The Brewers traveled to Mesa, AZ on Wednesday afternoon to take on their NL Central rivals, the Chicago Cubs, and came away with a 10-2 victory.
Randy Wolf tossed four effective innings. He only surrendered two runs, changing speeds and throwing strikes. The only trouble came in the bottom of the fourth, when the Cubs started driving the baseball the other way during the second time through the order.
The game broke wide open in the middle innings. Left-hander Travis Wood struggled with his command and gave up five earned runs in the fourth inning. Right-hander Casey Coleman then followed up in the next frame in a similar fashion, allowing a pair of runs in the fifth.
George Kottaras provided the offensive fireworks. He drove in five runs with two opposite-field doubles. Shortstop Cesar Izturis, first baseman Mat Gamel, and starter Randy Wolf were the other starting players with runs batted in on the day.
The Cubs’ ballpark is extremely unique in terms of Cactus League stadiums. It sits in a residential neighborhood and does not overtake the surrounding landscape. While charming, the location causes significant headaches when attempting to navigate to the ballpark and (even more so) find parking.
I arrived within three blocks of the stadium an hour before the first pitch. It seemed plenty early – as it took approximately 10 minutes to park, purchase tickets, and enter Phoenix Municipal Stadium the day before – but I ended up missing the entire first inning. It also took a half hour to exit the parking lot.
Quite simply, arrive plenty early and plan on staying plenty late.
Once entering the park, it was much more pleasant. The concourse was covered and a bit unflattering, but the field and seating were lovely. The brick that offset the field box from the grandstands gave the stadium a historic field, undoubtedly designed to mirror the brick in Wrigley Field.
The food and beverages are expectedly overpriced, though the waffle fries are delicious. The beer salespeople were on a first-name basis with many of the fans. I have never seen that before. I have also never seen a gentleman hand out business cards to attractive women while selling beer, but there is a first time for everything.
The big right-hander is an imposing figure on the mound. His fastball didn’t have the velocity as it has in previous years. It only sat 92-93 MPH, though it did have some sinking movement to his arm side.
Most impressive for Veras on Wednesday afternoon, however, was his slider. The pitch sits 77-78 MPH and has a wide, sweeping break. He commanded the pitch very well, locating it on the outside portion of the plate and generating multiple swings-and-misses.
As always, Veras will look almost unhittable when spotting his pitches in the strike zone and be utterly maddening when he suddenly – almost inexplicably – loses the strike zone for a two or three week period of time.
Bradley did not spend too much time on the mound. He promptly generated three ground balls and quickly cruised through a 1-2-3 inning. His fastball has a good downhill plane with some movement. It was sitting 91-92 MPH on Wednesday, though he has reportedly run his fastball into the mid-to-high 90s in past seasons.
The left-hander threw only fastballs and did not feature any offspeed pitches on the afternoon.
His defense still possesses significant limitations, but the Brewers’ reserve catcher had a big day at the plate. The most promising aspect of his day consisted of his bases-clearing double against left-hander Travis Wood. He stayed back on the baseball and drove it to the opposite field. His other double came to the opposite field, as well.
The power is legitimate. It’s no wonder that manager Ron Roenicke enjoys utilizing his bat as a pinch hitter, despite sacrificing his main backup catcher. It’s also the reason that Kottaras will almost certainly break camp with the big league club.
Manzanillo was the one pitcher I was most excited to see in person. His fastball was only 94-96 MPH, but it has more movement than I expected. This is not a mid-to-high 90s fastball pitcher with a straight fastball. Instead, this is a pitcher that will miss bats with his fastball and induce weak contact as he matures and refines his command.
The big right-hander threw up a couple of changeups that surprised hitters. It has good velocity differential at 86-87 MPH, though the fade and arm action need to be improved. He also threw an absolute nasty 89 MPH pitch that appeared to be a two-seam fastball to strike out Dave Sappelt in the eighth inning. It was either a two-seam fastball or a changeup with some serious movement. Either way, it had the scouts in front of me talking to each other and gesturing about how the pitch dove at the end.
Expect Manzanillo to increase the velocity as the season progresses. He needs to develop his offspeed pitches to complement his fastball. Otherwise, his upside is nothing more than a middle reliever at this point. The ultimate ceiling is a closer-type arm.
- Josh Butler threw six-consecutive balls to begin his day. His fastball was a bit underwhelming at only 88-90 MPH. He eventually got a double play to escape the jam.
- Rickie Weeks crushed a baseball to center field that just missed a home run by about five feet.
- Left-hander Dan Meadows cruised through his ninth inning. He will always have to overcome a lack of stuff, though, as his fastball only sat 84-86 MPH and his curveball sat 77-78 MPH.