Notes: Freddy's flexibility; Counsell on DH

February 25th, 2021

PHOENIX -- Whether is a starter for the Brewers this season, a reliever or some combination of both, manager Craig Counsell is sure of one thing: Peralta will play a prominent role as baseball resumes a full 162-game schedule.

“We’re going to take the approach we have with Freddy kind of every spring. He’s going to be a starter at the beginning of camp, and again, this gets back to this innings puzzle that we’re going to be putting together throughout the season,” Counsell said. “I think the best way to say it, [president of baseball operations] David [Stearns] and I talked the other day, is Freddy’s going to pitch more innings than he ever has in a season, I think, because of just the innings puzzle.

"We’re going to need innings from Freddy at points in the season. So I think at the start for sure it makes sense to stretch him out, treat him as a starter, and as we get to Opening Day, we’ll see where we’re at and see what that means.”

Non-roster invitee Jordan Zimmermann is in a similar position, Counsell said. Brent Suter could also make some spot starts for the Brewers again in 2021, but they would likely remain in the 60-pitch range they were last year.

Those pitchers are in addition to the “starters” atop the Brewers’ depth chart: Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes, Brett Anderson, Josh Lindblom, Adrian Houser and Eric Lauer.

Peralta has started 23 of his 70 Major League appearances in the past three years -- including only one of his 15 appearances last season, a start at Wrigley Field in the opening series. He pitched extended relief appearances after that, appearing in multiple innings in all but three of them.

The Brewers awarded Peralta a five-year contract extension last spring, and he introduced a slider to his fastball-heavy arsenal. Counsell expects more progress with that pitch in 2021.

“There’s no question that last year, especially in Spring Training, there was still a feeling-out process with it,” Counsell said. “He’s past that. He’s thrown it enough where there’s not that feeling-out process. It’s just part of his arsenal.”

Awaiting final say on DH
As of Wednesday, there was no designated hitter in the National League. But Counsell -- the same man who declared last season, “I am not a fan of the designated hitter” -- is rooting for that to change.

“For our roster, yes,” Counsell said.

The reason is , who provided the Brewers a jolt of power from the left side of the plate after coming over from the Blue Jays. When the Brewers found themselves with a hole in production at first base late last season, Vogelbach did play there a bit and held his own. But the Brewers clearly view him as more of a DH-type, and they re-signed him to a one-year contract for 2021 with the possibility of a DH in mind.

“Because of how things went last year, we understand that rules could change at the last second,” Counsell said. “I don’t know if it’s hope, it’s really just a situation where we don’t know. We don’t have any information leading one way or another, I don’t have any thoughts one way or another. Our thought is to prepare without it, have a backup plan if it happens. That’s the best we could do.”

If there is no DH, the Brewers would have a decision to make.

Dedicate an Opening Day roster spot to Vogelbach, who produced a .328/.418/.569 slash line in 67 regular-season plate appearances for Milwaukee, as a potent bench bat and occasional backup to first baseman Keston Hiura? Or, cut him loose and use that spot on a more versatile position player or a pitcher, since pitching will be more valuable than ever as the sport resumes a 162-game schedule?

Keston Hiura and Daniel Vogelbach work on fielding drills at camp.AP

Last call
On Wednesday, pitchers and hitters began the first of three days of live batting practice at American Family Fields of Phoenix. The Brewers will play a scrimmage on Saturday, then will face the White Sox on Sunday at Camelback Ranch to open the Cactus League slate.