Brewers condemn Hader's offensive tweets
MILWAUKEE -- No one in the Brewers' clubhouse knows Josh Hader better than Brett Phillips, and perhaps nobody had a harder time processing Hader's controversial tweets after they surfaced during Tuesday's All-Star Game. The two came to the Brewers together in a 2015 trade with the Astros and have been roommates and teammates for parts of the past three years in the Minor Leagues and Majors.
Phillips condemned the racist, sexist and homophobic Tweets that Hader sent as a 17-year-old, but like every other teammate who addressed the matter on Thursday at Miller Park, he said that's not the man he knows today.
"I don't know Hader back in 2011. It sounds like he was in a dark place, and just not a good person, but that's not who Hader is," Phillips said before the Brewers worked out ahead of Friday's second-half opener against the Dodgers.
Phillips spent Wednesday with Hader and characterized him as devastated by the fallout from his offensive tweets, some of which appeared to be song lyrics or pop culture references. Hader and the rest of the Brewers' All-Stars were not part of Thursday's optional workout; they were told to stay away and rest up for the resumption of play on Friday.
General manager David Stearns said the Brewers followed the lead of Major League Baseball in deciding not to discipline Hader, beyond ordering that he undergo sensitivity training and participate in diversity initiatives. Manager Craig Counsell plans to offer Hader an opportunity to address the team on Friday.
Billy Bean, a Major League Baseball vice president and special assistant to Commissioner Rob Manfred, will be on hand to counsel Hader on navigating that meeting.
"I'm disappointed," Counsell said. "At the same time, I'm confused, because it's not the person or the teammate that I've known for the last three years. So I think you're feeling both those things. That's how I think a lot of guys feel."
In the clubhouse, the handful of players who spoke about the matter expressed disgust for the content, but support for the teammate. They included outfielder Keon Broxton, who is African-American.
"Knowing him the last couple years, it's kind of hard to even see him saying something like that, so it's definitely a complete shock," Broxton said. "I didn't know him when he was 17, or whenever those tweets were, but knowing him now, I don't think he feels the same way or was using those words in a way to bash on the African-American culture.
"I know the guy. I love him. He's a great teammate. He's been a great friend to me."
The Brewers know what's next will be challenging, especially when the team completes a six-game homestand against the Dodgers and Nationals and departs for its first road trip, an eight-game voyage to San Francisco and Los Angeles that carries the Brewers into August.
"We've talked about it," Stearns said. "He's going to have to work very hard to re-earn the trust of some people who may question who he is right now."
"It's not going to go away. Hopefully, he can lean on us a little bit for support," third baseman Travis Shaw said. "It's a bad situation to be in. It kind of takes away from everything we're trying to do here in the second half. At the same time, we've got to try to deal with it and move on as best we can."
Phillips hopes he is one of the teammates for Hader to lean on, though nothing is certain. Phillips is staying in a hotel this week because Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun is nearing a return from the disabled list, and Phillips is likely to be optioned to the Minor Leagues.
"It's going to take time, and a lot of people aren't going to see past this," Phillips said. "But that's not who Hader is as a person today. And I can look you straight in the eyes and tell you that's not who he is."
Braun, Pina near return
Stearns didn't rule out the possibility of roster moves ahead of Friday's opener against the Dodgers. Besides Braun, who is on the DL with a back injury, the Brewers are hopeful to reinstate catcher Manny Pina from a left biceps strain.
Pina started and batted third for Class A Wisconsin on Thursday night, beginning a rehab assignment. Meanwhile, Braun tested his back at Thursday's workout.
"The focus and priority was just on getting healthy," Braun said. "I haven't had a chance to do a ton of baseball stuff, so today's practice will be a good challenge to see where I'm at, go at it pretty hard and get a good idea whether I'll be able to come off the DL."
Another Brewers player on the DL, reliever Matt Albers, started a rehab assignment Wednesday with Class A Wisconsin. Sidelined since mid-June with shoulder inflammation, Albers tossed a scoreless inning with a strikeout.
"Everything went well. As clean an outing -- he threw eight pitches. It was a good outing," Counsell said. "He's good. He'll pitch Saturday again at Wisconsin, then we'll move him to Colorado Springs. We've got three scheduled. That's as far as he's scheduled for now."
No news on Nelson
Thursday marked 10 months since Jimmy Nelson underwent surgery to repair his right shoulder, and while he has yet to pitch off a mound, he has played catch off one lately, Counsell said. He characterized the sessions as a way to alleviate the boredom of Nelson's flat-ground throwing program.
Until Nelson pitches off a mound, the Brewers will not be able to put a timetable on his return.