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Mehring in Arizona: Day five
03/29/2011 12:42 AM ET
Mike Walker tries to hit the target during a defensive drill on March 28.
Mike Walker tries to hit the target during a defensive drill on March 28. (Wisconsin Timber Rattlers)
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And I don't pretend to know how
You ever saw it through
'cause I only got to where I am now
Learning how to love you

If you ever suspected that there was more to baseball than home runs and high fives, a day like Monday in Maryvale, Arizona was for you.

Yesterday's column mentioned that today was 'D-Day' on the minor league side of the Spring Training complex.  That stands for 'Defense Day'.  And you have to learn how to love playing defense on a day like Monday.

All of the minor leaguers in camp took part in defensive drills that spanned four practice fields and started at 9:00am. Each group was divided into roughly the four full season teams in the Milwaukee Minor League system.  There was Nashville, Huntsville, Brevard County, and the Timber Rattlers.  All of the drills took place under the watchful eye in the sky.  Each group had a certain amount of time at each station.  Then, a loud air horn sounded to let each team know that they were to move on to the next field.

Station number one for the Timber Rattlers was grounders...a lot of them.  Three coaches are set up to hit grounders to different parts of the infield in this picture.  It may look chaotic, but it made sense in action.  Grounders to the mound; grounders to the third; grounders to second; grounders, grounders, grounders for the infield.  Meanwhile, the outfielders were working on drills to track and catch flyballs.

The next station had a little pressure on it.  The team set up and needed to complete 27 consecutive plays without making a mistake.  That does not mean no bobbles or bad throws.  That means everything.  Players needed to call out 'I got it!' loudly.  Pitchers had to get to the proper base to back up throws.  Cutoff men needed to be properly aligned.  Any mistakes and the count went back to zero.

The team made the first six plays properly.  Then, someone didn't call out 'I got it!' on a popup.  Start over.  The next streak reached 10.  Then, someone dropped a flyball.  The highest the team got was 13.  The judges were sticklers on a few of the plays that reset the count.  Other times players just had problems with plays.

Station number three took the infielders to a competition worthy of Top Shot.  The corner infielders set up at third.  The middle infielders set up at short.  A net was placed at first base.  There were set throws, throws on the run, and hurried throws.  Each on-target throw was worth a point.  The outfielders were working on more flyball reads.

The final station of the morning saw the catchers get involved.  So, you want to be a catcher?  Get ready to have baseballs hurled out of an automatic pitching machine into the dirt and block them...continuously.  The outfielders also drilled on how to battle the Sun to catch flyballs.  The infielders all went to shortstop for a knockout round.  If there was a bobble or a missed grounder by a player, that player was out.  This was to continue until there was just one player left and the next round would continue.  Thing was three players made it close to the end of the session.  Two made it all the way to the end.  That isn't supposed to happen.

There was a brief rest for the players before a pair of 4-1/2 inning games.  Nashville played Huntsville.  The Timber Rattlers played Brevard County.

Tyler Thornburg got the start for the Rattlers.  He worked two innings.  Austin Ross got the start for Brevard County.  He tossed all five innings.  Head over to Rattler Radio for a play-by-play of the game against the Manatees.

The Manatees won the game 2-1 with a run scoring wild pitch in the bottom of the fourth.

Take a look at those lineups.  I am guessing that you will see a lot of those names on the backs of Timber Rattlers uniforms in 2011.

The game wrapped up at noon and I went over to the major league stadium to download some photos and check my e-mails.  I was going to head back to the hotel to get a nap in and relax after Shawn Marcum concluded his day on the hill.  Then, I saw the Brewers roster for the game against the Padres.  Scooter Gennett, Taylor Green, Brock Kjeldgaard, Khris Davis, Sean Halton, and Juan Sanchez were all on the roster.  I decided to stay.

The first ex-Rattler to get into the game was none of the above.  Rob Johnson, who is now with the Padres, entered the game at catcher for San Diego.

Eventually, most of the Brewers-era Rattlers got into the game.  Only three took swings in the Brewers victory.  Gennett, Green, and Halton were retired in order in the bottom of the eighth.  Kjeldgaard would have hit in the bottom of the ninth if there was a bottom of the ninth.

Sanchez caught the final out of the game and the minor leaguers went through the handshake line.

It wasn't until I got back up to the press box that the fact of how close the Timber Rattlers season is to starting struck me.  The people at Maryvale were saying what a good spring season it was and wishing good luck to the Brewers on the season.  I looked at a schedule and Tuesday's game was the final home game of the Cactus League season for the Brewers.

The point was driven home as I left the stadium.  Giant Pretzel machines and various other equipment that are related to the concessions business of baseball were being loaded on trucks.

Here we stand - on the precipice of the 2011 season.  Opening Day is coming soon.  Judging from what I have seen in Arizona over the last few days, the Timber Rattlers are ready.  Are you?

Day one

Day two

Day three

Day four

Facebook photo album for day two

Facebook photo album for day three

Facebook photo album for day four

Facebook photo album for day five

Facebook photo album for Brewers v. Mariners Cactus League game

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