MILWAUKEE -- Does it mean anything at all that Christian Yelich is 2-for-20 with 12 strikeouts in the Brewers’ Blue-Gold Series of intrasquad games at Miller Park? That one of the pitchers he faced over the weekend was rooting for Yelich to hit a home run?
“I personally was hoping he'd just rip it off the scoreboard, first pitch,” said Justin Grimm.
Instead, Yelich struck out. It was his fourth strikeout in five at-bats on Sunday, giving Yelich a dozen strikeouts within his first 18 at-bats in a seven-game series with bragging rights on the line.
In two more at-bats Monday, Yelich twice put the ball in play, for a flyout against Shelby Miller and an infield hit off Drew Rasmussen. His other hit in the past week was an opposite-field run-scoring single on Friday.
Does any of it mean a thing? Probably not.
Is it strange to see? Yes, said manager Craig Counsell.
“Baseball’s a hard game. He’s spoiled us and made it look really easy, and now he feels like the rest of the players feel a lot of the days, right?” Counsell said. “He’s struggling and we haven’t seen it here, so it’s strange to see. [But] he’s working his tail off to try to get out of it and feel good.”
That Yelich is frustrated is obvious, and it showed in Game 1 when he wore an earpiece and a microphone for a livestream of the game on Brewers.com. He struck out three times against ace Brandon Woodruff and lamented his poor results. When the broadcasters suggested that the wires were to blame, Yelich said, “It has nothing to do with the microphone. It’s all on me for being late at the plate. That’s what you get in The Show.”
The next day, Counsell said he had “no concerns at all” about Yelich.
Five days later, that had not changed.
“It’s baseball. It’s kind of a reminder that every player goes through it,” Counsell said. “It’s happening at a really good time for us, in my opinion. This is how it works. He’s just got to get through it, and he will, and he’ll laugh about it. But I think it’ll also serve him well throughout his career, that this is part of the game that never stops.
“I think he knows it. We’ve talked about it, and he’s talked about it. It’s a great reminder that it’s hard. The game is really hard. You can work your tail off and still not get the feedback from it that you want. But he’s going to keep working, he’ll figure it out, and he’ll be fine.”
The Brewers will play one more intrasquad game on Tuesday afternoon before an exhibition game on Wednesday night against the White Sox in Chicago. Thursday is a workout day at Wrigley Field, and the regular-season opener is Friday night against the Cubs.
That’s when the statistics will begin to count, and some of the oddities that have marked intrasquad play will cease. Over the past week at Miller Park, two Minor League coaches -- Quintin Berry and Matt Erickson -- have been regularly manning the outfield. Another instructor, Charlie Greene, has umpired home plate in the late innings or for entire games. Innings have been cut short or extended to accommodate pitchers who are gradually re-establishing endurance. Hitters are readjusting their eyes to 95 mph fastballs. Everyone from Yelich to Avisaíl García to third-base coach Ed Sedar has worn a microphone to yuck it up on livestreams of the action.
When that goes away and the games suddenly count, one of Yelich’s fellow outfielders predicts better results.
“That’s definitely one guy you never worry about,” said Ben Gamel. “It’s going to come. You watch his BP, and they’re getting better every day. It’s hard not to just watch in awe when he’s taking BP.”
On Sunday, Grimm pitched a brisk bottom of the ninth and retired all three men he faced. But either because he needed more pitches or Yelich, who was on deck, wanted an additional at-bat, they played on.
Grimm, hoping to see one hit off the scoreboard, struck out Yelich, and the game was over.
"It's still Christian Yelich,” Grimm said. “He's unbelievable. He's a great talent. I think he's going to go 3-for-4 with a homer on Opening Day. I'm telling you right now. He'll be good to go."