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Mom knows: Advice leads to Villar breakout

Brewers' second baseman went 2-for-4 vs. Giants with homer and triple
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

MILWAUKEE -- More than two months into his hangover of a season, Jonathan Villar said he had a frank talk with Brewers manager Craig Counsell in recent days about playing time. But it took one more conversation this week to convince Villar it was time to start over.

As usual, mom knew just what to say.

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MILWAUKEE -- More than two months into his hangover of a season, Jonathan Villar said he had a frank talk with Brewers manager Craig Counsell in recent days about playing time. But it took one more conversation this week to convince Villar it was time to start over.

As usual, mom knew just what to say.

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"We're starting again," Villar said after the Brewers' 6-3 win over the Giants at Miller Park. "This is the start of the season for me now."

That heart-to-heart with his mother, Rosa, and some deep thinking Tuesday night propelled the switch-hitting Villar into his most productive game in weeks on Wednesday. He tripled from the right side of the plate, homered from the left and contributed a defensive gem to Jimmy Nelson's quality start, making a sliding catch of a Buster Posey popup to end the fifth inning.

Video: SF@MIL: Villar makes a great sliding catch

The homer was Villar's first since May 14. The triple was his first of the season.

"I've thought in my mind, 'How are you missing a lot of fastballs?'" Villar said. "I talked with my mom, 'What do you think about that?' She told me, 'I don't know. You're thinking too much in the game, because sometimes I see you swing and the swing is good.'"

Too nervous to come to the games in person, Rosa has been watching on television. She knows her stuff. She was a power-hitting shortstop as a young woman in the Dominican Republic and was the one who convinced her son to move from third base to shortstop. That decision helped propel Villar to pro baseball.

"She told me, 'When you miss one fastball, you have your face down. You need to focus more,'" Villar said. "That's it."

Last season, it was easy to focus. Villar led the Major Leagues with 62 stolen bases and posted career highs in every other offensive category, too. He hit 19 home runs, posted an .862 OPS and led the Brewers in runs, hits, doubles, walks and on-base percentage.

So confident in his ability was Villar that he turned down a contract extension early in Spring Training that reportedly would have guaranteed at least $20 million. Villar preferred to go year to year in arbitration beginning after the 2017 season.

Two months in, that decision looks dubious. His OPS entering Wednesday was .595.

"My mom told me, 'Don't worry. You finish the year and go to arbitration. … Focus on the game," Villar said.

Mom must have liked what she saw. Counsell certainly did.

"It was a big game for Johnny. He had a great game," Counsell said. "He affected both sides of the ball. He had a very nice defensive game, as well. So that's why we've got to keep finding opportunities where it fits. He's going to get onto it eventually. We just have to keep finding the right opportunities for him."

Video: SF@MIL: Villar hits his first triple of the season

Villar has ceded playing time of late to midseason callup Eric Sogard, who earned it with a .529 on-base percentage through 68 plate appearances.

After Villar was left out of the lineup Sunday against the Dodgers, he says he asked Counsell point-blank, "Why was I not playing yesterday?"

Counsell encouraged Villar to focus and keep working.

"The work doesn't stop," Counsell said. "It is a challenge for him. He had such a big season last year, a great season, that there's frustration, certainly. There's also a lot of season left."

"I need it," Villar said. "I need to finish hard."

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.

Milwaukee Brewers, Jonathan Villar