Braun moving back to LF to accommodate Santana
Counsell looking to maximize players' abilities
PHOENIX -- For the fourth time in his professional career, the Brewers' Ryan Braun is changing positions.
Drafted as a shortstop, Braun has already moved to third base, then left field, then right field. Now he's going back to left field, opening right for strong-armed slugger Domingo Santana.
"We talked it over and I think with the players we have on our roster this year, it's an advantageous decision for Ryan and the other players we have involved," manager Craig Counsell said Sunday, before pitchers and catchers took part in their first formal workout. "Specifically, Domingo in right field.
"I think it's [best] for both of them. You put the players where you think they fit the best."
Before finalizing the decision, Counsell spoke via telephone with Braun, who had back surgery following last season and may be slightly behind schedule. Counsell and the Brewers will have a better handle on Braun's health by Wednesday, when position players undergo their Spring Training physicals.
Theoretically, the shorter throws from left field could reduce the stress on Braun's back. Counsell said he'd discussed with Braun the potential for a move before, and it made sense to execute the switch after the Brewers traded left fielder Khris Davis to the A's on Feb. 12.
"I think [Braun] has been open to whatever is best, however our personnel fits," Counsell said. "He was open to it. Very open to it. … This is the position he's played the longest."
After Braun committed 26 errors in 112 games at third base as a rookie in 2007, the Brewers moved him to left field for 2008-13 and he was a finalist for the Rawlings Gold Glove Award in 2012. Braun moved to right field for 2014 to open playing time for Davis, whose throwing arm limited him to left.
Santana has no such limitation. Counsell did not totally rule out Santana appearing in center field, where the team imported a slew of candidates over the winter, but he will mostly man right field. After the Brewers acquired him in a trade with the Astros last July 30, Santana posted a .766 OPS with six home runs in 38 games.
• All of the pitchers and catchers who underwent their physicals on Saturday are full participants in camp, according to Counsell. The only pitcher yet to arrive is non-roster left-hander Cesar Jimenez, who is tending to a family matter in Venezuela. There is no timetable for his arrival.
• Besides Braun, the Brewers will keep a close eye this spring on outfielder Ramon Flores, who sustained a serious injury to his right ankle last September while playing for the Mariners' Triple-A team. Flores is fully recovered and has been working at Maryvale Baseball Park in recent weeks, Counsell said.
• Counsell intends to stress pitchers' fielding during the initial workouts of the spring.
"We're going to handle the ball a lot," Counsell said. "Fundamentals as a defensive player, that will be a little something we stress over the first couple days and couple weeks as pitchers. 'Give yourself a chance to become a better fielder.'"