Ashby optioned, but looks forward to future

Urías flashing power at the plate; Bullpen stands out in wild comeback victory

July 1st, 2021

PITTSBURGH -- 's first stay in the Major Leagues lasted barely 24 hours, but the most veteran member of the Brewers’ staff predicts he’ll be back.

“Aaron Ashby is going to be a phenomenal pitcher in this league,” Brett Anderson posted via Twitter on Wednesday night. “This first start is just blip on the radar.”

Ashby, ranked as the club's No. 7 prospect by MLB Pipeline, recorded only two outs and was charged with seven runs (four earned) in a spot start against the Cubs on Wednesday, when the Brewers scored 15 unanswered runs for a stunning, 15-7 win to complete a three-game sweep. With games on the schedule every day until the All-Star break, Milwaukee needed a fresh arm for Thursday’s series opener against the Pirates at PNC Park. Ashby was optioned to Triple-A Nashville and the club called up right-hander Alec Bettinger -- who had to bounce back from his own nightmare Major League debut against the Dodgers in May.

“Everyone here was picking me up, telling me to keep my head up,” Ashby said. “That’s what I’m going to do. They’ve got a lot more experience than I do, doing this. Everyone has those kind of outings. Mine just happened to come on my debut day, which was unfortunate. But that’s the way it goes. I’m looking forward to having successful outings in the future.”

Where did Wednesday’s outing go wrong?

“I can’t really put a finger on it,” Ashby said. “Just sneaky hit after sneaky hit. Then, I couldn’t find the strike zone there at the end. But that’s baseball. I’ve got to lock in, in that situation and make some pitches. I wasn’t able to do that.

“As bad as it went, I did have fun. It was pretty cool to have this experience. What I’m going to take away is I’ve got to attack hitters. When things aren’t going my way, I can’t try to make a nasty pitch. Just stay in the zone and stick to what I do.”

Fellow starting pitcher Adrian Houser’s advice was this: Have a short memory.

“A perfect example happened to [Angels phenom] Shohei Ohtani last night,” Houser said, referring to Ohtani’s outing at Yankee Stadium when he, too, didn’t get through the first inning. “Same way, he gave up seven runs in the first inning while getting two outs, and the guy's an incredible pitcher -- an incredible hitter as well. You just have to have a short memory and know that it won't be the last time. … [Ashby] is a really good pitcher and he's got some amazing stuff.”

Urías showing power

Luis Urías has taken some lumps in the field this season, but at 24, he’s developed into a threat at the plate. Entering Thursday, Urías was second on the team with 10 home runs in 285 plate appearances after hitting none in 120 plate appearances during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. His slugging percentage is up 139 points to .433.

“This is a mistake that I think frankly the industry is making about power -- power shows up from good hitters,” manager Craig Counsell said. “And good hitters who are given a good foundation can square balls up, and they don’t have to go way out of the park. They just have to go over the fence. Luis is just a good hitter who is squaring balls up. You can call it power, but it’s just a good hitter squaring balls up and putting them in the air.

“There’s a process to it. Sometimes we think, ‘Oh, we need to walk into the big leagues and be a good power hitter.’ Be a good hitter first. There’s going to be a transition. Luis got at-bats last year, he hit for no power, he didn’t hit the ball in the air that much. I think he learned from that. And as he puts at-bats under his belt, he continues to get better.”

Here's how Urías thinks of his growing power:

“I never think to hit for power,” he said, “it's more like I kind of realized most of the ground balls in the big leagues are outs because they've got good defense. We've been working on changing my approach compared to last year. I know it's really important to put the ball in play, but if you make soft contact [on the ground], it's probably going to be an out. Right now, my focus is going to be on getting my best pitch to hit. And I don't care if it's a line drive in the air or what. Whatever happens, happens. I'm just trying to do damage.”

Deep ‘pen

The Brewers’ offense made headlines with Wednesday’s comeback, but how about the work of the five relievers who followed Ashby? They combined for 8 1/3 innings of scoreless relief and surrendered only four hits, starting with rookie Miguel Sánchez’s 2 1/3 innings of work with two hits, no walks and three strikeouts.

It’s no coincidence, Counsell said a day later, that the Brewers’ recent winning streak has coincided with qualify relief from pitchers beyond Josh Hader, Devin Williams and Brad Boxberger.

"Honestly, 'Sanchi' coming in there and getting us out of the first and then going two more after that was huge,” said infielder Jace Peterson. “But every single one of those guys that came in the game shut the door. And offensively we just kept the gas on them. Those guys have been huge out of the 'pen.”

Said Counsell: “The job our bullpen did, the job specifically Sánchez and [Trevor] Richards did, to just kind of stop them in their tracks really was just brilliant. That was the game.”