3/8/2014 7:52 P.M. ET
Teammate Duke reminds Wooten of UNC rivalry
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- It was a particularly torturous start to Saturday morning for Brewers reliever Rob Wooten, a diehard fan of the University of North Carolina basketball program, as he tried and failed to ignore the nameplate on the locker immediately to his left.
Left-hander Zach Duke is not a Blue Devils fan, for the record. That doesn't make it easier for Wooten, whose Tar Heels were poised for a big night game against the archrival Blue Devils.
"A week or so ago I thought about it and was like, 'Wait a minute. They did this on purpose, for sure,'" Wooten said. "[UNC] played them a couple of weeks ago and beat them, and when Zach walked in I was like, 'Tough day to have that last name.'"
Wooten lives just south of Chapel Hill, N.C., and attends as many as 10 Tar Heels home basketball games a season before departing for Spring Training.
Aramis shows up swinging in late spring start
PHOENIX -- Aramis Ramirez stepped to the plate for the first time this spring looking for a strike, and Royals left-hander John Lamb obliged.
Ramirez ripped the first pitch of his season for a three-run double on Saturday, and he finished 2-for-2 with a walk in his first game since his surgery to remove a benign polyp from his colon.
"I wanted to get that first hit out of the way, right away," Ramirez said. "I was hoping for a strike, and he did throw me a strike, and I put a pretty good swing on it."
Said manager Ron Roenicke with a smile: "It's not that easy."
Ramirez's afternoon in the field was uneventful, but he was busy at the plate. His double off Lamb to the left-field corner in the first inning cleared the bases, and Ramirez walked in the second inning as the Brewers cobbled together an insurance run. After he singled in the fourth inning, Ramirez exited the game in favor of a pinch-runner. The Brewers went on to win, 7-6, with two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Ramirez called it a successful debut.
"It's been a while since the last time I played in a baseball game, so it was a little weird in the beginning," he said. "But I got the first one out of the way now. I was hoping to get some ground balls and see how I move out there, but we've got plenty of time."
Ramirez expected to take Sunday off before playing Monday against the White Sox. The Brewers are off Tuesday, so he could play Wednesday against the Angels before conferring with the team's medical staff to set a schedule moving forward.
Brewers test replay three times vs. Royals
PHOENIX -- Brewers manager Ron Roenicke threw his first metaphorical challenge flag on Saturday at Maryvale Baseball Park.
Then he threw another. And another.
In the end, Roenicke was 0-for-3 on a very busy day, considering he had already managed three other games this spring that featured instant replay without challenging a single call.
With two runners on base, one out and the Brewers in the midst of a big first inning against the Royals, Roenicke asked plate umpire Allen Bailey to review whether an inside pitch from left-hander John Lamb had struck Brewers catcher Martin Maldonado. After a brief review, crew chief Ted Barrett confirmed the original call: It was simply Ball 2.
After the game, a 7-6 Brewers win, Roenicke still disagreed.
"The ball hit 'Maldy,'" Roenicke said. "We had a view that they said you could see the ball change directions. If that's the case, they need to change the call. But we'll get better cameras during the season, and not just more cameras, but better cameras. We'll see it better then."
Royals manager Ned Yost actually agreed.
"Quite frankly, I thought I heard the ball hit the batter's pad," Yost said. "Our replay guys thought that they might have seen it deflect off the pad, and I thought we might lose that one, but we didn't."
During the regular season, that would be Roenicke's only challenge. But these Spring Training games are meant to allow managers to test the new system, so he was also allowed to request review of consecutive calls in the Royals' half of the ninth inning, when umpires would normally have that discretion.
The first play was Justin Maxwell's infield single, on which Brewers third baseman Hector Gomez's throw was high. Maxwell was ruled safe, and the umpires confirmed the call.
The next batter was Pedro Ciraco, who grounded to third base with Maxwell running on contact. Ciraco was out and Maxwell was caught in a rundown between second and third. The Brewers fumbled one of their throws, and Maxwell slid in safely. Roenicke asked for a second look and was again denied.
Both managers seemed satisfied with the process.
"We're just practicing here," Yost said. "There are [four] cameras [now], and they're going to have nine, 12, 15 cameras during the season. Angles are going to be much more varied, and it's going to go a lot quicker. It's practice for us, it's practice for the umpires, so I thought it went fine."
Making up for lost time, K-Rod on schedule
PHOENIX -- Brewers reliever Francisco Rodriguez is quickly making up for lost time. The setup man said he would throw live batting practice on Sunday before making his first appearance in a Cactus League game either Wednesday against the Angels or Thursday against the Padres.
"If we have to do another live BP, we will; if he's ready for a game, we'll do that also," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "He comes along fast, and he doesn't feel he needs sometimes as much as some other guys."
Said Rodriguez: "As it's planned, everything is right on schedule."
Rodriguez arrived in camp about two weeks late, in part because of the recent unrest surrounding his home in Caracas. He did not acquire a work visa until a day or two before the Brewers started playing games, and he did not arrive at Maryvale Baseball Park until March 1.
But he is right on track to be ready for Milwaukee's March 31 season opener.
"It will take me two weeks at the most to be where I need to be," Rodriguez said. "I'm feeling good. I haven't had any setbacks. There's soreness as normal in Spring Training, but as far as health is concerned, it's pretty good."
The Brewers are counting on Rodriguez and fellow right-hander Brandon Kintzler to set up closer Jim Henderson this season. Rodriguez was the team's final offseason acquisition, signing a one-year deal on Feb. 7 that guaranteed $3.25 million, with an additional $550,000 available in incentives.
• The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Major League Baseball had approved the Brewers' contract with 20-year-old Dutch catcher Milan Post, whom the club discovered last fall when Minor League catching coordinator Charlie Greene was working a series of MLB International clinics in Amsterdam.
• Khris Davis, Michael Blazek and Jimmy Nelson had a shopping spree at Toys "R" Us on Friday night and brought the goods into the clubhouse on Saturday morning, including youth catcher's gear that fit second baseman Scooter Gennett perfectly. Their haul was organized and donated to charity in an annual tradition of Brewers camp.
Some veteran players chipped in to cover the bill, but that was the easy part, Nelson said.
"The hard part was fitting it all into our cars," he said. "We should have just rented a U-Haul."