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Counsell aims to shake things up this spring

Brewers skipper will have plenty of new faces in camp
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

PHOENIX -- Brewers manager Craig Counsell doesn't plan to populate the clubhouse with magicians or zoo animals, a la Cubs counterpart Joe Maddon. But Counsell said he does want his first Spring Training at the helm to be "uncommon."

"It's a conversation, to try to get the right message to the players about what's important to us, and how we're going to be a little 'uncommon,'" Counsell said on Monday. "I think that's something we have to try to do. We have to find out ways we can try to be a little uncommon."

PHOENIX -- Brewers manager Craig Counsell doesn't plan to populate the clubhouse with magicians or zoo animals, a la Cubs counterpart Joe Maddon. But Counsell said he does want his first Spring Training at the helm to be "uncommon."

"It's a conversation, to try to get the right message to the players about what's important to us, and how we're going to be a little 'uncommon,'" Counsell said on Monday. "I think that's something we have to try to do. We have to find out ways we can try to be a little uncommon."

Because players are more likely to listen and act on something they haven't heard many times before?

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"I think that's accurate, yeah," Counsell said.

That process won't begin in earnest until Thursday, when the team takes part in its first full-squad workout. But before Counsell can spell out his vision for his first full managerial season and beyond, he first needs to put faces to all of the new names in camp.

Video: Counsell on importance of developing team chemistry

Of the 58 players in Milwaukee's big league camp, 33 were not in the organization at this time last year. The Brewers will have a new Opening Day starting pitcher, first baseman, third baseman, shortstop, right fielder and closer. They'll have a "new" left fielder, too, with Ryan Braun moving back over from right.

The newcomers include left-hander Sean Nolin, who was plucked off the waiver wire from Oakland on Monday and will presumably report to Maryvale Baseball Park on Tuesday morning.

Nolin would be well-served to arrive wearing a nametag, and he wouldn't be alone.

"I think [players getting to know each other] is kind of an organic thing," Counsell said. "We're not having mixers."

Instead, he said, it will happen naturally out on the fields at Maryvale Baseball Park and in a cramped clubhouse. After Monday's workout, players were doubled over with laughter after discovering outfield prospect Brett Phillips' odd quirk: Once he starts laughing, he sometimes cannot stop.

"We spend seven and a half, eight months together, 10 hours a day," Counsell said. "It happens really fast when you work in close quarters.

"From my perspective, it's really us finding common ways to think as a team. That's what's important. I'm trying to lay a foundation for that."

The process begins anew each day at 9:30 a.m., when Counsell gathers players in the clubhouse for a meeting that typically spans 15 minutes.

"We cover baseball topics, topics that are important to us," he said. "There's fun in there, too, but we're trying to cover baseball things and how we think about things. The fun -- that's not always planned. But there's fun."

If Counsell does it right, some of it will be uncommon.

But he is not trying to reinvent the game.

"This is not even close to that," he said. "I just think we have to always search out best practices, and ways to improve those."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Milwaukee Brewers