RIVER FALLS, Wis. -- JP Feyereisen chuckled at the idea he could make his Major League Baseball debut this season with no fans in the stands.
“It’s kind of funny, but at least it’s a start,” he said.
Since being drafted out of University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in the 16th round of the MLB draft by the Cleveland Indians in 2014, the 2011 River Falls High School graduate has been climbing the ladder in the Indians’ and New York Yankees' farm systems before being traded to his home-state Milwaukee Brewers last September.
His dream of making the big leagues moved a lot closer to reality when he was added to the Brewers’ 40-man roster in November. He represented Team USA at the World Baseball Softball Confederation Premier 12 Tournament in Mexico and Japan during the offseason, and reported to Arizona for Brewers’ spring training camp in February.
Then the Covid-19 pandemic shut everything down.
But Feyereisen remained focused, knowing any day he would get the call that baseball was coming back. That call came just over a week ago, and he packed up his car last Friday for the cross-state drive to Milwaukee for what’s been dubbed MLB’s Spring Training 2.0.
“It was almost like you’re in the minor leagues waiting for a big league call-up,” he said about the past four months. “It’s the same type of thing. You’re like, all right when are we going to get this season going. But you have to stay ready and stay sharp and make sure you’re doing your daily work and you’re just waiting for that call.”
Feyereisen has stayed ready since being sent home in March when spring training was shut down due to the coronavirus. And he said it was great to be able to stay on track with his workouts while enjoying a summer at home for the first time in eight years.
“Just being with family and getting to do summer type things like bonfires or campfires, and being able to go to the lake to do some boating and fishing was great,” he said “And for me and my dad being able to play some golf together. So I really got to take advantage of our time together that we haven’t had in awhile.”
But now it’s time for the hard-throwing righthander to get back to work. He reported to County Stadium Monday, June 29, for Brewers’ Spring Training 2.0, and hopes to be on the team’s opening day roster when the abbreviated 60-game season begins July 23.
Feyereisen believes the expanded 30-man roster MLB has implemented to start the season, up from the normal 26, will work toward his benefit.
“Having 30 guys on the roster definitely helps me out for being one of those extra arms they’re going to need for these early games,” he said. “Especially since the starters probably won’t be going as deep in games as they normally do just because of the reset and the shorter spring training. So they won’t be built up to go seven, eight, nine innings and they’re going to need some extra bullpen arms. Hopefully I’m one of them.”
Feyereisen has dominated batters throughout his six-year minor league career, pitching to a 2.49 ERA across 307.2 innings in 217 appearances. He had a big season at Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last year, going 10-2 with a 2.49 ERA in 40 relief appearances, with seven saves and 94 strikeouts in 61 1/3 innings.
But he knows he can’t rest on his laurels this season, especially with the schedule consisting of 60 games in just 66 days.
“You better come out of the gate ready to go,” he said. “With 60 games it’s not like they’re going to say, well we’ll give him a couple of games to kind of get his feet wet and see how he goes. A couple of games could be the difference in making the playoffs or not in a 60 game season.”
Feyereisen said he’s confident in the protocols Major League Baseball has put into place to protect players and staff as it looks to resume play. Among the guidelines are twice-daily temperature checks and every-other-day coronavirus testing. With no fans in attendance, players and personnel not participating in games will sit in the stands at least six feet apart. Antibody testing will be done once a month, there will be a covid-19 related injured list, and any player who tests positive will not be allowed to return until he tests negative twice.
“They’re going to do what they have to do to try and keep us all safe,” he said “I think that’s why they gave certain people the option not to come back and play this year. For me, it’s just another loop you have to jump through and keep working through, and that’s part of the job. If you want to play you have to take it as it is and keep going.”
And Feyereisen definitely wants to play.
“It should be quite an interesting baseball season, not just because of how short it is but how intense each game’s going to be,” he said. “I’m excited to play and I’m excited to have a chance to compete with the best in the world.”