Notes: Great stuff, bad command
Fielder, Hall go yard back-to-back; first round of cuts made
PHOENIX -- Even after a 10-7 loss to the Giants on Thursday, Brewers manager Ned Yost was able to rattle off a half-dozen positives. He's happy with his team's offensive approach, its defense and its focus in fundamental drills, among other areas.
"Our command has been brutal," Yost said. "That's going to have to pick up here."
Brewers pitchers issued 12 walks on Thursday, and two relievers who qualified as early spring surprises were among the culprits. Grant Balfour took the loss after allowing three runs in two-thirds of an inning and watched his Cactus League ERA balloon to 23.14. And Dennis Sarfate, who should be sharp after pitching in fall and Winter Leagues, surrendered three runs on two hits and two walks and saw his ERA reach 27.00.
"The good thing about it is they've got very, very good stuff," said Yost, who argued that command issues are not limited to those two guys. "But we have to get back to commanding the down-and-away fastball first, and everything else works off of it. We're not doing that right now."
That is going to have to change soon, Yost said.
"It's getting to the point now where innings are starting to count," Yost said. "You're getting judged on certain aspects of your game, and if you can't exhibit command at this level, odds are you will not be here."
Balfour gets a bit of a pass because he is 22 months removed from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery. But coaches were looking for more from Sarfate, 25, who switched to relief last summer and made a late-season stop in Milwaukee.
Sarfate has walked five batters and surrendered eight hits in 2 2/3 innings this spring. He tried to keep a sense of humor about his spring funk.
"You want to take an at-bat off me?" he asked a reporter.
"I just have to get through it," Sarfate said. "There's no excuse because I've been throwing the whole offseason. This ain't my Spring Training. My Spring Training was in fall league. ... Maybe I'm pressing a little too much. I just need to go out and do what I did all winter."
Back with a bang: Sidelined the last week by a quadriceps strain, first baseman Prince Fielder teamed with center fielder Bill Hall on back-to-back home runs on Thursday, a sight Brewers fans hope to see often in 2007.
Fielder and Hall are Milwaukee's likely Nos. 3-4 hitters, though Yost said he is still mulling lineup combinations. The only lock, according to the manager, is Rickie Weeks leading off.
"I've got a couple of ideas, but I'm not quite sure," Yost said. "It just shows you where our lineup has come, but I don't know who I'm going to hit eighth."
Earlier in camp, Yost assumed the No. 8 hitter would be shortstop J.J. Hardy, but Hardy has impressed to the point that he now may bat second. Yost said he likes speed and power in the two-hole, so he's also considering right fielder Corey Hart, but the skipper is also considering Hart hitting third. Tony Graffanino and Craig Counsell, likely to share time at third base, also could hit second.
Assuming Fielder and Hall hit 3-4, Yost said he likes switch-hitting catcher Johnny Estrada batting fifth because of his high percentage of balls in play. That could leave Geoff Jenkins and Kevin Mench batting sixth.
"There's still a lot of things we're looking at," Yost said.
Quick start: Fielder had not seen live pitching since the team's second intrasquad game, back on Feb. 27. It's not surprising that he felt a bit uncomfortable in the batter's box on Thursday.
What was a bit surprising, though, was Fielder's assertion that he never feels comfortable in the box.
"I never feel good, really," said Fielder, who homered off Giants right-hander Sun-Woo Kim. "I just have to keep working until one day everything clicks and I don't have to think about much.
"I don't really like to feel good, because then you get too big," he said. "I just like to feel all right."
Cuts: With Minor League players formally reporting to camp on Friday, Yost and his coaching staff met Thursday morning and later made the first round of roster cuts.
All four moves involved pitchers. Luis Pena and Vince Perkins were returned to Minor League camp, Mike Jones was optioned to Double-A Huntsville and Marino Salas was optioned to Triple-A Nashville.
"I know I'll be on the first boat out of here," Perkins said Wednesday. He is recovering from Tommy John surgery, and players limited by injury are usually among the first sent out.
Perkins, a right-hander, had been shut down for about 10 days because of a strained muscle in his left ribcage. Jones, the team's first-round draft pick in 2001, made two Cactus League appearances and went 1-0 with a 4.50 ERA. He is now out of Minor League options.
Hot topic: Steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs were the subject of a team meeting Thursday morning.
Players viewed a DVD production from Major League Baseball on the subject. Last week, the team's medical staff put on a similar presentation.
"We are required to provide education to the players on that subject," said assistant general manager Gord Ash. "The more information they have, the more likely it is that players will make better decisions. It's all part of our plan to be proactive on this matter. Once a guy tests positive, it's no good going through the issues with him then."
The team holds a similar seminar with Minor League players. The team encourages players not to take any over-the-counter supplements not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or the Center for Drug-Free Sport.
On deck: Chris Capuano is scheduled to throw three innings or 50 pitches when the Brewers face right-hander Zack Greinke and the Royals on Friday at Maryvale Baseball Park at 2:05 p.m. CT. Brewers closer Francisco Cordero, who has been on a conservative program this spring to avoid the shoulder soreness he experienced last year at this time, will make his Cactus League debut.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.