Counsell surprised by spring shifts vs. Thames

Opposing teams are loading up right side of infield against Brewers first baseman

Counsell surprised by spring shifts vs. Thames

PHOENIX -- Not many things surprise Craig Counsell after 25 years in professional baseball, but here's one: The degree to which teams have shifted against new Brewers first baseman Eric Thames in Spring Training games.

Thames played the past three seasons in the Korean Baseball Organization, so it is not as if teams have a slew of spray charts. Yet Counsell's rival managers have consistently loaded the right side of the infield against Thames, contributing to the left-handed hitter's 4-for-24 start to the spring.

"I do think that's interesting," Counsell said. "I think they're going on a little bit of just 'profile,' to be honest with you. I have a hard time believing -- maybe it is off the Korea spray charts, but in Spring Training, I have a hard time believing they are doing that much research.

"I think they are just going off what they are expecting."

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It's natural to expect a left-handed hitter who averaged 41 home runs over the past three seasons to pull the ball when he hits it on the ground. Thames was shifted against in the KBO, and the Brewers expect that to continue as he transitions back to Major League Baseball.

The Brewers, meanwhile, will also continue to shift opposing hitters. They shifted more opposing hitters last season -- 1,735, according to FanGraphs data -- than any other National League team. Only the Astros (2,052) and Rays (1,778) had more outcomes in the shift.

"I think it's important to understand we're still at the start of that," Counsell said. "Offensive statistics have been around since the start of baseball. We've introduced defensive statistics, and they are affecting decision-making, but it's still in its infancy. They're still improving and changing. I think Statcast™ will change them dramatically."

Last call

• Outfielders Lewis Brinson and Michael Reed were off Monday, but both were OK after being hit by pitches in Sunday's loss to the Reds. Brinson was hit on the hand and Reed on the right arm.

• An update to a story from Sunday: After helping to retrieve Brewers prospect Lucas Erceg's rooftop grand slam from Goodyear Ballpark the day before, Brewers media relations director Mike Vassallo visited Minor League camp on Monday morning to deliver Erceg's keepsake. It was the first home run in a Brewers uniform for the 2016 second-round Draft pick.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.