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Counsell confident in keeping deep Crew happy

Brewers enter regular season with impressive position-player depth
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The final days of Spring Training highlighted one of the chief early-season challenges facing Brewers manager Craig Counsell: keeping everybody happy.

The Brewers packed up Maryvale Baseball Park on Sunday just as they arrived, flush with outfielders and first basemen. Some call it a logjam. Some call it depth. Barring some type of subtraction, Counsell will have to find ways to spread at-bats around to keep hitters sharp.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The final days of Spring Training highlighted one of the chief early-season challenges facing Brewers manager Craig Counsell: keeping everybody happy.

The Brewers packed up Maryvale Baseball Park on Sunday just as they arrived, flush with outfielders and first basemen. Some call it a logjam. Some call it depth. Barring some type of subtraction, Counsell will have to find ways to spread at-bats around to keep hitters sharp.

"It's not a problem," he said.

The Brewers put themselves in this position with the January acquisitions of Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich, which meant Ryan Braun will see action at first base, where the Brewers already had Eric Thames and Jesus Aguilar. The final roster isn't set, but team officials were working on 25-man combinations to keep Aguilar, who is out of Minor League options, as long as possible.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Meanwhile, with Braun, Cain, Yelich and Domingo Santana all demanding at-bats in the outfield, Keon Broxton and Brett Phillips -- each of whom had their moments in the Majors last season -- found themselves optioned to Triple-A Colorado Springs on Saturday.

"I have no idea [how it will work out]. I'm just taking it all in stride," Thames said Friday after playing against the Cubs in Mesa. "None of us really know what's going on in the front office or the manager's office. We're just going to do what we can do, you know? Get ready to play, and if we're in there, we're in there.

"We have a lot of dudes. It is what it is. Control the controllables."

Counsell made the case that Thames, who played 103 games last season in a timeshare with Aguilar, is essentially in the same position entering this season.

"For now, Eric is going to see the bulk of the duties at first base against right-handed pitching," Counsell said. "Eric still certainly figures prominently. I don't see Eric losing any playing time in this situation. Nothing's changed for Eric."

Video: OAK@MIL: Thames blasts a two-run homer to right

But a lot changed for Broxton and Phillips, who were headed to the Minors as of Saturday. Broxton, one of Major League Baseball's nine 20/20 performers a year ago, was disappointed, and politely declined comment when approached by reporters.

"It's normal in these types of conversations, even if you're expecting it, to be a little bit of a shock when it happens," Brewers general manager David Stearns said. "Keon is a Major League player. He knows he is a Major League player. We know he is a Major League player. We've talked about that at some stage, we are going to get to a point where we have more Major League players when we have roster spots to give out.

"That's where we are right now on Opening Day. That will sort itself out over the course of the season, but on Opening Day, it's very challenging for a Major League player to hear he's not going to be in the Major Leagues."

On Twitter, Phillips handled the news with humor.

Tweet from @Brett_Phillips8: Thinking of excuses to come up with so I can explain to my mom why I didn���t make the squad this year 😂 Good Luck to my guys up there, Praying everyone has a healthy and blessed season! https://t.co/JmnsWtnucP

Counsell encouraged both players to stay positive, since the Opening Day roster is only a snapshot of the team. In each of the past two seasons, the Brewers used 50 players.

"Early on, it will be a challenge. I think it will iron itself out pretty quickly, but early on, there'll be a lot of shuffling going on," Counsell said. "It's a good thing. Our unit is strong and deep from a position-player perspective but you can only write eight guys' names on the lineup card every night.

"Everybody wants to play. That's how it is."

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.

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