Notes: Avi on 4-OF rotation; Peralta 'electric'

March 12th, 2021

PHOENIX -- After a meeting of the minds, said he was on board with the Brewers’ revised outfield plan.

García, down 36 pounds from last season and entering a contract year, said that he was surprised when he learned the Brewers were adding former Gold Glove Award winner Jackie Bradley Jr. to an outfield that already had Christian Yelich in left field, Lorenzo Cain returning from a year away to man center, and García shifting back to right. But García indicated that he and club officials, including manager Craig Counsell, are on the same page.

“Now I get it. I understand,” García said. “They talked about it. We had a little meeting. We’re good. We’re good. I get it. I know how it’s going to work.”

The Brewers are confident they can make it work, with about 2,100 plate appearances to split between four starting-caliber outfielders. Already, the depth looks like a positive with Cain slowed by a quadriceps strain as he gets back to baseball after electing not to play most of 2020.

“Hopefully if everybody stays healthy everybody can play a lot of games,” García said. “There’s a lot of things that can happen during the season. The only thing I want is for everybody to stay healthy. That’s the best.

“If everybody stays healthy, I think we will have a special team. I know we are going to fight for a playoff spot, 100 percent, because we have a great team, great guys, great clubhouse. I think if we’re healthy it’s going to be special season. I think we’re good.”

Said Counsell of their meeting: “He was a true professional. That’s the way I’d describe it. He was concerned and rightfully so. I think that’s fair. But the way we’re looking at this is there’s at-bats to go around. I think it will keep everybody really productive.”

García is off to a productive start to the year, with eight hits including a double and a pair of home runs in his first 17 Cactus League at-bats. He is entering the final season of a two-year, $20 million contract that includes a $12 million club option for 2022 with a $2 million buyout, and remade his physique over the winter by, in part, cutting sugar from his diet.

“Look, I think Avi’s optimism for the season just shows up by the way he showed up to camp,” Counsell said. “He clearly worked very, very hard and put a lot into his preparations this winter. That was in the weight room and it was in the cages. He’s put a lot of work in. He’s getting great feedback from that work so far. That puts you in a great head space really, right, when at least initially it pays off.

“Now it’s just digging into the everyday belief really and maintenance of it. Avi’s in a great place. That’s the player right now you feel like, you start to get really excited about how his spring’s going.”

Peralta in running for rotation

The Brewers are looking at Freddy Peralta as a candidate for the starting rotation and will continue to extend his pitch counts, Counsell said Thursday after Peralta recorded seven of his eight outs via strikeouts in an electric performance against the Royals, a 4-2 loss, at American Family Fields of Phoenix.

Small sample alert, but Peralta already has 10 strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings of work in the Cactus League. His other outing came in an intrasquad game.

“He was excellent today,” Counsell said. “The fastball was electric and the slider, he got some almost silly swings on it. I thought he did a great job to left-handers, going away early in the count. It was all good; there was a lot of good to it.”

The Brewers have long blurred the lines between starters and relievers, so the difference may be semantic, especially since relievers capable of covering multiple innings will be so vital in 2021 as teams revert to a 162-game schedule. Peralta has plenty of experience in both roles, with 23 starts and 47 relief appearances in the regular season to date, and a robust 12.1 strikeouts per nine innings.

Some teams are going with six-man rotations from the start of the season in an effort to handle the innings jump, though the Brewers have yet to say whether they will do so. The big league starters in camp include Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes, Brett Anderson, Josh Lindblom, Adrian Houser, Peralta, Eric Lauer and non-roster invitee Jordan Zimmermann.

“You know that I love doing both,” Peralta said. “It doesn’t matter if I am in the rotation or the bullpen because I love doing both. But, you know, a starting pitcher is what I’ve been my whole life, and that’s what I feel really good doing. That’s what I’m ready for.”

Last call

• Catcher Jacob Nottingham will take at-bats in an intrasquad game Friday morning as he continues his comeback from offseason surgery on his left thumb. Bradley remains on track to log some at-bats in that game before a potential Cactus League debut on Saturday.

• Brewers catchers continued to rake, with Manny Piña hitting his second Spring Training homer in Thursday’s game vs. the Royals. Piña (6-for-11) and Omar Narváez (5-for-11) have combined for seven extra-base hits and three home runs so far.

• Garrett Mitchell, Milwaukee’s No. 1 prospect and first-round Draft pick last year whose experience in 2020 was limited for four games in the fall instructional league, continued to impress in the Cactus League Thursday. In his first spring start, Mitchell doubled, stole a base and scored a run, and finished the day with a .455 average and a 1.045 OPS so far.

“He has hit the ball hard every time up,” Counsell said. “It’s been like one strikeout and six hard-contact. Garrett needs to play; he needs at-bats. We need to put a lot of at-bats under his belt and that’s what we hope we can do this year.”