PHOENIX -- Brewers reliever Michael Blazek was shaken by a Wednesday-morning demotion to Triple-A Colorado Springs, a move that surprised the right-hander and cut short his bid for a third straight Opening Day roster spot.In the latest round of camp cuts, Blazek was optioned to the Minor Leagues along with
PHOENIX -- Brewers reliever Michael Blazek was shaken by a Wednesday-morning demotion to Triple-A Colorado Springs, a move that surprised the right-hander and cut short his bid for a third straight Opening Day roster spot.
In the latest round of camp cuts, Blazek was optioned to the Minor Leagues along with infielder Yadiel Rivera and outfielder Michael Reed. Rivera will play every day at Colorado Springs. Reed, No. 28 on MLBPipeline.com's list of Milwaukee's top prospects, was told he is headed to Double-A Biloxi because of a logjam of outfield prospects at Triple-A.
Also on Wednesday, the Brewers released non-roster pitchers Joba Chamberlain and Ryan Webb and returned non-roster pitchers David Goforth and Andy Oliver and catcher Dustin Houle to Minor League camp.
"These are never fun decisions," Brewers general manager David Stearns said. "When you get this late in camp, it means that everyone here has a chance to make the Major League team, so you're sending players out who have legitimate reasons why they think they should be on the club. That's always challenging.
"What we try to stress to the guys … is there is opportunity throughout the season. We saw that last year. We ran through 50 players over the course of the season. We're going to need to run through a similar amount again this year. The vast majority of players who we end up sending out from now until Opening Day are still going to play meaningful roles for our team moving forward."
That sentiment provided little solace to Blazek, a key piece of Milwaukee's bullpen in 2015 who struggled in an injury-shortened '16. Blazek threw predominantly fastballs in his seven Cactus League appearances, per instructions from the club.
The idea was to regain confidence in that pitch after throwing more than 50-percent sliders and curveballs over the past two seasons.
"I feel great about how my spring went. I thought I threw the ball well," Blazek said. "I did what they told me to do. I came into camp ready to go and they wanted me to throw the fastball more. That's not the kind of pitcher I really am; I'm a guy who mixes stuff up. If they're going off the way I was pitching in Spring Training throwing just fastballs, I mean, they didn't really see the kind of pitcher that I am."
Brewers manager Craig Counsell, however, said the demotion was not a reflection of Blazek's spring performance.
"He finished last season in a place where we needed to get more strikes," Counsell said. "I think he has made a lot of progress toward that. I think he's on a very good path, and he had to go on that path. I know it's disappointing for him but I think, ultimately, this is going to make him a better pitcher."
Stearns said: "Michael is the perfect example of a guy who, if he goes down to Triple-A and does a good job, is going to play -- we hope -- a meaningful role on this team."
Blazek will report to the Minor League complex at Maryvale Baseball Park on Thursday, and will begin the season in the difficult pitching environment of Colorado Springs. He will work on pitching his way back up.
"That's all I can do," Blazek said. "I don't want to be there."
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast.