Villar embraces move across the diamond

Counsell: Brewers 'lucky' infielder has talent to change positions

Villar embraces move across the diamond

PHOENIX -- There is a subtle explanation for Jonathan Villar's embrace of the move to second base.

"It's the same, like shortstop. You see the catcher's signs," said Villar, who moved off shortstop for the Brewers last season when the team promoted top prospect Orlando Arcia. "You can move [based on] who's hitting."

Manager Craig Counsell believes second base will prove to be Villar's best position on the diamond, even better than his "natural" position of shortstop. When Arcia arrived on Aug. 2, Villar first moved to third base, where he committed 12 errors in 42 games and was 6.6 defensive runs below average, 57th of the 61 players who logged at least 100 innings at the position.

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It was not a comfortable fit, Villar conceded.

"Sometimes, the shortstop can tell me when [the pitcher] throws a breaking ball or something like that, but with the people in the stadium I can't hear," Villar said. "So it's better when you play second base and we can see the signs."

In December, the Brewers acquired Travis Shaw from the Red Sox to man third base. Villar is taking over second base from Scooter Gennett, who will vie for a bench role.

Counsell on Villar moving to 2B

While his position is changing, the team hopes for more of the same offensively from Villar, who trailed only National League Rookie of the Year Corey Seager among NL shortstops with an .826 OPS, and who led the Major Leagues with 62 stolen bases.

"This is what's going to happen as you move [prospects] in. The ability of him to change a position is significant in itself," Counsell said. "We're lucky that he does."

Gennett to see reps at third base
Counsell already raised the likelihood of Gennett trying left field during Spring Training in an effort to diversify his defensive availability, and on Friday another position came up: third base. Gennett has yet to appear at that position in the Majors or Minors.

Does he have the arm for it?

"That's part of the spring," Counsell said. "It's not different than if we think about the transition Aaron Hill made a couple of years ago."

Gennett could play many roles

Gennett said he's embracing the challenge, and spent time in the waning weeks of the offseason shagging fly balls at his former high school in Florida. He has been using his 11-inch infielder's glove while he waits on a new, customized outfield glove.

The Brewers plan to ease Gennett into the new positions.

"We can't throw everything at him," Counsell said. "This is new for him. He's had a great attitude about it. I think he's coming into it with the right frame of mind. And we're seven weeks away from the season, so we don't have to know what's going to happen, today."

Weather woes coming?
The National Weather Service was predicting a 90 percent chance of rain Saturday, bad news for the Brewers' plan to host their first full-squad workout. If that event is washed out, Brewers pitchers will still get their work on Maryvale Baseball Park's covered mounds.

"For these first 10 days, that's the priority: Keep the pitchers on schedule," Counsell said.

Brewers hitters are not scheduled to see live batting practice until Tuesday, so they are unlikely to be impacted by this wave of rain.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.