Thames blasts first homer in return to Majors

Brewers first baseman spent past three seasons in Korea

Thames blasts first homer in return to Majors

MILWAUKEE -- Before hitting a towering solo home run in the Brewers' 6-1 win over the Rockies on Wednesday, it had been nearly five years since Eric Thames trotted around the bases in a Major League game.

A fourth-inning shot off Rockies right-hander Tyler Chatwood was Thames' first homer in the big leagues since Sept. 23, 2012, when he connected for the Mariners against the Rangers' Ryan Dempster. Five years later, Dempster is a TV guy -- when he's not pitching for Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic -- and Thames is starting anew in MLB.

"That just shows how long I've been gone," said Thames, who spent the past three seasons hitting homers in bunches for the N.C. Dinos of the Korea Baseball Organization. "That's the turnover in baseball. It's three years, and guys are now commentators, or prospects that were just drafted when I left are now aces. It's crazy."

Thames on homer, Brewers win

Thames, 30, piqued the interest of the Brewers and other clubs by averaging 42 home runs and 127 RBIs over his three years in Korea. The Brewers signed him to a three-year contract to play first base, representing a significant gamble, as pitchers in MLB generally throw much harder.

For example, take the home-run pitch from Chatwood, a two-seam fastball on the inner part of the plate -- "It was up and in, kind of where I wanted to throw it," Chatwood said -- which was clocked at 95.8 mph.

"We were able to identify some of the adjustments he has made in his game that give us confidence his success is going to translate to Major League Baseball," Brewers general manager David Stearns said after a November press conference to announce Thames' deal. "Honestly, whenever a player performs in a league that is not Major League Baseball, whether that's Japan or Korea or Triple-A, there's a greater degree of uncertainty. But we're certainly comfortable in our process, that we were able to account for all variables: Performance, track record, swing and approach and adjustments, who he is as a person and how seriously he takes his craft.

"We were willing to make a bet like that."

Thames' homer gave the Brewers a 1-0 lead and sparked a good inning for their two new corner infielders. After Ryan Braun reached on an infield single, Travis Shaw hit a two-run home run. It was also the first Brewers home run for Shaw, a fellow left-handed hitter.

Shaw's deep homer to right

"Chatwood is a tough pitcher, and he's especially tough on [right-handers]," manager Craig Counsell said. "Braun was coming back from facing him and said, 'That guy has a live fastball. That's a tough fastball.' The left-handed hitters got a little better look at it tonight.

"It is just balance. That's what it is. It is balance to your lineup."

Three games into his Brewers career, Thames was relieved to collect a pair of hits on Wednesday.

"This is the big leagues, so as you guys know, fans can get unruly pretty fast," Thames said. "If I'm just striking out left and right, not moving guys over or getting balls in the outfield, not driving guys in, then the fans can get on you a little bit.

"I'm just trying to show my teammates, and the people of Milwaukee and Wisconsin, that I'm here for a reason. I'm here to do a job."

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for 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.