'Eye-popping' core has Crew off to hot start

Brewers win first four behind mainstay Yelich, upstarts Turang and Chourio

April 3rd, 2024

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers’ starting rotation is “a work in progress,” as manager Pat Murphy put it prior to Tuesday’s home opener. The position player group outside of veterans and Rhys Hoskins is young, younger and youngest. But the expectation, as Yelich sees it going into his seventh season in Milwaukee, is the same.


So far, that’s all they’ve been doing. Yelich homered and rookie Jackson Chourio singled home a run in his debut at-bat at American Family Field in a 3-2 win over the Twins that boosted the Brewers to a perfect 4-0 for the fourth time in franchise history.

“Every season, we always hear the noise about what are the Brewers going to be? What's the season going to look like? Are you rebuilding or are you competing?” Yelich said. “I think we're always trying to win. I think that's kind of been established over the years.”

Of the 15 teams in the National League, only the Dodgers, Braves and Cardinals have won more regular-season games than the Brewers in the 20 seasons since Mark Attanasio bought the team. The Brewers have made the postseason five of the last six years and will try to keep those winning ways going while asking a lot of an excellent bullpen and transitioning to a young crop of hitters led by Chourio.

It’s been a winning formula so far. Slowed by a “scratchy” shoulder in Spring Training, Brewers starter Jakob Junis held Minnesota to one run over four promising innings in what was a planned short start (47 pitches) in his Milwaukee debut, backed by RBIs from Chourio and second-year second baseman Brice Turang. Four relievers covered the final five innings without surrendering an earned run, capped by 23-year-old closer Abner Uribe earning his third save with electric fastballs and athletic defense on the back end of a double play.

“Right now, I think baseball is for young guys,” Uribe said. “You see young guys everywhere.”

For the Brewers, the young players are producing. Turang, a .218 hitter as a rookie last season, has seven hits in his first 14 at-bats and a Major League-leading six stolen bases. Chourio has six hits in his first 16 at-bats as a big-leaguer, including Tuesday’s cue-shot single off the end of the bat with the bases loaded in the second inning.

Third baseman Oliver Dunn, having played only seven games north of Double-A before this year, is a loud 3-for-10 so far, and made one of the defensive plays of the day on Tuesday when he leaped to his left to snare a line drive in the eighth. Dunn was the last player to make the team out of Spring Training, and said of the past week, “it’s been a total whirlwind, but it’s been awesome.”

“To start 4-0 and win some tight games,” he said, “it’s been super fun.”

It’s also critically important to win those games if the Brewers are to transition to their next wave of talent without slipping into a rebuild, something Attanasio said he takes pride in avoiding. That’s why the Brewers, while they traded ace right-hander Corbin Burnes when the Orioles met the asking price, held on to shortstop Willy Adames going into a contract year when no club made an enticing-enough offer. That decision is paying off in an indirect way; Chourio, the youngest player in MLB this season, cited Adames on Tuesday as his most important influence so far.

“As a whole, the athleticism within the group is eye-popping, really,” said first baseman/designated hitter Rhys Hoskins. “I’m definitely still getting to know these guys as baseball players, and nobody is rooting for anybody to fail, but it’s a big test when these guys go through a little bit of failure like every player does. I’m excited to see what comes from the rest of the year.”

The same goes for Yelich, the Brewers’ mainstay.

“It’s a really young group, so it’s a little different than we’ve had in the past, when we had that core,” Yelich said. “Now you’re starting to get the young guys who are going to be a part of that next one. It’s establishing a culture and the right way to do it. They’re going to be a big part of our success going forward.”

He added, “I think we’ve played well so far. I also think there’s a lot of room for improvement, which is really cool, too.”