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Dubon 'couldn't sleep' before spring debut

Saladino auditions for utility role; Crew to face Mikolas on Opening Day
@AdamMcCalvy
February 23, 2019

MESA, Ariz. -- Anticipation of Spring Training games does not usually rise to the level of sleepless nights, but Saturday marked an exception for Brewers infield prospect Mauricio Dubon. Dubon, 24, rated Milwaukee’s No. 5 prospect by MLB Pipeline, started at shortstop in the Brewers’ Cactus League opener against the

MESA, Ariz. -- Anticipation of Spring Training games does not usually rise to the level of sleepless nights, but Saturday marked an exception for Brewers infield prospect Mauricio Dubon.

Dubon, 24, rated Milwaukee’s No. 5 prospect by MLB Pipeline, started at shortstop in the Brewers’ Cactus League opener against the Cubs. He went 0-for-3 and converted his only defensive chance in an 8-4 loss to the Cubs, a mundane afternoon until one considers that it marked Dubon’s first game action since tearing his left ACL in a rundown at Oklahoma City on May 5.

“When I saw I was starting … I couldn’t sleep at all,” Dubon said. “It felt like the first day of school. All the work I put in, all the pain that I felt when I was in the rehab, all the suffering I did tearing my ACL, now it’s in the past. It felt like it never happened.”

He found out his wait was almost over on Friday afternoon, when a lineup for the next day was posted in the clubhouse.

It featured fellow top prospects Corey Ray -- who homered, doubled and drove in three runs in a busy debut -- and Jacob Nottingham starting against the Cubs, and big league reserves Manny Piña, Eric Thames, Cory Spangenberg and Tyler Saladino.

“Of anybody, [Dubon] is probably going to enjoy the day the most today,” Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said Saturday morning. “That’s great. It will put a smile on his face. He’s back in action.

“I will tell you, he’s a player we will take care of in the first week of games. He’ll go on a day, off a day.”

Dubon was thrilled to be “on” for Day 1. He is slated to start at shortstop for Triple-A San Antonio in a double-play tandem with second-base prospect Keston Hiura.

“I wanted to start, but it caught me by surprise,” Dubon said. “Right off the bat. It’s like, ‘OK, this will be fun.’ I wanted to play right away and see how it felt. So far, it’s been feeling really good. I’m excited.”

Saladino at second base

Mike Moustakas’ return to Milwaukee via a one-year deal changed the roster math for players like Saladino, who went from a candidate for regular duty at second base to more of a utility role. Saladino, who delivered a pair of hits against Chicago, will play all over the diamond this spring, including in the outfield, and is in a mix with Spangenberg (a left-handed hitter) and fellow righty Hernán Pérez for bench duties. Perez is out of Minor League options, while Saladino and Spangenberg each have one left.

“My favorite spot is any of them, as long as I’m on the field playing in the big leagues,” Saladino said. “If I had to really answer though, I can’t really say one more than the other, because they’re all different.

“Like, second base, you get to turn more double plays. Short, you get to range out. Third, it’s the hot corner. Locking it down over there is it’s own fun.”

And the outfield?

“I had a couple innings out there,” Saladino said. “We’re going to be working on it more, because I don’t have a lot of actual games out there. I’ve been power shagging out there my whole life, though.”

Saladino even has a first baseman’s mitt.

Last call

• The first pitch of the Brewers’ Cactus League season hadn’t even flown before they knew the opponent on Opening Day at Miller Park. The Cardinals announced Saturday that Miles Mikolas will get the ball on March 28. Counsell typically waits until much later in the spring to name Milwaukee’s Opening Day starter.

• Don’t read too much into Nottingham manning first base for Saturday’s opener. With Manny Piña catching, it was just a way to get Nottingham at-bats. The Brewers still view him as a full-time catcher, Counsell said.

Up next

Moustakas will make his unofficial debut at second base when the Brewers travel to Surprise, Ariz., on Sunday to play Tim Dillard’s Rangers. Non-roster invitee Josh Tomlin starts for Milwaukee in a game scheduled to begin an hour later than usual, at 3:05 p.m. CT.

“He looked good when we were doing some double plays yesterday,” Saladino said of Moustakas. “He’s athletic. … Moose has got the frame to move around.”

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram and like him on Facebook.