PHOENIX -- After devouring a series of self-help books last winter, Eric Thames turned to English literature this time. Perhaps there is some symbolism there.
Thames said he's much more relaxed in his second Spring Training with the Brewers, the result of having a full year back in the Major Leagues in the books. He makes a point to read for at least a half hour per day, and is currently working on Alexandre Dumas' adventure novel "The Count of Monte Cristo."
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"It's a little bit tougher now because our schedule is so messed up, getting up at 4 or 5 in the morning," Thames said, "but during the season I'll wake up at 10, have coffee and read for 30 minutes to an hour, before having lunch and heading to the field."
Escaping into a book helps Thames clear his mind, which was as hard-worked last season as any other part of his body. He returned from three years in the Korea Baseball Organization on a three-year deal with the Brewers, and produced 31 home runs and 124 weighted runs created plus, the 21st-best mark in the National League.
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But Thames, who worked a bases-loaded walk against the Indians on Monday for his first spring RBI, got to those numbers in the most interesting way possible. He announced his return from overseas with a club-record-setting April (11 home runs and 28 runs scored) and ended with a 1.004 OPS in September, but grinded through a pair of sub-.700 OPS months along the way.
"I know what to expect now," Thames said. "Last year, my head was always on a swivel and it was, 'react as you go.' Now, I know my teammates, I know what to expect in camp and in the season. There's the whole thing of, 'Is [Ryan] Braun going to play first? Where's [Jesus] Aguilar?' We have so many dudes. But I really can't get caught up in that. Do my thing, work on the things I have to work on, and after that, it's out of my control."
In a meeting with manager Craig Counsell, Thames joked he's open to playing shortstop if needed.
"I can always hope," Thames said.
That's not happening. Counsell would prefer that Thames keep doing what he did last year, even if that means another season of streaks.
"It would be a lot easier, mentally, on all of them if during the season, their offensive performance or pitching line were the same every time," Counsell said. "Maybe it wouldn't be as fun, actually. Honestly, it wouldn't be as fun. But the little emotional challenge of the game is what makes it the beautiful game.
"I think Eric would tell you there were times last year that were pretty rough, but the big thing, for me, is he got through it and came out the other side. That's meaningful to me. When you look at the numbers at the end of the year, they were pretty darn good."
Thames did read one notable self-help book of sorts this winter. Before every Spring Training, he reads H.A. Dorfman's "The Mental Keys to Hitting."
"It will be a good year," Thames said. "I just need to chill out."