'Jackie's the best option:' Crew waits on JBJ

June 16th, 2021

MILWAUKEE -- As long as Jackie Bradley Jr. keeps playing his high-quality brand of defense, Brewers manager Craig Counsell said the club will wait patiently for the veteran center fielder to produce at the plate.

The Brewers had hoped June would be Bradley’s breakout month, as it has been throughout his career. But it hadn’t happened as of Tuesday afternoon. Bradley entered the day with a wRC+ of 67 in June, and he was slashing .188/.278/.313 in his first 36 plate appearances for the month.

"Jackie's struggled offensively and he hasn't been able to get out of it. I still think he's helping us win because I still think he's playing defense and playing a plus defense,” Counsell said. “We've seen it the last two weeks of playing against other teams, the differences a center fielder makes. Those are doubles and triples and runs, essentially, on plays that he makes. We're also in a situation where, at this point, Jackie's the best option.

“But he's struggling. He's struggling offensively and we do need to be better offensively. He's frustrated, there's no question about it. He's better than this, there's no question about that. But we just haven't been able to help him get going, and that's frustrating on our end.”

Is it getting to Bradley?

“Of course it's getting to him,” Counsell said. “Nobody likes to -- you want to be yourself. You want to perform like yourself. And when you're not doing what you expect of yourself, it's frustrating. So how that's processed is -- it's processed in frustration. But he's playing great defense and that's what I see. If I ever saw that be different, I would be concerned. As long as I see the defensive magic that he does every single night, I'm not concerned because of that. I think he's still adding and helping us win games.”

Brewers on new procedures

“Good players are going to be good players,” Counsell said Tuesday after Major League Baseball announced it will step up enforcement of the rules prohibiting applying foreign substances to baseballs.

“I think you will suppose that it is obvious,” Counsell said. “But no, I do not think it's going to be that obvious. I think there's going to be an adjustment period and then it will all kind of go back to normal.”

MLB informed clubs in a memo that beginning Monday, umpires will enhance their enforcement of Rule 3.01, including periodic checks of pitchers during games. Starting pitchers will be inspected multiple times per outing, typically between innings to avoid delaying the game.

Brewers officials, including Counsell, had a conference call Tuesday to discuss the protocols and will relay the information to players in the coming days. Players have been talking about the coming enforcement for some weeks, including in a group text led by their lead representative to the Players Association, Brent Suter.

“I just know personally, it’s one of those things: If it helps move the game forward in the direction of competitive integrity, I’m for it,” Suter said. “If they felt they had enough evidence of guys crossing the line with it, for the betterment of the game’s sake, it’s one of those things that seems to be necessary. I can’t speak for the whole union. That’s just my personal opinion.”

How will Suter react the first time an umpire asks to do a check as he walks off the mound?

“We were joking about that. Is it going to be like an airport screening?” Suter said. “I’m sure it will be glove check, hat check, all that stuff. It will be weird, for sure. It’s going to be the new normal, if you will. That’s part of making new adjustments in this game. We’ve had plenty of adjustments here with the COVID era, so this is just another one to make the adjustments on and try to move the game forward.”

The Brewers are fueled by their high-quality pitchers, led by their star trio of starters Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta. Burnes ranks in MLB’s 100th percentile of average spin rate on his fastball -- 2,793 revolutions per minute, second in the Majors this season to only the Dodgers’ Trevor Bauer. Peralta is in the 74th percentile in terms of average fastball spin and Woodruff is in the 63rd percentile.

“All I can say about those is, we just have to follow the rules,” Peralta said Tuesday. “If you follow the rules, you don't have to be worried about anything. You just pitch and that's it.”

The Brewers begin a three-game series at Arizona on Monday when the procedures go into effect.

"Look, this is meant, as best they can, to kind of eliminate something that the league has felt has become a problem and to level the playing field as much as they possibly could,” Counsell said. “So we'll see how it goes. No big deal, to be honest with you. I mean, we'll figure it out and move forward like we always do.

“The game seems to always figure out how to do that. We get excited about it. Then we move forward, figure it out. And then we come up with something else to be worried about."