Brewers reunion brings opportunity for Shaw

Infielder to get shot at reclaiming 3B job; Avisaíl significantly svelte

February 23rd, 2021

PHOENIX -- wasn’t happy when he left the Brewers amid a deep slump in 2019, but he kept open the lines of communication with manager Craig Counsell -- and now he’s back.

The Mayor of Ding Dong City is officially on the ballot for a second term as of Tuesday, when Shaw and the Brewers finalized a Minor League contract that gives Shaw an invitation to big league camp and a chance to win the open third base job. It’s familiar ground; Shaw topped 30 home runs in both 2017 and ’18 while manning third base for the Brewers, and if he can continue the fixes he made in '20 with Toronto, a return engagement appears there for the taking.

“The Brewers have seen me at my absolute best, and they've also seen me in my absolute worst in 2019,” Shaw said. “So the fact that they reached out and were open to a reunion meant a lot to me, and here we are now.”

Shaw came to the Brewers in a lopsided trade at the 2016 Winter Meetings that sent Tyler Thornburg to the Red Sox for Shaw and a group of prospects that included Mauricio Dubón. Shaw thrived with the move to the stadium formerly known as Miller Park, slashing .258/.347/.497 with 63 homers and 187 RBIs in his first two seasons in Milwaukee, starting with a 31-homer, 101-RBI campaign in '17.

In 2019, Shaw quietly nursed a wrist injury and fell into a slump he couldn’t escape. The Brewers demoted him to the Minors that June in favor of hotshot prospect Keston Hiura, and while Shaw made it back to Milwaukee by season’s end, it was clear the time was right to part ways.

“In the moment, certainly there's disappointment there,” Counsell said. “Travis and I have kept a conversation running for the last year and a half, and a number of our players and coaches have. I think [2019] was a disappointing season for Travis. He struggled, and it didn't go the way that he wanted. Travis also had two exceptional years for us and helped us do a lot of really good things. That's part of this, as well.

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“I think we've been on the same page from the beginning of this. Travis had interest in coming back because he enjoyed playing here and he thinks he can be the player that he's shown us. We're happy to give him a shot at that at a spot where there could be some opportunity.”

Shaw signed with the Blue Jays for 2020 and produced a .239/.306/.411 slash line that was suppressed by a 6-for-40 stretch in late August and early September. Shaw started to feel more like himself at the plate.

“I'm not a huge launch angle guy, but it got out of control in 2019. Everything was going straight up in the air,” he said. “There was not very much solid contact. For me, it was getting a little bit back to more of a line drive approach. That was the thing that I focused on the most, was trying to barrel up as many balls as I could and hit balls hard, whether that was a line drive or in the air.

“That was the area of focus last year that I was able to correct in a way. I mean, there's still some work to be done, but I definitely took a step back in the right direction last year.”

The Brewers’ third base candidates on the 40-man roster include Luis Urías and Daniel Robertson. Both manned shortstop alongside Shaw at third base during one defensive drill on Tuesday.

Lighter on his feet
From the annual “Best Shape Of My Life” file, via Brewers sideline reporter Sophia Minnaert: Outfielder reported to camp more than 30 pounds lighter than the end of last year, telling Minnaert that he dropped the weight with a cleaner diet including eliminating salt and sugar during the week.

The good news for García, who is moving back to right field this season with the return of Lorenzo Cain, is that he does not feel that he sacrificed any strength.

“I don’t know the exact number. He’s lost a significant number of pounds, there’s no question,” Counsell said. “It’s very visible. It looks good. He’s just a very big man, as we all know, so it’s visible but not as, ‘Oh wow, something’s wrong or something’s completely different.’

“Look, I think sometimes players get into the winter and they know how they reacted to the season, they know how their bodies reacted to the season and they feel like they’ve got to do something different. When it’s that much [weight], it’s new for you, so I think Avisaíl’s going to have to run around a little bit, and how does he feel? He feels great about it. That’s probably the biggest thing, is he’s proud of it. It’s important to him. He worked hard at it. I think it’s going to be a good thing for him.”

Last call
• The only player absent from Tuesday’s first full-squad workout was shortstop , who was having some dental work done. He was expected back in camp on Wednesday.

• The Brewers are still waiting for the arrival of the electronic devices they will wear this spring to assist in social distancing and contact tracing as part of MLB’s health and safety initiatives against COVID-19. Counsell expects to learn more about the devices by the end of the week.

“Other leagues have used it. I understand that,” Counsell said. “Everything we’re trying to do is to try to keep us safe. It’s only going to be at work. We know that for sure. But I don’t know if we’ll be wearing it during a game. I don’t know all the answers yet.”