Brewers tab Grisham, Ashby as best in Minors

Piña cleared after concussion; Knebel making progress

September 18th, 2019

MILWAUKEE -- Trent Grisham might have been more moved by the honor of being named by the Brewers as the organization’s Minor League Player of the Year if he didn’t have bigger things on his mind Tuesday afternoon.

He was leading off for the Brewers in the heart of a pennant race.

“It’s a little strange,” Grisham said, “but the overall goal is to be here, so it’s nice. It’s exciting, for sure. But there’s a lot more to be done.”

Grisham will be honored alongside the organization’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year, Aaron Ashby, before the Brewers’ game Saturday against the Pirates at Miller Park. The awards are technically named the Robin Yount Performance Awards, after the Hall of Famer and 1973 No. 3 overall Draft pick.

Grisham, 22, has been in the Brewers’ system since they drafted him in the first round in 2015, but it wasn’t until this year that he unlocked his power, thanks to a return to the unconventional, golf-style grip of the bat and quicker timing designed to move his contact point out over the plate. Playing for Double-A Biloxi and Triple-A San Antonio, he posted a 1.010 OPS and led all Brewers Minor Leaguers with 26 home runs despite a promotion to the Major Leagues on Aug. 1.

“It was truly a breakout year for Trent,” Brewers farm director Tom Flanagan said in the statement announcing the organization’s choices.

Asked what made the biggest difference, Grisham said: “Just the confidence, the way I feel going up to the plate every day. It’s built and built, and grown. I feel like I’m ready when I go up there to the plate, kind of a chip on my shoulder. It’s just something that has helped me this year.”

Ashby, 21, took the pitcher honor over a crowded field of candidates after posting a 3.50 ERA and 135 strikeouts in 126 innings between Class A Wisconsin and Class A Advanced Carolina. The Brewers drafted him in the fourth round in 2018.

“Aaron was chosen for the award among a number of worthy candidates,” Flanagan said. “He really progressed in his first full professional season, showing the ability to miss bats. His advanced feel to pitch, along with the quality of his pitch repertoire, will continue to help him find success as he progresses through the system.”

Piña clears concussion protocol

On the same night that returned from an oblique injury to start against the Padres and made his first start at second base following a left hamstring strain, the Brewers were back to a full complement of catchers with news that Major League Baseball had certified ’s concussion test Monday.

Piña was available off the bench behind , who has started every game since Piña went down on a foul ball on Sept. 5 against the Cubs.

Before getting hurt, Piña often started against left-handed pitchers, with Grandal staying in the lineup as the first baseman. The Padres are scheduled to start lefty Joey Lucchesi on Thursday afternoon.

“Yet to be determined [whether Grandal gets a day off upcoming],” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “Yaz is playing at a very, very high level. He’s been on a pretty significant stretch of consecutive games, but he’s also playing at a high level.”

Knebel progressing

All-Star closer has moved his rehab from Tommy John surgery to Milwaukee for the week, allowing the team’s Major League medical staff to check his progress. Knebel said he’s about seven weeks into a flat-ground throwing program with no setbacks and thinks he’ll be back on a mound sometime in January.

If he hits that target, Knebel has a chance to enjoy a relatively normal Spring Training. His specific return date is to be determined; pitchers typically need in excess of 12 months to recover from elbow surgery. Knebel’s was April 3.

He’s finding inspiration in lefty , who was back to pitching in the Majors about 13 months after undergoing the same surgery on July 31, 2018.

“He did everything you’re supposed to do,” Knebel said. “It’s good for the other guys to see that and for me to see it, too. Follow the program.”