PHOENIX (AP) — Keston Hiura gave Milwaukee a lift when he was called up in mid-season. His reward is more responsibility in a new-look Brewers offense.
Following the departures of Yasmani Grandal and Mike Moustakas as free agents, manager Craig Counsell and the Brewers are counting on a full season from the 23-year-old to help avoid a drop a the plate.
“I’m excited about this year, I have a lot of stuff to work on and am looking forward to being able to accomplish those goals this year,” Hiura said.
Hiura debuted May 14 and hit .303 with 19 homers and 49 RBIs in 84 games to help the Brewers return to the postseason for the second straight year.
Milwaukee drafted him ninth overall in 2017 out of UC Irvine despite a right elbow injury that prevented Hiura from playing in the field that season. He batted .442 in his junior year.
He bounced back with a strong 2018, returning to second base, and was selected MVP of the Arizona Fall League, an award previously won by the New York Yankees’ Gleyber Torres and Atlanta’s Ronald Acuña.
“For me it was about getting as many ground balls and as much live action as I could,” Hiura said. “I was fortunate enough to do well in that and to be able to learn from other players as well, make new friendships.”
While Hiura is considered to be one of the top young hitters, his defense has lagged. He committed 16 errors as a rookie despite playing roughly half of the season.
“Keston’s working hard, the work’s been productive and we just go to keep doing it,” Counsell said. “We got a really nice program laid out for him, he gets it, he’s 100% on board with it.”
Hiura appreciates the support from his manager, who played mostly second base during his 16-year big-league career.
“He’s been a great teacher, a great mentor for me,” Hiura said. “Showed me a lot of tips on what to do, how to improve my game, the kind of things he used to do when he was playing. He’s been a big help for me, getting a different perspective on not only fielding but the game in general.”
Notes: Avisaíl García made his spring training debut with the Brewers, playing five innings. He drew a walk in his first trip to the plate, then grounded out to third. García, who played for Tampa Bay last season, is expected to get most of the playing time in right field, with Christian Yelich in left and Ryan Braun mostly at first base.
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