Crew in negotiations to buy Class A Mudcats

Purchasing club would add stability to Brewers' Minor League system

Crew in negotiations to buy Class A Mudcats

MILWAUKEE -- Seeking additional stability in the club's Minor League chain, Brewers owner Mark Attanasio said Sunday that he is in negotiations to buy the Class A Carolina Mudcats.

The Brewers affiliated with the Zebulon, N.C.-based Mudcats in September after their previous Class A Advanced club, the Brevard County Manatees, relocated to Kissimmee, Fla., and paired with the Braves. That left the Brewers with only two options: Carolina and Lancaster, Calif.

That game of musical chairs came two years after the Brewers lost their affiliation with Triple-A Nashville, just as the Sounds were moving into a state-of-the-art stadium. The Brewers' only option was pitcher-unfriendly Colorado Springs, where they remain today.

"There's been a little bit of a wave in baseball of teams owning their affiliates," Attanasio said. "I was at a dinner this week with [Cardinals chairman and chief executive officer] Bill DeWitt, and I believe I heard him correctly that the Cardinals own three of their affiliates. They're very good at developing players, and it's not just that they own [affiliates]; there's a lot of things they do.

"But I know some of the things that [Brewers GM David Stearns and assistant GM Matt Arnold] want to do to the ballpark in Zebulon that will allow us to better train players at that high-A level, and not be, every two years, looking for another place to play."

Progress for Houser
Right-hander Adrian Houser, who made his Major League debut with the Brewers in 2015 but fell from MLBPipeline.com's list of Milwaukee's Top 30 prospects after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2016, resumed throwing earlier this month and is hopeful about making a full recovery.

Houser had surgery in July and has been rehabbing at Maryvale Baseball Park in Phoenix. His roommate is D-backs right-hander Archie Bradley, a childhood friend.

"It's probably the longest [amount of] time I haven't picked up a baseball since I was five years old," said Houser, who has been tossing on flat ground from 45 feet. "It's been a little tough at times, but … being with [Bradley] and a good group of guys made it a whole lot easier. Everything is going well right now."

Houser hopes to be back on the mound in May.

Lopez to pitch in WBC 2017
After an uplifting stint in winter ball, Brewers pitching prospect Jorge Lopez says he is slated to start for Puerto Rico in the upcoming World Baseball Classic.

Lopez was Milwaukee's Minor League pitcher of the year in 2015 and made it to the Majors that September, but struggled to a 6.81 ERA at Triple-A Colorado Springs at the start of last season and was demoted to Double-A Biloxi. In nine starts in Puerto Rico, he posted a 1.56 ERA.

"I went to winter league and just attacked the zone the whole time," Lopez said.

Brewers officials must decide this spring whether to once again expose Lopez to the challenges of Colorado Springs. Lopez said he would be fine with such an assignment.

"Yes, totally. I don't have any problem with that," Lopez said. "If I have to go there, I'm just going to keep working hard like I have been."

Last call
Right-hander Junior Guerra said he holds no ill will after the Brewers essentially didn't permit him to pitch in the Venezuelan playoffs.

"It's a little different when they take something away that you're used to. But you have to adapt to the little difference and get ready for the season," Guerra said. "They had their reasons. I understand it. Now I have to get ready to have a healthy season."

• Assistant GM Matt Arnold and other members of the Brewers baseball operations department spent the last week working in the Miller Park press box because of a water leak in their offices. Attanasio stopped by when he got to town.

"It's the middle of winter, it's a Friday, it's 4 o'clock and you have 25 people working without having optimal heating," Attanasio said. "They're really focused on making the team better. It's genuine."

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. 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.