Counsell says Villar's off-day is not 'benching'

Brewers second baseman made two outs on bases Tuesday vs. Red Sox

Counsell says Villar's off-day is not 'benching'

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers manager Craig Counsell avoided the term "benching" on Wednesday while discussing Jonathan Villar, preferring to say the second baseman was getting a mental break in the wake of a pair of ill-advised outs on the basepaths during Tuesday's win over the Red Sox.

Villar's ultra-aggressive style led to a Major League-best 62 stolen bases during his breakthrough 2016 season with the Brewers, but it occasionally produces nights like Tuesday. He was thrown out trying to steal third base with one out and Ryan Braun batting in the second inning, then the second baseman was picked off first base for the second out of the sixth with MLB co-home run leader Eric Thames at the plate.

"When you see mistakes get made like that, I think it's just time for a day off," Counsell said. "To just take a day and give your head a break as much as anything, and get a little bit of a different perspective for a day."

It should be noted that the Brewers won the game, 11-7. And that Villar was not the only Brewers player guilty of a mistake.

As Counsell put it, "It was not a Picasso by us last night. It was more of a paint-by-numbers type win."

But Villar's aggressive style on the bases almost always stands out, for good and for bad. Take the first two innings Tuesday, when Villar walked in each of his first two plate appearances.

In the first inning, the threat of a stolen base prompted Red Sox starter Drew Pomeranz to twice throw over to first base to hold Villar in check. Whether Pomeranz was impacted by that threat, or by having to vary his delivery, or was not affected at all, the fact is he eventually fed Thames a fastball down the middle to hit for a two-run home run -- the first strike of Milwaukee's five-run first inning.

In the second inning, Villar worked another walk, this time with one out. When Thames singled, Villar rounded second base, as if he was going to try for third, but opted to retreat. With Braun up next in his first start off a weeklong absence, Villar was then thrown out trying to steal third.

"To me, it's a player that's trying too hard," Counsell said. "You felt like he should've been on third in the single, and he wasn't, and he wanted to be on third. It just wasn't there, and it was just forcing action that wasn't there. It'll get you in trouble here [in the Major Leagues], because these players and their team are going to execute.

"It is a blessing and a curse, and Jonny's blessing is that he's got this aggressive mentality, which is a great trait. It's a rare trait. He's got it better than most players, and it works for him in a lot of ways and a lot of different areas in his game. It's hurting him on the bases."

Counsell conceded it has been a slow process with Villar, but one worth continuing.

"I think he is making progress," added Brewers first-base coach Carlos Subero. "His aggressive mind will always be there, and that's what we have to keep shaping and get better. … With Villar, [it is about getting him to] keep understanding that it's the threat of a stolen base as much as the stolen base. I think he is getting better at that."

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.