PHOENIX – For Brewers non-roster spring training invitees like pitcher Robert Gasser, just getting the opportunity to learn from major league pitchers is invaluable.
That remains the mentality for the majority of Milwaukee’s non-roster invitees, with most wanting the opportunity to take in advice from teammates and grow their game. After four consecutive trips to the MLB postseason, the Brewers missed the playoff mark last year. But with every spring comes a clean slate, and Milwaukee’s young pitching staff is eager to soak in every little bit.
“I just hope to learn from the guys around me, they (Brewers) put me in a good spot (in the clubhouse). I think they’re good guys to be around,” Gasser, 23, said. “I’m honestly just hoping to get an opportunity out there, a couple of times, hopefully do well. I’m just here to learn right now and I’m not expecting too much.”
Gasser was acquired as a part of the Josh Hader trade with San Diego back in August, but had risen through the ranks, playing at high-A, double-A and triple-A last season.
Skipper Craig Counsell said that being able to watch pitchers like Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff provides knowledge that those like Gasser may not have had previously.
“The goal is really to be able to watch successful major league players,” Counsell said Tuesday before workouts at the American Family Fields of Phoenix. “Watch their routines, watch their discipline, watch how they interact with teammates. You learn from that. That’s the best part of camp for those guys. They’ve already been exposed to the coaching, really, but the players are different. Running across a Corbin Burnes, they have not seen that, and if you’re Robert Gasser, it’s different and seeing pitchers like that, it’s different and that’s the greatest experience for guys like Robert.”
Gasser had been exposed previously to the minor leagues with San Diego, but this is his first season in major league camp. While he has no expectations to make the 40-man roster at the start of the season, never say never.
Multiple young pitchers on the roster have said they look up to veterans such as Matt Bush, Hoby Milner and Aaron Ashby, who is in his second year on the 40-man roster. Gasser, in particular, looks up to Ashby, and relies on him for advice since the two had a similar path to the show.
“I came in October and we did a throwing camp together. I got to know him and we played some golf, and then coming back, he’s definitely a familiar face,” Gasser said. “I got to see, he’s a younger guy who kind of followed a similar career path to me. So I’m hoping to kind of follow his trend, and see what he does.”
Like Gasser, pitcher Gus Varland, 26, is in his first year with Milwaukee after being picked 10th overall in the Rule 5 draft last year. However, the pitcher had previously been in the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland Athletics systems. Varland, like Gasser, said that being able to learn from those like Bush has already made him excited for what’s to come.
“Being a Rule 5 pick, I want to make the club. I had a good offseason program to get me to a point where I am ready for spring training,” Varland said. “I’m ready to give them a tough decision at the end of spring training to put me on the 40-man roster, but Matt Bush has been exceptional in giving me advice and helping me through it all.”
Although it is only the first few days of full-squad workouts for the Brewers, Gasser said that “confidence is key” when going into practice with his teammates, but also mentioned that having those in the locker room be approachable and friendly has made his adjustment to major league camp easier than before.
Gasser hopes that the mentality will remain to be confident, while also exuding his conviction and willingness to learn from those who are veterans on the team.
“Obviously there are some nerves coming in and talking to guys, but just be yourself, it’s a game and just play baseball,” Gasser said. “Nothing has changed, just different people in the locker room. Just being able to stay persistent and be relentless. That’s a word that I used a lot in college and is a keyword to fuel the fire.”
Coming into this season, the Brewers roster looks much different, and with opening day of spring training on the horizon, many feel that they are still getting to know each other, while seizing the opportunity to learn from one another.
“There’s a lot of new faces in here and a lot of new signings today,” pitcher Milner, 32, said. “It feels like a completely different team this year and we just got to get to know each other. I don’t think there’s any one aspect that’s going to be big for us this year. I think we just got to get to know each other and we’ll see what happens.”
With the first set of games just days away, anything is possible, but with the additions of Gasser and Varland, Milner said you can never know what to expect at spring training up until the start of the season.
“You never know what’s going to happen,” Milner said. “I didn’t expect to make the team, but I ended up making the team and staying the entire season. You’re going to get opportunities here and there, but you just have to make the most of it and prepare yourself every day.”