MILWAUKEE -- Keon Broxton starred in the Brewers' 2-1 win over the Cardinals on Thursday, robbing Cardinals left fielder Jose Martinez of a home run in the second inning before singling home the go-ahead run in the fifth.
Meanwhile, Lewis Brinson, the top Brewers prospect who's found himself losing playing time to Broxton lately, said all the right things about his three-day exile to the bench, while manager Craig Counsell shed some light on the team's unconventional handling of a player ranked 15th on MLBPipeline.com's list of the top prospects in baseball.
"I'm young. I have to earn my spot," Brinson said.
Brinson came off the bench in sixth inning and played the remainder of Thursday's game -- his only appearance in the three-game series other than a pinch-hit at-bat in the opener. Typically, a player of his pedigree would be playing regularly somewhere, but an intertwined series of events led to Brinson's brief stint as the Brewers' starting center fielder, followed by three straight games coming off the bench against the Cardinals, Counsell said. The factors include a shuffling of the starting rotation, some opportunistic matchups against the lefty-heavy Nationals and Cubs, and Broxton's return from a productive demotion to Triple-A on Tuesday to reclaim the bulk of starts in center field.
"Basically, it started in Washington when Matt Garza got injured," said Counsell. "We've taken this time with injuries to have an extra reliever [and] an extra position player. As we get to the weekend here, the roster's going to normalize.
"We sent [Broxton] down to get him going and to try to get him back to where he can contribute. That was the purpose of sending him down. Brett [Phillips, another outfield prospect] and Lewis have come up really to just fill in while he was gone and for a short period. We kind of took advantage of some right-handed pitchers in Philadelphia and some left-handed pitchers in Washington and in the Chicago series. That was the plan all along going in."
Brinson did provide some pop against the Nationals and Cubs, homering in consecutive games on Thursday and Friday. But those are his only two hits in 21 plate appearances since his most recent callup.
Had he produced, perhaps the Brewers would have altered their plan. But with Broxton swinging a hot bat again -- he was 10-for-26 with seven walks in seven games during his demotion to Triple-A -- Counsell and the Brewers believe that the streaky Broxton can help boost an offense that ranked next-to-last in MLB with 3.5 runs per game while losing 12 of their first 18 games after the All-Star break.
Broxton contributed two hits in Wednesday's loss to the Cards and produced his two-way heroics on Thursday before coming out of the game in the sixth as part of a double switch.
"Hopefully it's a start to a stretch that leads to some good things," Counsell said. "We know his good stretches have been very productive. We've won a lot of games when he gets going hot."
"To come up big for the team there, it's huge for my confidence, it's huge for the team's confidence," said Broxton. "It's a win-win situation for everyone. I'm glad I was in that position and able to get the job done."
Beyond helping to win games, a Broxton hot streak could also help boost his value if the Brewers attempt to trade him this offseason to open center field for Brinson, who was slashing .345/.417/.569 at the Triple-A level and has little left to prove in the Minors.
"Obviously, I would rather be starting and playing every day. Everybody would, especially in the big leagues," Brinson said. "But it's just an honor to be up here to contribute any way I can."
Has the Brewers' regular manipulation of the back end of the roster worn on the players involved?
"I don't think so," Brinson said. "You have to get used to that, guys coming in and out, up and down. That's part of baseball and part of a long season. I don't think that's affected anybody. Everyone is pretty professional in their craft."