Carter giving Brewers stability at first base

July 2nd, 2016

ST. LOUIS -- For the first time since Prince Fielder's departure nearly five years ago, the Brewers have found some stability at first base.

With his 20th home run in Friday's 7-1 loss to the Cardinals, Carter became the first Brewer since Ryan Braun in 2012 to reach 20 homers before the All-Star break. It's the first time in Carter's career that the slugger has hit 20 in the season's first half; he came close with 19 home runs before the 2014 All-Star Game, and 18 in 2013.

Carter remains a free-swinger -- he entered Saturday batting .220 and had already struck out 102 times -- but he also is swinging at the lowest percentage of pitches outside the strike zone (24.1) of his four seasons as a Major League regular.

"It feels a lot better than before," Carter said. "The last couple seasons I started out pretty rough, under .200 [batting average], and you're trying to play catch-up the rest of the season from there. It's a long grind for the whole season. This year, I kind of avoided that a little bit and am doing a little better."

He's the 12th different Brewers player to hit 20-plus homers before the break, including five players multiple times. Fielder leads the group with four such seasons (2007, '09-'11). Braun has two.

Over the past four years, Carter is eighth in the Majors with 110 home runs. Baltimore's Chris Davis leads the way with 146 homers entering Saturday.

"He's played a lot, nearly every day," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "We've probably asked more of him there than has been ever asked in that area. Full-time first base, he's done a good job.

"I've been pleased, certainly, with how he's played. The tendency with Chris is to just look at the home runs, and that's all you look at. But I think the fact he's been in there every day and he's played a good first base has been a pleasant surprise, for sure."

Carter has started all but four of the Brewers' games at the position.

The Brewers signed Carter for one year at $2.5 million, plus $500,000 in incentives, after the Astros nontendered him last November. Carter was coming off a season in which he hit 24 home runs for Houston and batted .199.

Key to the signing was that Carter, 29, could be Brewers property for up to three years. He is arbitration-eligible following this season and again following the 2017 season.

"I would love to stay here and be that guy that stays there for years to come," he said.

Including Carter, 24 different players have started at first base for the Brewers since Fielder left via free agency during the winter of 2011-12.