Tony Plush more elusive this season than last

Tony Plush more elusive this season than last

Tony Plush more elusive this season than last
MILWAUKEE -- Tony Plush made a rare appearance at Miller Park on Sunday -- 5,000 appearances, actually.

It was Nyjer Morgan's bobblehead day, and a sellout crowd received figurines of the outgoing outfielder who took Milwaukee by storm in 2011 by batting .304 and driving up TV ratings with appearances by Plush, Morgan's outspoken alter ego. A select 5,000 of the figures distributed on Sunday depicted Plush, making a "T" with his arms.

But T. Plush has been elusive this season, mostly because Morgan has not had much to celebrate. He was batting .230 entering Sunday's series finale with the Padres after what he calls a "chilly" start.

"It's there. I guess when you go with the slow start that I had, you want to pick it up before you bring [Plush] out and start doing all the antics," Morgan said. "You still have to respect the game, and, plus, you don't want to rub people the wrong way."

It may also be a function of the team. Last year's "Beast Mode" Brewers, who demonstratively celebrated big hits on the bases, are gone, and so is their most fiery player, Prince Fielder. This year's club is quieter, and also struggling to the tune of a 27-32 record as of Sunday morning.

"It's still a great group of guys here. I can't really pinpoint it," Morgan said. "I just think because it's a new crowd, we have to understand each other more and more as we work together."

Personally, Morgan has picked things up lately, "slowly chipping away," he said, by hitting .304 over his last 10 games before Sunday. After going without an RBI in his first 138 plate appearances, a Major League record, Morgan drove in a run with a solo homer on June 1 against the Pirates, one of his former teams. He went deep again two days later.

But Morgan was not in Milwaukee's starting lineup Sunday. Norichika Aoki, riding a hot streak, started in center field, and manager Ron Roenicke put Corey Hart in right field and Taylor Green at first base, preferring Green's power potential in the five-hole. Had Roenicke started Hart at first base and Morgan in right, he would have had second baseman Rickie Weeks hitting fifth and Morgan sixth.

"I respect the manager's decision to do whatever he has to do to win," Morgan said. "It's all about winning. ... As an older player now, I understand the situation."

Morgan says he learned that lesson from Nationals manager Jim Riggleman, who mixed and matched outfielders in 2010, the year before Washington traded Morgan to Milwaukee.

Roenicke has had a number of conversations with Morgan about channeling his inner T. Plush in a positive way.

"The spark he gives us is really important to this club," Roenicke said. "But he wants to make sure it's always on the positive end. In that way, I think he's matured. He's gone through a tough season this year. Last year, he came out and things were great from the get-go. This year, he's going through a trial here, where, really, your character is tested and the emotions are tested. I think he's done a real nice job with it."

Morgan counted the bobblehead day as an honor. The Brewers gave him 100 to distribute to friends and family.

"It's cool for the fans, too," he said. "Personally, it's just a lot of hard work to get to this moment. I'm embracing it. Words don't explain just how I feel."