Attanasio on fans: 'It's a big, big difference'

Owner talks Braun's absence; Brewers' outfield rotation; player pool set

April 1st, 2021

MILWAUKEE -- The cars and trucks arrived early to American Family Field on Thursday, even though the City of Milwaukee Health Department isn’t yet allowing tailgating. It was the best sign yet of some normalcy returning for Mark Attanasio’s Brewers.

“I'm sure fans are going to make a big difference,” said the Brewers' principal owner. “Opening Day, we're used to having standing room only … but I guess today we'll have about 12,000, and we know they'll be loud. It's a big, big difference, and I think the players are looking forward to playing in front of fans.

“When we came to games here last year, to just see some cardboard cutouts, empty stands, fake sound, it was like the Twilight Zone. One night I was here last year, the sound went out, so you could hear a pin drop. It was very strange. It's like going to a high school game -- in fact, it wasn't even like a high school game. I'm not sure what it was like.”

The Brewers will host 25 percent capacity through May 2 and are hoping for approval to expand attendance after that. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred told The Associated Press that he is hopeful for full stadiums by midsummer.

Fans in attendance Thursday got the first taste of some new protocols intended to decrease touch points between staff and guests, including digital ticketing, restrictions on carry-in bags and food, and cashless concessions. The Brewers are encouraging fans to use the MLB Ballpark app for in-stadium ordering, and to visit for detailed information about health and safety protocols and the 2021 carry-in policy.

“We’ve had very constructive conversations with the health commissioner here,” Attanasio said. “The fact is that we went through a long runway last year in how the ballpark would get set up, the protocols here. Roger Caplinger, our medical director, has done an outstanding job, along with our team physicians, of organizing things. … I’m sure everyone would like to go in without a mask and yell for nine innings, but we’ll have to try to all follow the rules. If [city health officials] see good observation of behavior, we’ll probably increase [capacity].”

Here was another change for Attanasio: No on the roster. Braun was the Brewers’ first Draft pick of Attanasio’s ownership tenure in 2005, and he had been in every Milwaukee's Opening Day lineup every year from '08-20.

While not officially retired, Braun is leaning that way. Attanasio hinted at a future role in the organization.

“Ryan is having a good time,” Attanasio said. “He’s telling us his son Grayson, who’s 4, maybe 5, is a natural lefty hitter. He’s got a Braun swing lefty, so that could be dangerous. He’s spending a lot of time -- he and Larisa have three kids -- at home. He’s still in terrific physical condition; he looks like he could walk onto the field tomorrow and play. But right now, he’s enjoying his family.

“It’ll be odd for me. I literally came from the [COVID-19] testing to this interview. It’ll be odd to walk in the clubhouse and not see Ryan in the corner, that’s for sure. But he’s still engaged with us, and I’m sure he’ll help the team in several capacities.”

Attanasio likes the Brewers’ chances in 2021.

“[President of baseball operations] David Stearns, he said to me, ‘If we can stay healthy, this team is going to be very competitive,’” Attanasio said, “and David doesn’t say that that often. He’s our lead assessor and evaluator. So it feels really good.”

Bradley comes off bench in opener

Put it in the category of “good problem to have” for manager Craig Counsell: Too many outfielders. The Brewers got to Opening Day with four healthy starters for three spots: in left and , and for center and right.

Against Twins right-hander Kenta Maeda on Thursday, García got the start in right field over the left-handed-hitting Bradley, a former Gold Glove Award winner who signed with the Brewers in March. Bradley had started each of the past four Opening Day games for the Red Sox.

“We're going to probably face 12-15 straight right-handers to start the season, so I'm not going on that,” Counsell said. “Between Lorenzo, Avi and Jackie, they're each going to play two of the games [in the three-game series against Minnesota]. That's what I can tell you.”

Counsell is confident there are enough at-bats to go around, even if Yelich starts virtually every day.

“I think the vast majority of days of the season, this is going to really work well for us and make us deep and know that we’re going to have a good group out there every single day.”

Player pool set

In addition to filing a 26-man Opening Day roster, the Brewers were required to submit a player pool of up to 70 players to Major League Baseball on Thursday. The initial list included 59 names, and unlike last year, players can be removed and/or replaced without being released from the organization. A player must be in the pool in order to be promoted to the big league club or to work out with the alternate training site group.

Besides the 26-man roster, the Brewers’ initial pool included:

Pitchers: Clayton Andrews, Aaron Ashby, Luke Barker, Phil Bickford, Ray Black, Brad Boxberger, Leo Crawford, Bowden Francis, Zack Godley, Blaine Hardy, Eric Lauer, Hoby Milner, Angel Perdomo, Miguel Sanchez, Ethan Small, Justin Topa (injured list), Quintin Torres-Costa and Jordan Zimmermann

Catchers: Mario Feliciano, Luke Maile and Jacob Nottinghan (IL)

Catcher/outfielder: Cooper Hummel

Infielders: Zach Green, Brice Turang and Jamie Westbrook

Infielder/outfielders: Jace Peterson, Dustin Peterson and Pablo Reyes

Outfielders: Dylan Cozens, Derek Fisher (IL), Garrett Mitchell, Corey Ray and Tyrone Taylor