Brewers’ Justin Topa undergoes MRI, will start year on injured list

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Milwaukee Brewers reliever Justin Topa will open the season on the injured list after undergoing an MRI on his elbow.

Brewers manager Craig Counsell made the announcement. Counsell also said the Brewers have re-signed reliever Brad Boxberger to a minor league contract and first baseman Daniel Vogelbach has made the team

Counsell said Topa threw just three pitches in a simulated game before leaving with elbow discomfort. The Brewers are awaiting results on an MRI that Topa underwent.

“It’s an injured list to start the season, for sure,” Counsell said from the Brewers’ spring-training site in Phoenix.

Topa, 30, made his major league debut last season and went 0-1 with a 2.35 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings. He threw two scoreless innings in the Brewers’ first-round playoff series loss to the eventual World Series-champion Los Angeles Dodgers.

His injury reduces the depth of a bullpen that figures to be one of Milwaukee’s strengths, thanks in part to two-time All-Star Josh Hader and 2020 NL Rookie of the Year Devin Williams. Counsell noted that relievers Drew Rasmussen, J.P. Feyereisen and Angel Perdomo have enjoyed productive springs.

“Obviously Justin had a possibility of pitching some big innings for us, so it’s a loss,” Counsell said. “Guys fill in around losses always, but these are losses that start to chip away at your depth, for sure. Justin pitched some big innings for us at the end of the year last year and I think he was capable of doing that (again). Hopefully we get decent news and he can get back to that.”

One option to solve any depth issues is Boxberger, who rejoined the organization after getting released. Counsell said Boxberger, a former closer for Tampa Bay and Arizona, would be on the Brewers’ taxi squad for their first trip rather than going to their alternate site.

The Brewers removed the suspense from one of their top remaining roster issues by announcing Vogelbach had made the team. Vogelbach’s status had been uncertain because the NL isn’t using a designated hitter this season.

Vogelbach primarily has been a DH throughout his career. Vogelbach bounced back from a prolonged slump by batting .328 with four homers, 12 RBIs and a .418 on-base percentage in 19 games after the Brewers acquired him late last season.

Counsell said the Brewers will use Vogelbach mainly as a pinch-hitter.

“It’s going to be trying to get him a big at-bat every night,” Counsell said. “We think he’s well-suited for it. We think he can be impactful doing it, putting him in a big spot during a game and having a big at-bat. We think we’re covered enough at other positions to be able to do that.”

Counsell also said he’s optimistic that outfielders Jackie Bradley Jr. and Lorenzo Cain would be available for the start of the season.

Bradley had been dealing with a sore wrist after having a cyst removed during the offseason. Cain opted out of last season after playing just five games and was battling a quadriceps issue this spring.

They each went 2 of 3 and combined to score five runs in an exhibition game against the Kansas City Royals. Cain homered in the game.

“I think they’ll be ready,” Counsell said. “I think in Lorenzo’s case, we’re going to have to be careful early in the season just because of a leg injury, not playing last year, the weather we may face. We will be careful with Lorenzo specifically, I think, early in the season.”

Royals fire manager Mike Matheny after 65-97 end to season

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Cal Eldred were fired by the Kansas Cty Royals on Wednesday night, shortly after the struggling franchise finished the season 65-97 with a listless 9-2 loss to the Cleveland Guardians.

The Royals had exercised their option on Matheny’s contract for 2023 during spring training, when the club hoped it was turning the corner from also-ran to contender again. But plagued by poor pitching, struggles from young position players and failed experiments with veterans, the Royals were largely out of playoff contention by the middle of summer.

The disappointing product led owner John Sherman last month to fire longtime front office executive Dayton Moore, the architect of back-to-back American League champions and the 2015 World Series title team. Moore was replaced by one of his longtime understudies, J.J. Picollo, who made the decision to fire Matheny hours after the season ended.

Matheny became the fifth big league manager to be fired this year.

Philadelphia’s Joe Girardi was replaced on June 3 by Rob Thomson, who engineered a miraculous turnaround to get the Phillies into the playoffs as a wild-card team. The Angels replaced Joe Maddon with Phil Nevin four days later, Toronto’s Charlie Montoyo was succeeded by John Schneider on July 13 and the Rangers’ Chris Woodward by Tony Beasley on Aug. 15.

In addition, Miami’s Don Mattingly said late last month that he will not return next season.