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Crew puts early emphasis on pitchers' fielding

Guerra, Suter, Wilkerson throw first Spring Training bullpen sessions
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

PHOENIX -- With split-squad games against the Cubs and Giants just nine days away, Brewers pitchers and catchers went right to work Wednesday at the formal start of Spring Training.

Their first formal workout is not until Thursday, but the compacted schedule prompted a number of arms, including 2017 Opening Day starter Junior Guerra and top Brewers pitching prospect Corbin Burnes, to throw bullpen sessions on what traditionally has been a much quieter day. Brewers pitching coach Derek Johnson watched in street clothes.

PHOENIX -- With split-squad games against the Cubs and Giants just nine days away, Brewers pitchers and catchers went right to work Wednesday at the formal start of Spring Training.

Their first formal workout is not until Thursday, but the compacted schedule prompted a number of arms, including 2017 Opening Day starter Junior Guerra and top Brewers pitching prospect Corbin Burnes, to throw bullpen sessions on what traditionally has been a much quieter day. Brewers pitching coach Derek Johnson watched in street clothes.

If Johnson has a particular point of emphasis this spring, it is improving Brewers' pitchers defense. "Helping guys move better," is how he put it.

"That's going to be our theme this year with our PFP [pitchers' fielding practice] before it's full camp," Johnson said. "We have fewer days, so there is that, 'I have to get guys ready a little faster.' ... But it's going to be about taking care of the ball.

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"If you look at why errors are made, it's often bad timing or poor movement. These guys are making a [pitch] at 100 mph in some cases, and then they have to jump off the mound and have body control to do it. The game moves really fast at that point, so if we can help them move a little bit better, help them improvise, I think that's a good way to approach it."

Energetic entrance

The boldest entrance Wednesday belonged to Freddy Peralta, a top prospect beginning his first big league camp. With fellow pitching prospect Marcos Diplan in tow, Peralta circled the clubhouse to grab every available right hand and offer an enthusiastic introduction.

Some rookies adopt a policy of "be neither seen nor heard." Peralta tried the opposite approach.

"Some of the best advice I can give is have fun," said 30-year-old Jhoulys Chacin, another newcomer to Brewers camp, albeit a more experienced one.

What else would Chacin advise of the first-timers?

"Just be on time," he said. "That's one of the main things I remember someone told me when I was in my first big league camp. If there's one thing you have to do, it's be on time."

Speaking of pitchers, besides Diplan and Peralta, each of whom were added to the 40-man roster in November, the Brewers' big league coaching staff will get a first look at non-roster invitees Burnes, Luis Ortiz and Jon Perrin. MLB Pipeline already indicated that Burnes will rank second when the Brewers' new Top 30 prospect list is released, and Ortiz, Peralta and Diplan are also on that list.

Last call

• Right-hander Aaron Wilkerson and lefty Brent Suter threw on a mound adjacent to Guerra as pitchers got their work in, a sign they might be among the arms slated to work Feb. 23 when one Brewers split squad hosts the Cubs and another travels to Scottsdale to play the Giants. Those three, along with Brandon Woodruff and Yovani Gallardo, are vying for the two spots currently open in Milwaukee's starting rotation.

• With players undergoing physical exams on Thursday morning, fans planning to visit Maryvale Baseball Park should plan on arriving in the afternoon. The schedule calls for a 1:30 p.m. MT stretch.

• The Brewers won't begin the major renovation of Maryvale until the conclusion of Spring Training, but one change is already in place. Support poles have been installed down each foul line to accommodate extended protective netting, similar to what will be at Miller Park beginning this year.

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

Milwaukee Brewers, Marcos Diplan, Junior Guerra, Freddy Peralta, Brent Suter, Aaron Wilkerson