Phillips makes big play in 1st Cactus game

Recovered from oblique strain, Brewers prospect looking forward to Houston visit

Phillips makes big play in 1st Cactus game

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- "Healthy, finally," Brett Phillips said Wednesday, just in time to make his long-awaited Catcus League debut.

Phillips' participation in big league camp was derailed by a left oblique strain, suffered just as games were getting underway. But he healed in time to make a start Wednesday in the Brewers' Cactus League finale, a 5-4 victory over the Rockies at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

"This is what I wanted coming into Spring Training, to play on the big league field with the big league team," Phillips said. "For me to be here now, it's very exciting."

"I don't want to say it's a tryout," manager Craig Counsell said. "But he didn't get to play earlier in camp ... and there's a lefty [Colorado's Jorge De La Rosa] pitching, so let's just see him play."

Phillips went 0-for-3, but he walked and made the defensive play of the day in the bottom of the eighth inning. Phillips caught a flyout to medium right field and fired a throw home in time to double up Colorado's Tim Smalling trying to score the go-ahead run. The Brewers scored in the top of the ninth inning to win the game.

Phillips will travel with the Brewers to exhibitions in Houston on Thursday and Friday, though he is not expected to start.

He will then change uniforms and start against the Brewers on Saturday in Biloxi, Miss., where the Double-A Shuckers will host their parent club. Phillips and catcher Jacob Nottingham are among the Top 30 prospects slated to start the season at Double-A.

Phillips is happy to be healthy.

"Everyone said that the oblique takes awhile," Phillips said. "I tried at the two-week mark to come back, threw a little bit, and it was still pretty tight. So I waited another week. At the three-week mark, it felt pretty good, and I'm here now. I feel good. I'm just excited to be here."

The Houston trip will reunite Phillips with his former organization. He was one of four prospects, with outfielder Domingo Santana and pitchers Josh Hader and Adrian Houser, acquired last July in a trade for Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers. Santana is also on the trip, since he's the Brewers' starting right fielder.

"It's awesome. I'm looking forward to it," Phillips said. "The guys who were my friends in Houston, I'm obviously looking forward to seeing them, but also kicking their butts, giving it to them."

Going high tech

Counsell and his coaches on Wednesday were given their first advance scouting materials on the San Francisco Giants, who visit Miller Park for the opening series beginning Monday. Counsell planned to dive into that material during the team's flight to Houston.

This season some of that material will be available, digitally, in the dugout. Coaches and managers will be authorized during games to use an iPad Pro and a newly developed advance scouting, analytics and video app called MLB Dugout. The devices will be securely preloaded each day with a club's own proprietary statistical reports, data visualizations and advance-scouting videos. They are not connected to the Internet.

As part of a pilot program late in the 2015 regular season and postseason, the Brewers were among the clubs that accepted the opportunity to utilize iPad Air 2 units and an early version of MLB Dugout.

"We haven't seen [the new devices] yet, so I have to take a 'wait and see' approach," Counsell said. "They were not good last year. They were very limited. There has to be a significant improvement over what they provided us last year, I would say that.

"They say there's going to be a significant improvement. I think what will happen with the iPads is they will become more [prevalent]. We'll learn how it can help us as the season goes on. On Day 1, it's not going to be your go-to tool, but it will become our go-to tool, I'm certain of that."

Last call

• Outfielder Rymer Liriano dropped by Maryvale Baseball Park on Wednesday, two days after undergoing surgery to repair facial fractures suffered in a March 20 hit by pitch. The Brewers have yet to release a timetable for his comeback.

• Dan and Mike Attanasio, the sons of Brewers owner Mark Attanasio, will perform the national anthem on Opening Day, the team announced. They will carry on the tradition of their late grandfather, Joe Attanasio, who sang the opening anthem every year of his son's ownership tenure until passing away in January 2015.

The Miller Park lots will open at 10 a.m. CT on Opening Day. The ballpark gates will open at 11:10 a.m. CT.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.