"Border Battle" set for Friday
It’s no coincidence that the Class A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers team set to take the field Friday at Miller Park is stocked with prospects.
“We wanted to put our best foot forward,” Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash said.
The Brewers are in the first season of a four-year player development with the Timber Rattlers, a Midwest League team based just outside Appleton, Wis. at Fox Cities Stadium, about 100 miles north of Miller Park. Before the Brewers came to town, Wisconsin had been a Seattle Mariners affiliate since 1993.
The new partnership will be on display Friday night at Miller Park as the Timber Rattlers and Peoria Chiefs take part in the third so-called “Border Battle.” The concept was first introduced in 2003, when the Brewers-affiliated Beloit Snappers, featuring Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks and Manny Parra, faced the Timber Rattlers in front of more than 15,000 fans. The event was staged again in 2004 with the same two teams before going on hiatus.
Now it’s back, and by Thursday afternoon the Brewers had already sold 15,000 tickets at $10 apiece. Seats are still available.
Milwaukee wanted to make a good first impression in Appleton, so they sent eight of the team’s top 30 prospects, as rated by Baseball America. Among the hitters to watch are 2008 first-round Draft pick Brett Lawrie and second-rounder Cutter Dykstra. The pitchers include Wily Peralta and Cody Adams, both of whom are scheduled to work in the Border Battle, 2008 supplemental first-round pick Evan Fredrickson and big right-hander Cody Scarpetta, the lone Rattler on Milwaukee’s 40-man roster. Scarpetta matched his professional best by striking out 10 batters in a win on Wednesday over Peoria.
All of those prospects, many with less than a year of professional experience, could make for a development year in Appleton. But it also gives Brewers fans from Central Wisconsin an opportunity to see the next wave of talent headed to the big leagues.
“There was only one more we made there with winning in mind,” Ash said. “And that was signing a veteran back-of-the-bullpen guy.”
That would be Jim Henderson, a 27-year-old who has played as high as Triple-A and was looking for work after the Cubs released him late in Spring Training. He is more than three years older than any other player on the team, and Brewers officials figured it was important to have someone with experience in the closer’s role.
The current installment of prospects were scheduled to arrive at Miller Park early in the day Friday for lunch, a tour of the ballpark and some early work on the field. Ash will be in attendance, as will director of player development Reid Nichols.
The idea is to reinstate the Border Battle as an annual event, Ash said. Summer-like temperatures are expected on Friday, and Brewers officials were planning to play under an open roof.