Counsell excited to open first camp as skipper

February 19th, 2016

PHOENIX -- Craig Counsell's first Spring Training as a Major League manager happens to coincide with a Presidential election, but he didn't plan any stump speeches.

"I'm not a politician. I'm not going to spout my 'way,'" Counsell said in the run-up to Friday, when pitchers and catchers reported to Maryvale Baseball Park. "That will become evident, I think."

Friday's report date marked a ceremonial start to the 47th season of Milwaukee Brewers baseball. will have it covered from the first warm-up toss to the final exhibition pitch, leading up to an April 4 season opener against the Giants at Miller Park.

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Along the way, there are new coaches to meet and players to watch. There are positions to be won (third base and center field), a starting rotation and lineup to order, and a bullpen to fill out.

All spring, Counsell will put his mark on a team that has undergone a transformation in the past calendar year, from one that expected to contend for a division crown to one in the midst of a full-blown rebuild under a new general manager, David Stearns.

"The priority is that we leave with a sense of who we are," Counsell said. "The fun and the competition created from Spring Training can help boost us during the season. We need to prepare and improve, and we need to continue that all season.

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"I think the number of spots up for grabs has been exaggerated, but I think one of the fun and challenging things about this camp is that we just have a lot of new faces, period."

Those newcomers are courtesy of Stearns, who celebrated his 31st birthday on Thursday amid a quiet final week of the offseason. Since taking over in October, Stearns has made nine trades, five waiver claims, two Rule 5 Draft picks and one Major League free agent signing, netting 24 players in all.

Now, those players are on Counsell's watch.

"I think Craig is perfectly comfortable," Stearns said. "He knows what it takes to do this job, he knows what it takes to do this job successfully. I think he's really excited to have his first full Spring Training to lay out his agenda, lay out his strategy. So it's going to be fun for me to watch it, fun for me to be there my first Spring Training in Maryvale. I'm looking forward to it."

Counsell has been in Phoenix all week, as have many players. Catcher Jonathan Lucroy, one of the remaining veterans still on the trading block, was among those early reports. So was the newest member of the organization, catching prospect Jacob Nottingham, who was acquired along with pitching prospect Bubba Derby just last week in a trade with the A's.

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Counsell intends to implement some new concepts this spring related to preparation and teamwork. He had a four-month head start on some of those matters last season after taking over for Ron Roenicke.

"The biggest change for me is taking a roster of 25, and now it's [57]," Counsell said, referring to the number of players in camp. "That just requires a lot of planning to make sure you get everybody their work."

As a player, even a veteran, Counsell enjoyed Spring Training, he said.

"It's a chance to start brand new," he said. "There's such possibilities at the beginning. That's exciting for everybody."