Counsell in no rush to determine lineup order

Counsell in no rush to determine lineup order

PHOENIX -- Brewers manager Craig Counsell is taking a patient approach to lineup construction, delaying decisions until deep into the month of March.

"I'm not concerned about the lineup at all right now," said Counsell, who does not expect that to change "until after the World Baseball Classic. That's when it's going to start taking importance in my head. That's the note I've made."

Brewers second baseman Jonathan Villar (Dominican Republic) and utility man Hernan Perez (Venezuela) are among the hitters participating in the tournament this year.

Two spots seem sure: Villar in the leadoff hole and Ryan Braun hitting third. Beyond that, Counsell has many possible combinations, beginning with how to separate the two new left-handed hitters -- first baseman Eric Thames and third baseman Travis Shaw -- acquired over the winter. Counsell has said he believes both could fit somewhere in the middle of the lineup.

Who will hit second? Speedy center fielder Keon Broxton, who had a .351 on-base percentage in eight games there last season, is one option. The right-field duo of Domingo Santana and Kirk Nieuwenhuis could fit there, especially because Nieuwenhuis hits left-handed. Or there is Perez, who starts regularly but plays different positions, and also saw time in the two-hole during 2016.

Shortstop Orlando Arcia and a catcher from among Jett Bandy, Manny Pina and Andrew Susac also will need a spot.

Crew seeks more strikes from Nelson

In past springs, Jimmy Nelson has focused on his curveball or changeup. This spring, he and pitching coach Derek Johnson are talking about throwing more strikes.

Nelson fans Moreland

Nelson's 17.4 percent strikeout rate last season was a career low, and his 4.32 walks per nine innings ranked third-worst among qualified Major League pitchers.

"He has never been Zach Davies in the strike zone," Counsell said. "He didn't go from the best to the worst by any means, to leading the league in walks. He didn't go there. But he declined. He struggled toward the end of the season, for the last half of the season, and maybe more, really.

"That is certainly something he knows has to improve. It's simple: [Fewer] baserunners is going to equal more success."

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.