Counsell weighs pros, cons of resting Yelich

Reigning NL MVP Award winner doesn't start for first time in '19

April 24th, 2019

ST. LOUIS -- Sure, would love to go all Prince Fielder and start 162 games. But Yelich also realizes the importance of rest, so the hard-worked outfielder made the most of his first day out of the lineup all season Sunday when the Brewers concluded their series against the Cardinals with a 5-2 loss.

When hitting coach Andy Haines walked by and Yelich joked about joining him in the batting cage, Haines responded, “Why don’t you keep those flip-flops on a little bit longer?”

“I mean, I love to play every day. I like being out there,” Yelich said. “I think it’s important to be out there, or at least be available every day. It’s just the way things are now and the way people look at it, it’s really hard to do that, and if you wanted to, it probably wouldn’t be an option. I’d love to do it, but it doesn’t work out that way.”

Yelich said he hoped to get an at-bat off the bench, perhaps against Cardinals closer Jordan Hicks. And that’s precisely what he got in the ninth inning, after Ben Gamel worked a bases loaded walk from Andrew Miller to bring up Yelich as a pinch-hitter representing the go-ahead run. Yelich tried to check his swing on a 2-2 curveball but struck out for the fourth time in seven hitless at-bats in the series. That sealed a three-game sweep for the Cardinals.

Last September, when manager Craig Counsell gave Yelich a rare day off against the Cubs, the team the Brewers were hunting in the National League Central, it caused a social media stir that so frustrated Yelich he chose to chime in.

There was a physical issue then that contributed to the decision. On Wednesday, Yelich was healthy, and Counsell was aiming to keep it that way.

“I’ve played with one guy in my career that’s [played all 162 games],” said Counsell, referring to Fielder in 2009 and ‘11. “I think it’s rarer than we think. I think, just knowing Christian for a year, he’s a player that benefits from days off. I think as a whole, everybody does.

“The only guy I’ve been around [who played them all] was Prince. That’s the only guy. Days off, they’re about the long term. They’re always about thinking a little bit bigger than one day. With a player like that, that’s what you’re thinking about; the bigger picture.

“I think the question is, what is that worth? Does rest end up getting you better production over the long haul -- and keep you healthier over the long haul? That’s the goal. The goal for Christian is about 150 [games]. Then we feel like we’ve had a good, healthy season with him.”

Only six times in the Brewers’ 50 seasons has a player appeared in 162 games. Fielder twice, Carlos Lee (2005), Richie Sexson (2003), Robin Yount (1988) and Gorman Thomas (1980).

Aguilar’s mental break to continue

After being absent from the lineup for all three games in St. Louis, slumping slugger is expected to remain on the Brewers’ bench until Sunday, when the team draws Mets left-hander Steven Matz at Citi Field.

“It’s a process everybody goes through. It’s my time right now,” said Aguilar. “I’m taking a rest mentally. I try to stay positive. I know they believe in me.”

Aguilar’s .192 weighted on-base average is third-lowest among Major League qualifiers, according to FanGraphs. He has no home runs and two extra-base hits, a dramatic plunge from last year’s first half, when Aguilar wrested starts at first base from Eric Thames, hit 24 home runs with a .995 OPS in 316 plate appearances and traded his All-Star break for an appearance in the All-Star Home Run Derby and the Midsummer Classic.

Getting Aguilar back to producing is a high priority for the Brewers at the moment.

“Really what we’re doing is taking away the performance, the competition part of it, as much as we can,” Counsell said. “I think it helps him, takes a little pressure off him, lets him sleep a little easier, lets him practice a little differently without having to take it into the game immediately after and worrying about the performance. One of the hardest part about a baseball schedule is that when these guys try to make changes, the feedback comes, like, two hours later. And if the results aren’t good, it’s really hard to stick to things.

“So hopefully this takes a little bit of the pressure of that off. It’s a little bit of a mental break, too, where he can refresh and not worry about things so much.”

Moustakas expected back

continued to report improvement, and could return to the Brewers’ lineup on Friday in New York. He has been sidelined by a fracture at the tip of his right ring finger that affects him swinging the bat.