After spending the first week of Cactus League games on the sidelines, All-Star closer Corey Knebel and the rest of Milwaukee’s mainstay relievers joined the fray on Thursday in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Knebel, left-hander Josh Hader and free-agent addition Matt Albers made their debuts in a 6-1 win over the host Diamondbacks, to be followed Friday by Jacob Barnes, Jeremy Jeffress and another newcomer, lefty Boone Logan, against the Mariners at Maryvale Baseball Park.
The fact the Brewers (6-1) didn’t rush any of those relievers into Cactus League play was an indication that all six are ticketed for what is expected to be an eight-man Opening Day bullpen.
“I think at this point, all the guys who haven’t thrown yet are pretty excited to see a hitter and how their stuff is playing right now,” Barnes said.
Knebel surrendered a run but worked in a series of curveballs, while Hader and Albers each worked a hitless inning. Hader struck out a pair of batters.
Starter Wade Miley allowed two hits and struck out five in 2⅓ innings. Hernan Perez knocked in three runs against Arizona (3-5).
Christian Yelich made his first start as the Brewers’ right fielder. Manager Craig Counsell has said he expects Yelich to primarily play left field, where he won a Gold Glove in 2014, but expanding his possibilities to right could help spread at-bats.
Jesus Aguilar was a late replacement in the lineup for first baseman Eric Thames, who was scratched with a stiff back.