Cain, Yelich reinstated; Hiura optioned

May 4th, 2021

and are back in the lineup and Keston Hiura is out. At least for now.

It was another busy day of roster moves for baseball’s most banged-up division leaders, as the Brewers reinstated Yelich (back) and Cain (left quad) from the 10-day injured list and saw them combine for three hits -- including Cain’s solo home run -- during Monday’s 4-3 loss at Philadelphia. That all happened hours after Milwaukee optioned Hiura to Triple-A Nashville to give him an opportunity to shake a slump that dates back to last season.

Outfielder Tyrone Taylor was also optioned back to the Minors to free up spots for Yelich and Cain but the headliner was Hiura, the ninth overall pick in the 2017 Draft who charged through the farm system on the strength of his bat and hit .303 with 19 home runs in a promising 84-game debut with the Brewers in '19.

Since then, Hiura has slumped badly. In the shortened 2020 season Hiura slashed .212/.297/.410 and led the National League with 85 strikeouts and a 34.6 percent strikeout rate. In '21, he switched from second base to first and was slashing .152/.247/.266 with a 36 percent strikeout rate that ranked fifth-worst of MLB’s qualifying hitters through Sunday’s games.

After trying everything in recent weeks, the Brewers hope a change of scenery will get Hiura hitting again. He and Taylor will join Nashville, which opens its season on Tuesday night in Toledo against the Tigers’ top affiliate.

“This is a decision that we’ve discussed this whole week, really, in advance of this,” Counsell said. “At this point, it’s just best for Keston, I think, to get to a different environment, maybe take a little time off here before he starts playing in games again, and then just get started in a new environment.

“We still really believe that Keston can be our primary first baseman and has the ability to be a force in the middle of the lineup. It just felt like we weren’t there, and we were almost getting a little farther from that than closer to that. I really think this is going to benefit Keston. I think it can be a short-term thing, and he can be back and be a productive offensive player rather quickly.”

Counsell’s hope for Hiura is that he’s able to metaphorically take a deep breath.

“You can’t do that at the big league level. You can’t do that,” Counsell said. “The pressure of the results, I think, is too much. This will provide a mental restart for him a little bit. That’s part of it. When you go through things like this -- speaking from very much experience -- a coach can say things to you, [and] it doesn’t process. It just doesn’t process because nothing really makes sense when you step in the box. I think, basically, a different scenery and sometimes just a different voice for a little while helps that.”

Minors rosters set
The Brewers’ four full-season Minor League affiliates released tentative Opening Day rosters on Monday, with MLB Pipeline’s No. 1 Brewers prospect Garrett Mitchell heading to High-A Wisconsin as previously announced, and No. 2 prospect Brice Turang starting at Double-A Biloxi.

Here is where other Top 10 prospects who are assigned to full-season teams are headed:

No. 4 Ethan Small, Biloxi; No. 5 Mario Feliciano, Triple-A Nashville; No. 7 Aaron Ashby, Nashville and No. 8 Freddy Zamora, Low-A Carolina.

No. 3 Hedbert Perez, No. 6 Antoine Kelly, No. 9 Jeferson Quero and No. 10 Eduardo García all remained in Arizona, either awaiting an assignment or preparing for the start of the Rookie League seasons.

Mitchell made it look easy during his first big league camp with the Brewers, but Wisconsin manager Matt Erickson stressed that all young prospects endure hardship as they enter into pro ball.

“The true test for Garrett, obviously, will come playing every day as a professional baseball player,” Erickson said. “There's going to be days that are uncomfortable -- physically and mentally -- that's what we call the grind. It's something we try to explain to all of our players as they go through their first full season, but you truly don't know what you're getting yourself into until you go through it and experience it, and are able to make your own adjustments.”

Asked where Mitchell will play in the Timber Rattlers’ outfield, Erickson said, “He will play center field the majority of the time, but we will get him some work on the corners. He's expressed his interest to also work on the corner outfield spots, to get the reads, because he's that kind of guy. He expresses what he wants to do in order to become a better baseball player, and he realizes that center field is the premier position in the outfield, but we also have a lot of outfielders playing at all of the positions and he wants to be as versatile as possible.”

Bickford claimed
The Dodgers claimed Phil Bickford off waivers on Monday, six days after the Brewers designated the right-handed reliever for assignment. He was the centerpiece of Milwaukee's 2016 trade that sent reliever Will Smith to San Francisco, and after enduring personal and professional hardship, Bickford appeared positioned to help the Brewers’ bullpen beginning last season.

But Bickford had two tough appearances in the Majors, one in 2020 and one last week against the Marlins, and the Brewers decided they needed that 40-man roster spot. Bickford would be the third former Brewer to pitch out of the Dodgers’ bullpen this season, joining Corey Knebel and Jimmy Nelson.