CINCINNATI -- Mike Moustakas fumbled the grip as he pivoted and bounced a throw to first base. That missed opportunity on a double-play ball in Monday’s series opener at Great American Ball Park extended the sixth inning for the Reds to score the tying run. It took a ninth-inning Brewers rally to win that night, and it will take some time for Moustakas to settle into a new position at second base.
“I keep trying to turn every single double play,” Moustakas said, “instead of letting it happen.”
There is only one cure:
“As long as the boys are happy with me over there, I’m good,” Moustakas said. “Just keep making the routine plays, and all the other stuff will become second nature and I don’t have to worry about it anymore. I enjoy [the extra work], though. It’s fun for me.”
Despite that sixth-inning mistake, Monday was a milestone day for Moustakas, because he successfully turned his first double play earlier in the game. He got zero opportunities to do so during all of Spring Training, despite playing extensively at second base.
He has made at least one good diving play during the regular season that saved a run during the Brewers’ opening series against the Cardinals. But his handful of double play turns have been shaky. The trouble is the transfer.
“I think, for me, one of the strengths on defense is my arm. If I can start using that, just catch it, be smooth and use my arm strength to turn it, I think that’s going to be key,” Moustakas said. “Right now, I’m catching it and peeking at the runner. Not the guy sliding into second, the guy running to first. I think I’m being too quick because I keep peeking at the runner … heading to first, instead of being smooth.”
Next step for Jeffress
After clearing another appearance at the Brewers’ spring facility in Phoenix on Tuesday, reliever Jeremy Jeffress will be assigned to Triple-A San Antonio and pitch an inning Friday in Oklahoma City, manager Craig Counsell said.
Jeffress is working his way back from a bout of shoulder weakness that kept him out of the Cactus League.
“He’s ready to go,” Counsell said. “All good signs.”
Friday would be Jeffress’ third outing of his own version of Spring Training. If other players are a guide, the Brewers typically pitch their relievers about eight times to get them ready for the regular season.
The Brewers’ new San Antonio affiliate opens play in the Pacific Coast League on Thursday against the Dodgers’ top affiliate and left-hander Clayton Kershaw. Expect a lot of moving pieces this season for a Missions team stocked with Milwaukee's MLB Pipeline top 30 prospects. The infield is particularly crowded, with Keston Hiura, Mauricio Dubon, Lucas Erceg, Jacob Nottingham, Cory Spangenberg, Tyler Saladino and Nate Orf.
To get everyone at-bats, Erceg and Nottingham will play a lot of first base. Spangenberg will see time in left field. Saladino will play all over the diamond, a Triple-A version of the Brewers’ Hernan Perez. Even Dubon, the starting shortstop, will see some time in the outfield in order to increase his versatility, Counsell said.
“First-year Triple-A players, it’s generally tough to have success in that league. You’re facing a lot of experienced players,” Counsell said. “It will be interesting. They have a good challenge ahead of them.”
Bunt to win
The Reds employed a four-man outfield alignment against Brewers catcher Yasmani Grandal in the first two games of the series when he batted left-handed, so Grandal tried a different approach in his first at-bat Tuesday night: He bunted. Grandal got the bunt down, but it was too close to the mound and Reds pitcher Anthony DeSclafani threw him out.
Grandal has only two bunt hits in his career -- one in 2015 and one in ’16.
“This is the whole shifting thing. Some people would say, ‘Well, just hit it over there!’” Counsell said. “I would say that his swing is not, over hundreds of thousands of hours of practice, [built] to hit it over there. He built a swing that is good at pulling the ball or hitting it in the air to the outfield. Every player has to ‘give’ something. They can’t master everything. For Yasmani, that’s not something he has been able to do, to hit the ball on the ground the other way.
“I think we are investigating the bunt. That is a fair question to consider. But if the purpose of a four-man outfield is to take away all of your slug, all doubles, and you’re only going to be able to hit homers and singles, maybe the single -- the bunt -- is a play we have to consider.”