Counsell seeking balance between slugging backup first baseman, Thames
By Chris Bumbaca
NEW YORK -- Jesus Aguilar knows he cannot control his playing time. But in the meantime, he will continue to focus on what he can control, namely squaring up pitches and making opposing pitchers pay -- something he has become keen on recently.
"The only thing I can control is trying to hit the ball hard," Aguilar said. "From there, you can't really control what happens."
On Sunday against Arizona, according to Statcast™, Aguilar delivered exit velocities of 105 mph or more three times, including a 110.8-mph groundout. The other two instances were singles at 107.1 mph and 105.3 mph. Right now, one of the toughest calls Brewers manager Craig Counsell has to make when he lifts his pen toward the lineup card is how he is going to find Jesus Aguilar at-bats.
"Jesús is swinging the bat really well," Counsell said before Monday's 4-2 loss against the Mets. "To be able to put a guy that's not a regular and put him in the third spot in your lineup and feel like you're getting the production of a middle-of-the-order hitter, that's what makes it easy to put Jesús in there. He's playing really well, so obviously it means somebody goes to the bench."
That is the inherent conundrum Counsell faces. Aguilar plays first base, the same position Eric Thames occupies. While Thames can play left field, as he did Monday, Counsell was adamant the slugger will not be in the outfield every day. Thames has cooled off from his explosive start to the 2017 campaign, allowing Aguilar to crack through for more playing time. Since May 1, Aguilar has elevated his batting average from .200 to .298, where it sat before Monday's 1-for-4 effort.
With Aguilar's opportunities somewhat limited, he knows a loud crack of the bat is one way to garner Counsell's attention and make it harder for the manager to leave him out of the lineup.
"I just try and be aggressive in the strike zone, just looking for good pitches, trying to hit it hard [and] stay up the middle," Aguilar said.
Aguilar is making the most of his increased action. Over his previous six outings entering Monday -- which included two starts -- Aguilar hit .385 (5-for-13) with a home run and a double. He singled in his first at-bat against Robert Gsellman on Monday, before grounding into a double play in the third, although Counsell felt it was one of the hardest balls a Brewer hit all afternoon. That said, Counsell knows Aguilar won't play every day.
"We'll pick some matchups, but he's doing a nice job," Counsell said. "He's going to be important for us as we go forward."
Chris Bumbaca is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.