Notes: Vaccine threshold reached; Mathias

May 5th, 2021

Brandon Woodruff loves his morning coffee, and the good news is he no longer needs permission to go get it now that 85 percent of the Brewers' Tier 1 personnel has been vaccinated against COVID-19.

That’s why staff and extra players were no longer required to wear masks in the dugout during Tuesday’s loss to the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

“It feels good. I think personally, for me, the benefits of the vaccine just outweigh a lot of other things,” said Woodruff, who is scheduled to start Thursday’s series finale in Philadelphia. “And as a team, given now that we have some freedom, it's nice just to be able to go get coffee. You still have to respect the state and city rules and wearing a mask and stuff, but in terms of just getting out and getting a breath of fresh air, it's nice. You don't have to sit in a hotel room the whole time.”

Clubs were informed just before Opening Day that MLB and the MLBPA have agreed to relax certain health and safety protocols contained in the 2021 Operations Manual for fully vaccinated Tier 1 individuals and for clubs where 85 percent of their Tier 1 individuals are fully vaccinated. This applies to all players and staff who are considered Tier 1, including those at the alternate training site and, now, at Triple-A. As part of that memo, players and staff were again strongly encouraged to receive one of the approved COVID-19 vaccines when eligible.

Before the Brewers crossed the vaccination threshold, players’ movements were more restricted on the road and a more stringent masking policy was in place. Now, those policies are relaxed, and having additional freedom to move about, Woodruff said, “keeps you sane a little bit.”

“Honestly, it probably felt more strange more than good yesterday to not have a mask on during the game,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “During the game, it’s nice for the dugout. There are some smaller things, but that’s the big one for us that comes with 85 percent. It’s a nice little perk now that we get to enjoy and feel a little bit more normal in the dugout."

Mathias out for the year
After attempting a non-surgical comeback from a torn labrum at the front of his throwing shoulder, Brewers utility man announced via social media that he underwent surgery this week that will sideline him for the remainder of 2021. 

“The surgery was successful. I am not going to back down from the challenge of coming back from one of the toughest injuries baseball has to offer,” wrote Mathias, who underwent surgery for a labrum tear at the back of the same shoulder when he was in college.

The Brewers did not announce the development, but Counsell acknowledged that Mathias would not be an option for the team this season. He came into the year as a strong candidate to help on the infield and in the outfield throughout the season, since he has Minor League options remaining. 

“He did his best and tried as hard as he could to avoid this, gave himself essentially six weeks to try to avoid it,” Counsell said. “But I think it told him, 'You can’t play like this.' The shoulder just wasn’t going to hold up. So, he got it repaired and stabilized.

“Look, [shoulders] are always tough. Mark will grind through it. He’ll do everything possible in rehab. That’s how he’s wired and how he’s built.”

Last call
• Left-hander Brett Anderson, on the 10-day injured list with a left leg injury, threw a “multi-inning” side session on Tuesday during which he took a break after 15-20 pitches, then resumed throwing. He still has some running tests to pass in the coming days, Counsell said, so Anderson won’t rejoin the Brewers’ starting rotation until next week at the earliest. The Brewers have an open date in their rotation on Friday in Miami, which remains TBD for now.

• Counsell said the Brewers would not be able to share any updates about a timetable for right-hander Corbin Burnes until Saturday or Sunday at the earliest, another signal that Burnes’ assignment to the injured list could be related to COVID-19. Players who test positive must quarantine for 10 days by rule. Burnes was placed on the IL last Thursday.

• Josh Lindblom (right knee) came through his two scoreless innings for Triple-A Nashville on Tuesday without incident and is scheduled to continue his rehab assignment with a more extended outing for the Sounds this weekend.

• Utility infielder Daniel Robertson (concussion) had improved to the point that he was scheduled for a more stringent workout on the field prior to Wednesday’s game against the Phillies, a good sign that he is nearing a return. Ditto catcher Manny Piña, who continues to move around better after fracturing his right big toe, and is eligible to come off the 10-day injured list beginning Friday.

• Catcher and No. 5 prospect Mario Feliciano, fresh off a one-game Major League debut with the Brewers last week, homered and tallied two hits in his Triple-A Nashville debut on Tuesday, an 8-6 loss at Toledo.