Narváez joins crowded IL; Feliciano promoted

May 2nd, 2021

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers promoted 22-year-old Mario Feliciano, their No. 5 prospect per MLB Pipeline, to the Major Leagues on Saturday and brought back No. 17 prospect Patrick Weigel, while adding catcher and right-hander Eric Yardley to an overloaded injured list.

It turned into quite a night for Feliciano, who worked a tough, seven-pitch walk in his first career plate appearance in the 11th inning and then scored the winning run in the Brewers’ comeback-filled, 6-5 win over the Dodgers at American Family Field.

“Big league debuts don't usually happen in the 11th inning of a tie game, but he got a shot at it and he'll remember this one for a long time,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said.

Narváez went on the 10-day IL and is initially expected to miss about two weeks with a strained left hamstring suffered in Friday’s 3-1 win over the Dodgers, and Yardley went on the 10-day IL just before Saturday’s first pitch with a right shoulder strain, making them the 15th and 16th players currently on the IL for Milwaukee -- yes, that is most in the Majors -- and the 11th and 12th players added to the team’s IL just since April 10.

The walking wounded includes both of Milwaukee’s primary catchers, Narváez as well as Manny Piña, who suffered a fractured left toe on a pair of foul balls earlier in the week against the Marlins and is ineligible to return until Friday. That makes the starter Luke Maile, 30, who had five years’ experience as a backup with the Rays and Blue Jays, but missed all of 2020 following finger surgery. Feliciano -- who, because of the pandemic, has only 14 plate appearances above the Class A level -- is the backup.

Feliciano has, however, logged extensive at-bats with the Brewers during Major League Spring Training games in recent years, so he is familiar with many of the club’s current pitchers. He was the Brewers’ second-round Draft pick in 2016 and had his finest season in 2019, when he was Class A Carolina League MVP after slashing .273/.324/.477 with 25 doubles and 19 home runs in 482 plate appearances for the Mudcats during his age 20 season.

“Look, Mario is a good prospect,” Counsell said. “He's a good player. We're familiar with him. He's been in our system. And Manny will be back before the 14 days that we're kind of estimating for Omar, also. This is going to be a short-term stint for Mario, but it's going to be a great experience for him and it's a good way to kind of open up for Mario, I think. He'll gain some knowledge here and he'll play and he'll help us win a game, and he's ready for it.”

Feliciano was poised to open the season at Triple-A Nashville before the promotion. Among his congratulatory texts were messages from former Major Leaguer Carlos Beltrán, who runs the academy in Puerto Rico where Feliciano went to high school, and Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, an offseason workout partner whom Feliciano has looked up to for years, like so many young catchers from the island.

When he told his mother and grandfather, “my inspiration my entire life" Feliciano said, they cried. As a cherry on top, his young daughter said “papa” for the first time on Saturday, Feliciano said.

“I'm not nervous. I'm more anxious to get it done,” he said. “I'm just trying to stay positive, have fun and enjoy the moment. Getting nervous is part of it, but you have to try to just have fun and play.”

Weigel was called up twice this week. He pitched two scoreless innings against the Marlins on Wednesday in his Brewers debut and was sent back down the next day.

Maile: ‘We have a chance to do something really cool’

Maile didn’t love the circumstances that brought him to the Majors (Piña’s injury) or suddenly made him Milwaukee’s starting catcher (Narváez’s injury), but he vowed to make the most of the chance.

“For me personally, the last couple years have been a real grind physically, mentally,” Maile said. “So, to get the opportunity here, obviously I feel bad about the way it formed and everything, but to walk into this culture and what these guys have here ... I felt it right away in Spring Training. We have a chance to do something really cool, and to play a small part in that, in whatever way I can, is refreshing for my career -- and it’s a hell of a lot more fun.”

Asked what he meant by the Brewers’ culture, Maile said, “Being new here I’m probably speaking out of turn. But one thing I noticed immediately walking in the door was there’s really no panic. There’s a core here that you can tell has been around for a while.”

The Brewers’ catching situation has changed dramatically since Maile signed a one-year deal with Milwaukee in December. At the time, they had six catchers on the 40-man roster: Narváez, Piña, Maile, Feliciano, Jacob Nottingham and former Triple-A batting champion David Freitas. The Brewers subsequently let Freitas go so he could sign in South Korea, and Nottingham never got going in the spring because of setbacks in his recovery from offseason thumb surgery. The Brewers had to DFA him last week because they needed the 40-man roster spot to help address other injury issues, and the Mariners claimed him.

“It’s an interesting game. It’s an interesting business,” Maile said. “I signed here for a reason, though. I kind of knew what the situation was, but I missed all of ‘20, didn’t have a great year in ‘19. I was kind of in a place where I wanted to be part of a winning team, or at least with a team that had a history of winning. That was attractive to me.

“On top of that, I don’t want to say worst-case scenario, but playing in Nashville in Triple-A and getting regular playing time for the first time in a long time didn’t seem like the end of the world to me. I think I needed to go get better. My numbers are evident of that, offensively, so I wasn’t afraid of that being a possibility. But I knew if the time came -- which it did -- to help these guys, that I could. ... I’m here to help in whatever way I can, and I’m glad I’m here.”

Last call

• Piña is already moving around and has done come catching and running on the treadmill, Counsell said. If he’s not activated immediately on Friday, it won’t be too much after.

• Christian Yelich (back) and Lorenzo Cain (left quad) remained sidelined Saturday, but it’s looking good for at least one of them to return during the Brewers’ next series at Philadelphia, Counsell said.

• Brewers reliever J.P. Feyereisen tied the Giants’ Tyler Rogers and the Padres’ Tim Hill for the most appearances (15) in the Majors during the month of April. The Brewers are comfortable with that workload, Counsell said, because of Feyereisen’s efficiency in most of those outings. He’s averaging 15.1 pitches per inning.