Nine Brewers to compete for center-field job

Counsell, front office to address team before first full-squad workout

February 24th, 2016
A priority for Brewers manager Craig Counsell this spring is to identify the team's plan in center field for 2016. (AP)

PHOENIX -- Brewers newcomer Keon Broxton's arrival in Arizona marked an unofficial start to the team's center field competition. With all of the candidates on hand, Milwaukee's most wide-open position battle was on.

"It's the center field job, and then it's kind of the roster puzzle that you're trying to figure out," manager Craig Counsell said. "They're related, certainly. There's a number of players, and to go through all the scenarios now seems like a waste of time. You let it go, and it kind of narrows itself a little bit, and roster decisions become a little more clear, and the make-up of the roster starts to make sense. Other pieces might affect that.

"So, there's a lot of moving parts on it. There's a number of players who have an opportunity there."

The candidates, in alphabetical order, are Broxton, Ramon Flores, Rymer Liriano, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Shane Peterson, Brett Phillips, Alex Presley, Michael Reed and Eric Young Jr.

Peterson, Phillips, Presley and Young are not on the 40-man roster, though Peterson is the most known commodity, having played for the Brewers last season, including an August stint as the regular center fielder. Phillips and Reed are top 20 prospects in the system who might be ticketed for regular duty in the Minor Leagues. Nieuwenhuis has the most Major League experience as a center fielder, though Young has more big league experience overall. Liriano was once ranked among baseball's top 100 prospects.

What qualities are Counsell prioritizing in making his choice?

"Ultimately, we want the player who's going to help us win the most games," he said. "Every player adds to that puzzle a little differently, adds to the runs scored and run prevention a little differently. That's a balance, so it's tough to answer that one."

Last call

• Position players who have yet to undergo physical exams will do so Thursday morning, including left fielder Ryan Braun. He underwent back surgery in October and indicated last month that his rehab is taking longer than expected. The Brewers will have a better feel for Braun's health in the wake of his physical.

• Thursday marks the Brewers' first full-squad workout, preceded by an extended morning meeting in the clubhouse with remarks from owner Mark Attanasio, GM David Stearns and Counsell. It's Counsell's first opportunity to address his entire team.

"I like how you guys dramatize that day," Counsell said with smirk. "I love the drama you create around that moment. If I thought that moment led to 95 wins, I would have gone and been a Buddhist monk this winter.

"But I'll be prepared," he said, smiling wider. "I promise."