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Milwaukee Brewers’ Luis Urias, Eric Lauer seek to rebound after challenging 2020 season

The Milwaukee Brewers’ Luis Urias gets ready for batting practice during the team’s spring training workout in Phoenix last Tuesday. (AP file photo)

The Milwaukee Brewers’ big trade from the fall of 2019 certainly didn’t work out in the short term.

They’re still hopeful it will help them over the long run.

The Brewers acquired infielder Luis Urias and left-handed pitcher Eric Lauer from San Diego in a November 2019 trade that sent outfielder Trent Grisham and pitcher Zach Davies to the Padres. Urias and Lauer struggled in 2020 while Grisham and Davies flourished.

But a new season represents a fresh start for both Urias and Lauer.

The Brewers are giving the 23-year-old Urias a chance to win their starting shortstop job. If Urias (prounounced oo-REE-us) has a solid season as a full-time player, it could lead to some reassessments of a trade that seemed lopsided in San Diego’s favor last fall.

The Milwaukee Brewers' Luis Urias trains during spring training in Phoenix last Tuesday. (AP file photo)

Urias says he isn’t putting any extra pressure on himself to prove the Brewers made the right move in acquiring him. But he understands what’s at stake.

“Obviously I want to prove something, that I can really play,” Urias said Monday from the Brewers’ training camp in Phoenix. “But that’s more for myself, you know? I’m always trying to get better, trying to be a better teammate, a better player and it’s more like a goal for me. I don’t feel a lot of pressure.”

Urias played eight games at shortstop last season but was at third base and second more often. Orlando Arcia has been the Brewers’ regular shortstop the past three seasons.

“You know, I’m confident in knowing Orlando’s abilities at shortstop, so we’re going to take a look at Luis at shortstop this spring because we need to see it,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said at the start of camp. “So that ends up meaning Orlando is going to see some time at third base this spring. We haven’t made any decisions on how that’s going to play out during the year.”

Urias is simply happy he gets a full spring training to prepare for this season. Last year, Urias underwent surgery on his left wrist in January and spent spring training recovering. He had injured the wrist while playing winter ball.

For much of the preseason summer camp, Urias was in quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19, though he was asymptomatic. Lauer dealt with an injured left shoulder in spring training and was limited in summer camp due to a close contact with someone who had tested positive.

Urias returned and batted .239 with a .308 on-base percentage, zero homers and 11 RBIs in 41 games. Lauer, who had gone 14-17 with a 4.40 ERA while making 52 starts for San Diego from 2018-19, was 0-2 with a 13.09 ERA in four games with Milwaukee last season.

Now there’s still time for Urias and Lauer to make an impact.

Lauer, 25, started the Brewers’ exhibition opener Sunday and says he’s feeling better.

“It feels so much better to be back to full health and feeling good and feeling like I can go back out and prove what I was supposed to do last year,” Lauer said. “What I did early in spring last year, before the shoulder stuff happened, I essentially showed what kind of guy I was going to be for the team. That’s who I plan on being this year.”

Urias is taking a similar approach. After enduring so much adversity off the field last year, he’s eager to show what he can do on the field.

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