MILWAUKEE -- Who knew Jesus Aguilar could do it with the glove, too?The 6-foot-3, 250-pound waiver claim won a spot on the Brewers' roster with a Sonoran Desert-hot bat in Spring Training, and, yes, that continued with two more hits and a critical 11th-inning walk in Friday night's 2-1 walk-off
MILWAUKEE -- Who knew Jesus Aguilar could do it with the glove, too?
The 6-foot-3, 250-pound waiver claim won a spot on the Brewers' roster with a Sonoran Desert-hot bat in Spring Training, and, yes, that continued with two more hits and a critical 11th-inning walk in Friday night's 2-1 walk-off win over the Cubs at Miller Park. But for each of those contributions at the plate, Aguilar made one with his glove, helping turn three big double plays -- starting two of them himself -- to help a parade of pitchers keep the Cubs off the scoreboard after the second inning.
"You heard he had a great approach, you heard he's obviously got size and pop," said hitting coach Darnell Coles, thinking back to the scouting report when the Brewers claimed Aguilar off waivers from the Indians just before the start of spring camp. "And you heard great defender."
The last trait might surprise those who look at Aguilar and assume he is just a slugger. He looked that part in the spring, when Aguilar posted a 1.376 OPS and led the Brewers in hits, home runs and RBIs. He was so hot, manager Craig Counsell said one day, that players would look at each other in the dugout, wide-eyed, every time Aguilar made contact. Outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis would look up at the sky, Counsell said.
The spring has given way to the regular season, and still, Aguilar is hitting. With two singles on Friday before he walked in the 11th inning, Aguilar is 7-for-11 with two walks. His RBI single in the sixth accounted for the Brewers' first run, and his walk in the 11th helped load the bases for Ryan Braun to scamper home on a wild pitch.
"For someone who doesn't have a whole lot of time in the big leagues, he looks very, very comfortable," Coles said. "He watches right-handed hitters before him and he understands how he is about to be pitched.
"You're seeing what looks like a pretty darn good hitter. I'm a happy man."
Aguilar looks like a good fielder, too. Twice in the late innings on Friday, he gloved a grounder and started a 3-6-3 double play. In the seventh, he helped reliever Jacob Barnes work around a leadoff walk. In the 11th, he fielded a 104.1 mph -- according to Statcast™ -- Jason Heyward grounder to help Jared Hughes erase a leadoff single.
"The one in the 11th was outstanding," Counsell said. "It was a rocket. He made it look easy and made it look smooth, that's for sure. It was a heck of a play."
"We knew we were facing a real good team and we knew we had to focus on making the routine plays, make every play possible," Aguilar said. "Because that's a team that you can't really give a break to."
A week before the end of Spring Training, the Brewers started re-exposing Eric Thames to the outfield. Thames signed a three-year deal in the offseason to play first base, but Aguilar looked so potent that Counsell wanted to expand his options.
On Thursday, Thames started in left field and Aguilar manned first. Against Cubs left-hander Brett Anderson on Friday, Aguilar started at first and Thames was on the bench.
"You can't always hit. and there's other ways to win the game besides hitting," Aguilar said. "I take a lot of pride in that."
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast.