Rangers may be expressing interest in Wily Peralta

SURPRISE, Ariz. — While Milwaukee Brewers starter Wily Peralta threw 5.2 innings of scoreless baseball in a 1-0 loss to the Kansas City Royals on Saturday, Texas Rangers scouts were in attendance keeping an eye on Peralta, according to the Dallas Morning News.

The Rangers are reportedly looking for more starting pitching depth while they decide whether to use a four or five-man rotation this season. Peralta’s $4.275 million 2017 contract, along with ineligibility for free agency until 2019 could make him an appealing addition, per the Dallas Morning News.

Peralta is looking to bounce back from a rough beginning to his 2016 campaign in which his first 13 starts saw his ERA balloon to an MLB-worst 6.68. But after a demotion to Triple A Colorado Springs, Peralta returned to post a 2.92 ERA over his final 61.2 innings.

Peralta has shown improvement so far this spring, adding some velocity through a mechanics change in the offseason. He also got some work for the Dominican Republic during the World Baseball Classic.

Brewers name Junior Guerra Opening Day starter

PHOENIX — Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell wanted to be sure a stellar rookie season at 31 years old wasn’t a fluke, but after consideration, named Junior Guerra the team’s Opening Day starter for the Apr. 3 game against the Colorado Rockies at Miller Park.

“It was unexpected. It was certainly the most pleasant surprise of the season for us,” Counsell said during a Feb. 27 session with the media. “He was a waiver claim. And to have the season he did with the consistency he did — he was one of the top starting pitchers in the National League.”

Counsell was referring to Guerra’s 2.81 ERA in the 2016 season, which ranked seventh among National League pitchers with at least 120 innings. Guerra hit his planned shut-down number of 121.2 innings in mid-September last season, but also spent some time in the minor leagues. Counsell has seen enough this spring to give Guerra the nod for Opening Day, after throwing 10 innings of two-run ball.

“He pitched really well last year,” Counsell said on Thursday. “I know he has a different story, but for his [121.1] innings [last year], he was really one of the better starters in the National League. At this point, he’s pitched really well. That’s what it boils down to.”

Guerra drew trade interest from several teams this offseason, but Milwaukee wisely kept him around. His original plan was to play in the Venezuelan Winter League playoffs, but the Brewers urged him to sit out due to some elbow issues that crept up late in the MLB season.

Guerra figures to be a main component to Milwaukee’s pitching staff this year, with his main weapon being the split-finger fastball.

“The split-finger, which is really the pitch that makes him dangerous, it by nature that pitch takes a while to get going,” Counsell said of Guerra via Fox Sports Wisconsin. “It’s a difficult pitch, that’s why a lot of guys don’t throw it. In the age of trying to get a swing-and-miss, it’s a big swing-and-miss pitch if you can master it, if you can get a feel for it and get a handle on it.”

Brewers begin spring with 11-0 exhibition win over UW-Milwaukee

PHOENIX — A Milwaukee Brewers tradition of meeting with University of Wisconsin | Milwaukee in a spring exhibition resulted in an 11-0 win for the Brewers, thanks to a pair of home runs from top prospect Lewis Brinson.

Brinson drove in four runs with the pair of dingers in his first spring training game with the Brewers. Scooter Gennett added a solo home run, while Jesus Aguilar added a three-run blast to lead the offensive charge.

“He’s got a good approach,” Gennett said of Brinson. “He doesn’t try to do too much. He’s naturally gifted, he’s blessed, so those guys don’t have to do too much. They don’t have to create or try to hit the ball out of the ballpark, it comes natural when they square it up. That was an example of it today.”

Gennett will get work at third base and left field early in spring training while Ryan Braun takes time off (not injury-related). When Braun gets eased into the rotation sometime after the World Baseball Classic, Gennett will take reps at second base.

The Panthers only mustered a pair of hits in the third annual meeting with the Brewers.

Report: Villar turned down Brewers $20 million extension

PHOENIX — While the Milwaukee Brewers prepare to begin Cactus League play at Maryvale Baseball Park, infielder Jonathan Villar has turned down a $20 million contract extension offered by the club, according to a FanRagSports.com report.

As pointed out by Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee’s offer is likely a move focused on keeping Villar’s contract cost down in the future. Villar is eligible for arbitration after this season, and if he becomes the player they hope he can be, that won’t come cheap.

Entering his presumed first full season playing second base, Villar will make somewhere in the $513,000 range this season. After posting a .285 batting average in 2016 with 19 home runs, 63 RBI, 62 stolen bases, and an OBP of .369 (16th in National League), a similar performance this season would mean a big payday for Villar.

Villar claimed to have no knowledge of the reported deal, while GM David Stearns  said “I’m not going to comment on any contract negotiations.”

Counsell not yet ready to call Feliz “closer”

PHOENIX — Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell addressed reporters Monday at Maryvale Baseball Park, but wasn’t yet ready to hand over the keys to the “closer” position for newcomer Neftali Feliz.

“Neftali is going to get really important outs for us,” Counsell said. “That’s what we signed him to do.”

Perhaps that’s Counsell’s politically-correct approach to allowing competition this spring, but so far, no other candidates have stuck out as legitimate replacements for Jeremy Jeffress and Will Smith.

Feliz was signed to a one-year, $5.35 million guaranteed contract on Jan. 19 after failing to reach a multi-year extension with the Pittsburgh Pirates in November. The 28-year-old 2010 AL Rookie of the Year posted a 3.52 ERA and 1.137 WHIP with the Pirates last season.

“He’s got a track record, Counsell said. “What we saw last year was him getting back to the player that broke into the big leagues and was really a dynamic arm and reliever, and capable of great things.”

Feliz is no stranger to pitching in late innings, but after the Texas Rangers tried to convert him to a starter in the 2012 season, he injured his throwing arm and underwent Tommy John surgery which kept him out for the entire 2013 season.

It’s possible Counsell doesn’t want to bank on Feliz’ resurgence in 2016 as means that he’ll be able to last an entire season in Milwaukee as the closer. But with no other real options at this point in spring training, it would appear it’s just a matter of time before Counsell makes the label official.

Brewers’ Davies: “Winning is NOT the ultimate goal”

MARYVALE, ARIZONA | I have to admit I was surprised when Brewers SP Zach Davies’ told me..

OK so he admits the Brewers goal this season is not to win. They’re most likely not going to contend for a trip to the World Series.

However Davies understands the Brewers fans’ perspective. He knows they want to see a winner sooner rather than later

Hey, let’s be honest. You didn’t really think the Brewers were going to win it all this year did you? I’m actually fine with one of the teams’ cornerstone players telling it like it is. Barring an injury or a complete meltdown, Zach Davies will be in Milwaukee for some time. He’s part of the future. And he has the pulse of the community and Wisconsin.

My advice? Embrace it. Take it for what it is. Because, as Davies told me, eventually the Brewers are going to be a great ballclub. Just not this year.

Chase Anderson loses arbitration case against Brewers

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Chase Anderson was hoping to head into the 2017 season already with a win under his belt, but it was revealed on Tuesday that he had lost his salary arbitration case against Milwaukee, and will make $2.45 million this season.

Anderson was hoping to make $2.85 million, but when the Brewers didn’t budge from their suggested salary of $2.45 million, the case was sent to an independent arbitrator.

While it wasn’t revealed what factored into the decision to rule in favor of the Brewers, Anderson’s 2016 numbers likely played a role. After coming to a hitter-friendly Miller Park from Chase Field (one pitchers are more in control), Anderson’s numbers took a slight dip. He averaged a 4.18 ERA in his two seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks, but just a 4.39 ERA in Milwaukee. He gave up 1.1 home runs per nine innings with the D-Backs to the 1.7 he allowed with the Brewers. His strikeout: walk ratio also declined, from 2.70 to 2.26.

Anderson is among seven pitchers hoping to make the five-man starting rotation.

Takeaways from Brewers On Deck fan fest

MILWAUKEE — The offseason in Major League Baseball is sometimes filled with a lot of change, but for the Milwaukee Brewers, their “On Deck” fan event only provided a few surprises.

One of the most noteworthy observations from the event held at the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee is that second baseman Scooter Gennett will be experimenting with several positions during spring training, mainly in the outfield. His playing time would be limited if he played solely at second base, due to newcomers Travis Shaw (third base), Orlando Arcia (shortstop), and Jonathan Villar (second base).

Gennett noted that he’s had limited experience as an outfielder, mainly in high school.

“I can catch a fly ball, I’m not saying it’s going to be easy,” Gennett told reporters. “I can catch a fly ball and I can run, so hopefully I’ll be able to adjust and if I’m needed in the outfield, I’ll be able to handle it.”

Another offseason storyline clarified at the event was the future of outfielder Ryan Braun. Braun was a big talking point last August when it was reported the Los Angeles Dodgers had nearly brokered a deal with Milwaukee that would have sent Braun to LA in exchange for Yasiel Puig and a top prospect. That deal fell apart minutes before the Aug. 31 midnight deadline and Braun has remained in Milwaukee ever since. Manager Craig Counsell revealed on Sunday that he never expected Braun to be dealt this offseason.

“I expected Ryan [Braun] to be back and I expected Ryan to hit third [in the batting order] and I’m very happy that I get to continue to write his name. I thought I’d always continue to write his name at third in the lineup. He’s played at a high level last year; he’s going to play at a high level this year; and he’s going to continue to…”

Braun will enter his 11th MLB season with $72 million remaining on his monster five-year, $105 million contract. The 33-year-old will make $19 million in 2017.

Additionally, principle owner Mark Attanasio revealed that he’s in discussions to purchase the club’s Class A affiliate, the Carolina Mudcats. That’s significant because it would allow the Brewers to control decisions about the farm system team without risk of it changing locations or being bought out by another club during contract negotiations. Milwaukee has parted ways with longtime affiliate, the Brevard County Manatees.

Brewers sign free agent reliever Neftalί Feliz

MILWAUKEE | The Milwaukee Brewers have signed free agent right-handed reliever Neftali Feliz to a one-year contract.

“We are excited to add a pitcher with Neftalί’s stuff to the back end of our bullpen,” said Brewers General Manager David Stearns. “Neftalί has a long pedigree of getting high leverage outs, and we believe he has the capability to help anchor our young relief corps.”

Feliz, 28, owns a career record of 19-14 with a 3.22 ERA and 99 saves in 308 games (7 starts) during his Major League career with Texas (2009-15), Detroit (2015) and Pittsburgh (2016). He went 4-2 with a 3.52 ERA and 2 saves in 62 relief appearances for the Pirates last season.

The 2010 American League Rookie of the Year produced 40 saves that season, which ranks second all-time among rookies behind only Craig Kimbrel (46 for Atlanta in 2011). He followed that campaign with a 32-save season in 2011. Feliz was the closer for the Rangers during their consecutive American League championship seasons of 2010 and 2011. His 88.9 save percentage during those seasons (72-for-81) ranked sixth in the Major Leagues.

Feliz has held opponents to a .202 batting average during his Major League career with 326 strikeouts in 343.1 innings pitched.

Courtesy: Milwaukee Brewers

Brewers, Chase Anderson could be heading to arbitration

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Brewers haven’t taken a player to arbitration since 2012, but could be heading there with pitcher Chase Anderson if the two sides can’t make up the $400,000 difference in contract negotiations.

The club came to agreements with Wily Peralta ($4.275 million) and Carlos Torres ($2.175 million) prior to Friday’s noon deadline, but didn’t match Anderson’s requested salary of $2.85 million. Milwaukee reportedly came in at $2.45 million. Milwaukee can still avoid an arbitration hearing on Anderson’s 2017 contract if it wishes to continue negotiations, but both figures came in well below Anderson’s projected arbitration salary of $3.1 million. He earned the league minimum in 2016.

General manager David Stearns noted that no multi-year contract was discussed with any of the arbitration-eligible players, but declined to say if they’ll continue negotiations with Anderson.

Anderson had a rough start to his 2016 campaign, but had a stellar second half, ending with a 3.02 ERA and career-bests in strikeout percentage (17.6 percent) and strikeouts per nine innings (7.12).