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 get a 3-2 walk-off win against Cincinnati

The first drama of spring training ended in a Brewers win on Wednesday, as Milwaukee got a walk-off single from Lucas Erceg for a 3-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds in Arizona.

The Crew fell behind early, with Zack Cozart taking Chase Anderson deep with a solo shot in the top of the first inning. It was Anderson’s first appearance of the spring and went just the one inning.

But Milwaukee answered with some power of its own at the top of the lineup, as leadoff hitter Keon Broxton took the first pitch of the day from Lisalverto Bonilla deep to left in the bottom of the first inning to tie the game at 1. Shortstop Jonathan Villar followed that with a double to right field and third baseman Scooter Gennett brought him in to give Milwaukee a 2-1 lead.

The Reds were able to tie the game in the fourth as they got to the newly signed Neftali Feliz with a single and a double before he settled in and got out of the inning.

Things stayed tied until the bottom of the ninth. With runners at second and third with one out, Erceg stepped up and drilled a single to right field, scoring Mauricio Dubon for the win.

Villar and Gennett led the way offensively for Milwaukee, with each having a pair of hits to help the Brewers improve to 2-3 in spring training. They’ll take on Seattle Thursday afternoon.

Brewers to add a pair of names to “Wall of Honor” at Miller Park

The Milwaukee Brewers will add two new names to the Miller Park “Walls of Honor” this season.

The team, in conjunction with the Milwaukee Braves Historical Association, announced Tuesday that former Brewers outfielder Corey Hart will be inducted into the “Brewers Wall of Honor” and former Milwaukee Braves pitcher Lew Burdette will be inducted into the “Braves Wall of Honor.”

Hart, a two-time All-Star, was in Milwaukee for nine years and batted .276 with 154 home runs and 508 RBIs.

“My life has been a complete blessing because I was a Brewer,” Hart in a statement released by the team. “My family and I will always be in forever debt because of the unbelievable experiences we had at Miller Park and the lifelong relationships we made at the park and in the community. Thank you from the bottom of my heart; I am truly honored to be inducted into the Brewers Wall of Honor.”

Burdette, the MVP of the 1957 World Series, passed away in 2007. Over his 13 years with the Braves — first in Boston and then in Milwaukee, he had an ERA of 3.53 and posted a record 179-120.

“We are very appreciative of this honor and would like to thank the Brewers and the Braves Historical Association,” said Mary Lou Burdette-Wieloszynski, daughter of Lew Burdette. “My father loved playing in Milwaukee and the encouragement from the fans meant the world to him. He often talked about the special camaraderie with his Milwaukee teammates, and he was very proud of helping bring a World Series championship to Milwaukee.”

Burdette will be inducted on Friday, May 26 when Milwaukee hosts the Arizona Diamondbacks, while Hart will be enshrined on Friday, June 30 when the Brewers welcome the Miami Marlins to town.

Zach Davies was sharp in his debut, but Milwaukee lost 6-3 to Kansas City

For the third time in four spring training games, Milwaukee came out on the losing end, the latest a 6-3 loss to Kansas City on Tuesday in Phoenix.

The outcome, though, didn’t take away from a solid day at the plate for centerfielder Keon Broxton, who had a pair of hits and a run scored as the Brewers leadoff man, helping Milwaukee jump out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning. They followed that up with a monster home run from shortstop Yadiel Rivera in the second, but that was the end of the offense until top prospect Lewis Brinson tripled and Manny Pina singled him home in the eighth inning.

Zach Davies made his spring debut for Milwaukee, pitching a scoreless first inning and striking out a pair before giving way to seven relievers, including Hiram Burgos, who got lit up for four runs on six hits in just two innings of work and took the loss.

Milwaukee will face NL Central division rival Cincinnati on Wednesday, with the first pitch coming at 2:05 at the Brewers spring training home in Maryvale, Ariz.

Gennett and Brinson combine for five hits as the Brewers beat the Rangers 5-0

The Milwaukee Brewers earned their first win in Cactus League action Monday afternoon, shutting out the Texas Rangers 5-0.

Top prospect Lewis Brinson went 3-for-3 and had an RBI as the leadoff man, while left fielder Scooter Gennett was 2 of 2 with a walk to help the Brewers improve to 1-2 in spring training.

In total, the Crew managed to belt out 11 hits, with shortstop Orlando Arcia joining Brinson and Gennett with multiple hits.

Junior Guerra got the start for Milwaukee, allowing just one hit in one scoreless inning of work. Six other pitchers, including Jhan Marinez (W, 1-0) and Tyler Cravy (H, 1), limited the Rangers to just two hits the rest of the way.

Milwaukee will take on the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday.

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.