Urías uncertain for Opening Day as infield depth gets a test

March 21st, 2022

PHOENIX -- Luis Urías was headed for additional testing on his left quad injury on Sunday, leaving him questionable for Opening Day and shining a spotlight on the Brewers’ depth at third base and shortstop.

“I think we’re looking at probably a minimum of two weeks,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “I think Opening Day is questionable, I’ll say that. I think he can be healthy. But because we were at the start [of Spring Training games] here and at-bats, we’ll probably be right on the edge of that.”

The Brewers don’t believe the injury is a significant long-term concern, but in the short term it has implications for the rest of the roster.

Urías entered camp as the leading candidate to play third base after he hit career-high 23 home runs with a .790 OPS in a team-high 570 plate appearances last season. Mike Brosseau, a right-handed hitter acquired in a trade with Tampa Bay in November, and Jace Peterson, a left-handed hitter who was a big contributor for the Brewers last season in a utility role, would be the leading internal candidates to play third, should Urías miss any time. Pablo Reyes has also played third extensively.

Reyes made the play of the day Sunday in the Brewers' 6-3 victory over the Padres in the home opener at American Family Fields of Phoenix. He dove for a grounder behind third base and made a strong throw to first for the first out of the ninth inning.

“That is as good a play as you’ll see,” Counsell said. “Getting up how fast he did and making that throw is incredible athleticism. That ball was behind him.”

Urías is also important to the roster in that he’s the primary backup to shortstop Willy Adames. The Brewers don’t have any other true shortstops on the 40-man roster.

“The only thing I’d tell you is [Urías] is our best backup shortstop option. That’s probably not a position that Jace or Brosseau are very experienced at, so it leaves us thin there,” Counsell said.

The Brewers do have a shortstop prospect close to the Majors: 22-year-old Brice Turang, who topped out at Triple-A Nashville last season and was expected to begin 2022 there. Turang, who is not on the 40-man roster, is No. 3 on MLB Pipeline’s list of Milwaukee’s top prospects.

Hiura goes deep
After working all winter to turn his signature toe tap into a more subtle leg lift when he swings, Keston Hiura hit one of the Brewers’ three home runs.

It’s not the first home run Hiura has hit this spring, according to Brewers starter Freddy Peralta.

“I faced him in one of my live BPs and he hit a homer [off] me, too,” said Peralta, who took part in informal workouts with Hiura and other Brewers players at a Scottsdale high school during the lockout. “A bomb. Hard. I don’t know, I see him different now. I think that he’s going to come back strong because he’s been working hard. I can say that because I’ve been watching him in the cage swinging, and now we can see it in the games. He’s already showing that he’s coming back.”

Last season, after transitioning to first base in the spring, Hiura hit only four home runs in 197 plate appearances while striking out at a 39% clip and slumping to a .557 OPS.

Hiura was demoted to the Minors multiple times and reported to camp this year with an uncertain role. Besides playing Hiura at first base and second base, the Brewers may try him in the outfield, they say.

Hiura was 2-for-2 with three RBIs and a walk against the Padres.

“I think results are a big deal for a player who had a really rough season last year,” Counsell said. “That’s the way you want to start, for sure. We can’t measure confidence, but we know we all need it.”

Last call

Josh Hader is set for his first Cactus League inning of the spring and Andrew McCutchen is slated to make his unofficial Brewers debut Monday night against the Giants in Scottsdale, Ariz. The Brewers signed McCutchen to a one-year deal last week with plans to make him the primary designated hitter.

• Right-hander Dylan File gave up two runs on four hits, including a home run, while pitching two innings against the Padres. His fastball sat 92-94 mph in his first career Cactus League appearance. Known as a consistent strike-thrower, File was added to the 40-man roster in November 2020 but missed big league camp last year after undergoing surgery for a stress fracture in his elbow.