Small things hopefully positive signs for Villar

July 23rd, 2017

PHILADELPHIA -- Both of the Brewers' run-scoring hits in Sunday's 6-3 loss to the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park went the opposite way. For , that was business as usual. For , it was another small sign of progress as he works through his season of regression.

Villar dumped a two-run single into shallow left field with two outs in the fifth inning, briefly tying a game the Phillies would reclaim with four runs in the bottom of the frame. It was a small positive for Villar, but that's exactly what he and the Brewers are looking for at the moment.

"He obviously didn't hit that ball too hard, but we caught a break," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "We're trying to find a spot for him to build on."

That single was switch-hitter Villar's only hit in four at-bats on Sunday, when he finished with a run scored and two RBIs. He has reached safely in 13 of 17 starts since returning from a stint on the 10-day disabled list for a back injury, and while Villar's numbers during that stretch are nothing like his breakthrough 2016 season, when he posted an .826 OPS and led the Major Leagues with 62 stolen bases, they have provided a subtle boost to his .223/.285/.348 slash line.

"We've been working in the cage on hitting it that way," Villar said. "Everything they throw me has been middle-away, so sometimes I have to adjust to the ball. We're working on that. If I think about left field [when batting left-handed], I can do that."

With the return of on Saturday from his own stint on the DL, Villar is competing again for playing time at second base. Counsell expects to split time between the two players in the hopes one of them will claim a primary role, like Sogard did before getting hurt.

Asked about the reinstatement of a platoon, Villar said, "I'm OK. That's my job, to be ready for everything."

Counsell cited subtle signs of improvement for Villar in recent weeks.

"It's just that the hits have come to the opposite field, they've been line drives to the opposite field," Counsell said. "He's pulled some off-speed pitches on a line in the air. Left-handed, earlier in the season, there were a ton of ground balls. It's hard to do damage when you're hitting a lot of ground balls; it's singles at best. Then the on-base component to his game, the walks, had lessened a little bit.

"It's just little signs like that, that you hope is getting him into driving the baseball and seeing the baseball a little better. Little signs like that, you hope are signs of bigger things."