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Thames' bad back due to early spring stiffness

Guerra feels sharp as he shuts down Mariners; Counsell high on Barnes
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

PHOENIX -- After being scratched with a bad back on Thursday, Eric Thames is expected back in action for the Brewers when they play the Rockies on Saturday in Scottsdale.

Chalk up his two-day absence to the early-Spring Training stiffness that strikes many players at this time of year.

PHOENIX -- After being scratched with a bad back on Thursday, Eric Thames is expected back in action for the Brewers when they play the Rockies on Saturday in Scottsdale.

Chalk up his two-day absence to the early-Spring Training stiffness that strikes many players at this time of year.

"Everybody has their challenges, and his challenge with his body -- he's a very strong man -- is getting loose," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "It's something he has to be careful of. I think as the season goes, it gets easier for him.

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"Part of that is he has to manage it. And part of it is that's what Spring Training is for. It's to ramp up activity as we go."

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Because of his hot start last season, leading to a heavy workload and lots of action on the basepaths, Thames endured similar aches in his return to the Majors. He had spent the three previous seasons in Korea, where more frequent off-days offered rest.

The coming MLB season does offer some help in this area. The front end of Spring Training was shortened to account for more off-days in the regular season.

Guerra feeling sharp
Counsell conceded last month that the Brewers may have made a well-intentioned mistake when they held Junior Guerra out of winter ball during the 2016-17 Major League offseason before tabbing him for Opening Day. Now, with another winter in Venezuela under his belt, Guerra reported feeling much stronger.

He struck out three batters and worked around four hits in three innings against the Mariners on Friday at Maryvale Baseball Park.

"Last year, I felt terrible at this time," Guerra said. "Right now, I feel healthy, I feel good right now and I threw strikes."

Guerra topped 40 pitches and said he wanted to pitch more. He's among the six candidates for two spots at the back of the Brewers' rotation.

Video: CLE@MIL: Guerra strikes out Allen in 1st

Better days ahead for Barnes?
Counsell is eager to see what 2018 brings for reliever Jacob Barnes, who was one of three core Brewers relievers who debuted Friday. Barnes, who allowed a run on two hits in one inning against the Mariners, logged a 1.25 WHIP in 73 games last season.

"I thought he got three years of experience, almost, in what he was exposed to," Counsell said. "It doesn't feel like this is a player with one full season in the big leagues.

"I think he would say, 'I wanted to pitch better and get better results.' But everything he experienced, I think, will allow him to take another step this year. He's been in every situation now. There's no surprises. ... At times, he was a dominant pitcher."

Video: CHC@MIL: Barnes induces double play to escape threat

Last call
• Left-hander Boone Logan's unofficial Brewers debut didn't go as hoped. After a pair of singles, he surrendered a go-ahead, three-run home run to a left-handed hitter, Daniel Vogelbach. In 1,030 regular-season plate appearances, left-handers have hit just 22 home runs off Logan.

"I mean, first time out," Counsell said. "He'll be fine."

• In one of the most extensively-covered "B" game in baseball history, Angels rookie Shohei Ohtani struck out eight of the 12 Brewers batters he faced while allowing two runs in 2 2/3 innings at Maryvale Baseball Park on Friday morning. Typically, "B" games take place on a back field, but this one was staged in the main stadium and was televised live in Japan. Against a lineup of mostly Minor League players, Ohtani surrendered two runs on three hits in a second inning cut short when he reached a pitch limit, then came back to strike out all three batters in the third inning on 13 pitches.

• Pitcher Adrian Houser is expected to continue his comeback from an emergency appendectomy when he faces hitters for the first time in live batting practice on Monday.

• The Brewers are expected to sign 15-year-old Venezuelan shortstop Eduardo Garcia after the new International signing period begins July 2, according to a Baseball America report. His signing bonus is not yet known, but Garcia is considered one of the top talents from Venezuela in this class.

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

Milwaukee Brewers, Jacob Barnes, Junior Guerra, Boone Logan, Eric Thames