Notes: Plans for Lauer; camp in phase two

July 12th, 2020

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers left-hander is a healthy participant in Brewers camp despite being placed on the COVID-19 related injured list late Saturday.

Lauer said he learned right around the time other Brewers players were traveling to Milwaukee for the start of Summer Camp that a close contact had tested positive for COVID-19. Per MLB’s health and safety protocols, he was required to quarantine for a period of time before traveling, and while he said he never had symptoms, has consistently tested negative for COVID-19 since his contact, and was deemed healthy by multiple doctors, the layoff set him back to the point that the club placed him on the injured list as a procedural matter in the event he won’t have time to get game-ready by Opening Day.

Lauer reported to camp on Friday, about a week behind other players, and exactly two weeks prior to the Brewers’ scheduled regular-season opener against the Cubs at Wrigley Field on July 24.

“I’m healthy,” Lauer said. “I’ve got a bullpen here in a couple of days. I’m feeling good. I’m looking forward, hopefully, to being ready for the start of the season. I think that’s something we can make happen.”

Lauer was sidelined by a sore left shoulder when Spring Training was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, but “that’s all cleared up” at this point, he said. He threw into a net during his quarantine to keep from falling too far behind.

“I still have the 'volume,' and I still have the conditioning that I need,” Lauer said. “The timing of it was just kind of bad because everything happened when everybody was going to Milwaukee to start Summer Camp, basically. That’s what left me behind a little bit, to maintain that safe distance. It was more to make sure I was OK to travel and be around other people, because I had tested negative so many times.”

Said Brewers manager Craig Counsell: “We’ll just see what kind of volume we can get to and where the rest of the health is of the staff and really, the best way to get him ready for 60 games.”

Also placed on the COVID-19 related IL on Sunday were Brewers infielder and pitcher , both of whom previously permitted the team to disclose that they had tested positive prior to intake testing for Summer Camp. Both players were asymptomatic but remain quarantined.

Lauer and Urías were acquired from the Padres in a pre-Thanksgiving trade. Neither has had particularly good luck; before their COVID-19 scares, Urías was set back by surgery for a broken hamate bone in his left hand, and Lauer by the shoulder injury. Now both could miss Opening Day.

“The main thing you want to do when you come to a new team is express your worth,” Lauer said. “We talked about it because we were both in Arizona this offseason training together for a little bit. It’s nice to have that friend with you. We’re itching to show everybody what we’ve got.”

Summer Camp to enter phase two
Counsell suggested Monday may be a relatively quiet day in camp before the team begins what he’s calling the “Blue & Gold World Series” on Tuesday -- a seven-game intrasquad series meant to ramp up competition heading toward a July 22 exhibition at the White Sox and the July 24 Opening Day at the Cubs.

Players will be split into teams by some kind of draft, and the Brewers were working through plans to have broadcasters call those games, which are expected to take place at night.

“Health-wise, I think we’re in good shape. That’s probably the part that we’ve been fortunate with,” Counsell said. “We’ve made adjustments [with the camp schedule], for sure, and we’ll continue to, but the first eight days have gone the way we had hoped. I’m pleased with the pitchers’ progression at this point. The position players have done a different schedule than they would normally do in a training camp, and our goal was to get them a little tired, and they’re at that point with a lot of them playing three to four days in a row. We’ll get them off their feet [Monday] for most of the day and then we’ll start the next phase of it.

“We’re always going to deal with the unexpected -- that’s part of this and we have to be OK with it and adjust to it, and we all have to get thrown out of our schedules once in a while. Getting thrown off your schedule this year or off your plans, you have to look forward to it almost. That’s kind of the attitude you have to take. You don’t have to be upset if things didn’t go to plan.”

Last call
• Counsell hasn’t set any plans for an Opening Day rotation, but he suggested Sunday that it might look different than in years past because of the condensed schedule. There could be five starting pitchers on schedule as usual, but then additional pitchers could also work on a tentative schedule of relief for the first few weeks of the season. It’s all designed to maximize the luxury of an expanded staff -- rosters will consist of 30 players for the first two weeks of the regular season and 28 players for the next two weeks before reducing to 26 players for the remainder of the year.

• The frontrunner for the Brewers’ Summer Camp batting title is outfielder Ben Gamel, who tallied two more doubles and a single in Sunday’s scrimmage. He’s been swinging a hot bat after making adjustments during the break to a batting stance that looks much more upright -- though he’ll have to scramble for at-bats in an outfield set to feature Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain and Avisaíl García from left field to right.

“Just look at him when he's in the box and you can tell he's made some adjustments,” Counsell said. “So far, it's paid off. It's been fun to watch. He's excited about them and he just needs to continue with them; just continue getting comfortable with them. You'll see him a little more straight up, you'll see his hands a little more away from his body. It's pretty visible when you start getting some center-field shots of him.”