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Shorter spring games beneficial to Brewers, Craig Counsell says
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Shorter spring games beneficial to Brewers, Craig Counsell says

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Milwaukee Brewers 2021 schedule

Through three Cactus League games, the Milwaukee Brewers have yet to play a full nine innings.

As part of an effort to protect players from being exposed to and potentially spreading the coronavirus, Major League Baseball is allowing teams to shorten Cactus and Grapefruit League games to as few as five innings through the first two weeks of spring training.

The option allows teams to pack fewer players on buses, in dugouts and into already-cramped visiting clubhouses. While it might make baseball purists cringe, it’s an option that has very few detractors.

“The fans will be scratching their heads at times,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “But, for us, on our side, it’s going to be really helpful in getting our guys ready for the season. It’s never more frustrating when you have a starter in his second outing and you want to get him up twice and he has a 35-pitch inning. It just doesn’t go very well. So, these rules are going to be very helpful for us developmentally and help us get guys ready for the season.”

Pitchers are the primary reason for shorter games, but the rule will require Counsell to adjust the way he utilizes his position players, too. With fewer late-inning replacements available, regular players will likely see more action.

“You’ll see more guys just playing the whole game so that we take less guys,” Counsell said. “If we’re gonna play five or six innings, in a lot of cases let’s let one player play that five or six innings and then he’ll have the day off the following day, even early in camp.”

Managers also have the option to end innings early provided a pitcher has thrown at least 20 pitches.

Counsell utilized that rule Monday when right-hander Jordan Zimmermann had only recorded two outs after throwing 27 pitches. The rule also allows managers to send a pitcher back out for another inning, which Counsell opted against, and is intended to help pitchers better manage their workloads.

“It’s going to provide some flexibility,” Counsell said. “You’ll have some days when you have pitching backed up and you’ll want to get them out there and play. That’s also helpful to give the extra guys a couple more at-bats.”

Games will return to their more traditional form starting March 13 when teams will play at least seven innings and won’t have the option to end innings early. The three-batter minimum for pitchers, which was instituted last season, will go into effect starting March 14.

Hello, old friend

Tuesday marked the return of fans to American Family Fields of Phoenix, as well as the return of 87-year-old Bob Uecker to the airwaves, and that was good news for Counsell.

Counsell said one of the most disappointing aspects of last season was the inability to sit and chat with the Brewers’ longtime radio voice and baseball Hall of Famer for the daily pregame show.

“It’s great to see him,” Counsell said. “I know he’s excited to be back at the field and being able to interact a little bit more. So, it’s a good thing. It’s another year of baseball, another year on the air for him, which is incredible. It really is.

“And as good as ever, as funny as ever.“

Uecker is in his 51st season broadcasting Brewers games. He’d cut down his schedule in previous seasons, eliminating most road trips, and only broadcast home games during the 60-game season in 2020.

On the field

Thomas Jankins (0-1) allowed a solo home run to Buddy Reed with two outs in the seventh as the Brewers fell 2-1 to the Oakland Athletics in seven innings on Tuesday.

Right-hander Josh Lindblom allowed a run on one hit, struck out a batter and hit two with pitches in his first spring inning. He also gave up Oakland’s first run when Tony Kemp led off with a single and eventually scored on a wild pitch.

“I just wanted to be aggressive in the strike zone today,” Lindblom said. “That was primarily the goal ... you can’t hit two guys but with that being said, I thought I was able to make a couple pitches when I needed to to minimize the damage, and only allow one run.”

Travis Shaw drove in the Brewers only run with a single in the fourth off right-hander Wandisson Charles.

Right fielder Christian Yelich and Kolten Wong saw their first action of the spring. Yelich went 1-for-2, flying out out to center in the first and doubling down the right field line in the fourth inning. Wong grounded out in the first and was hit by a pitch with two out in the third.

Orlando Arcia went 1-for-3 while playing a clean game defensively in his first start at third base, where he’s getting work this spring while the Brewers get a look at Luis Urias’ ability to play shortstop.

“The more (work) he can get over there, the better,” Counsell said. “Anytime you play third base now with the shifting and stuff, you’re moving around. I think it put him on his toes for seven innings. That was a good day. We’ll do it again.”

  • Right-hander Brandon Woodruff, who was scratched from his first scheduled start Tuesday because of a sore back, threw a bullpen session instead and could see action in either a simulated or Cactus League game as early as this weekend.

“It went really well,” Counsell said. “Positive signs. We’ll just make sure he comes back good tomorrow morning and then put him on a day either Thursday or Friday.”

Around the horn

Tuesday’s game, the first home contest of Milwaukee’s spring training schedule, began with a moment of silence for Hank Aaron and Don Sutton, former Brewers and members of baseball’s Hall of Fame, who died earlier this year. ... The Brewers announced two changes to their spring training television schedule. The March 22 game against Cleveland, which had been slated to be webcast, will now air on Fox Sports Wisconsin with a simulcast of the Fox Sports Ohio broadcast while the March 30 exhibition against the Rangers in Arlington, Texas will also be televised. ... Lorenzo Cain’s Cactus League debut likely won’t come until at least next week. Counsell said he wants to give Cain time to get his legs up to full-strength after he missed all but the first week of the regular season in 2020.

On deck

The Brewers travel Wednesday to Peoria, Arizona, to take on the new-look San Diego Padres. Right-hander Drew Rasmussen will get the start for Milwaukee with left-hander Brent Suter also among those scheduled to work an inning.

Left-hander Blake Snell will make his debut for the Padres, who acquired him in a trade with Tampa Bay during the offseason. Fox Sports Wisconsin will air Fox Sports San Diego’s broadcast of the game, which also will be available on the Brewers Radio Network.

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


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