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Spring in their step: Offense flourishing for Brewers
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BREWERS

Spring in their step: Offense flourishing for Brewers

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The results in spring training don’t matter, but that doesn’t mean what the Milwaukee Brewers’ offense has done isn’t encouraging.

As they took the field Sunday in Peoria, Arizona, to start the second half of their 28-game Cactus League schedule, the Brewers led National League teams in home runs (20), slugging percentage (.527) and OPS (.887); ranked second among NL squads with a .273 team batting average; and ranked 11th with 105 strikeouts through 14 games.

“Not every player is going to be locked in from Day 1 of games — that’s why we play 28 games here,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “But when you’re scoring runs, it means guys are putting good swings on balls and that always puts everybody in a good place.”

Outfielder Avisail Garcia and catcher Omar Narvaez have been two of the best, encouraging developments after both struggled mightily last season.

Garcia went 9-for-20 with two home runs and five RBIs in his first eight games while Narvaez, who hit just .176 last season, brought a .385 average (5-for-13), one home run and two RBIs into Sunday’s game.

Their production has been especially satisfying for hitting coach Andy Haines, who spent considerable time with both players over the winter.

“We all know spring training stats, those translating to the season mean next to nothing most of the time,” Haines said. “But the optics of what you’re watching and what’s important to that player is where our mind has to stay, and both those guys are doing it and they’re getting affirmation that they’re working on the right things and it’s showing up for them.”

Haines also sees improvement in Christian Yelich, himself looking to bounce back from a dreadful showing in 2020. The two-time National League batting champ saw his average plummet to .205 with 12 home runs and a .786 OPS last season.

He’s appeared in six games this spring. In 13 plate appearances, he is 3-for-11 with a double, home run, two walks and a 1.021 OPS.

“He looks like Christian up there, regardless of where the balls went or whatever in 11 at-bats,” Haines said. “There could not have been any other thing I’d love to see out of Christian as far as, like, peace of mind, knowing what he needs to do.

“You can kind of see his tempo and things, how he’s seeing the ball and just his passes at the ball regardless of the result. The passes he’s taking, kind of like, I flinch. They can turn the game.”

While veteran players such as Garcia, Narvarez and Yelich can afford to dismiss spring training stats because they’re locked into the big league roster, the numbers are anything but meaningless for players such as Tyrone Taylor, who is competing with two players out of minor league options for what is likely just one backup outfield spot on the Opening Day roster.

Prior to his start Sunday, Taylor was batting .333 (6-for-18) with a double, home run and a .906 OPS. It might be enough to overcome the fact he still has options remaining, unlike Billy McKinney and Derek Fisher, who also are in the mix for the outfield spot.

Another young outfielder, Garrett Mitchell, has no chance of cracking the Opening Day roster but has put up eye-opening numbers . Milwaukee’s first-round selection in last summer’s MLB Draft is batting .571 with a 1.482 OPS after singling in his only at-bat Sunday.

“This guy is impressive,” Haines said. “He’s played really well. It’s difficult for a first-round pick to exceed expectations in major-league spring training. I think that’s very difficult, and he’s done that and more.”

On the field

Catcher Jacob Nottingham homered in his first Cactus League appearance but Brad Boxberger gave up five runs in the fifth inning as the Brewers fell 5-4 to the Seattle Mariners in Peoria.

Boxberger took the mound with a 3-0 lead thanks to Zach Green’s bases-loaded double in the fourth but gave up a leadoff home run to Mariners infielder Jack Reinheimer then loaded the bases with three straight singles.

Kyle Lewis followed with a two-run double to tie the game at 3 and the Mariners took the lead one batter later on Tom Murphy’s sacrifice fly to right. Boxberger struck out Taylor Trammell for the second out of the inning, then headed back to the dugout after hitting his pitch limit.

Miguel Sanchez allowed another run on Evan White’s RBI single before getting out of the inning with a ground out by Sam Haggerty.

Nottingham cut the deficit to a run with a one-out homer off Keynan Middleton in the seventh.

Brewers starter Adrian Houser walked two batters with a strikeout and didn’t give up a run but left the game with two outs in the third because of discomfort in his right thumb.

Houser experienced the same issue during an outing last spring but was able to make his next scheduled appearance.He’s expecting a similar result this time.

“We’ll go in tomorrow and see how everything feels and go from there,” Houser said. “I don’t think it will be a big problem. We’ll work on it, we’ll strengthen it up a little and we’ll be good to go.”From the infirmary

Right-handers Thomas Jankins has been shut down temporarily after suffering flexor strain in his right forearm during an outing against the Cubs on Friday. He had been reassigned to minor league camp earlier in the week. If healthy, he will likely open the season at Class AAA Nashville.

Right-hander Ray Black will begin a throwing program and could be back on the mound as early as next weekend, Counsell said. Black had been shut down last week because of inflammation in his right elbow and it could set him back just enough to leave him out of the Opening Day bullpen.

  • Right-hander Zack Brown has been slowed down because of shoulder fatigue and isn’t expected to see any further Cactus League action. Counsell said that the injury wasn’t serious, nor do the Brewers think it will be a long-term issue, but because they plan to rely heavily on their minor league pitching depth to cover innings this season they’ve opted to take a conservative approach with the former organizational pitcher of the year.
  • Outfielder Lorenzo Cain continues to make progress as he recovers from a sore right quad and could make his Cactus League debut by the end of this week.
  • Right-hander Devin Williams threw a live batting practice session Saturday and will throw another on Tuesday. If all goes well, he, too, could see his first game action this weekend. Williams has been off to a slow start this spring as he recovers from a shoulder injury that kept him out of the playoffs last season.

Around the horn

Counsell said the Brewers will play a B-game Tuesday against the Dodgers and hold an intrasquad scrimmage on their off-day Wednesday as the team looks to get at-bats for players such as Lorenzo Cain and Nottingham. ... Travis Shaw went 0-for-2 with a walk Sunday in the last game before he’s eligible to opt out and sign elsewhere should the Brewers not add him to their 40-man roster.On deck

Left-hander Brett Anderson returns to the mound for his third spring start Monday when the Brewers host the Padres at American Family Fields of Phoenix. Anderson allowed one unearned run on two hits with a strikeout over two innings his last time out against Oakland on March 10. He’ll be matched up against Padres’ left-hander Blake Snell, who worked a scoreless inning against Milwaukee on March 3 and allowed a hit with one strikeout over two innings in his last outing against the White Sox.


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



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