Gross, a Brewers outfielder sidelined the past two weeks by a strained right hamstring, made his first Cactus League appearance on Wednesday against the White Sox. He started as the designated hitter and hit a Jon Garland pitch for a second-inning double, then walked in the fourth inning and called it an afternoon.
"The word from my manager right before batting practice was, 'Don't try to stretch out any triples today,'" Gross said. "I was not really thinking, 'three,' but if [the baseball] had kicked around a bit more I probably would have had time to get there. But a diving triple and a blown hamstring would not do me any good right now."
Gross said he feels about 80-percent healthy. He strained his hamstring running the team's timed 60-yard dash on Feb. 28.
Wednesday marked his first game since Sept. 30 and his first start since Aug. 29, when Gross strained the other hamstring legging out a double in Houston.
"I don't feel like I can kick it up into that last gear yet," Gross said while his teammates were slogging through an 11-8 loss. "But I feel good enough to run around a little bit and play and hopefully get myself back into the swing of things."
Gross will probably not play the field for a few more days. The Brewers play their next American League game on Friday against the Angels in Tempe, but manager Ned Yost would not commit to whether Gross would be the DH again.
"He's getting better, feels better," Yost said. "He's running out of time here. We need to start getting him ready."
Gross did make a mistake on the bases after his second-inning double. Instead of checking in at second base on Brady Clark's grounder to shortstop, Gross broke for third and became the first out of the inning. Outfielder Kevin Mench was also thrown out at third on a play in the first inning, but Yost said he was not upset with that one.
"We're trying some things," Yost said of the Mench play, without elaborating. "They are instructed to do that. ... Kevin just didn't do it right."
Gross is among a handful of players vying for outfield roster spots. Barring trades, Bill Hall is the likely center fielder and Corey Hart will get the majority of starts in right. Geoff Jenkins and Mench are candidates for left field. That leaves one open spot and a number of candidates, including Clark, Gross and Laynce Nix. Clark went 0-for-3 on Wednesday, and Nix is sidelined by a strained oblique.
Back at it: Third baseman Ryan Braun made his first appearance in the field since March 2, spelling starter Craig Counsell in the bottom of the sixth inning. Braun had been nursing a sore throwing elbow.
With Corey Koskie still sidelined by post-concussion syndrome and not expected back anytime soon, Counsell and Tony Graffanino are the frontrunners to play third this season. Braun is also getting an opportunity this spring to compete for the spot.
"They haven't told me there's not an opportunity now," Braun said. "Until I hear that, my focus is still on working hard and possibly making the team."
Braun did not have a play in the field Wednesday, but he went 2-for-2 at the plate with a run scored and an RBI.
Déjà vu: Wednesday's game featured one of the more bizarre plays of the spring. Chicago's Eduardo Perez hit a three-run home run off Milwaukee starter Chris Capuano but strained his right calf and pulled up between first and second base. Andy Gonzalez entered as a pinch-runner and finished the circuit per Major League rule 5.10 (c), which says that, "if an accident to a runner is such as to prevent him from proceeding to a base to which he is entitled, as on a home run hit out of the playing field ... a substitute runner shall be permitted to complete the play."
A similar thing happened on Sept. 14, 2005. Boston's Gabe Kapler was chugging hard on a Graffanino line drive that cleared the fence at Toronto's Rogers Centre, and suffered an Achilles tendon injury between second and third base. Kapler was replaced by pinch-runner Alejandro Machado while Graffanino waited at second, and the Sox went on to win, 5-3.
A number of strange coincidences were in play Wednesday. Graffanino is now a Brewer, and Machado is a former Brewers Minor Leaguer. The Red Sox third base coach at the time was Dale Sveum, who is now the Brewers' bench coach. Kapler was only on base because of a two-out throwing error by Koskie, also now a Brewer. Rob Drake, who was the home plate umpire Wednesday, was on the crew that day in Toronto.
Last call: The Brewers probably will make another round of roster cuts on Thursday. ... Opening Day tickets associated with nine-game season packages have sold out. Fans can still get tickets to see the Brewers and Dodgers open the season at Miller Park by purchasing 20-game or full-season packages. Fans interested in purchasing a nine-game pack will still receive a free 10th game of their choosing with their purchase, subject to availability. For information visit the tickets section of Brewers.com. ... After struggling right-hander Dennis Sarfate walked the first batter he faced Wednesday, Yost visited the mound. "Instead of being out there maxing out at 100 percent, I said I wanted him to try to stay within himself and pitch. Make pitches!" Yost said. "After that, he was better."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.