Voit keeps raking as contract deadline looms

March 14th, 2023

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- is powering to the finish of his Spring Training tryout with the Brewers.

Voit, 32, went 2-for-2 with a walk, a double, a run scored and an RBI in the Brewers’ 8-0 win over the Reds at Goodyear Ballpark on Monday afternoon, a day after he homered against the Cubs in Mesa. He figures he’ll be in the lineup again on Wednesday night at the D-backs on the eve of an out clause in his Minor League contract with the Brewers.

If not assured a spot on Milwaukee’s 40-man roster by that day, he has the right to elect free agency.

“Obviously, everyone knows about the opt-out now,” Voit said. “My job is to hit the ball hard and drive in runs, and we’ll see what happens. Hopefully I get a chance with this team. We’ll see. I’m sure they’ll be in talks the next few days. It would obviously be better the sooner it happens, but I guess we’ll find out.

“Today was another good day. I hit a home run [Sunday]. I feel like I’m in a good spot [as] they make a decision. I feel like I’ve done everything I need as an off-the-field guy, too, to bring some stability and some veteran leadership to this clubhouse.”

Voit is one of the Brewers’ critical roster decisions in the coming days and weeks. If they keep him for his right-handed power bat, they will have two hitters -- Voit and left-handed-hitting Rowdy Tellez -- who are limited to first base. The designated hitter offers opportunities, but those early at-bats are expected to go to Jesse Winker as he comes back from neck and knee surgery. And keeping Voit could impact Keston Hiura, who is another right-handed hitter, and who is out of options.

Voit is doing his part to make it a tough call.

“He’s definitely swung the bat well the last couple of days,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “In Spring Training, I think the leader is at 30 plate appearances for us. So we’re very young into plate appearances here. He’s been a very good hitter in this league, and I think you’re starting to see that.”

When he’s healthy, Voit has proven to be a producer in the Majors. He topped 20 home runs in 2019, ’20 and ’22, including an MLB-leading 22 homers in the pandemic-shortened season. But he hasn’t been happy with his past two seasons; in 2021, he was limited to 68 games by a left knee injury, and last year he hit 22 home runs between the Padres and Nationals but delivered only a .710 OPS.

“I’m making adjustments after last year,” Voit said. “Obviously the goal in Spring Training is to come in healthy and work on stuff that fell off the books last year. It’s good to be healthy and be able to land on my front knee finally. I’m hitting the ball all over the field, which is usually when I’m good. That’s been important to me.

“Sometimes it takes a little time to get the feel back, but the past week or so, it’s getting there.”

Is it merely a matter of if he's healthy?

“Health is big, but I got into bad habits from that [lack of] health and was really, really trying to pull the ball,” Voit said. “That’s the wrong way, because I got real upper-half dominant and couldn’t stay on that front knee. That led to bad habits flying open. I was expanding the zone trying to do too much, trying to do more.

“I was happy I walked today, I need to do that a lot more. I walked a lot in my first couple of years in the bigs. … I feel good now. Everything is rocking in the right direction.”