Notes: Cain's return; Lindblom's outing

March 3rd, 2021

PHOENIX, Ariz. -- Kolten Wong and Christian Yelich made their spring debuts in Tuesday’s exhibition home opener against the A’s at American Family Fields of Phoenix, leaving only among the Brewers’ regulars yet to get into a Cactus League game.

The Brewers will take it slow this spring with Cain, who elected not to play in 2020 over concerns about the coronavirus and a desire to reconnect with his religious faith.

“With Lorenzo, I’m going to give him definitely through this week, so post off-day [the Brewers have an open date Sunday] is what we’re thinking with that,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “Just watching him [Monday], I thought he was pretty intense with the way he ran around. I also think we’re trying to let him be intense a couple days then back off. That’s the best way to get him to a good place. We’re going to stick to that plan through this week.”

Cain is healthy, Counsell said. But the club is cognizant of the challenges he faces as a veteran player ramping up after a year away, especially since his training options were limited at home in Oklahoma due to coronavirus restrictions.

The player himself acknowledged the issue at the start of camp, when he said, “I know it’s not going to be easy. I know it’s going to be tough. Taking a year off from anything, it’s tough to get back in the swing of things. But I’m up for the challenge. I’m already putting in the work, swing every day, out there running, catching fly balls.

“I think I’ve looked a lot better than people probably thought I would early in camp. It’s about continuing to do that as well as progressing to live pitching. That’s the biggest thing, seeing guys throw 95 [mph] again is going to be the biggest challenge. But, like I said, I’m up for it. I think I’ll be just fine.”

As for Wong (0-for-1 and hit by a pitch) and Yelich (1-for-2 with a double down the right-field line), the Brewers’ general plan is to play the regulars every other day over the next 10 or days, then back off a bit in the middle of camp before ramping back up into the regular season.

Yelich made loud contact in both of his first two plate appearances of the spring, lofting a fly ball to deep-ish center field in the first inning and pulling a double down the right-field line in the fourth before he was replaced by pinch-runner Tyrone Taylor.

The lone Brewer to play all seven innings of the 2-1 loss to the A’s was Orlando Arcia, who manned third base for the first time and handled the position cleanly. Arcia has been the Brewers’ Opening Day shortstop each of the past four seasons, but the club wants to see Luis Urías at that position in the Cactus League, so Arcia will move around.

Crowd sourcing
Players have welcomed the return of real, live fans to the stands this spring after playing in front of cardboard cutouts in 2020. But Brewers pitcher mentioned something Tuesday that no one else had brought up: There are moments in which the stadium is actually quieter than it was last year when the seats were empty.

“You kind of had that dull hum, like, the entire game,” said Lindblom, referring to the artificial fan noise pumped through sound systems in '20. “It was like a sound machine last year -- you kind of tuned it out. I'm very excited fans are back in the stands, but it was weird not having crowd noise after playing 60 games with it last year."

Lindblom, who spent the winter working to maximize the spin efficiency of his fastball, was charged with one run on one hit, two hit batsmen and a wild pitch in his 2021 debut against the A’s. He had a 5.16 ERA last season in 10 starts and two relief appearances after signing a three-year deal with the Brewers coming off some big seasons pitching in South Korea.

“What Josh and I talked about it, it's interesting, really, the hard things to do in the game are the things that he did really well [in 2020], and maybe some of the things that he has been good at in his career are the things that he struggled at a little bit,” Counsell said. “You know, he struck out batters at a clip [10.3 per nine innings] that is really good. But the misses at times and the falling behind in counts was an issue at times also, which is -- he's always been a real good strike-thrower.

“So, it's a little bit odd from that perspective. He's never been a big strikeout guy and he had good strikeout numbers. And he hasn't really struggled falling behind -- he got into bad counts, I think, when he struggled in games, and that really hasn't [traditionally] been an issue for him. So, I like it. The hard thing is the strikeouts, really. And we're hoping for him a year of knowing what to expect.”

Last call
• Brandon Woodruff was back on a mound to throw a bullpen on Tuesday after being set back several days by a stiff back, and it went off without a hitch. Barring a setback overnight, he is trending toward a start by Thursday or Friday, either in a Cactus League contest or in a camp game.

• Fox Sports Wisconsin is adding two games to its spring schedule, bringing the total to 14 Spring Training games scheduled for TV. The additions are March 22 at the Indians (originally scheduled as a webcast) and March 30 at the Rangers in Arlington, which was not originally scheduled for broadcast. The Rangers game will be a simulcast of the Fox Sports Southwest telecast.