Brewers knock ace around with four homers

March 24th, 2021

PHOENIX -- It’s just Spring Training. But sure liked the way the Brewers swung the bats for him in Tuesday’s 9-6 win over the Dodgers.

A week after the Brewers hit four home runs off Clayton Kershaw and Trevor Bauer in a win over the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch, , and combined for four more off another Dodgers ace, Walker Buehler, in Tuesday’s rematch at American Family Fields of Phoenix.

Hiura and Yelich went back-to-back against Buehler with one out in the first inning and Narváez made it trio of solo home runs when he went deep with two outs. In the second, Hiura hit another opposite-field home run, giving the Brewers four homers off Buehler before the Dodgers right-hander recorded his sixth out.

“When that offense gets swinging, those guys are going to be a dangerous offense,” said Burnes, who pitched 4 2/3 innings in his penultimate exhibition outing. “Seeing them come out and do it against a guy like Walker today is obviously a good sign that things are trending in the right direction toward Opening Day.”

Said Buehler: “Just not a good enough fastball and got into predictable fastball counts. They put the barrel on them, so tip the cap to them.”

The Brewers’ pitching staff looks like a strength, with a rotation led by and Burnes and a bullpen anchored by and . The defense is improved by the return of and the additions of second baseman and But the offense is less of a sure thing, with Cain reacclimating himself to Major League pitching, trying to revive his career and Hiura, Yelich and Narváez among the MLB hitters bidding to bounce back from the small-sample offensive struggles that impacted many a Major League hitter in 2020.

Again, it’s just Spring Training. But recent results have been encouraging for many of those players. Hiura has a hit in six of his last seven games after a very slow start. Yelich is hitting .444 with a .524 on-base percentage through 18 at-bats. Narváez is hitting .346 and six of his nine hits have gone for extra bases, including three home runs.

“The hitters all want to be in a good place rather than look for it right now,” manager Craig Counsell said. “But at the same time, things always change on the hitting end of the game pretty quickly. We’ll just try to keep them going. I would say that Omar, I think, has had a really nice spring. The balls he hit today -- just how hard he hit them was a great sign.”

Shortstop to be timeshare
After watching get more comfortable at third base in recent weeks, the Brewers are going forward with a plan to move him around the field in 2021.

It’s helped that Arcia has embraced the challenge, Counsell said.

“It's a great trait that Orlando has and it's important for things like this, when there's change ahead of you and a little uncertainty ahead of you,” Counsell said. “The way it looks to me is he and Luis [Urías] will share time at shortstop and him and Travis [Shaw] will share time at third base. That's how it looks to start.”

Arcia has been the Brewers’ Opening Day shortstop four years running, but the club may be beginning a transition to Urías, who was acquired from the Padres during the 2019-20 offseason but was set back last year by injuries and a case of COVID-19. Urías isn’t arbitration-eligible until following the '22 season, when Arcia is on track to be a free agent for the first time in his career.

“At first [third base] did feel a little uncomfortable,” Arcia said via translator Carlos Brizuela. “It’s just a new position. It was a little different, the way you move, so it was kind of hard the first few times. I talked to the bosses, the coaches, and we worked. We did a lot of early work and I started to feel a lot more comfortable there. Feeling better.”

Does he know where -- or whether -- he will start on Opening Day against the Twins?

“To be honest, no, I don’t,” Arcia said. “I’m just here to keep trying to get better and just to keep working, and wherever they want to put me, wherever they need me that day, I’ll be ready to go. We’ve just got to wait till that day and see what happens.”

Last call

• Bradley hasn’t played in a couple of days because he has some minor wrist soreness, Counsell said. The Brewers expect Bradley back in a game by the end of the week.

• After he threw fastballs at 93-96 mph according to one radar gun on hand for live batting practice on Monday, right-hander is scheduled to get in a game by week’s end -- tentatively Thursday night against the Giants. Black has been down since March 5 because of a sore right elbow.

• Catcher (left thumb surgery) and outfielder (left hamstring strain) are making progress but look like candidates for the Opening Day injured list. Nottingham has been catching bullpens, but the Brewers are being cautious because he’s had setbacks since surgery in December. Both Nottingham and Fisher are out of Minor League options.