Brewers activate Yelich and Cain from IL, send down Hiura

Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports
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PHILADELPHIA — The NL Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers are finally starting to get more healthy.

Milwaukee activated 2018 NL MVP Christian Yelich and fellow outfielder Lorenzo Cain from the injured list and put both in the starting lineup for Monday night’s game at Philadelphia.

The Brewers made room for the two former All-Stars by sending slumping first baseman Keston Hiura and outfielder Tyrone Taylor to the alternate training site.

“We haven’t been activating players lately, so just to activate some players is a change of how last week went, that’s for sure,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said.

The Brewers had 17 players on the injured list Sunday when they lost 16-4 to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Yelich hasn’t played since April 11 due to a lower back strain, Cain had a left quad strain and last played on April 13.

Even with all those injuries, the Brewers won three of four from the Dodgers. They’re starting a seven-game road trip with a 17-11 mark that tied the San Francisco Giants for the best record in the National League.

“We’ve done a decent job winning some games without some important players, so these guys don’t have to do everything,” Counsell said. “Just contribute to wins.”

Yelich is batting .333 with a .459 on-base percentage and no homers and one RBI in just nine games. Cain, who played only five games last year before opting out, is hitting .154 with two homers and four RBIs in seven games.

“We’ll be safe with both these guys and ease them both into it,” Counsell said. “I’d expect days off for both of them as we go here, especially on this road trip, just kind of seeing where they’re at and getting their legs underneath them.”

Counsell said Hiura and Taylor both eventually would end up with the Brewers’ Triple-A affiliate in Nashville, Tennessee.

Hiura opened the season as the Brewers’ starting first baseman but was batting just .152 with one homer and five RBIs in 26 games. He had struck out in 32 of his 89 plate appearances.

After posting a .938 OPS in 84 games as a rookie in 2019, Hiura batted .212 with 13 homers, 32 RBIs and an NL-high 85 strikeouts last season. This year, he continued to struggle and had stopped hitting with power.

Hiura noted on Instagram last month that his mother was diagnosed in February with B-cell follicular lymphoma, a form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. “At this point, it’s just best for Keston, I think, to kind of get in a different environment, maybe take a little time off here before he starts playing in games again and then just get started in a new environment,” Counsell said.

“It’s important for us that I think and still really believe Keston can be our primary first baseman and has the ability to be a force in the middle of our lineup. We weren’t there and it felt like we were almost getting a little farther from that than closer to that at some point,” he said.

Counsell said Daniel Vogelbach would get much of the work at first base for now and that outfielder Billy McKinney also could make some appearances there.

Hiura had played second base in 2019-20 but moved to first base this year when the Brewers signed Kolten Wong, a Gold Glove second baseman the last two seasons. Counsell said the decision to send Hiura down was dictated entirely by the 24-year-old’s struggles at the plate rather than anything he did at his new position.

“I really think this is going to benefit Keston,” Counsell said. “I think it can be a short-term thing, and I think he can be back and be a productive offensive player fairly quickly.”

In another move, the Brewers lost right-handed reliever Phil Bickford when the Los Angeles Dodgers claimed him off waivers. The Brewers had designated Bickford for assignment on Wednesday.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.