PHOENIX -- Early returns on Ryan Braun's work at first base have been positive, said Brewers manager Craig Counsell, who plans to give Braun a few more practice days before slotting him into a Cactus League game next week."The actions look right. I guess that's the big thing we've heard
PHOENIX -- Early returns on Ryan Braun's work at first base have been positive, said Brewers manager Craig Counsell, who plans to give Braun a few more practice days before slotting him into a Cactus League game next week.
"The actions look right. I guess that's the big thing we've heard from coaches who haven't ever seen him take ground balls," Counsell said.
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Braun typically doesn't play much in Spring Training, but that is likely to change this year as he adds first base to his repertoire. The increased versatility could help free at-bats in the outfield, where the Brewers added Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich to a group that already had Braun and Domingo Santana.
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The schedule doesn't offer many clues as to when Braun might make his first-base debut. The Brewers are home at Maryvale Baseball Park on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday of next week. "We have to get through the unknowns and it's best for him to get through the unknowns," Counsell said. "There will be some. There are any time you tackle a new position. First base is a position with a lot of unique responsibilities. There's more instinctual plays and thinking plays than moving to the outfield, where what's going to be in front of you is really pretty standard.
"I actually think it's an advantage for Ryan because I think he'll be able to handle that really fast, but I think you have to go through it."
Cain went 2-for-2 in a 6-5 Brewers win over the Giants in Scottsdale, and Yelich went 1-for-3 in a 2-1 win against the Cubs at Maryvale Baseball Park as the Brewers opened Cactus League play with a pair of split-squad victories on a chilly Friday afternoon.
"I think those guys wanted to get on the field and get this over with," said Counsell of the Brewers' most notable newcomers. "They're probably the most happy that today is over so they can move on to some different news stories."
Said Cain: "The main goal is the same: Just get ready for the season. Whatever happens in spring happens in spring; whether you hit .400 or .200, your main goal is to make sure you're completely healthy for the season, because that's when the real grind starts."
The games also marked the start of a race for two open spots in the Brewers' starting rotation. Three of the six candidates pitched Friday and delivered a scoreless inning apiece -- Brent Suter and Junior Guerra against the Cubs, and Aaron Wilkerson against the Giants.
"It definitely felt good to get back out there," Suter said. "I'll be honest, the offspeed didn't feel great off the hand. I could definitely tell it was early Spring Training and not everything was clicking quite yet. I was telling Braun and some of the other guys, it's almost as much mental getting back into shape as it is physical."
Ohtani on tap
It will be a full house at Tempe Diablo Stadium on Saturday, when Jonathan Villar takes the first cuts against Angels import Shohei Ohtani, the two-way Japanese star expected to pitch two innings in his unofficial U.S. debut. Chase Anderson, a potential Opening Day pick, will start for Milwaukee.
FS Wisconsin will pick up the Angels television broadcast of the 2:05 p.m. CT game, which is also available to MLB.TV subscribers. Bob Uecker and Jeff Levering have the call on the Brewers Radio Network.
"I'll take atmosphere every time. We're going into a fun atmosphere," Counsell said. "I think the players will tell you the same thing. Any time we can go into a fun atmosphere, we're excited for it."
It's too early to draw conclusions about the Brewers' plans for the regular season, but including Friday's openers, here is a look at how the candidates for Milwaukee's starting rotation are lined up at the moment:
Friday: Suter and Guerra vs. Cubs, Wilkerson at Giants
Saturday: Anderson and Brandon Woodruff at Angels
Sunday: Jhoulys Chacin, Yovani Gallardo and Wade Miley at D-backs
The only pitcher who did not yet know his assignment was Zach Davies, who expects to throw a live batting-practice session Sunday. He was not sure if the next step after that was a game.
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.