Rivera adjusting to life as bench player

Brewers infielder continues spring trend of delivering in clutch

April 20th, 2016

MILWAUKEE -- It didn't surprise Brewers manager Craig Counsell to see Yadiel Rivera come up with the second-biggest hit of Tuesday's win at Target Field. Rivera's one-out double in the ninth inning preceded Scooter Gennett's go-ahead single in Milwaukee's 6-5 win.

Of Rivera, Counsell said, "He specializes in the ninth inning. He was up in the right spot there."

Rivera earned Mr. Ninth Inning status in Spring Training, where he bolstered his case for a spot on the Brewers' bench by hitting three ninth-inning, lead-changing home runs. Now he is making an adjustment often difficult for young players -- transitioning from everyday play in the Minor Leagues to sporadic opportunities off a Major League bench.

Rivera's start at second base Wednesday was his fourth this season. He's started twice at second base and twice at shortstop.

"It's kind of hard [coming off the bench] because you get one at-bat, maybe two at-bats," he said. "You come off the bench and you feel a little bit cold. You don't have time to make adjustments during the game. You just go out there and think about putting a good swing.

'It's not an easy job coming off the bench, but I feel like I've done a good job so far."

Rivera is 0-for-1 as a pinch-hitter (as a team, the Brewers entered Wednesday 1-for-18, worst in the Majors among teams with more than six pinch-hit at-bats), but has contributed at the plate after entering games for his defense. He is 4-for-7 as a sub, including Tuesday's big double.

For Rivera, his routine begins in the fourth inning with some stretching. He retires to the underground batting cage with assistant hitting coach Jason Lane to take some swings, the number of which vary with the feel of Rivera's swing. He then returns to the dugout and stays in motion until manager Craig Counsell makes a call.

"I think Yadi is very comfortable in his role," Counsell said. "Just seeing him in the dugout, he's very attentive. He's paying attention. He has a lot of game awareness. I think we saw a lot of that in Spring Training; that's just part of who he is. That's a characteristic that helped him make the team."