Brewers look to newcomers Shaw, Thames to stabilize infield corners
PHOENIX — The Milwaukee Brewers think they could have stability at the infield corners for the first time in a few years with Eric Thames at first and Travis Shaw at third.
Acquired in a trade that sent reliever Tyler Thornburg to the Red Sox, Shaw played first in the Boston system until moving across the infield last spring training and displacing Pablo Sandoval. Shaw made 99 starts at third and hit .242 with 16 home runs and 71 RBI but lost playing time late in the year to Aaron Hill and Brock Holt.
“It’s huge for my confidence level,” said Shaw, who went 0 for 2 with a walk Friday in the Brewers’ 11-0 exhibition victory over Wisconsin-Milwaukee. “Coming off last year, when I lost my starting job in Boston, it’ll be nice to hopefully earn another starting job here. Being able play every day, I should be able to get into a rhythm like I was at the beginning of last year. This is a fresh start for me. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Shaw is the front-runner ahead of Hernan Perez to earn the starting job.
“The left-handed bat that we think can hit somewhere in the middle in the order and be a solid contributor — there’s a lot to like,” manager Craig Counsell said. “Defensively he’s an interesting story. He was largely a first baseman coming up, there was opportunity at third base in Boston last year and he made the most of it. That’s incredibly to his credit.”
At first, Chris Carter tied for the NL home run lead last year with 41, then left as a free agent and joined the New York Yankees. Milwaukee replaced him by agreeing to a $16 million, three-year contract with Eric Thames, who last played in the major leagues in 2012. After a season in the minors, Thames went to South Korea and hit .348 with 124 home runs for the NC Dinos.
The Brewers don’t expect him to replicate those numbers in Milwaukee, but hope that the plate discipline he developed overseas has made him into a more mature hitter.
“I think he’s in that sweet spot of his career where his experience and talent match up,” Counsell said. “Going to Korea and now coming back to the States is a great source of motivation for him. He’s got something to prove. The first time here didn’t go well for him. But he made some adjustments and figured some things out, and got better. The best thing about Eric is where he’s at in his career. I think he’s in a good spot to have success.”