MILWAUKEE -- Rehabbing White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal was behind the plate for the Brewers in 2019, when Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta were still getting grounded in the Major Leagues. He was happy when he saw all three listed among the probable pitchers this weekend at American Family Field, even if it meant a challenge for his current club.
“I'm truly excited for those three guys,” said Grandal, who is recovering from knee surgery. “When I caught them here, I felt like they had the talent to do what they're doing. It was just a matter of time.
“I remember having a conversation with Burnes about believing in the process and just letting things happen and it was going to happen; ’19 was a rough year for him. He just kept going up and down. I saw him [Friday] and said, 'I told you so.’”
Peralta threw four scoreless innings against the White Sox on Friday in an outing that was shortened by design, followed by Burnes on Saturday. Woodruff is scheduled to start the series finale Sunday.
All three represented the Brewers at the All-Star Game, along with closer Josh Hader and catcher Omar Narváez. With Carlos Ródon and Lance Lynn scheduled to start the weekend games for the White Sox, this would be the first series in Major League history to feature as many as five starting pitchers who made the All-Star Game in the current season, according to STATS, LLC.
“I'm just glad I got to be a little part of both,” Grandal said.
The Brewers’ staff leader is Woodruff, who will carry a 2.04 ERA into his 20th start of the season and has seen the Brewers go 13-6 in his starts. When Grandal caught him in 2019, Woodruff went 11-3 with a 3.62 ERA in his first full season as a Major League starter and made his first National League All-Star team.
“I remember his first three or four starts, all he wanted to do was strike guys out and all I wanted him to do was get deep into games,” Grandal said. “I let him do his thing for the first three or four games, and after that, he was like, 'All right, I'm going to let you do what you do.' We had Philadelphia here, and he had an almost perfect game going into the eighth inning.”
The only Phillies hitter to reach base in Woodruff’s eight innings that day was catcher Andrew Knapp, who hit a low changeup for a home run in the sixth inning.
“He was like, 'I see what you're saying; let's keep looking at video,’” Grandal said.
Sunday night special
Matt Vasgersian, Eduardo Perez and Buster Olney have the call Sunday as ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” broadcasts from Milwaukee for the first time since a Cardinals-Brewers game in September 2013. In ESPN’s preseason predictions, Olney picked the Brewers to win the NL Central.
“I had the Cardinals at the beginning of Spring Training, and then I said, ‘Nah, I’m going to pick the Brewers because it looks like they have so much more pitching depth than everybody else,’” Olney said. “They always do a great job in terms of making choices in terms of the limited spending that they do. They’re really good at fostering pitching. And I really believe that [Craig] Counsell is one of the best managers in baseball.”
• Right-hander Adrian Houser’s next outing will be another tandem, Counsell said, as the Brewers navigate a stretch of the schedule with many off-days. Houser pitched two scoreless innings behind Peralta on Friday.
• Rowdy Tellez got the start at first base against the lefty Ródon on Saturday as right-handed-hitting Keston Hiura found himself in another deep funk, this time 4-for-25 with 15 strikeouts over his preceding 10 games. Said Counsell: “We need to get that guy who's playing there going. We could use power from that position. Jace [Peterson] is doing a really good job, too. I think as far as Jace here, as we get out of this off-day section of the schedule, Jace is going to start moving around the field a little bit more. You're going to see him bounce around positions a little more.”
• Minor League right-hander Jolon “Lun” Zhao of China is on his way back to the U.S. to resume pitching, farm director Tom Flanagan said. Lun has not pitched in a game since 2018, having missed the ’19 season following Tommy John surgery and then remaining in China during all of ’20 because of logistical challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The Brewers signed him in 2018 after Lun participated in an MLB development program in China.