PHOENIX -- Rule 5 Draft pick Wei-Chung Wang is a 21-year-old left-hander who spent last year in rookie ball with the Pirates and is trying to jump all the way to the big leagues with the Brewers. Two weeks ago, he compared his bid to swimming across the ocean from Taiwan.
Was Wang any more optimistic after a successful exhibition debut on Monday?
"I see islands," Wang said through a translator, "but there's still a lot of sharks."
He kept the sharks and the Chicago Cubs at bay during a quick sixth inning at Maryvale Baseball Park. Wang threw eight of his 11 pitches for strikes during a 1-2-3 frame that included two strikeouts. He caught Cubs designated hitter Aaron Cunningham looking at a 93-mph fastball, and catcher John Baker swinging through a 76-mph curveball.
It was precisely what Brewers manager Ron Roenicke was looking for. Teams must keep a Rule 5 pick on the active roster all season or offer him back to his old team.
"If he can throw strikes, he's going to get people out," Roenicke said. "The hard thing with keeping Rule 5 guys is if he's so wild when you put him in there, it's hit batsmen, walks and whatever. We've seen it against us the last couple of years.
"Those are tough guys to keep the whole year. If we're going to keep this guy, we need him to be a guy we know we can bring in and he'll throw some strikes and get people out."
Wang, a starting pitcher throughout his career, is still adjusting to warming up as a reliever. Monday offered the first opportunity to do so in a game atmosphere.
When he was ready, Wang kept it simple.
"When I went on the mound, I didn't think too much," Wang said. "Kyle [Lohse] told me, 'Just throw strikes.'"
The Brewers already have one left-hander in the bullpen (Will Smith) and will have another (Tom Gorzelanny) if he can continue his progress from offseason shoulder surgery. Non-roster invitee Zach Duke, a veteran who had great relief success with the Reds late last season, is making a strong bid for a job. But Roenicke said Wang still has a shot.
"I think his performance is going to make it a lot easier for us [to make a decision]," Roenicke said. "He has a nice fastball, a good changeup. The breaking ball is a little inconsistent, but he's working on that. I think if he can go out there and be able to give us innings ... he may be alright."
Former Brewers Counsell, Hamilton to fill in for Uecker
PHOENIX -- The Brewers' flagship radio station announced Monday that former players Craig Counsell and Darryl Hamilton would be the primary on-air replacements for Bob Uecker this season when the legendary broadcaster does not travel with the team.
Uecker announced in January, shortly after his 80th birthday, that he would skip some road games beginning in 2014. He plans to continue calling all Brewers home games and most road games, though his precise schedule will remain fluid.
Counsell, who grew up in Wisconsin, played for the Brewers in 2004 and 2006-11 and is currently a special assistant in the team's front office. Hamilton played his first seven Major League seasons with the Brewers (1988-95) and now works for MLB Network.
If those two have scheduling conflicts, former Brewers reliever and current FS Wisconsin analyst Jerry Augustine will step in.
Wisconsin native Miller back in camp as instructor
PHOENIX -- After six years away, Damian Miller is back in uniform with the Brewers.
The former catcher is in the midst of a weeklong stint as an instructor in Milwaukee's camp. It is first coaching stint -- unless you count youth sports with his teenage kids, Josey and Jesse, in western Wisconsin.
"They had a meeting and I guess my name came up," Miller said. "They asked me if I wanted to come down and work with the catchers, and I said, 'Absolutely.'"
Just like that, Miller was back in the game. Besides appearing in fantasy camps for the Brewers and D-backs, he had not worn a uniform since retiring after a 2007 season spent in Milwaukee. Miller played for the Twins, D-backs, Cubs, A's and Brewers during an 11-year Major League career. He was a 2002 National League All-Star for Arizona.
It was Brewers special assistant Craig Counsell, a former Brewers and D-backs teammate, who suggested the Brewers bring Miller in.
"I came in not wanting to step on guys' toes, because everybody has their own way of doing stuff," Miller said. "But I talked to Ron [Roenicke, the Brewers' manager] right away, and he gave me some freedom right away. If I see something, I'm saying it. ... So I've talked to [Jonathan] Lucroy a couple of times about being a leader, and been over to Minor League camp with [catching coordinator] Charlie Green to talk to the kids. Just little things.
"I've really enjoyed the coaching staff of it. I played professionally for 18 years and gained some knowledge, and I like to share it. To be able to do it here instead of teaching 13-year-olds, it's a little different."
Whether this leads to a full-time coaching career, Miller is not sure. He may increase his time in camp in subsequent years and make a decision after his kids have left for college.
He arrived in Brewers camp the day before the team's Cactus League opener, and it quickly became apparent what he had missed most.
"I missed being in the dugout," Miller said. "That's good stuff there, being down there and seeing the pace of the game again, how fast it is. I can see first-hand, from field level, how Milwaukee is sitting pretty good in terms of the talent I've seen. When I was here, we were just kind of ascending.
"I'm glad to keep the foot in the door [in MLB]. But my kids are the age right now where they're into everything, and I hate to miss stuff. I don't want to close the door, for sure."
• Tickets for the Brewers' Miller Park exhibition games against the Royals will go on sale Wednesday at 9 a.m. CT via Brewers.com and other outlets. Tickets to both games (March 28 at 7 p.m. CT and March 29 at 1 p.m. CT) are priced at $20 for field-level diamond box seats, $15 for field-level infield box seats and $10 for all other locations. Advance general parking is available for $9 and advance preferred Parking is $14.
• While instant replay was made available to both mangers in Monday afternoon's game, neither used it. The new system allows managers the right to challenge at least one call.