Hoffman will see first action in exhibition game Friday
With that in mind, the Milwaukee Brewers’ veteran closer faced hitters in batting practice Monday for the first time this spring, a plateau he noted other pitchers passed weeks ago.
“It’s kind of hard to put it in perspective,” said Hoffman, who threw to minor-leaguers on a back field. “You almost have to pull it out and move it back 2 1/2 weeks, when all of the other pitchers did that.
“But, when we get to the end of this, the thought process that (trainer) Roger (Caplinger) had is going to play out perfectly. I’ll be right where I want to be. I’m happy with the progression.”
In other words, barring something unforeseen, Hoffman will have the five exhibition appearances he seeks to get ready for opening day. The first of those outings will come Friday against the Los Angeles Angels.
Hoffman has been brought along slowly in camp for a couple of reasons. He doesn’t need as much game action as most pitchers to get ready for the season, and he was plagued for a short period by a cramp in his upper back.
The Brewers wanted to avoid a repeat of last spring, when Hoffman suffered an oblique strain and opened the season on the disabled list. He did not make his Milwaukee debut until April 27 against Pittsburgh.
“Facing hitters, it allows me to add pieces. Today, we added a hitter. Next time, we get rid of the (batting) cage and the shadows it casts, and we add an umpire. You start to peel that onion back with what you’re trying to do.”
Davis has shutout outing
Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman struck out five during his latest impressive showing Wednesday, but a Cincinnati Reds split squad couldn’t manage much against Doug Davis in a 5-2 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers.
The 22-year-old Chapman, making his case for a spot in the Reds’ rotation, allowed only one hit in three innings, a solo homer by Rickie Weeks. The left-hander has given up only one run during seven innings this spring and is one of several candidates for the fifth starter’s spot.
Davis started for Milwaukee and allowed three hits and a walk in four scoreless innings.
The Brewers scored four runs off Kip Wells. Craig Counsell had a two-run double and Adam Stern hit a two-run homer.
Waiting for the word
Right-hander Yovani Gallardo, who was particularly sharp in retiring the first nine hitters he faced in an exhibition outing against Cleveland, is lined up for an opening day start against Colorado. Manager Ken Macha has yet to make that assignment official, however.
“I think about it,” admitted Gallardo, who said he never started an opener in the minors. “I’d like to do it. It would be a great experience. Having that opportunity would mean a lot, but I can’t control that.
“I’ll do what’s best for the team. If I get it, I get it.”
Again, without officially tipping his hand, Macha smiled when told that Gallardo wanted the ball in the opener.
“I’m glad to hear that,” said Macha. “This spring, he’s been very good.”
Four players cut
The Brewers made four player cuts, optioning right-handers Mark Rogers and Amaury Rivas to Class AA Huntsville, and returning left-hander A.J. Murray and catcher Martin Maldonado to minor-league camp.
Macha was impressed by what he saw from Rogers, the 2004 first-round draft pick who missed the 2007 and ’08 seasons while recovering from a pair of shoulder surgeries. Rogers made two exhibition appearances, allowing three hits and no earned runs in four innings, with two walks and three strikeouts.
“He has worked very hard,” said Macha. “He is a lot more on line with his delivery (after once throwing across his body). He feels good about himself. He had a smile on his face.”
Rivas, the organization’s minor league pitcher of the year for 2009, pitched three innings over two appearances, allowing five hits and three earned runs, with one walk and two strikeouts.
“His changeup is a plus-plus pitch,” said Macha. “He’s got to work on his slider.”
Assuming catching prospects Jonathan Lucroy and Angel Salome do not make the Brewers’ roster, it will be interesting to see how their minor-league assignments are handled. In terms of development, both should be the No. 1 catcher at Nashville.
Salome was Nashville’s No. 1 catcher last season, and Lucroy played at Huntsville and is in line for a promotion.
“They’ve got to figure that out,” Macha said. “We’ve got jam-ups at a lot of positions.”