re-evaluate him tomorrow.”
Peterson left the game after reporting dizziness and later a sore right hip.
“They’re both going to be pretty sore tomorrow,” Counsell said.
Around the horn
Cain won’t play in Sunday’s Cactus League finale but expects to play the full game Monday and at least start Tuesday during the two-game exhibition set in Texas. ... Bradley revealed he underwent surgery to remove a cyst from his wrist two days after the 2020 season ended. ... Players sent to the alternate training site will play actual games against players in the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox camps. The venues for the 13-game schedule will rotate between Appleton, South Bend, Indiana (Cubs) and Schaumburg, Illinois (White Sox).
The Brewers wrap up the Cactus League portion of their exhibition schedule Sunday when Corbin Burnes (2-0, 1.59 ERA) takes the mound against the Cincinnati Reds at American Family Fields of Phoenix. In four spring appearances, Burnes has allowed just two earned runs, both coming his last time out against the Dodgers. In 11⅓ innings, he’s struck out 17 while walking just four batters. The game gets underway an hour earlier than usual and will not be broadcast either on radio or television.
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.