SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Why play second base tomorrow when you can serve as the designated hitter today?That was essentially the thinking that led Brewers manager Craig Counsell to bump up Scooter Gennett's Cactus League debut to Thursday night, when Gennett singled, doubled and homered as Milwaukee's DH in a 5-2
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Why play second base tomorrow when you can serve as the designated hitter today?
That was essentially the thinking that led Brewers manager Craig Counsell to bump up Scooter Gennett's Cactus League debut to Thursday night, when Gennett singled, doubled and homered as Milwaukee's DH in a 5-2 win over the Rangers at his favorite Spring Training venue, Surprise Stadium. Gennett, sidelined to this point by a sore throwing shoulder, originally was not expected to play in a game until the weekend.
"I saw this DH day available and I said, 'Why don't we just put Scooter in there and start him?" Counsell said.
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If there is such a thing as a stroke of managerial genius in Spring Training, this was it.
Gennett's best spring performance came on this very field in 2012, when the then-prospect was a last-minute addition to a Brewers split-squad lineup and hit for the cycle against the Royals. He finished the feat by hitting a home run into the Brewers' bullpen, where relievers retrieved the baseball for Gennett's memorabilia collection.
On Thursday, having long ago shed prospect status and become the Brewers' starting second baseman, Gennett was at it again. He led off the game with a single, hit a solo home run in the Brewers' five-run third inning, then doubled to the left-field corner -- notably, against a left-handed pitcher in Chad Bell -- in the fourth.
But he never got a chance to finish another cycle. Counsell replaced Gennett with pinch-hitter Garin Cecchini in the sixth inning.
"I was happy with the three ABs," Gennett said. "I'm the type of person that I want to stay in and play, but there's an easing-in process to coming back, and I've got to do what they tell me.
"Just being relaxed and going out and having fun, for me, is the key to success. I was able to keep those emotions down. It's very easy to go out and be anxious and real, real excited because I'm back in a game. I just tried to calm that down and be relaxed, and it worked out."
Gennett remains on track to make his infield debut this weekend, Counsell said. The Brewers play the Angels in Tempe, Ariz., on Saturday.
"We've had two guys who sat half the spring and came out and swung the bat very, very well," said Counsell, coupling Gennett's solid debut with Ryan Braun's two days earlier. "It was really impressive what Scooter did tonight. That's got to feel really good."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast.