Notes: SS battle; Mathias' injury; Camp cuts

March 16th, 2021

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Brewers’ shortstop competition is back on.

The club came to camp hoping to see if could wrest the position away from , the Opening Day shortstop four years running, only to have more misfortune for Urías get in the way. After missing last year’s Spring Training with a broken left hand and missing Summer Camp after contracting COVID-19, Urías was sidelined eight days this spring by a strained left hamstring. But he returned to the lineup on Sunday against the Royals and was back in action Tuesday against the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch, smacking the second of back-to-back Brewers home runs off Clayton Kershaw to start the game in Milwaukee's 7-2 win.

“I’m good right now. Feeling good,” Urías said earlier in the day. “At the end, it’s part of the game. That stuff is going to happen. It can happen with your legs, arm, whatever. It’s part of the game, and you’ve got to keep a good mindset and get back to the game.”

Doesn’t he feel snake-bitten since coming to the Brewers?

“I don’t want to see it that way,” Urías said. “I’m trying to be focused on what I can do and what I can control.”

It remains to be seen whether Milwaukee actually intends to make Urías the primary shortstop, or if the club is trying to light a fire under Arcia, who has proven to be at his best when the stakes are highest (see: .879 career postseason OPS). The Brewers acquired Urías, along with left-hander Eric Lauer, from the Padres just before Thanksgiving in 2019 in exchange for outfielder Trent Grisham and pitcher Zach Davies.

After recovering from COVID-19, Urías slashed .239/.308/.294 in 120 plate appearances last season while bouncing around the infield. Arcia slashed .260/.317/.416 in 189 plate appearances.

“Luis is kind of the guy we're trying to find out about,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “Unfortunately, just because of the injuries, he hasn't played a ton in the spring. But also, we know that he's a young player who's still improving, and you have to be out there to get that, right? You're not going to get that [if Urías is] not playing. We've got to get Luis out there to see that.”

Urías' four productive at-bats (he went 2-for-4 with a pair of runs scored) came on a day when the Brewers hit four home runs off Kershaw and Trevor Bauer. Catcher Luke Maile and infielder Zach Green were the hitters who went deep against Bauer, the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner.

Mathias mulling treatment options
The Brewers placed utility player Mark Mathias on the 60-day disabled list Tuesday to make room on the 40-man roster for Travis Shaw, and in the process, revealed a diagnosis for Mathias’ right shoulder injury: a torn labrum. Mathias, who had surgery for a labral tear in the front portion of the same shoulder in 2014, said this tear is in the back of the joint, and he was awaiting a second opinion about whether the injury requires surgery.

“I’m trying my best to go the non-surgical route as much as possible,” Mathias said.

If he goes the non-surgical route, Mathias expects a rehabilitation of three to four months “at the least.” It’s a tough blow for a player who helped all over the field in 2020 and had a good chance to do so again at some point in '21.

“It’s frustrating,” Mathias said. “Nobody ever wants to be on the shelf but it’s something I’ve dealt with in my career before. In 2017, I dislocated my left shoulder twice and overcame it. So adversity is something I’m familiar with in my career and I’m up for the challenge. I think, mentally, I can overcome this. I’m very positive in my faith and I’m hoping I’ll look back on this experience and it’ll make me a better player and better person.”

Mathias joins fellow utility man Tim Lopes (right oblique) on the 60-day IL. Counsell said right-handed reliever Bobby Wahl (right oblique) would also have to start on the IL after sustaining the injury Monday against the Padres.

More camp cuts
Milwaukee optioned right-hander Phil Bickford to Triple-A Nashville and reassigned six non-roster invitees to Minor League camp: outfielder Dylan Cozens, infielder Zach Green, catcher Payton Henry, utility man Pablo Reyes, left-hander Aaron Ashby and right-hander Zack Brown. Those players -- particularly the position players -- will continue to appear in Cactus League games.

Particularly impressive has been Reyes, who will continue to play extensively for the Brewers this spring.

“He’s played really well so far, for sure,” Counsell said. “He’s shown versatility. And with the injuries to Lopes and Mathias, a guy like Pablo Reyes’ situation improves. He’s definitely, I think -- through his play and through some injuries -- definitely moved his way up pretty quickly. For a guy who’s obviously a new player, he’s made a great first impression.”

Last call
• Why was Christian Yelich a healthy scratch on Monday against the Padres? Counsell said Yelich had one of his marathon pregame hitting sessions that day and Counsell saw no reason to add to Yelich’s fatigue with at-bats in a game. Yelich also reported a bit of back stiffness after the hitting session, though it was nothing that would sideline him during the regular season, according to Counsell.

• Manny Piña’s back and neck were a little sore Tuesday following a collision at home plate on Monday, but he’s expected back in the lineup on Thursday when the Brewers return from an off-day.

• Freddy Peralta threw 66 pitches in a "B" game against the D-backs on Tuesday as he continues to stretch out as an option to start games for Milwaukee.

• After observing for much of this spring as a member of Milwaukee’s Minor League minicamp, 17-year-old outfield prospect Hedbert Perez (the Brewers' No. 3 prospect, per MLB Pipeline) saw his first game action on Tuesday. He played the final three innings in left field and picked up an at-bat against Bauer, striking out on three pitches.

“I’m sure he was [excited],” Counsell said. “He’s got a great attitude. He’s always smiling and enjoying himself every day.”