Several positions up for grabs at Brewers camp

Outfield, third base and closer among sites of position battles

February 16th, 2016

MILWAUKEE -- Since departing Maryvale Baseball Park last spring, the Brewers have a new GM, assistant GM and farm director. They have a new field manager and four new coaches. And as they report back to the west side of Phoenix this week for the start of another Spring Training, they are already assured of having a new Opening Day starting pitcher, closer, first baseman, third baseman, shortstop, center fielder and at least one corner outfielder.

Last year at this time, having stood pat at every position, the priorities were staying healthy and selecting a bullpen. This spring, having jumped headfirst into a rebuild, the Brewers have camp battles all over the place.

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"The one thing I think is important is that I'm not putting limits on anything," said "new" manager, Craig Counsell, who took over last May. "We're not putting limits on any players. We're not putting any limits on any expectations. You go out every day and have the opportunity to compete.

"That's what it is no matter what position the experts or anybody else tells you you are in. That's how you treat it as a professional athlete. So that's how we will treat it. That's the easiest way. We have to clear our heads of the clutter, and the easiest way to do that is to decide we are going to compete every day."

Counsell gathered his revamped coach staff in Milwaukee in late January to begin preparations for his first Spring Training in charge. His bench coach, Pat Murphy, is familiar, since Murphy coached Counsell at Notre Dame. But pitching coach Derek Johnson and assistant hitting coach Jason Lane are entirely new to Counsell and to the organization, and they will be busy learning about their players this spring.

Of the starting position battles, center field is the most wide open, with newcomers Keon Broxton, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Rymer Liriano and Eric Young Jr. among the candidates. The corners are also uncertain, since the Brewers are considering moving Ryan Braun back to left field to open right for strong-armed Domingo Santana. The Brewers' only significant free agent, Chris Carter, is set at first base, and trade acquisition Jonathan Villar will probably begin the season at shortstop, but third base is up for grabs among a group of players including former Red Sox prospects Garin Cecchini and Will Middlebrooks.

Will Counsell award the Opening Day start to Matt Garza or Wily Peralta? Will Jeremy Jeffress or Will Smith emerge as the primary closer? Which relievers will rise to claim spots in the bullpen? How will top prospect Orlando Arcia fare in his first big league camp?

Over the next seven weeks, all of those questions will find answers.

"We're going to go out there and try to shock everybody. Why not?" Garza said. "We have great management. They're all on the same page, which is awesome, which you want to see. And they're making moves. They're making moves to free up some [young players] to come up and show what they've got."

Pitchers and catchers report


Full squad reports

Feb. 24

First full-squad workout

Feb. 25

First Spring Training game

March 2 vs. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 2:05 p.m. CT

Opening Day

April 4 vs. Giants at Miller Park, 1:10 p.m. CT