If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it what seems like a million times: Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell likes flexibility in his position players. And no, we’re not talking about the type that was displayed late in today’s Cactus League game against the San Diego Padres.
We’re talking about positional flexibility. Anyone who has watched the Brewers in recent years knows that the team tends to collect more than a few players who have the ability to play multiple positions on the field.
Not content to have one super utility man on the roster in Jace Peterson, who signed a one-year contract in November to avoid arbitration, the team traded for another in Mike Brosseau in a swap with the Tampa Bay Rays that same month.
When the MLB lockout was lifted, the Brewers’ second free agent signing after that was to bring in Andrew McCutchen to primarily serve as the team’s designated hitter. With his background as an outfielder, however, he’ll almost certainly see time in the field at some point as well.
Players like Keston Hiura, Luis Urias, and Pablo Reyes can all play multiple positions if called upon to do so. But did anyone expect that the team’s new primary right fielder might be asked to play any infield this season?
Brewers fans found out on Wednesday that outfielder Hunter Renfroe could possibly be tasked with playing first base at times in 2022.
Brewers fans were first tipped off to this development when Wednesday’s lineup card came out and had Hunter Renfroe batting third and playing first base. After the game, reporters caught up with him and asked him about the situation.
Prior to this, Milwaukee’s plan at first base seemed like it would be relatively straightforward. Hiura would be the right-handed option, Rowdy Tellez would be the left-handed one, resulting in an obvious platoon. Peterson would be able to fill in here and there as needed.
But having Renfroe, who has all of two major league appearances at first base, as a backup option has its benefits.
Renfroe himself mentions that it gives the Brewers more options when Counsell wants to go righty heavy against a strong left-handed starter. That already can happen with Hiura at first and Renfroe in the outfield, but if Tyrone Taylor carries his strong spring start into the regular season, Counsell can go with a number of different combinations.
He also states that it gives the team insurance in case one of their main first basemen goes down. That is certainly true, but additionally, it’s also some insurance in the event that Hiura doesn’t carry his impressive Cactus League performance forward and instead regresses to his form from 2020 and 2021.
Of course, the Brewers tried something similar back in 2018 with the now retired Ryan Braun. He ended up playing just 18 games there that season and just one more in the two following seasons. It could be that Renfroe doesn’t even see that much action himself.
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But once again, it all comes down to having options. That’s something the Brewers have always loved to have at their disposal and getting a player like Renfroe some action at first base just follows suit.