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Brewers pitching coach Chris Hook excited about staff's potential
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Brewers pitching coach Chris Hook excited about staff's potential

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MILWAUKEE — Chris Hook is an optimistic and positive person, traits that were among the reasons the Milwaukee Brewers tapped him to serve as the team's pitching coach two years ago.

This spring, it seems like Hook is taking his optimism and positivity to another level.

Speaking to the media for nearly a half hour Saturday morning, Hook used the word "excited" — or, some form of it — 13 times as he discussed the pitching staff's talent and potential heading into the 2021 season.

His excitement is understandable. The Brewers return a staff that produced the sixth-best ERA in the National League last season, including two starters who were in the top ten in strikeouts (Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes), a reliever who was named Rookie of the Year after he allowed just one earned run the entire season (Devin Williams) and a closer who led the league with 13 saves and is still considered one of the game's more dominant pitchers (Josh Hader).

Add young pitchers looking to take a step forward in their development such as Adrian Houser, returning veterans Josh Lindblom and Brett Anderson and a crop of hard-throwing young relievers looking to establish themselves, Hook is confident the foundation is in place for Milwaukee's pitchers to have a successful season.

Brewers pitchers and catchers are only a few days into their official workouts, but many have been at the team's spring training complex for a few weeks already. Some make their offseason residences in the Phoenix area, spending most of the winter working toward 2021.

Despite the limitations in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hook has been able to continue working with those players and, in some ways, has found the limitations to be beneficial to the process.

"The offseason was a little different," Hook said. "But I think it's gotten better in a lot of ways because you can get on Zoom and a lot of the guys are getting data that they can send to you so you can see where they're at.

"Five years ago in the minor leagues we’d speak to these guys maybe once in an offseason, but now it’s almost every 10 days I’m speaking to you or getting a Rapsodo report or seeing a video. Some of the guys have been here in Arizona all year long. I know exactly what they’ve been doing, I know the data points, I know how things are rolling. And it’s the same thing for the guys who have not been in Arizona."

The biggest challenge for Hook likely will be monitoring and managing pitchers' workloads as they return to a normal schedule after playing a 60-game season a year ago.

Earlier in camp, Woodruff and Burnes stressed the importance of communication and transparency, a notion seconded by manager Craig Counsell. A lot of the responsibility will fall on Hook, who has the added benefit of working with many of Milwaukee's pitchers as they worked their way up the organizational ladder during his time as a minor league instructor.

It was in the minor leagues that he helped implement the organization's emphasis on flexibility. Counsell has made a habit of blurring the lines between "starter" and "reliever" during his five-plus years on the Brewers' bench, choosing instead to follow shorter stints by his "initial out-getters" with multiple-inning outings out of the bullpen. That won't change this season. And with the need to take a cautious approach with workloads, Hook is expecting even more flexibility once games get underway.

"Our guys are ready for it," Hook said. "I think we've got 9-10 guys that we feel like can give us length and we're going to need every one of them. Again, it's all hands on deck. Whatever is needed to do that day to help us piece together 27 outs is kind of the ideal mindset.

"These guys are ready to go. It’s going to be a long season, but I think they’re prepared for it."


Here's everything you need to know as Milwaukee Brewers kick off spring training in Arizona

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