The all-time saves leader moved a step closer to his Cactus League debut on Monday, when Trevor Hoffman threw 35 pitches in a live batting practice session at Maryvale Baseball Park. The next time he’ll take the mound it will be in a game, on Friday against the Angels.
“It felt good to get a hitter in there,” Hoffman said. “The next progression will have the umpire back there and no screen.”
Hoffman has been taking it easy this spring, partly because he only needs a handful of appearances to be ready for the regular season and partly because he has been working through some soreness in his upper back, behind his shoulder.
Last year, Hoffman pitched much earlier in camp and strained a muscle on his rib-cage. He began the season on the disabled list and did not make his Brewers debut until April 27.
The Brewers would like to avoid a similar setback this spring, so the team’s medical staff has had Hoffman on a more conservative Spring Training program. Before Monday, he had only thrown from the bullpen mounds at the team’s complex but Monday’s session was on a field with a few dozen fans watching. Six Minor League hitters stepped into the box against Hoffman including outfielder Jose Garcia, who was born in 1991, the year Hoffman converted to pitching.
Hoffman was not sure how many Cactus League appearances he would need to feel ready for the season. Monday was at least a step in that direction.
“It’s better than going straight from a bullpen to a ballgame,” Hoffman said. “Live BP, it felt just like it was supposed to.”
Hoffman enters his 18th Major League season with a record 591 saves, nine shy of becoming the first man to reach 600. He was a National League All-Star in his first season with Milwaukee, posting a 1.83 ERA in 2009 while converting 37 of 41 save chances.
In the “A” game today against the Indians, Yovani Gallardo will start for the Brewers. I incorrectly reported yesterday that Chris Narveson would pitch, but he’s slated to go on Tuesday against the Royals.
Here are the lineups today. Matt LaPorta and Michael Brantley, of course, were part of the CC Sabathia trade in 2008:
Michael Brantley CF
Luis Valbuena 2B
Matt LaPorta 1B
Austin Kearns RF
Lonnie Chisenhall 3B
Mike Redmond C
Luis Rodriguez SS
Chris Gimenez LF
David Huff LHP
Rickie Weeks 2B
Alcides Escobar SS
Ryan Braun LF
Prince Fielder 1B
Jim Edmonds CF
Gregg Zaun C
Corey Hart RF
Adam Heether 3B
Yovani Gallardo RHP
The Brewers will play a seven-inning “B” game against the Rangers at 2:30 p.m. local time in Surprise on Thursday. The regularly-scheduled “A” game is at 6 p.m. Dave Bush will start one game and Manny Parra the other, yet Macha was not ready to announce the plan as of Monday morning.