NL ROY Williams in line to debut Saturday

March 18th, 2021

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Lorenzo Cain isn’t the only Brewers mainstay ready to get to work on Saturday night at Goodyear Ballpark.

Besides Cain returning to action from a quadriceps injury, Brewers reliever and National League Rookie of the Year is scheduled to pitch his first Cactus League inning in the Brewers’ night game against the Reds, manager Craig Counsell said Thursday. The Brewers have been careful with Williams this spring after his 2020 season ended early due to a right rotator cuff injury.

“He threw another ‘live’ on Tuesday,” Counsell, referring to a round of live batting practice against Brewers hitters, said. “I think he threw 30 pitches, so we pushed him pretty good. He’s ready for game action. He’s on a normal schedule that other relievers are on.”

The Brewers’ bullpen is built around left-hander Josh Hader and right-hander Williams, who have combined to win the last three NL Reliever of the Year Awards. Williams had a breakthrough season in '20, when he allowed one earned run in 27 innings and struck out 53 of the 100 hitters he faced in MLB’s shortened season, featuring a changeup so uniquely nasty it earned its own nickname: The Airbender.

But he developed discomfort in his shoulder during the Brewers’ final regular-season series in St. Louis and missed the NL Wild Card Series against the Dodgers. Since Williams, Hader and other late-inning relievers do not require the same buildup as starters, the Brewers have taken great care to prepare him for Cactus League games this year.

Even though his debut comes with 11 exhibition games left on the Brewers’ schedule, Williams is expected to be ready for Opening Day.

“Physically, there’s nothing really going on. He’s normal,” Counsell said. “Now, it’s just foundation and getting innings under your belt in a normal schedule. Getting up and getting ready fast. That’s what part of the switch to games means for pitchers, relievers specifically. He’s ready to do it.”

Appleton returns as alternate training site
With Minor League seasons not getting underway until early May, the Class A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers will once again host an alternate training site outside Appleton, Wis. beginning April 12, and this time, there might be fans in the stands.

The Timber Rattlers said they are working with the Brewers’ player development department and MLB on conditions that would allow fans to attend workouts and intrasquad scrimmages and would announce the outcome of those discussions as soon as they are resolved.

“We truly value our relationship with the Brewers, and we appreciate their confidence in our staff and facility to accommodate their needs,” Timber Rattlers president Rob Zerjav said. “What really makes this special is the ability to allow fans back into the stadium to watch baseball and this opportunity will probably be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to watch Triple-A baseball in northeastern Wisconsin.”

The alternate training site roster will largely be comprised of players bound for Triple-A Nashville, and will be announced soon after Milwaukee’s Major League Opening Day roster is finalized.

A number of those players grinded through the summer in Appleton last year. Now, they will face a new challenge: Cold weather in April.

“I think it's going to be a shellshock for a lot of guys,” reliever and Wisconsin native J.P. Feyereisen, who knows all about playing baseball in the cold, said. “For me, it's going to be like, 'Well, this is normal college baseball at Stevens Point.' … Obviously, if it snows and covers the field, I'm sure that we'll find a way to find a gym somewhere inside that we can go throw, just to make sure everyone is staying loose.”

Those extra players won’t have to worry about snow during the two-week period between the end of Spring Training and the opening of the alternate training site. They will be in Milwaukee working out at the domed American Family Field during that period, Counsell said.

Last call
• Keston Hiura remains a work in progress at first base, where he missed a pickoff attempt from pitcher Corbin Burnes and couldn’t scoop a one-hop throw from shortstop Luis Urías in Thursday’s 3-2 loss at the Angels.

“I’ll have to work with Keston a little bit more on the pickoffs,” Burnes said. “He was actually saying before the game that this was the first time he was playing first with me on the mound, so he wanted a couple pickoffs today. So, I was able to get 4-5 over there to him. I think I tied him up with a couple balls over there, and then threw one that cut on him and got up the line. Hopefully that’s something we can work on a little bit more.”

• The Brewers announced Thursday that American Family Field had received GBAC STAR facility accreditation from the Global Biorisk Advisory Council, which the team called “the gold standard with respect to the cleaning industry’s only outbreak prevention, response and recovery accreditation for facilities.” In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the GBAC STAR accreditation program certifies that facilities have established the proper cleaning protocols, disinfection techniques and work practices to combat biohazards and infectious disease. The Brewers are opening the season with 25 percent capacity at regular-season home games.