Dickerson making case with brilliant defense
Terrific plays solidify case to be Brewers' fourth outfielder
PHOENIX -- It only took one camera to fill the highlight reel for the Brewers on Saturday, and that camera was trained on center fielder Chris Dickerson.
A prime candidate to be the fourth outfielder on the Opening Day roster, Dickerson made three key run-saving plays in a row in the ninth and 10th innings of a game that ended in a 6-6 tie with the Dodgers.
With the go-ahead runner on second base and two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Dickerson fielded a single and made a rocket of a throw to catcher Mike Rivera to nab the runner in a close play at the plate.
2010 Spring Training - Milwaukee Brewers
News & Features
- Brewers officially set roster for Opening Day
- Last call
- Davis excited to make big league debut with Brewers
- Narveson content with move to bullpen
- Schafer to serve as Brewers' emergency catcher
Sights & Sounds
Spring Training Info
"I was playing shallow and I got a good read," Dickerson said. "It was a fading line drive up the middle. I came up with it, and I knew I was going to have to worry, but I came up with a changeup grip, like a palm ball. So I had to double-clutch and get the right grip and just air it out. It was kind of a desperation play.
"My throws were pretty much on line all day. I got that one up in the air, and Mike made a great block. The play doesn't happen without Mike."
That ended the inning, and the next batter up in the 10th sent a towering drive deep, with Dickerson running after it on a collision course with the fence.
"When he hit it, I think both [left fielder Brandon Boggs and I] thought that thing was going to be over the batter's eye," Dickerson said. "Once he hit it, it was high enough to where I just dropped my head and started running in that general direction and adjusting for the wind. It got to that certain point where it's time to look up back at the ball, and I saw it and the wind picked it up and kept carrying it.
"I knew I was getting close, but I didn't know I was that close. It was like a catch and a smash."
The padding was soft enough that his upper body was fine, but Dickerson kicked the lower cement part of the wall with his foot, making him feel like he'd broken all his toe nails. He stayed in the game, and when the next batter walked and stole the base on an errant throw from Rivera, Dickerson was there to back up the throw and keep the runner from advancing.
"He's a good defensive outfielder," said manager Ron Roenicke. "He's a good runner. And when you compare the other guys [competing for the fourth outfielder's spot] with him, that's something you have to look at. That was a great play there [against the wall], and a great throw home."
Dickerson was also 3-for-5 at the plate, raising his average to .313.
"You have to take it in small increments," Dickerson said of his approach this spring. "It's an opportunity to build. You come out here and see where you're at, and then week-to-week build. I finally feel like I'm in a good place. There's more adjustments to make and things that can make me better. That's the main focus right now."
Parra pleased after playing catch Saturday
PHOENIX -- Manny Parra is finally making progress as he tries to get his stalled spring moving.
Parra has been bothered by a stiff back and has not been able to participate in any baseball activities, but after a cortisone shot earlier in the week, he was cleared to play catch from 75 feet Saturday -- and he was pleased with the results.
"It went really well," Parra said. "I'm feeling better. There's a slow, day-to-day, tentative progression. Try to get what we can in without aggravating anything. Move slow. Come in every day and assess where we're at. That's what it sounds like."
Manager Ron Roenicke said that Parra would play catch again Sunday, and if all goes well, he'll move on to long toss. Parra is eager to get back on a mound, but he's keeping his focus on whatever he's scheduled for when he arrives at the ballpark each day.
"It seems like any time I want to get too far ahead of myself, it's a waste," Parra said. "I've been set back a couple times already. But since I've had this shot, I've felt a significant difference in my back. I just hope it continues to feel that way."
With fewer than two weeks to go before the season starts, it's clear to Parra that he won't have time to pitch his way onto the Opening Day roster, where he would have been a prime candidate to fill Zack Greinke's spot in the rotation.
"It wouldn't be beneficial to the team," Parra said. "I haven't been out there to face one hitter. It's so funny, because you want to be ready to go for Opening Day. There's so much excitement involved. But really, the whole season is so much more important than Opening Day."
DiFelice fine after taking liner to pitching hand
PHOENIX -- The only lingering effect from Mark DiFelice's early departure from Saturday's 6-6 draw with the Dodgers was the regret he felt when he didn't record an out.
DiFelice faced one hitter, Trent Oeltjen, and left the game when Oeltjen's line-drive single grazed the knuckles on his pitching hand as he followed through on his delivery.
"It was a backdoor cutter that he just sat on." DiFelice said. "He gave a good swing. If you ask me, I should have caught it."
It would have been a lucky catch, as the hard liner clocked in at 115 mph and went to center field for a leadoff single. DiFelice left the game with a contusion on his ring finger and a cut on his middle finger, but he was fine by Sunday and shouldn't miss any time.
"We iced it yesterday," DiFelice said. "The doctor took a look at it. The bones are intact, and the ligaments are fine. No pain today. I'm going to play catch and be good to go tomorrow."
Narveson: 'I never really felt like I was in rhythm'
PHOENIX -- Chris Narverson was on the wrong side of a slugfest at Maryvale Baseball Park on Sunday, taking repeated punches as he tried to find his command in a 9-8 loss to the Reds.
Narveson gave up seven runs on nine hits and two walks in 4 1/3 innings, but he was taken off the hook when his club battled back for three more runs and the lead after he left the game -- only to lose it when the Reds came back again in the seventh and eighth innings.
"It was a battle," Narveson said. "I never really felt like I was in rhythm. I just kind of tried to search for my gameplan. I knew what I wanted to do, but sometimes I wasn't able to execute the pitch. There's some positive, but I saw some things I have to iron out before the season gets going."
Narveson entered the game with a respectable 3.65 Cactus Leaue ERA and a mission to work on his curve. He left with a 6.48 ERA and a laundry list of items to address before his next start.
"He's not throwing it where he wants to," said manager Ron Roenicke. "In Spring Training, that's the last thing all these pitchers lock in on is their command. That's why we try to throw so many outings, to get them to where they can put the ball where they want to. With the starters, their arm strength should be there, but it's trying to get that location down to where, especially if they're behind in the count, they still need to make a good pitch. If you can't to a Major League hitter, they're going to hit it hard."
Narveson worked on his curve, but he found himself frustrated with his inability to be consistent with it.
"It was tough getting a grip," he said. "I know the spin, I'm going to get the location down, I just have to keep throwing it. Eventually, it's going to come. That's why it's Spring Training, to be able to go out there and work on this stuff.
It was hard to find the positives, but Narveson felt he was able to recover quickly after losing his feel for certain pitches. The erratic command is a significant issue to address over his final two spring starts.
"I think it's just my tempo," Narveson said. "Sometimes you don't realize it coming in, not being on the mound repetitively every fifth day in succession. Once you get that rhythm and know your own tempo, you kind of get the ball and just get going and it's second nature. Until you get there, you try to battle yourself. I think it'll come."
Braddock gets experience entering mid-inning
PHOENIX -- After a couple of rough outings that found him surrendering five runs on two homers earlier in the week, Zack Braddock looked more like his 2010 vintage as he kept the Dodgers hitless for 1 1/3 innings Saturday, making effective use of his slider and changeup.
"The past few outings, I've been working on a couple things with Rick [Kranitz, Brewers pitching coach] to just be a little more effective," Braddock said. "Just maintaining a deceptive plane, and then [working on] the slider and changeups. Right now, it's a building phase. But yesterday was good."
Braddock made his big league debut with the Crew last season, posting a 2.94 ERA in 46 relief appearances while showing he can be a key cog in the Brewers bullpen. He is still working on getting his velocity where he wants it, but the results he got with his slider, retiring four in a row after walking the first batter he faced, is an encouraging sign.
Manager Ron Roenicke brought Braddock in with a man on second and two outs in the sixth, in part because starter Randy Wolf was nearing his pitch limit, but also to start giving Braddock the kind of experience he's most likely to see, entering games in the middle of an inning to face a tough left-hander.
"Ideally in a game, you'd want him to be able to start an inning, but that doesn't happen all the time," Roenicke said. "He's got to be used to coming in and facing somebody, whether it's a lefty [or not]. He's not necessarily just a left-handed specialist."
Braddock thrives on that kind of situation, and he's not likely to make a fuss about coming in to pick up the previous pitcher.
"I'm definitely a person who feeds off the situation and feeds off the pressure," Braddock said. "I do feel it, and I embrace it. That's something that I tend to use and something guys tend to see, and I'm proud of that. I want my teammates to be comfortable, and I want them to know that I have their back out there. If they can't feel that, that's not baseball."
The Brewers returned infielder Zelous Wheeler to Minor League camp after Sunday's game, leaving the club with 43 players in their Major League camp. Wheeler started at second base on Sunday when Edwin Maysonet was sick and had to be scratched. It was Wheeler's 18th Cactus League game, and he left with a .379 average (11-for-29). ... Corey Hart (left oblique strain) took a step forward by taking some dry swings Sunday morning. He reported feeling fine afterward. Manager Ron Roenicke will be cautious in trying to get Hart at-bats through the remainder of Spring Training. ... Catcher Jonathan Lucroy will have the pin removed from his fractured pinkie finger Monday. He is clear to start throwing. ... Closer John Axford and reliever Kameron Loe pitched in a Minor League game Sunday, in part to keep the Reds from seeing them 11 days before the two clubs open the season against each other. ... Randy Wolf and Ryan Braun filled the Brewers' clubhouse with toys on Sunday, fulfilling an assignment from Roenicke. They brought in everything from Wiffle balls to Barbie dolls and had an impressive display in the middle of the clubhouse. Team members were allowed to each take a toy for their children, but the vast majority of the items were donated to a local charity.
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.