Eric Thames’ agent, Adam Karon, was the driving force behind the now-Brewers’ slugger’s decision to sign with the Korea Baseball Organization in 2013, writes Tyler Kepner of the New York Times. “My view was, ‘Look, you’ve always been successful when you’ve played every day, and you’re not going to get the opportunity here,’” Karon said. “He was the last man on the 40-man roster of the worst team in baseball.”
Then a member of the Astros organization and a participant in the Venezuelan Winter League, Thames scoffed at Karon’s suggestion initially. However, he had a change of heart and ended up inking a two-year deal with the NC Dinos. Thames became a sensation in Korea, where he toyed with the KBO’s offspeed-heavy pitchers from 2014-16. He parlayed that success into a three-year, $16MM pact with the Brewers this past winter, and the first baseman has certainly done his part to justify that investment so far. The 30-year-old entered Saturday leading the league in both home runs (11) and ISO (an absurd .506), and he has swung at just 19.8 percent of pitches outside the strike zone – down from 36.3 percent with the Mariners and Blue Jays from 2011-12. There is skepticism toward Thames’ success, though, evidenced in part by the fact that the league administered him a random drug test for the third time in a 10-day span on Friday, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Thames seems more amused than bothered by the testing, but he’s not sure how “random” it actually is, relays Haudricourt (Twitter link).
More from the National League:
- Giants catcher Buster Posey has long been a workhorse behind the plate, and while moving the 30-year-old to a different position could possibly help prolong his effectiveness, it’s not on the team’s agenda, details Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com. “When you have a guy that’s led us to three titles, a lot of it is because of his preparation and guidance of the starting rotation and the bullpen,” said general manager Bobby Evans. “I think it distinguishes him from other positions — and other guys. My mindset is we’re a better team with Buster back there, and as long as we can keep him back there, we want to do it.” Posey wouldn’t fight a position change down the line, saying that “it’s about winning ballgames,” but he notes that “there’s value in having a good hitter behind the plate and being able to put a bat at first base as well.” The Giants plan to start Posey 115 to 120 times at catcher and in 15 to 20 games at first/designated hitter, per Crasnick, potentially putting him on track for a sixth straight 140-plus-game season.
- The Dodgers have considered shifting the blister-plagued Rich Hill to the bullpen, but manager Dave Roberts announced Saturday that the left-hander will return to their rotation when they activate him from the DL, tweets Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times. Hill, who landed on the shelf April 17 (already his second DL stint of the year), will throw a four-frame, 60-pitch rehab outing with Single-A Rancho Cucamonga on Thursday.
- Phillies right-hander Aaron Nola isn’t making ideal progress in his recovery from a lower-back strain. Nola threw a two-inning simulation game Friday and then complained of back discomfort, Todd Zolecki of MLB.com was among those to report. That means Nola won’t come off the DL when he’s first eligible on Monday. When asked if Nola suffered a setback, manager Pete Mackanin said: “If you want to call it that. We’re being cautious with him this early in the season.” Mackanin added, though, that Nola is “improving.”