Counsell non-committal on No. 5 starter

Vogelbach not fazed by lack of DH in National League this season

March 22nd, 2021

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Will it be or as the Brewers’ No. 5 starter to open the season? Manager Craig Counsell said the question is somewhat semantic.

“No matter what we decide there,” Counsell said, “I would assure that by the end of April, [both are] starting games.”

Counsell has already announced Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes will start the first two games of the regular season, and while he wasn’t ready to make any announcements on Monday morning -- “Fantasy baseballers can wait,” Counsell said -- the Brewers have had Adrian Houser lined up next, followed by Brett Anderson pitching the day after that, and Lindblom and Peralta each starting games the day after that. The latter duo has been alternating assignments with each outing, one starting Milwaukee's Cactus League game while the other pitches a "B" game or an intrasquad game to continue building pitch counts.

Lindblom had the "B" game this time around, throwing 78 pitches in five innings Sunday against the Dodgers while allowing six runs (five earned) on five hits including four home runs. He walked two, struck out three and salvaged a rather difficult day with three cleaner innings at the end of his outing -- and by lining a single over the head of opposing starter (and close friend) Clayton Kershaw.

Peralta, meanwhile, held the Mariners to one run on five hits in 4 2/3 innings of the Cactus League game, with one walk and five strikeouts.

Tiny sample alert, but Peralta has the edge if spring numbers count. In three Cactus League outings spanning 8 1/3 innings, he’s allowed one run on eight hits with three walks and 15 strikeouts. Lindblom has allowed seven runs (five earned) on eight hits in 9 2/3 innings over four Catcus League games.

“We’ve had some discussions early in spring, and I’ll default to Craig on what he’s going to decide,” Lindblom said. “The conversations that we’ve had are just that I want to help this team win. Whether that’s starting, whether that’s relieving, I think I’m going to be in position because I’m one of the very few guys that has been extended out workload-wise. I threw 190 innings in Korea two years ago. I threw 180 the year before. I threw 170. I threw 200. So I’m one of the few guys that has been extended out.

“My kind of message to [Counsell and pitching coach Chris Hook] is just, 'I’ll let you know when I’m tired and when I need a break.' I know that I’m going to have to shoulder a big workload because we’ve got three times the number of innings [than in 2020], and that’s something I know that I can do. So whether that’s starting and throwing three innings, whether that’s coming out of the bullpen and throwing three innings, as long as I can help us win, that’s what’s important.”

Peralta is taking a similarly flexible approach. He’s had much more success so far in his career as a reliever (3.59 ERA, 13.2 strikeouts per nine in 80 1/3 innings) than as a starter (5.45 ERA, 11.2 strikeouts per nine in 112 1/3 innings), but his preference is to start, and he’s been continuing to hone a slider that should help him deliver length as a three-pitch pitcher.

“I’m still preparing as a starting pitcher,” Peralta said. “We are really close [to the season], but I don’t know yet what’s going to happen. What I know is I’m ready to be a starter.”

No DH? No sweat, says Vogelbach
The reality that there won’t be a designated hitter in the National League impacted Daniel Vogelbach more than any player in Brewers camp -- and arguably any player in any camp. But you won’t convince Vogelbach of that based on what he said Monday morning.

“If I’m being 100% honest, I haven’t even thought about it,” Vogelbach said. “It’s just something that I can’t really control, and if I start worrying about stuff I can’t control, then I lose focus on what I can control and this spring wouldn’t have been any good at all, and it would have just spiraled.

“I try not to look at it that way at all. I think you could also say that a DH gets another outfielder in the lineup some days. I’m coming every day -- and DH, no DH -- doing what I can to help the team win. I believe if there’s a DH or not a DH, I can help the team.”

Milwaukee does not love the idea of playing Vogelbach at first base -- “Everyone understands that Daniel’s best position is ‘hitter,’” president of baseball operations David Stearns said Sunday -- but that’s where he would have to play if he makes the roster. Vogelbach is out of Minor League options. He started at first base in Monday's 6-3 win over the Indians, going 1-for-2 with a two-run homer and a walk.

“As much as anything, [the DH rule offers] another hitter in the lineup, and he’s a good hitter,” Counsell said. “It’s definitely a place to get him in. You’d see Christian [Yelich] there a lot as well, which makes sense for the way our outfield lines up. But these are the rules. It’s a National League game again. There’s good in that for us. Obviously, this is a player [Vogelbach] it’s not great for, so we’ll have to figure that out.”

Last call
• Opening Day starter Brandon Woodruff was scheduled for only five innings in Monday’s win over Cleveland, but his pitch count was so low that he wound up pitching the sixth. Woodruff allowed two runs on five hits, including a Franmil Reyes home run, in what Woodruff called a good test against a tough, lefty-heavy lineup.

“I started out really slow," Woodruff said. “I didn’t think I was too crisp, then I found something in the fourth inning warming up, and something just kind of clicked. Everything was pretty sharp [afterward].”

• Counsell had postgame praise for Tyrone Taylor, who hit one of the Brewers’ three two-run homers against Cleveland (Avisaíl García and Vogelbach hit the others). Taylor is 10-for-33 with a pair of homers in Cactus League games.

“He’s much stronger. There’s some confidence to him, for sure,” Counsell said. “He’s playing really well. He’s taken a step forward. Of the players who [have taken] a noticeable step forward, I would put Tyrone really close to the top of that list. He’s putting himself in the category of, ‘This is a Major League outfielder’ -- and that’s a good thing.”

• Daniel Robertson returned to the Brewers’ lineup on Monday for the first time since tweaking a knee on Friday against the D-backs. He’s out of options and looks like a lock to make the team as a utility man, provided he’s healthy.

• Ray Black faced hitters Monday morning in batting practice, throwing 93-96 mph according to one radar gun. Black hurt his right elbow pitching against the Rockies on March 5. He’s another out-of-options player in camp.

• Yet another player out of Minor League options, Jacob Nottingham, who is coming off left thumb surgery in December, has been piling up at-bats in recent days as a mid-game DH, but he still hasn't been cleared to catch. He’s looking more and more like a candidate to start the season on the injured list.

"Maybe not 100% yet, but that's probably where it's headed," Stearns said. "The challenge is that, with this injury, catching is going to go a little bit slower. As we've seen, he's able to swing the bat, he's able to grip the bat and we're going to begin to work him into some catching drills and see how those go and how the thumb reacts."