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Counsell preaches patience with slow starts

Broxton, Villar among Brewers slumping so far
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

CHICAGO -- Second-year Brewers outfielder Keon Broxton is going to get to play his way through his early-season struggles at the plate, and he's not the only one.

The Brewers have fielded a lineup of extremes, with Eric Thames and Ryan Braun leading a group of middle-of-the-order hitters off to scorching starts, and Broxton and second baseman Jonathan Villar at the edges of the lineup fighting horrible slumps.

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CHICAGO -- Second-year Brewers outfielder Keon Broxton is going to get to play his way through his early-season struggles at the plate, and he's not the only one.

The Brewers have fielded a lineup of extremes, with Eric Thames and Ryan Braun leading a group of middle-of-the-order hitters off to scorching starts, and Broxton and second baseman Jonathan Villar at the edges of the lineup fighting horrible slumps.

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"The struggle is real," Broxton tweeted late Tuesday, after striking out in all three at-bats against the Cubs and seeing his slash line fall to .132/.214/.237.

Tweet from @KeonDDBroxton: The struggle is real! #grinding

Villar entered Wednesday grinding just as hard, with a .133/.200/.317 slash line and 23 strikeouts in 60 at-bats -- tied with the Twins' Byron Buxton for the most whiffs in the Majors.

Both Villar and Broxton remained in the starting lineup Wednesday at Wrigley Field, where Counsell made the case that it is in the Brewers' interests to let those players swing their way through it.

"I know they're going to play, and I know they're going to play through it," Counsell said. "And that's to say there [will not] be a time where the best way through it is to sit for a couple of days and do some work. That's part of growing, too. But Keon or Johnny Villar or whomever, the guys who are not quite on it yet, they need to be out there. They need to be with us, trying to figure it out."

Counsell is a believer that players learn more from struggles than their successes, and Broxton was the Brewers' best example of that last season. He went back and forth between the Majors and Minors four times, found a dramatic adjustment with the position of his hands, then surged in August and September. Broxton posted a .294/.399/.538 slash line in his final 45 games before his year was cut short by a broken wrist.

Broxton had another injury scare this year. He was hit in the face by a fastball in the Brewers' fourth game of the season, and he was lucky to suffer only two black eyes and a small nasal fracture. Broxton played off the bench the next two games before returning to the starting lineup.

Video: COL@MIL: Broxton exits after being HPB in the face

Broxton said his problems at the plate are mental and not physical. He has been too overaggressive and has struggled to adjust to pitchers working him on the outer part of the plate.

"I've always been kind of a slow starter at the beginning of the season," Broxton said. "I don't want to say this is normal, but I've definitely had this happen before. Even last year -- you guys know that. It's all part of the process for me, and at some point, it'll all come together. It always does.

"There's no panic here. Just going to keep grinding, keep working, keep finding out little things to make myself better every day. That's all I can do."

Broxton will get to keep grinding, Counsell said.

"We're 200 at-bats into a Major League career, so we're just getting started," Counsell said. "We've got to put him out there and let him go through it. He'll get back on it and he'll find it. The reason you do it is because when he does [find it], we all saw that it's a very impactful player.

"That's worth waiting for."

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Milwaukee Brewers, Keon Broxton, Jonathan Villar