GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Will the Brewers have an Opening Day shortstop battle, after all? Luis Urías is hoping so.
The 22-year-old infielder has been limited in Spring Training as he recovers from surgery for a broken hamate bone in his left hand, but he got his first looks at velocity this week and is hoping to be cleared to hit live pitching on Friday, when he has another check-up with the hand surgeon, Dr. Don Sheridan.
If cleared, Urías would still have hurdles to clear before he plays in games. Thursday marked exactly three weeks before the Brewers’ March 26 season opener against the Cubs.
“I’ve been doing pretty much everything,” Urías said. “I actually hit off the machine on the field [Wednesday]. I feel great. I’m ready to start playing.”
Urías was injured playing winter ball in Mexico. His first peek at live pitching since then came earlier this week when he stood in the batter’s box and tracked pitches from right-hander Miguel Sanchez, but he has been hitting coaches’ batting practice and participating in full infield drills for some time.
Asked how quickly Urías might progress once he’s cleared to play, Brewers manager Craig Counsell said, “I’d see him no different than position players who report here at the start of camp. We’ll have him face velocity off machines, then face live pitching in live BP. It’ll probably be on the Minor League side. A couple of times of that, and if there’s no adverse reactions, he’s ready to go [in games]. We’re looking toward the end of next week, if we stay on schedule.”
When the Brewers traded with the Padres for Urías and left-hander Eric Lauer on the day before Thanksgiving, the idea was to have him compete for shortstop with Orlando Arcia. The injury changed that, and Arcia made the most of the opening by altering his swing and hitting three home runs during the first week of Cactus League games.
“That’s been the goal since the beginning,” Urías said. “Before the surgery, the doctor said that hopefully I would be ready for Opening Day. So that’s the goal.”
Grimm feeling fortunate
Justin Grimm, the veteran reliever vying for a job with the Brewers as a non-roster invitee, was feeling “very, very, very lucky” on Thursday. After hearing everything that happened in the previous two days, it was abundantly clear what he meant.
Grimm’s pregnant wife, Gina, was home with their 21-month-old son in Nashville when the most intense tornado in the U.S. in nearly three years caused devastation east of the city overnight Monday into Tuesday. The Grimm home was about seven miles south of the damage, however, and Gina slept through the storm. But the next night, sometime in the early morning hours on Wednesday, she was awoken by a headache that required a trip to the emergency room. After performing some tests, doctors asked her, “Are you ready to have this baby?”
At 6:15 a.m. MST, Justin Grimm witnessed the birth via FaceTime. And something like seven hours later, he pitched his scheduled inning against the White Sox at the American Family Fields of Phoenix.
“It has nothing to do with trying to go make money, trying to make a team,” he said of the decision to remain in camp. “It was something we had talked about a month ago. Stick to the plan. I’m just grateful everything went smoothly and well and I’m not getting a call to have to go back to Nashville. That’s one positive way to look at it. I’ll stick it out here for now, and I’ll see them in a few weeks.
“Life’s good. Yesterday was good because it was just a challenge to go out and pitch with a clear mind, right? You’ve got a lot of things going on off the field, which is the reality of what we do. Normally, we’re not getting days off, no matter what you’re dealing with. It was good to take that out there with me. Not push it off to the side, but just focus for 20 minutes.”
What is the hardest part about not being home right now?
“Not being able to see my wife, see the little boy in live time,” Grimm said. “Everything is FaceTime. Have I had thoughts, like, ‘Maybe I should [have gone home]?’ Absolutely. But she keeps telling me, ‘Keep doing your thing.’ She’s a trooper. She was a very competitive gymnast, she understands a good routine when you’re feeling well, and how important that is. I guess I just got really, really, really lucky.”
He's aware that many folks in his hometown are struggling in the wake of those storms.
“A lot of people weren’t very fortunate,” Grimm said. “I just pray for those people.”
• Right fielder Christian Yelich could make his Cactus League debut as soon as Friday, when the Brewers play the first of three straight days at the American Family Fields of Phoenix. If Yelich, who as of Thursday morning was still finalizing a new nine-year contract extension with the Brewers, indeed makes his 2020 debut, it would come against right-hander Kevin Gausman and the Giants at 2:05 p.m. CT. Josh Lindblom is scheduled to start for Milwaukee. The game is set to air on MLB.TV and Gameday Audio.
• Left-hander Brett Anderson, who was scratched from a scheduled start on Tuesday because he was ill, has been penciled in to start on Saturday against the Rangers.
• Counsell said teams participated in a conference call with Major League Baseball officials on Wednesday about coronavirus that causes COVID-19, which has confirmed cases in both Arizona and Wisconsin.
“We’ll discuss it this weekend with the players,” Counsell said. “It’s just education. It’s not my meeting. I need to be educated, as well. This is education for all of us on the virus.”