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Barnes bidding for prominent bullpen role

Reliever hopes to spend full year in Majors; Nelson nears spring debut
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

PHOENIX -- The spring debut that stood out for the Brewers on Wednesday did not belong to free-agent acquisition Neftali Feliz, but to Jacob Barnes, the right-handed reliever entering what he hopes is his first full season in the Major Leagues.

Pitching against the Reds at Maryvale Baseball Park, Barnes struck out a batter and worked around a base hit in his first appearance in the Cactus League. The 26-year made it to the Majors last year and posted a 2.70 ERA in 27 games.

PHOENIX -- The spring debut that stood out for the Brewers on Wednesday did not belong to free-agent acquisition Neftali Feliz, but to Jacob Barnes, the right-handed reliever entering what he hopes is his first full season in the Major Leagues.

Pitching against the Reds at Maryvale Baseball Park, Barnes struck out a batter and worked around a base hit in his first appearance in the Cactus League. The 26-year made it to the Majors last year and posted a 2.70 ERA in 27 games.

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"He didn't get a lot of innings under his belt, but he got a taste of success," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "That's a big thing. He knows he can get big league hitters out, and now the next step is proving you belong here, proving you can be a full-time, functioning member. Bounce back, handle the rigors of seasons. That's what's next for him.

"There's a point for these guys where they say, 'OK, my stuff works. I can do this.' I think he got past that hurdle."

Video: MIL@COL: Barnes notches first career save to seal win

Even before the Brewers signed Feliz on Jan. 19, Barnes was among the candidates to serve as the team's closer. The Brewers had a need in that area after trading Jeremy Jeffress and Will Smith last season, then Tyler Thornburg in December.

Feliz also pitched Wednesday and surrendered a run on two hits in one inning. Cincinnati's Scott Schebler greeted him with a single before scoring on Eugenio Suarez's double, tying the game at 2-2. The Brewers won, 3-2, on a walk-off single.

"I thought [Feliz] did fine," Counsell said. "It took a couple of pitches to get his fastball. He missed up a little bit with his fastball."

Nelson nearing spring debut

Why hasn't Jimmy Nelson appeared among the Brewers' starting pitching probables? It's not because of any physical issues, Counsell said. Because Nelson opted to throw an extra live batting practice session, his Cactus League debut fell several days later than other pitchers and will span two innings, Counsell said.

Video: McCalvy on Davies, Nelson in 2017

Nelson is slated to pitch those innings Friday against the Angels, following starter Junior Guerra.

"He's coming up soon," Counsell said. "He's just the last one on the swing-through."

Williams making progress

Pitching prospect Taylor Williams, who has taken a different path this spring because he spent most of last year recovering from Tommy John surgery, probably won't pitch in Cactus League games. But Williams has been throwing live batting practice and is feeling well, Counsell said.

Williams is expected to begin the season in the Minor Leagues.

"The goal is not big league Spring Training games," Counsell said. "Opening Day, that's his goal."

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Milwaukee Brewers, Jacob Barnes