Counsell addresses offseason uncertainty
MILWAUKEE -- Could Daniel Vogelbach be the Brewers first baseman? Yes, manager Craig Counsell said Thursday, if the National League doesn't have the designated hitter.
Is Omar Narváez still at the front of the line of Brewers catchers? He is, Counsell said.
Will Spring Training start on time? That’s what the Brewers have been told to expect, Counsell said.
Does he plan to take a COVID-19 vaccine when it’s his turn? Yes, Counsell said.
And after each of those answers, he provided room to adjust should circumstances change or new information prompt a change of plans. Such is life for everyone navigating a global pandemic, including MLB managers.
“You can plan a lot and I think we are,” Counsell said. “You have to be ready to go when we're scheduled to go, so that's what you do and that's what you prepare for. When you get more information, that's when you make adjustments.
“We're preparing. We're having conversations, mostly with the coaching staff right now. We do have to fill in some players, for sure, but that generally happens later for us, anyway.”
The offseason has pushed even later than usual for many clubs, including the Brewers, who have added only one new Major League player since the end of the season -- catcher Luke Maile, who inked a one-year contract and is expected to bounce between the big leagues and the Minors in 2021.
Third base is still wide open for the Brewers. First base depends on what happens with the DH rule. Shortstop looks up for grabs between Orlando Arcia and Luis Urías. Catcher is crowded. The bullpen lost right-hander Corey Knebel and left-hander Alex Claudio.
“We have a lot of faith in the front office. They do a good job,” Brewers left-hander Brent Suter said Thursday at The Players Alliance charity event in Cincinnati. “It’s been kind of a weird offseason for everybody. There’s no question that everybody is in that ‘uncertainty mode.’”
Counsell addressed areas of uncertainty during a Zoom session with reporters. Here are some of them:
On whether Spring Training will start on time:
“All indications are that's when we're starting right now. That's what we're planning, and I think that's what we have to plan for. If information becomes available that says that's not possible, then we'll adjust.”
On whether the DH will be back in the NL for 2021:
“They've told us to plan without it, but I still think there's a decent chance they have it. I think we have to prepare for both right now.”
On whether he’s heard from Ryan Braun about 2021:
"No, I've not talked to Ryan. No conversation about him playing. It's going to be different [if Braun opts to retire], there's no question. There at the end, it didn't turn out the way I would have liked it to, necessarily, for him. But in another way, it kind of did. I mean, if this is the end, he played on three straight playoff teams in the last three years of his career.
“You know, when guys sign contracts like that, I think we often say, 'Well we signed up for the first couple years and we know the last couple years might not be that good.' And he was a part of -- and part of leading -- those three teams to the playoffs in his last three years. That's ending your career on a really, really strong note, and something that's really impressive in my eyes.”
On having six catchers on the 40-man roster:
“At this point, they’re not all going to be on the Major League roster. We all know that. You’re never upset when you have depth. At some point, we’re going to have to answer those questions. There’s a long way until we have to answer those questions. Right now, it’s a place we feel really strong at. We feel we have a lot of solutions and we can afford things going wrong.”
On keeping pitchers healthy if the season expands back to 162 games from 60 games:
“Those are discussions that we’ve had already. … I think it’s going to be a little case-by-case, pitcher-by-pitcher based on their history and their individual history, but I think all teams are going to have to address it, certainly. For starters, I just think the tops were in the 80s [innings], so we’re going to tack on 100 innings. There are some relievers who will have their innings tripled. It’s different, and definitely it’s something that I’m sure the whole industry’s thinking about.”
On what he expects from Christian Yelich:
“I just know it’s going to be better. I know it’s going to be good. So, I feel really good about that. I don’t worry about it. I’m confident in it. Christian didn’t like how he played. He didn’t like what happened. It’s not going to happen again. Whenever we ask the question, 'Why did that happen?' Christian doesn’t have an answer, necessarily. He can’t explain all of it. I can’t explain all of it. I don’t think Christian wanted it to happen. But it did. What it does is it puts your mind to work and that’s what he’s doing.”
On a COVID-19 vaccine:
“I will get vaccinated, yes. As of, like, what I know right now. But like I said, I don't have to make the decision today. Sometimes we always try to make -- this is not about vaccinations, necessarily, but in baseball -- we try to give answers to questions that don't necessarily have the need for an answer yet. I think we always try to use as much time as we can to give the best answer we can, to make the best decision we can.”