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2nd-rounder Gray signs with Crew, meets idol

Outfielder, 18, plays catch alongside Yelich before game
MLB.com

MILWAUKEE -- Joe Gray Jr. signed a contract to play professional baseball on Friday, and when he came to Miller Park, the thing he was most excited for was to meet Brewers left fielder Christian Yelich.

"That's my favorite guy, no offense to anyone else on the team, but that's my guy," said Gray, the Brewers' second-round pick in the 2018 MLB Draft. "When I got to the park, I really wanted to make sure I met Yelich and [Lorenzo] Cain before I left."

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MILWAUKEE -- Joe Gray Jr. signed a contract to play professional baseball on Friday, and when he came to Miller Park, the thing he was most excited for was to meet Brewers left fielder Christian Yelich.

"That's my favorite guy, no offense to anyone else on the team, but that's my guy," said Gray, the Brewers' second-round pick in the 2018 MLB Draft. "When I got to the park, I really wanted to make sure I met Yelich and [Lorenzo] Cain before I left."

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When Gray was playing catch in foul ground on the first-base side of the field before Friday's game between the Cardinals and Brewers, Yelich was right beside him.

On if that was cool, Gray nodded and smiled, "That's, mm-hmm, yeah."

Tweet from @stephen__cohn: Introducing Joe Gray Jr. ��� the #Brewers��� 2nd round pick. pic.twitter.com/cSVIXf3K5N

Gray's goal is to one day be manning the outfield at Miller Park alongside Yelich, but the 18-year-old -- the Brewers' first Draft pick born in the 2000s -- has a way to go.

"I had a little bit of knowledge about the Brewers," Gray said. "It's a phenomenal organization, they're really playing well this year, and I hope I can be a part of that the next few years."

2018 Draft Tracker: Every Brewers pick

The Hattiesburg, Miss., native made the trip to Milwaukee on Friday with his mother, father and younger sister, but he is headed to Arizona to begin his professional career Saturday. He had been committed to Ole Miss to play college baseball. Gray, the 60th overall pick, signed for the full slot value at $1,113,500, according to MLB.com's Jim Callis.

Tweet from @Brewers: #Brewers 2nd round pick @JoJo2Gray took BP at Miller Park for the 1st time today. He also got to wear some pretty sweet threads. #ThisIsMyCrew pic.twitter.com/c66sZvsN8M

At 6-foot-1, 195 pounds, Gray hit .474 with seven home runs and 45 RBIs last season, and comes from the same high school program that has produced five Major Leaguers, including former outfielder Wendell Magee.

"It's always a great day when there's an opportunity for somebody to start their dream," said Brewers scouting director Tod Johnson. "We're happy it came together for us."

Video: Draft 2018: Brewers draft OF Joe Gray No. 60

Before heading off to Maryvale, Gray is just a kid soaking it in and standing next to his idol.

"It's an unreal situation right here," Gray said. "It's what every kid would dream of, and I can't be any happier."

Milwaukee's first-round pick, shortstop Brice Turang, has not signed, but Johnson said the organization is "still working through the process." Ninth-round pick Arbert Cipion also remains unsigned inside the top 10 rounds. The deadline for players to sign is July 6.

Video: STL@MIL: Stearns on Draft picks, team's defense

Barnes continues to attack
Jacob Barnes was a fixture in the Brewers' bullpen a season ago, but he was optioned to Triple-A Colorado Springs on May 12. Since being recalled May 28, he has appeared in nine games and allowed zero runs over 9 1/3 innings.

"Jacob has been really good since he got back," said manager Craig Counsell. "For him it's all about attacking hitters, go after the hitters. When he does that, he always gets good results."

The strikeout numbers are down for Barnes -- he had eight since returning from Triple-A and just one multi-strikeout appearance after having six such outings over his first 10 appearances -- but his ERA is down to 1.91 after reaching 2.84 at the time of the demotion.

"When he's on the attack, making them swing the bat or offering pitches right on the end of the strike zone, he's going to have success," Counsell said.

Amid a stretch of 24 games in 24 days leading into the All-Star break, the Brewers need options in the bullpen, especially because no starter has worked into the eighth inning this season. Brent Suter has lasted seven innings twice in his past two starts, and Jhoulys Chacin finished seven frames once.

Stephen Cohn is a reporter for MLB.com based in Milwaukee. Follow him on Twitter @Stephen__Cohn.

Milwaukee Brewers