PHOENIX -- Ryan Braun will be re-acclimating to two positions this spring, not just one.
Brewers manager Craig Counsell revealed his preferred outfield alignment on Monday as position players reported to camp, saying the plan calls for Christian Yelich shifting from right field to left, Lorenzo Cain staying put in center and newcomer Avisaíl García sharing time in right with Braun. Ben Gamel is the fifth outfielder. To ensure everyone gets at-bats, García will occasionally spell Cain in center, and Braun will see some action at first base.
That’s the plan on paper, and Counsell stressed that it’s not written in ink. The aim is to maximize the defensive skills of García, who is a prototypical right fielder.
“It’s really about how we’re going to line up the most frequently and getting guys to their best spots,” Counsell said. “I think we’ve probably got to get Ryan comfortable in right field. The thing that I would probably be a little hesitant about is Ryan in right field. But I don’t think there’s any question that with ‘Avi’ and ‘Yeli’ in the game together, García belongs in right and Christian belongs in left.”
It helps that all of the players involved posseses some experience at a variety of positions. Braun was the Brewers’ primary right fielder in 2014 and ’15 when Khris Davis was the left fielder, and Braun was the Brewers’ Opening Day first baseman in 2018 before circumstances shelved that project. And Yelich actually has more Major League experience in left field than right, including a Rawlings Gold Glove Award as the Marlins’ left fielder in 2014.
“As I’ve said from the beginning, I’ll do whatever they think is in our best interest,” Braun said. “I’ve always been a little more comfortable in left field, but because I’ll probably be going back and forth between first base and the outfield, and I think ‘Yeli’ feels a little more comfortable in left and Avisaíl feels a little more comfortable in right, if they think it makes the most sense for the team, I’ll do whatever it is they want me to do.
“Tentatively, that’s the plan. But obviously, all of these things are still subject to change.”
Braun will also have to get comfortable again at first base, a position he played extensively during 2018 Spring Training after the Brewers added Cain and Yelich.
“I don't know if I have a glove or not,” Braun said. “’Moose’ [Mike Moustakas] told me he had a really good one but I think ‘Yaz’ [Yasmani Grandal] took it, so I need to track that one down. I'm not sure if my first baseman's glove is here but I'll have to dust it off and get it ready for action again.”
Is he looking forward to the challenge?
“Yeah, it's fun,” Braun said. “We've seen the value of versatility in our game. I think with our personnel and our current group of what looks like the initial 26 guys on the roster, it really makes sense for me to be able to play some infield. I do enjoy the challenge of it -- and it is a challenge. It's not as easy as everyone makes it out to be, especially with shifts and guys playing all over the place. I'm learning bunt plays, first-and-third plays and just making sure I'm in the right position for cutoffs and relays. Just a lot of things that come with experience and when you don't have that experience, it's all new to you.”
Taylor to remain sidelined through Cactus League
Outfielder Tyrone Taylor, recovering from surgery to repair a tendon in his left wrist, is likely to remain sidelined from games until April, he said Monday.
He originally injured his wrist on a swing in May and received a cortisone shot that allowed Taylor to get through the season. He slashed .269/.334/.461 at Triple-A San Antonio, then went 4-for-10 after a late callup to Milwaukee in September. It wasn’t until the Brewers’ fanfest in late January that it emerged he’d undergone surgery.
“I haven’t taken one swing this offseason,” Taylor said. “It’s my first time doing that. I’ve just been hanging out, watching video. Mainly the successful videos. I’ve always done that. It helps a lot.”
He has a follow-up appointment with the surgeon in the first week of March and hopes to be cleared for baseball activity at that time.
First full-squad workout Tuesday
The complete contingent of Brewers players will take part in the first formal workout of Spring Training on Tuesday beginning at noon local time, and at least the hitters’ half of practice will be open to fans at American Family Fields of Phoenix. The pitchers will be more accessible on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, when players take the field at 10 a.m. local time for workouts set to include live batting practice.
All of those practices are scheduled to take place on the four fields previously associated with the Minor League complex. They are free and open to the public.
“I know this team looks a lot different right now than it did last year or even the year before,” said new first baseman Justin Smoak . “But I feel like a lot of the guys who are here who weren’t here are guys who have been there and played. That’s always a comfort factor, I feel like, rather than a young guy coming up. I think us new guys who are veteran players who have been around the league for a little while, we’re excited to be here and get things started.”