Comfort equals confidence for Brewers' Villar

Comfort equals confidence for Brewers' Villar

CHICAGO -- Brewers shortstop Jonathan Villar says he feels more comfortable in multiple ways this season.

Villar, a 24-year-old Dominican Republicn native, has been a welcome surprise in 2016, entering play Tuesday having reached base in 16 of his 17 games and posting a .362 on-base percentage. He said he has become more patient at the plate, but he also feels more at home in the Brewers' clubhouse.

The biggest reason is a connection with Latin teammates and the help of Carlos Subero, the Brewers' first-year first-base/infield coach and a native of Venezuela.

Villar said he is constantly talking with Subero in the cages, going over situations in the field and simply talking baseball.

"I think Carlos has done a tremendous job with Jonathan," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "He's worked really hard with him, he's been diligent with him, he's stayed on him in a good way. Sometimes that's what the player is looking for."

Villar can speak English without issue, but communicating in his native language is more effective and efficient.

"I feel more comfortable here, because I have more people here," Villar said. "I feel connected to the team. ... [Subero] is talking to me in Spanish, and that's better for me."

The difference has been apparent on the field. Through his first 68 plate appearances, Villar's 10 walks matched his total from 128 plate appearances with the Astros last season.

Villar debuted with the Astros at age 22 but hit only .232 in three years with Houston. That didn't stop Brewers general manager David Stearns, the Astros' assistant general manager before coming to Milwaukee in September, from trading for Villar in November.

"I think sometimes in this era we think we read the statistical line and don't think they can change," Counsell said. "These guys are at an age still, a lot of our guys, where there's still growth coming. We're trying to capture it with him."

Villar's emergence is important for the Brewers, because it allows them to take their time in developing shortstop Orlando Arcia, the organization's top-ranked prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com.

Villar said he is trying to make the most of this opportunity, and it doesn't hurt to have a friendly environment to help him along.

"I don't think that's just an international thing," Counsell said. "So much of this is confidence and comfort. You're trying to put players in the best spot, that sweet spot, because that leads to performance."

Cody Stavenhagen is a reporter for MLB.com based in Chicago. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.