Hot-hitting Hiura's defense a 'work in progress'

July 21st, 2019

PHOENIX -- can hit. There’s never been any concern about that. However, his defense remains what Brewers manager Craig Counsell calls a “work in progress.”

While Hiura continues to rake and be a consistent force in Milwaukee’s lineup since he was recalled for the second time this season on June 28, he is also still adjusting to second base, where he has only played 183 games over his first three professional seasons.

“He’s just not that experienced in the infield,” Counsell said. “That’s the biggest thing that he’s fighting right now, is that he just hasn’t played a lot of games in the infield as a professional. From my perspective, he’s thousands of ground balls behind a lot of guys. The reps for him are very important, and I think he’s learning a lot right now, learning about himself, learning about how he’s going to make these plays.”

In Friday night’s 10-7 loss to the D-backs, Hiura showed an encouraging sign that his defense is improving, but there was also a play that showcased that inexperience.

In the first inning, Hiura made a run-saving play, fielding a hard-hit ball up the middle in the shallow center-field grass while playing from a shift. He then made a nice throw to retire Christian Walker at first to end the frame.

However, Hiura later committed his fifth error in his 35th big league game, as he couldn’t make a clean play on a Nick Ahmed ground ball during Arizona’s six-run third inning.

“He won’t make it again. He knows what he did. He got stuck back on the hop,” Counsell said. “His hands really work like an infielder, they’re very good, they really work, and that’s a really good foundation to have, so we just have to build from that place.”

Counsell knows what it takes to play second base well. He played 574 games there over his 16-year big league career, his most at any position, and had a .991 fielding percentage. So, he’ll continue to help Hiura adapt to the position by putting the 22-year-old in his lineup.

And that’s an easy thing to do with the way Hiura has been hitting. Entering Saturday, he was batting .326/.386/.598 with nine home runs and 21 RBIs.

“Keston’s continuing to swing the bat really well, which is a good sign,” Counsell said.

Roster move

The Brewers optioned right-hander to Triple-A San Antonio to make room for lefty , who was activated from the injured list to start Saturday against the D-backs.

Smith pitched two scoreless innings in Friday’s loss, lowering his ERA to 5.06 in six appearances for Milwaukee this season. The 29-year-old is 6-3 with a 2.53 ERA in 13 Triple-A starts this year.