Hitters take their lumps as BP begins

Hitters take their lumps as BP begins

PHOENIX -- Domingo Santana dove out of the way of a tailing fastball, gathered himself and stepped back in the box with a hard exhale. This was precisely the sort of thing that had Brewers manager Craig Counsell musing earlier in the day, "I don't know how Major League hitters hit."

Tuesday marked the first full slate of batting practice against Brewers pitchers at Maryvale Baseball Park, the most uncomfortable day of the year for hitters. After a winter spent swinging in the cage, Santana & Co. were suddenly staring down the likes of Brewers pitching prospect Damien Magnifico, whose chin music had Santana dancing out of the batter's box.

"It's scary," Santana said.

Magnifico threw his hardest pitch of 2016 in his Aug. 16 Major League debut -- 98.5 mph, according to Statcast™.

"If they're throwing 88 mph, that's fine. But 95 and up, that's quick," Santana said. "You're not used to it right away. It doesn't matter if you go to the machine or whatever, you can't practice that."

How long does it take for a hitter to feel comfortable facing that kind of velocity?

"Probably a month or so," Santana said. "Unless you're Ryan Braun, you know? For me, after a month, everything slows down."

Ten Brewers pitchers threw to hitters on Tuesday, including top pitching prospect Josh Hader and reliever Corey Knebel. Another 13 or 14 will throw on Wednesday.

Hiram Burgos, another of Tuesday's participants, will start the Brewers' first exhibition game on Friday against the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. A slate of Brewers relievers will pitch Saturday's Cactus League opener against the Angels in Tempe, Ariz., said Counsell, who has yet to designate one of them the "starter."

Generally, pitchers are ahead of hitters at this early stage of camp.

"I'm optimistic about everybody," Counsell said. "You watch the bullpens, and I don't know how Major League hitters hit."

Jungmann bidding for bullpen spot
Taylor Jungmann started the Brewers' third game last season but if he makes the cut in 2017, it will have to be out of the bullpen, Counsell said Tuesday.

The Milwaukee Brewers' Taylor Jungmann throws during a Spring Training workout. (AP)Morry Gash/AP

Jungmann was 0-5 with a 7.76 ERA in six starts and two late-season relief appearances last season, spending most of the year in the Minor Leagues after getting "completely out of whack" mechanically. Jungmann is more prone to mechanical funks than some pitchers because of his cross-body delivery.

He made some fixes at Double-A Biloxi, where Jungmann had a 2.51 ERA in 13 starts and earned a September callup back to Milwaukee.

"I finished better than I started. I would put it like that," Jungmann said. "Last year was so bad that as soon as it was done, I was over it. It was something I had to move past. I haven't thought about it once."

"We're giving him an opportunity to make the team. It will be out of the bullpen to start," Counsell said. "If we can see things we like, if he's pitching well, we'll consider him for a bullpen spot to start the year. Where it goes from there is really based on what we see."

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.