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.

Garza roughed up in 6-3 loss to Pirates

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Brewers returned to Miller Park for the first time in the month of September, but a difficult night on the mound for Matt Garza spoiled the homecoming in a 6-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Officially eliminated from a postseason appearance, the Brewers looked to play spoiler for a Pirates team that swept the Crew in a four-game series last time they came to Miller Park. The Pirates set an early tone, however, taking a 2-0 lead after just three batters.

Garza’s season ERA rose to 4.52 after giving up five earned runs on eight hits and four innings pitched. He came into Tuesday night’s contest hoping to keep the earned runs to a minimum. He held a 1.16 ERA over his previous four games, but allowed 12 runs in total during that span.

For Pittsburgh, the win brings their season record to 75-75 and maintains a chance at a postseason berth. The Pirates are currently 4 ½ games behind the Cardinals for the second National League wild card spot and their elimination number stand at eight.

Jimmy Nelson gets the start Wednesday night in place of Junior Guerra, who was shut down for the year after reaching his rookie innings limit.

Pirates use long ball to complete sweep of Brewers

MILWAUKEE — Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, and John Jaso each went deep for the Pittsburgh Pirates in a 3-1 win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday.

The Pirates victory secured a four-game sweep of the Brewers at Miller Park for the first time since Apr. 30 | May 2, 2004.

Chase Anderson took credit for Sunday’s loss, despite five strikeouts over five and 2/3 innings. Jonathan Villar provided Milwaukee’s only offense in the form of a third inning home run.

“We got very little going today,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said after the loss. “I think our only hits were with two outs in the inning and we didn’t have a hit with a man on base at all today, so it was a quiet day offensively, for sure.”

Part of Milwaukee’s struggles were compliments of Pittsburgh starter Ivan Nova, who fanned four batters over six frames and only allowed three hits. He earned his fourth win of the season.

Brewers suffer second straight walk-off loss

PITTSBURGH — After a late rally, the Brewers tied the Pirates 2-2 but Josh Harrison turned a triple into a Little League home run, giving Pittsburgh the 3-2 win.

Milwaukee suffered a similar fate Sunday against Cincinnati, losing on a passed ball that allowed the Reds to score the walk-off run. Tuesday night, Harrison rook advantage of a throwing error to score the game-deciding run in the bottom of the ninth inning. After ripping a hit to center field, he decided to test the Brewers’ relay abilities after getting thrown out on a similar play the game before.

“I never broke stride. I was going to make them make perfect relays,” Harrison said. “The odds of that happening two games in a row, I was going to take my chances.”

Tyler Thornburg was pitching at the time, giving Harrison his second game-winner off Thornburg in as many years.

The Pirates had a scare in the second inning when starting pitcher Jameson Taillon was hit in the head with a ball scorched off the bat of Hernan Perez. He would remain in the game to pitch six innings of one-run baseball.