PHOENIX -- Brewers infielder Luis Urías said it never felt so good to play catch.
Urías, who had been sidelined from baseball activity since injuring his left hand in winter ball and undergoing surgery for a fractured hamate bone, had a follow-up appointment with the surgeon on Friday and was cleared to begin ramping up for 2020. He played catch Friday afternoon and will progress toward hitting off a tee.
“It went well,” Urías said. “I feel fine. I don’t know when we’re going to start hitting, but it could be today or tomorrow. I’m really happy. It’s good to be out there.”
Said manager Craig Counsell: “He will progress as he gains strength. There’s still a difference in his strength. Really, now by doing a lot of stuff, that’s how you can get the strength back.”
Before Friday, Urías was limited to running the bases and observing the early work of infielders like Keston Hiura, who has been working hard to improve his defense at second base.
Asked how quickly he expects to progress now that he’s back in action, Urías said, “It all depends on how I feel.”
The next check-up appointment is in two weeks, Counsell said. Urías remains on schedule for a six-to-eight-week rehab, meaning the Brewers expect him to be ready for Major League Opening Day.
Jankins goes from instructor to pupil
No player in camp has been on the move more than Minor League pitcher Thomas Jankins, who opened his first big league camp with a locker between catcher Omar Narváez and reliever Alex Claudio along the north wall of American Family Fields of Phoenix’s sprawling Major League clubhouse. When veteran Brock Holt signed and got that spot, Jankins moved to the south wall near the door, next to fellow pitching prospect Drew Rasmussen. When another spot opened on the west wall after the Mariners claimed Taylor Williams off waivers on Friday, Jankins was on the move again.
“Hey, as long as it’s in here and not over there,” said Jankins, pointing toward the Minor League side of the facility, “I’m happy.”
Jankins, 24, is a non-roster invitee with an opportunity to impress Counsell and the Brewers’ coaching staff. Since he’s touched Triple-A in each of the past two years, he’s on the radar to contribute at the big league level should the team find itself in need. The right-hander has been a solid performer in the Minors, with a 3.95 ERA over 449 1/3 career innings.
Like many players, Jankins spent his winter at a baseball facility -- in his case, at home in Massachusetts. He might have spent more time there than most, since Jankins made some spending money by providing pitching instruction to kids from ages 4-18.
“It was easy, because I could work out in the mornings and teach at night,” he said. “It would be easier if you could train all the time and not worry about that, but there are worse jobs. I had private lessons and group clinics. I was taking whatever I could get.
“You actually learn a little bit more about pitching when you’re teaching it. You get so caught up in your own head about mechanical adjustments, but when you’re trying to explain something to someone else, it gives you a little better understanding of things.”
The Brewers plan to ease heavy hitters Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain, Keston Hiura and Ryan Braun into exhibition play, so you won’t see them Sunday when the Padres are at American Family Fields of Phoenix for a 2:05 p.m. CT game. But Narváez is slated to catch as he continues to build a rapport with Brewers pitchers, and position players like Orlando Arcia and Ben Gamel are scheduled to start.
And speaking of heavy hitters, Hall of Fame radio voice Bob Uecker will have the call on the Brewers Radio Network, an unofficial start to his 50th season broadcasting games for his hometown team. It’s his 65th year in pro baseball.