PHOENIX -- Brewers center fielder Lorenzo Cain is more slowed by a minor quad injury than previously thought, putting the veteran on a “tight” schedule to be ready by Opening Day.
“He was off the field last week. We did not see him on the field,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said Monday morning. “So, he’ll go outside today, play catch and do some light running exercises -- more with the trainers, not necessarily with the team.
“We’re kind of in the process where we’re gaining information every day, and what happens ‘today’ determines how much we can push it tomorrow. Yeah, he’s going to be slowed by this. And we’re getting to the point where the schedule gets a little tight here. I think we still have time to get ready for the season, but when you’re missing a week on the field, for any player it starts to make the schedule and having good days important.”
Said Cain: “I’ll be ready to go.”
The Brewers have been stingy with information on medical matters this spring with clubhouses closed to reporters due to the coronavirus pandemic. That includes the status of the veteran center fielder Cain as he returns from electing not to play in 2020. News of his right quadriceps issue was first reported by FanSided’s Robert Murray on the day the Brewers came to terms with outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. -- a signing that became official Monday morning -- and makes even more sense should Cain be limited at the start of the regular season.
Cain said he doesn’t view that signing as a challenge to his status as the Brewers' primary center fielder. Both Cain (2019) and Bradley (2018 in Boston) have won Gold Glove Awards as center fielders.
"No, it's not a challenge to me,” Cain said. “I feel like I've shown what I can do day in and day out, year in and year out, as far as center field. If what I've done in the past is not enough, then hey, what can I say?"
Coming into camp after a year at home with his wife and three kids in Oklahoma, where coronavirus restrictions denied Cain his usual offseason workouts at the University of Oklahoma, the 35-year-old knew he faced a challenge getting his legs back under him. He tweaked his leg in a workout last Tuesday on the basepaths.
Now he will need time to ramp up again. One date to target is March 17, the Brewers’ final Spring Training off-day before the end of camp. The hope, Counsell said, is to get Cain into a Cactus League game somewhere in that vicinity.
“You want him to be able to play in games,” Counsell said. “I think that’s important after you missed the amount of time he has. … I’m still comfortable with him appearing after that off-day and things being fine. I think we still have plenty of time after that off-day.”
Cain said he likes to get 50-60 at-bats during a typical Spring Training but knows the circumstances probably won’t allow that this year. He already had seen live pitching on back fields during the early days of Spring Training before he was sidelined, and Cain expects to resume taking swings in the cage in the next few days.
“We’re not disappointed at all. Lorenzo did his work in the offseason,” Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns said. “He had some wisdom teeth removed right before he got to camp, which shut him down for a week to 10 days, so we knew he was going to be a little slower to start getting his legs back under him.
“Look, this is part of what can be expected when you have a player who relies a great deal his lower body, who wasn’t in a competitive environment for a long time, so we knew we needed the spring and the entirety of the spring to get him going. Unfortunately, we’ve lost a chunk of that at this point. We’ll see how the next couple of weeks go. We’re all on the same page.”
Asked if he’s convinced he did everything he could to be physically ready to return from a year away, Cain said, “Yeah, 100 percent. My wife made me go out and buy a treadmill this offseason. That’s something I thought I would never buy. I ran a lot on the treadmill, I worked out as much as I could. I know I came in in pretty good shape, but baseball shape is something I have to hone in on and get a feel for again.
“I’m prepared for it. I’m up for the challenge. I’ll be on the field soon ready to go.”
Woodruff makes Cactus League debut
Delayed a week or so by a minor bout of back stiffness, presumptive Opening Day starter Brandon Woodruff was tested in his first Cactus League outing Monday at the start of the Brewers’ 10-9 win over the Angels. He faced a team that resembled an Opening Day lineup, with Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, Anthony Rendon, Justin Upton, Albert Pujols and Dexter Fowler.
Woodruff dealt a quick first inning, including a strikeout of Trout, and then returned from a long bottom of the first to surrender back-to-back home runs to Rendon and Upton. But Woodruff made quick work after that and finished his two-inning stint at a relatively efficient 25 pitches.
“I take it as a compliment because they want to get ready and they want to see some good pitching,” Woodruff said. “I think it was great for me because you get thrown right into the fire and you get to see where you’re at real quick.”
The long span between the top of the first and second innings was a good test of his back, which stiffened two weeks ago after Woodruff threw live batting practice. He logged a simulated inning last week before taking the mound against the Angels. He said his back felt great and that he would be ready for an Opening Day assignment if called upon.
• As Woodruff left the field after his outing, he ran into Bradley making his way to the dugout. The two said a quick hello.
“I think we have, what, four Gold Glovers now?” Woodruff said, referring to Bradley, Cain, Kolten Wong and Christian Yelich. “I mean, that’s huge. As a pitcher, it’s like, ‘Bring it on. Let’s throw to contact and let these guys go do what they’re good at.’ That brings even more confidence to the mound, knowing you have a great defense behind you. That’s exciting.”