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Brewers facing roster decisions before OD

Special to MLB.com

HOUSTON -- With several spots in the bullpen still to be determined, the Brewers haven't set their 25-man Opening Day roster.

"There's a lot of player movement at this time in the industry, so that's why every team kind of stays flexible until they absolutely have to," manager Craig Counsell said before Tuesday's 8-1 loss to the Astros in an exhibition game at Minute Maid Park.

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HOUSTON -- With several spots in the bullpen still to be determined, the Brewers haven't set their 25-man Opening Day roster.

"There's a lot of player movement at this time in the industry, so that's why every team kind of stays flexible until they absolutely have to," manager Craig Counsell said before Tuesday's 8-1 loss to the Astros in an exhibition game at Minute Maid Park.

View Full Game Coverage

At the end of Spring Training last year, the club added Jared Hughes. The year before, Carlos Torres was a late spring signing.

This year, not counting a pickup before Thursday's season opener in San Diego, five Brewers are fighting to make the roster to start the 2018 season.

Relievers Taylor Williams, Oliver Drake and J.J. Hoover are competing for two available spots, along with first basemen Jesus Aguilar and Ji-Man Choi. Aguilar and Drake are out of options. Williams and Choi are non-roster invites.

Being on an Opening Day roster is the goal, but players are constantly being called up during the regular season for a variety of reasons.

"Opening Day is an important, symbolic day certainly for the players and standing in [for pregame introductions] means something," Counsell said. "But we used 50 players last year and we'll use 50 players again this year most likely. So a lot of the guys that are the last guys to leave are usually the first guys to come back."

Anderson honored to start
After turning the corner in 2016, followed by a breakout year in '17, Chase Anderson's career has progressed to where the right-hander will be the Opening Day starter on Thursday against the Padres at Petco Park.

"I was excited and honored to get that nod for the first game," Anderson said. "You don't take those lightly. I've been progressing in the right direction for a year and a half. It's going to be fun to start the season off and getting our team off on the right foot. As each hour goes by, it's getting more exciting."

Video: LAD@MIL: Anderson talks about his fifth spring start

Adding a curve and a cutter has been instrumental in Anderson's rise. In 2016, Anderson was 9-11 with a 4.39 ERA and 12-4 with a 2.74 ERA in '17.

"The curveball has gotten better, the cutter is another weapon for me and my changeup is still there," said the 30-year-old Anderson. "You have more confidence going out there when you have more weapons. When you have that, you build confidence."

Anderson has added about four miles per hour on his fastball.

"There's not one thing that I can pinpoint that helped me with velocity," Anderson said. "The curveball got better just because I changed the grip, and got used to that. And the cutter as a fourth pitch has been a weapon. It's been nice to adapt and get those pitches do something for me and help me out to get to this next level."

Santana struggling
Domingo Santana's struggles at the plate this spring aren't a concern for Counsell, who is more interested in the outfielder's track record than how he performed in the Cactus League.

Santana, who dropped a routine fly ball in right field for a first-inning error on Tuesday, came into the final exhibition game batting .192 with 10 hits in 52 at-bats.

Video: COL@MIL: Santana crushes a solo homer to deep center

But Santana's rough spring shouldn't affect his playing time in the regular season.

"It didn't change anything at all," Counsell said. "It didn't change anything I perceived going into the season at all. This part of the season, we're not playing for wins and losses. You can insert a name of the player that's struggling in Spring Training because there's going to be player at the bottom of the list of the statistics.

"If we thought Spring Training was a huge indicator of success, we'd do Spring Training a little differently. When I talk about a player, what happens last year matters. In Domingo's case, what's happened in the past matters, not just last year. He had a really good season. He's a young player. It would be crazy for us to abandon that."

Last season, the 25-year-old batted .278 with 30 home runs and 85 RBIs.

Up next
Following Wednesday's off-day, watch live on MLB.TV as Anderson will make his first Opening Day start at 3:10 p.m. CT on Thursday at Petco Park.

Richard Dean is a contributor to MLB.com based in Houston.

Milwaukee Brewers, Jesus Aguilar, Chase Anderson, Ji-Man Choi, Oliver Drake, J.J. Hoover, Domingo Santana