The Ryan Braun experiment at first base has been one of the biggest storylines for the Brewers this spring. Not only does (at least partially) solving the team’s outfield logjam depend on the move, but so might the jobs of several players on the roster.
Even though Braun has described himself as “not even remotely comfortable” at the position this spring, the Brewers have apparently seen enough to make the decision to move forward with the plan. Craig Counsell confirmed today that Braun will in fact play first base against left-handers in the regular season.
We won’t have to wait long to see it, either.
Counsell is happy with how Ryan Braun has handled 1B this spring and said Braun will start there against lefties.— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) March 23, 2018
Brewers face a lefty — Clayton Richard — on Opening Day.
Braun will start at 1B on Opening Day.
“That’s some investigative journalism there,” CC said.
That’s great news for Domingo Santana, but is less great for Jesus Aguilar, whose role Braun is essentially taking by now platooning with Eric Thames at first. Aguilar could conceivably still have a role as a pinch-hitter -- one he excelled in last year -- but given the team’s roster crunch caused by a desire to carry 8 relievers for most of the season, it’s hard to justify carrying three guys who will see a lot of time at first base.
As discussed last week, the Brewers’ early off-day after the season-opening series in San Diego makes it possible the team could decide to only carry four starting pitchers at the start of the year, since they won’t need a 5th starter until the following weekend against the Cubs. Even if it’s just for a week, it would be a way to keep Aguilar on the roster.
That’s a scenario that might seem more likely after the injury to Wade Miley, since they won’t have to devote a roster spot to him right away, and Boone Logan starting the season on the disabled list might just convince the Brewers to ditch the 8-reliever plan, at least for the first few series of the season.
As for Braun, it remains to be seen just how much he’ll play in the outfield (or righties overall), but the team seems to have backed off its previous assertion that Braun will only play first or left field and Christian Yelich would get most of the time in left. Against especially tough righties, for example, Counsell could elect to sit Santana and play Yelich in right while Braun starts in left. Routine off days for Braun and Lorenzo Cain will also factor into the rotation.
We might not know how it’ll all shake out, but at least now we can start guessing the Opening Day lineup with the clue that Braun will be starting at first base that day in San Diego.