TORONTO -- For the third time in the first eight games, the Brewers faced a left-handed starting pitcher on Monday. All three times, Eric Thames has begun the night on the bench, begging the question: Did the Brewers give Thames a three-year deal to be a platoon player?
No, manager Craig Counsell explained emphatically.
"I think I've been clear on this: We have young players, and we have to get them involved, and I think things will change as the season goes," Counsell said. "Performance will certainly be a part of it. Starting the season, I thought it was important to get Jesus Aguilar involved. He had such a great spring, and frankly, he continued it to start the season. We all want to see what that's going to look like."
Thames, who signed in November, bats left-handed. Aguilar, claimed off waivers the first week of February, bats right-handed, and has started at first base for each of the Brewers' three games against lefty pitchers.
"I'm not planning on committing to carry that out the whole season," Counsell said. "Eric has played very well. It's not, by any stretch, a statement about how Eric has played. He's done a tremendous job."
But Aguilar's scorching spring -- he led the team in hits, runs, home runs and RBIs in exhibition play -- prompted the Brewers to expand Thames' responsibilities to the outfield. Thames already has started one game in left field and one in right, allowing Counsell to have both Aguilar and Thames in the lineup.
Both players have been producing. Aguilar entered Tuesday with a 1.000 OPS in 18 plate appearances, and Thames at 1.040 in 21 plate appearances.
"Right now, we have a player [Aguilar] who has played pretty well for a pretty good stretch here, so we're going to keep putting him in there when we have an opportunity," Counsell said.
Was Thames surprised he still has not started against a lefty?
"I can only control what I can control," Thames said. "I'm not the manager, I'm not making the lineup. The only thing I can do is go out there and compete when I have the opportunity to.
"I feel like I see lefties really well. Obviously, I'm used to it. Being a left-handed power hitter, later on in the game they always bring in the southpaw to face you in big situations. So I'm used to that. But right now, 'Skip' thinks we're having more of a matchup lineup, and, hey man, I'm on board with that. I want to help the team win."
Because he is losing at-bats against left-handers now, won't it be harder to hit them when he does get the opportunity?
"Hey, that's life," Thames said. "I wish things happened more ideally, but you have to compete and you have to grind. We're seven games [into the season]; we have a long way to go."