PHOENIX -- The Brewers’ first cuts of the spring came Monday afternoon, as 11 players were sent to Minor League camp. And it was a group that features a lot of potential.
Outfielder Corey Ray and right-hander Trey Supak were optioned, while the following nine players were reassigned to Minor League camp: righties Jesús Castillo, Thomas Jankins, Drew Rasmussen and Miguel Sánchez, lefties Clayton Andrews and Ethan Small, catchers Mario Feliciano and Payton Henry and third baseman Lucas Erceg.
Small is ranked by MLB Pipeline as Milwaukee’s No. 2 prospect, while Feliciano (No. 3), Rasmussen (No. 9), Ray (No. 10), Supak (No. 15), Henry (No. 16), Erceg (No. 26) and Andrews (No. 27) are also among the Brewers Top 30 Prospects.
These youngsters’ time in big league camp gave them an opportunity to be around veteran players in the Brewers’ clubhouse. When players are in that situation for the first time -- such as Small, the Crew’s 2019 first-round Draft pick -- manager Craig Counsell said he gives them this advice: “Ears open, eyes open and see what’s going on, and learn from it.”
“It’s exposing yourself to a different level of player, a more experienced player,” Counsell added. “You have to be the filter as a player and kind of pick out what you can learn from them. There might be some things you learn not to do; they’re not infallible with all their methods.”
Ray and Supak are on the Brewers’ 40-man roster, so they could be the first among this group to reach the Majors, perhaps as early as this season.
Ray, who was Milwaukee’s first-round pick in the 2016 MLB Draft, struggled in 11 Cactus League games, as he went 1-for-20 with a home run, one RBI, two runs scored and nine strikeouts.
“Corey’s just got to go play. He’s got to be healthy,” Counsell said. “All these guys know, continue to get better, they’re young players and that’s their path to getting here and staying here.”
Following the cuts, the Brewers have 49 players in big league camp.
Over his previous two appearances, Phelps had allowed eight runs (three earned) on three hits and three walks in two-plus innings. On March 3 in his previous outing, he didn’t record an out vs. the Padres and sprained his left thumb.
“He was fresh, clearly,” Counsell said. “He just executed a bunch of pitches today. It looked like his velocity was up a little bit tonight. He knows how to get ready for a season. He’s on a good path, and he threw a lot of good pitches.”
Phelps took a few days off before throwing live batting practice on Friday, which allowed him to regroup and make some adjustments to his mechanics.
“It’s made everything else more directional toward the plate,” Phelps said. “The ball was coming out better, the curveball was really good today. It was a really good step in the right direction.”
Under the lightsOn Monday night, the Brewers hosted the Mariners in their first night game at American Family Fields of Phoenix since 2006, when they played Team Japan in an exhibition contest ahead of the inaugural World Baseball Classic.
It was also the start of a 13-day span in which Milwaukee will play five night games. The Brewers travel to face the Dodgers on Wednesday night, then have three straight under the lights from March 19-21.
Counsell isn’t sure of the reason behind the Crew’s first spring home night game in 14 years. But he would be fine sticking to mostly day games overall.
“I think a night game a week in Spring Training, I’d be all for it,” Counsell said. “I think the bulk of Spring Training should be played during the day, I still really believe that. It’s meant to be played during the day. We’re in Arizona, we’re in Florida, we’re in nice weather, we should be playing during the day. But I think a change once a week, yeah, great.”
Right-hander Brandon Woodruff is set to take the mound when the Brewers travel to face a Royals split squad on Tuesday at 3:05 p.m. CT at Surprise Stadium. Likely the front-runner to be the Crew’s Opening Day starter, Woodruff has pitched well this spring, allowing only one earned run in six innings over three starts. The 27-year-old has never made an Opening Day start. Listen to the game live on Gameday Audio.