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Brewers break ground on Maryvale renovations

Williams continues case for bullpen spot; Choi's returns to Cactus League play
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Tuesday was just the photo op. The real race to 2019 Spring Training at Maryvale Baseball Park begins Friday, when construction crews actually break ground on a $56 million to $60 million overhaul of the Brewers' complex.

Step 1, according to HKS Architects principal Mo Stein, is rerouting utility service so the main building on site can be gutted while operations continue across the parking lot at the Minor League complex. That highlights the chief challenge at hand, aside from the tight timetable: Rebuild the complex while the Brewers' extended spring training program, summer league team and fall instructional program play on.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Tuesday was just the photo op. The real race to 2019 Spring Training at Maryvale Baseball Park begins Friday, when construction crews actually break ground on a $56 million to $60 million overhaul of the Brewers' complex.

Step 1, according to HKS Architects principal Mo Stein, is rerouting utility service so the main building on site can be gutted while operations continue across the parking lot at the Minor League complex. That highlights the chief challenge at hand, aside from the tight timetable: Rebuild the complex while the Brewers' extended spring training program, summer league team and fall instructional program play on.

"We've got room. We can figure it out. It's doable," said Stein, one of the dignitaries who took part in Tuesday's ceremonial groundbreaking. "Actually, coaches love the idea that they're going to see everything going on. They're going to have front-row seats."

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The schedule calls for the project to be substantially completed by mid-January, Stein said, and while the main stadium will look mostly the same, everything surrounding it will be entirely reimagined. The project doubles the size of the Brewers' current clubhouse, athletic training and office space, and it will bring the Major League and Minor League operations under one roof. The stadium concourse will be wider and friendlier to fans, who will pass by a new agility field, pitching mounds and batting cages on their way to a redesigned entrance at home plate.

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The Brewers are footing most of the bill and will take over operation of the complex from the City of Phoenix later this week.

In June or July, crews will start pouring concrete, Stein said, beginning with the footings for hydrotherapy pools in the Brewers' new sports medicine center. Walls will be up before the start of August. In November, the Minor League building will be shut down and razed.

"Look, it is not easy to work through a construction zone, but HKS and [construction manager] Mortenson have done a fabulous job staging their work here so we can keep our player development apparatus going all summer," Brewers general manager David Stearns said. "That was important to us as we got into this project. We didn't want to have to relocate over the summer."

Tweet from @AdamMcCalvy: Brewers are breaking ground this morning on a $55-$60 million renovation of Maryvale Baseball Park. pic.twitter.com/EMgTCUxyOL

The clock is ticking.

"We will end up cleaning a few things up [following 2019] Spring Training, but it will be ready to go for the start of camp," Stein said. "It will be done. We've got a lot of work to do, but I'm hoping the players want to come out early, and we'll be ready for them."

Bullpen battle
In a sign that Taylor Williams remains squarely in the running for an Opening Day roster spot, the reliever followed Monday's outing in a Triple-A game with another appearance on Tuesday against the Rockies. He retired both batters he faced while touching 97 mph. After the Brewers brought him along carefully last season following two years lost to Tommy John surgery, durability is an important test for the 26-year-old.

"Everybody's doing it," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "For him, it's probably the first time he's done it in a while. But it's not, like, the end-all. It's pitching in the big leagues. You have to be able to pitch back-to-back. … The arm has always been there. Now he's healthy and we're pushing him a little bit."

Video: OAK@MIL: Williams rears back, sits down Garcia

The Brewers have two openings if they break camp with an eight-man bullpen. Williams is a candidate with Oliver Drake, Yovani Gallardo, J.J. Hoover, Radhames Liz and Junior Guerra if Guerra doesn't make the rotation.

Medical matters
• First baseman Ji-Man Choi returned to Cactus League action as a pinch-hitter on Tuesday against the Rockies. Choi had been sidelined after bruising his ribs diving in the outfield during Friday's game against the Reds.

• Third baseman Travis Shaw received a visit from Counsell and head athletic trainer Dan Wright after he was hit on the forearm by a pitch in the second inning of Tuesday against Colorado. Shaw stayed in the game, and Counsell said postgame that he is fine.

Up next
The Brewers will play a Spring Training doubleheader on Wednesday, when Wade Miley starts at 3:05 p.m. CT against the A's at Maryvale Baseball Park, and Brent Suter starts at 8:40 p.m. against the Mariners in Peoria, Ariz. The home game will be televised by FS Wisconsin and is available via MLB.TV, and the game against Seattle can also be seen live on MLB.TV. Both Miley and Suter are vying for two openings in Milwaukee's starting rotation, and Miley's start is notable in that it comes the day before an "out" date in his Minor League contract.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.

Milwaukee Brewers, Ji-Man Choi, Travis Shaw, Trevor Williams